“Politics, promises and the art of action.”

This piece was first published in MARKETING WEEKENDER Issue 351

by Alex Goh, Chief Strategy Officer Naga DDB Tribal 

As election campaigning goes into overdrive, one thing remains constant – the promise of progress and change in the air. Oftentimes, that brings us to wonder and consider: will real, positive change come from the familiar or from the novel? 

I would think that the ultimate winner will be the one who recognises that this is a false choice; to win the vote (be it from the rakyat, or the consumer, with their wallets) will ultimately require both – one gets you the attention; the other gives people the confidence to choose and to act on it. Success is more likely when you successfully balance the familiarity/novelty ratio.

This, in part, informs our approach as “Experience Makers” – where driving action is a function of getting 4 things right:


This means being mindful that advertising competes not just with other advertising, but all content that piques the audience’s interest (think: cat videos, hilarious influencers, fitness athletes and movie trailers). At a time when buying a media impression has never been easier, don’t forget that an impression served does not equal to attention earned? So, make it worth people’s time to pay attention, by leveraging on the power of the novel.


In doing the novel, ensure that you also leverage on the power of the familiar. The novel and the familiar are NOT opposites of each other. So, take advantage of both. Because, when it comes to converting attention to action, consumer research around attention shows that consumers do gravitate towards noticing and interacting with brands that are already familiar to them.


When asking people to act, be it to vote or to buy, people need to FEEL confident when taking that step with you or for you. That feeling doesn’t come just from drowning people in more and more information. While we might rationalise our actions with our head, it’s our emotions that compels us to act. 

Recognising the fact that humans are largely “cognitive misers” (we think a lot less than we like to think), lean into the mental shortcuts people take. Which is why, ensuring that our communications are easy to recognise, and process are key to driving brand acceptance, trust, likeability and quality/value perceptions. This means: 

  1. Keeping messages simple. You can’t expect a positive response if you have a complex message that requires a lot of in-depth thought. 
  2. Always remembering – and this is true in life, as it is with communications – what feels confusing, feels “wrong.”


Speaking of mental shortcuts, one of the most useful and thus most used is that of “social proof.” The logic is simple: what’s most famous or talked about within one’s social circles must be right or worthwhile. Thus, driving action means validating people’s (new) choices socially. Is your brand or campaign being spoken of within online (e.g., social media) or offline public spaces (e.g., at the mamak or the bar), and/or shared between individuals? 

If you’ve read until this far, here’s an Easter egg to make these 4 points easy to remember: you might’ve realised that the 4 factors above can also form the acronym C.R.A.P. Because, like any good political party, winning will come from demonstrating that you give a C.R.A.P.

Oh. And a bonus lesson because you’ve been such a good reader – action beats analysis. Everything that came before remains just an opinion; but when expressed through action, it becomes change. So, whatever your political opinion may be, make sure you take action and go out and vote.

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