Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt created a political phenomenon with his landslide victory in May. He garnered over 1.38 million votes — a new record high for the capital’s gubernatorial election.
This “Chadchart phenomenon” is attributed to his effective marketing and publicity strategies employed in three periods during his election campaigning, in the runup to the vote, and after his win, according to Asst Prof Buppa Lapawattanaphun, a lecturer at the University of Thai Chamber of Commerce’s Faculty of Communication Arts.
Also, she says, the governor continues to communicate about his work through social media, pushing projects of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) through allies.
Buppa, an expert in market and brand building, told The Story Thailand that Chadchart’s winning strategies blended marketing and brand-building with marketing communications.
“The three strategies are a perfect blend that reflects Governor Chadchart’s brand identity. It is a rare phenomenon [for an election candidate] to cause such a widespread impact that went beyond expectations,” she said.
According to the professor, there are three types of branding — corporate, product and personal. The governor started with building his personal branding before fine-tuning his marketing and communication positioning.
“Branding and marketing are two pillars that work together perfectly, allowing communications to serve their purpose completely,” Buppa said.
According to her, Chadchart clearly opted to build his personal branding from the beginning by contesting the Bangkok governor’s election as an independent candidate, and not under any political party’s banner.
“Every plan must have a goal. His team’s goal was clearly to get Chadchart to win the election and they needed a plan to achieve that,” she said.
The question was to identify what kind of governor he must be and how this message would be sent to the voters, said the professor.
Personal branding starts with determining who that person is, and what his/her strength is — essentially that person’s actual self, according to her.
Chadchart was portrayed as sincere, straightforward, hard-working and strong. Those are his “keywords”, qualities that make him stand out from other election candidates.
Buppa said that in addition to those qualities, the candidates like Chadchart needed to satisfy the Bangkokians with a focus on their “pain point” — a persistent or recurring problem that frequently annoys them.
For her, Chadchart’s candidacy came at the “right time”, when “everybody was looking for hope at a hopeless time”. Also, Bangkokians looked for transparency and straightforwardness as their trust in politicians was wearing thin, she said.
“When you come at the right time and be in the best situation, you get selected without much effort,” Buppa said.
For effective results, the process of marketing communications must be planned and designed in a way that satisfies the target group. The impact can lead to action.
“Chadchart’s communications were aimed not only at creating awareness but also prompting people to vote for him,” Buppa said.
His communications with the “stakeholders” involved with his election campaign were two-way and constant, according to her.
“For him, the stakeholders were everyone he wanted to help with his work. He created a sense of participation with the slogan ‘Work, work, work’. It’s not just him, as everyone was part of the team,” said the academic.
When a crisis occurred, he was there to tackle it, making people feel that he was always attentive to problems.
“The governor is wearing two hats — one of an executive and the other of a PR man, a marketer,” Buppa said.
She added that this is no different from a private company, in which the CEO needs to run his business for profits while having to communicate through his branding to retain confidence in the corporate image and customer loyalty.
As Chadchart’s strategy focuses on tackling problems, Buppa points out that the “scariest concern” for him seems to be how to manage people’s expectations. The more success he achieves, the higher expectations, she says.
“This is a test of Chadchart’s identity. If that is done correctly, the expectations will transform into power. If it was not right from the beginning, the expectations will become a burden and anxiety,” says the academic.
For her, the Bangkok governor’s communication strategy serves as his essential and powerful tool in running the capital city.
“Communications bring not only understanding but also participation from all elements of the city, leading to engagement and development,” Buppa said.
This strategy can be adopted and adapted by other provincial governors in Thailand although, unlike Chadchart, they are not elected. They could also do better by coming up with unprecedented ideas that bring maximum benefits to everyone, the academic says.
“In fact, image-making is part of public relations. It’s the by-product. Your good action leads to a good image. We call this ‘making’ because it does not happen naturally — it results from planning,” she concludes.