Chris Moerdyk

How is Brand Zuma doing?

2009-08-17 09:13

Roughly 14 weeks ago, I discussed in this column, all the pre-election and inauguration "advertising" behind President Jacob Zuma and promised to look at it again after his first 100 days in office. Which is right now.

At the time, I suggested that whether a brand succeeds or fails often depends on whether it can live up to its advertising claims.

One indicator of how he has performed has been provided by someone who was undoubtedly his greatest critic - local cartoonist, Zapiro. You will remember that just after the inauguration, Zapiro removed the showerhead from Zuma's head and promised to put it back if he didn't perform and lift it higher and higher if he did.

Just after Zuma's unannounced arrival in Balfour two weeks ago, Zapiro's Zuma barometer showed the showerhead rising up to the second highest level possible. It only has one more step to go before disappearing completely.

So, if Zapiro is happy with the way things are going - maybe we can assume that a lot of Zuma's advertising claims have been spot on.

But let's look at the rest.

He wanted to return to the values set by Nelson Mandela. Good advertising that. There certainly seem to be indications that he has tried to do this.

He wanted to promote "friendship, harmony, co-operation and unity" among political parties. A tough call in just 100 days, but at least he is still saying he wants to try.

Well, maybe he hasn't personally been at loggerheads with any of the opposition party leaders, but I'm not convinced he has managed to get people like Patricia de Lille and Helen Zille into the friendship, harmony and co-operation category quite yet.

He wanted to get his MPs to understand opposition politics and not turn every bit of criticism from the opposition into a petulant confrontation. I reckon that was a tall order and will probably take a lot more than 100 days to get some of those confrontational mindsets changed.

He told ANC MPs, provincial leaders and his Cabinet that they had better knuckle down and do some hard work. And he created a special body within the presidency just to make sure that everyone is pulling their weight and do it honestly. His ads literally screamed; "Get on with it or get out."  Well, he is certainly still pushing this same message very hard.

He has also said that he owes nobody anything which seems to be advertising the fact that the Mbeki era of jobs for friends and protecting one's buddies, is over. Hmmm, this is the most dodgy area of all. There are a lot of people who still see what appears to be jobs for friends. Remember, its all about perception and not reality.

Then, he has frequently advertised the fact that he won't put up with fraud or corruption in government. While President Zuma still sticks to this stance, all that media publicity about ministers' expensive cars has created the perception that the gravy train is still on track in spite of the fact that Zuma could argue that the amount of money MPs and minister could spend on their cars was entrenched in a policy that he inherited.

Let's face it; 100 days ago we couldn't fault Brand Zuma's advertising campaign one bit. Like great advertising, all of it seemed to be exactly what South Africa consumers wanted to hear. And there was some humble stuff as well, like saying he only wanted to serve one term of office.

My feeling is that President Zuma has certainly stuck to his advertised claims so far and that it would be unfair to expect many of those claims to fall into place within 100 days.

There certainly seems to be far more intensity and action among his ministers - much, much more so than those of his predecessor.

My impression is that he has certainly exceeded our expectation of him. And from an advertising point of view - that is very impressive.

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Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  helen zille  |  zapiro  |  jacob zuma

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