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Campaigning: Consistently Inconsistent

Before joining the business campaigning GmbH team, I spent a lot of time living in Ghana. Campaigning in Ghana is, at times, very different to what we experience in Switzerland or Europe. In the last 10 years, mobile phone usage has developed massively and many people are now very active online. Despite this, Ghana still uses its traditional campaigning strategies alongside the new digital options. Here are three memorable campaigning strategies I saw during my time there:

Colourful buildings in Ghana

Mobile Network Marketing

Some of the most aggressive marketeers are mobile phone companies. With users of mobile phones continuing to grow rapidly, and many people owning two or more phones, the rush to gain users is frantic. There are adverts on the TV and Radio, billboards with famous Ghanaians making endorsements and banners strung up across streets, with some companies putting their banners directly in front of their competitors! One of the strangest methods of giving their brand visibility is painting whole houses in their colour, with yellows, reds, blues and pinks adorning many road side houses. (As seen in the feature image) For mobile companies, maximum visibility key. When Glo came to the Ghana market from Nigeria they covered the country in their green branding 2 years before a phone call was even made.

White sugar bread or no bread

There is so much competition for selling your wares in Ghana. Often you will find stores selling exactly the same thing right next to each other, and both seem to be surviving due to their loyal customers. In Sogakope, a rural town on the east of the country, they have a bread market which stretches for about 100 metres down the road. All the bread is the same white sugar bread; there is no chance of getting brown bread or a nice granary loaf. Some of these sellers market their bread directly to their potential customers by energetically chasing after slowing buses and shoving the bread through the window. The fastest and most aggressive will make the sale.

There is no escape from the message

When travelling on a bus between cities, there is no chance of escaping some kind of marketing patter. It could be a religious man or a herbal remedies peddler who will leap onto a bus just before it takes off on its journey. Like any good salesman he rattles through the benefits of the tonic or tablet, which may do anything from easing stomach problems or assisting weight loss, to increasing energy, or all of the above! I was frustrated by not being able to escape this noisy campaign, but it was very effective. On one occasion, I assumed people would stand up and complain, but instead they started buying the particular tonic on sale that day (Blood Tonic!). This is an example of how campaigning of any sort to achieve a particular goal, in this case sales, is not uniform. In this circumstance, people are not given the opportunity to switch off and turn away from the message. There is a big chance that some of your captive audience will take the bait. This doesn’t only occur in the buses. As you walk the streets, often you will be passed by little vans announcing their products loudly through a loud speaker, or grabbed into a store and forced to look at what is on sale. There is no escape!

These examples may seem to show that campaigners in Ghana are not flexible, but actually they use methods that are effective in their market. There are two lessons to be learnt from the Ghana perspective, firstly, if it isn’t broken, don’t change it. If what you are doing is gaining you clients or selling your product, then there is no need to change it. Remain focussed on your goal and only change things if you are not meeting it. Secondly, if you are looking to acquire new clients, or sell in new locations or to different sectors of society, you must be prepared to be flexible. (Strategic Campaigning Guideline number 5) Different locations, ages, social strata and industries will need different strategies to engage them. Before you can create an unconventional campaign, you must understand what your target audience responds to and work around that idea.

Campaigning is consistent in its inconsistency. Even if two campaigns are run for the same company under similar circumstances, there is no guarantee that the outcomes will be the same and therefore the methodology should be flexible.

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