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Sunday, 5 May 2013

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'Marketing the national flag'

'Love for one's country' is a good characteristic for any individual to possess no matter which part of the world he lives in. In any country, the government is the biggest promoter of patriotism. Politicians love to make patriotic speeches, exhort citizens to do their patriotic duty and present themselves as shining examples of patriotism. One political party trying to outdo the other in terms of level of devotion is a common phenomenon.

Patriotism, State and marketeers

The State, through appeals to patriotism, inculcates an attachment to the State, instead of the nation. The State advocates complete and absolute obedience to the dictates of its leaders as a sign of love for one's country.

Sri Lankan marketeers attempt to foster the idea 'my country, right or wrong' as a prime example of patriotism. Any rational, clear thinking individual can see the foolishness of 'my country, right or wrong', and it is a recipe for disaster.

Is 'patriotism' good and easy business?

While the concept of marketing is about satisfying individual customer needs and wants, the concept of patriotism is about collective thinking and action.

Patriotism demands that the individual subjugate his desires to the collective interest of the nation, even sacrificing himself, family and friends.

We see an increasing number of marketeers in Sri Lanka joining the 'patriotism bandwagon' and riding free for business and marketing reasons. The synergies due to the single minded positioning of this communication and influence over consumer choice provide the rationale for this platform.

Few people question whether this patriotism is actually in their best interests.

Consumer asked to sacrifice?

My focus is not on politics but on business and marketing.

In the recent past, patriotic product and service brand attributes has been forced on the Sri Lankan consumer to achieve business goals. In many cases, patriotism is used to cover up product or service gaps to exploit the patriotic feelings of the consumer to influence purchasing decisions.

Many companies use patriotism as the last refuge to market their products rather than focusing on the right value proposition that will naturally sell.

For consumers, purchasing local products and services is a good way of expressing his or her love for the country. Most patriotic consumers exhibit an emotional attachment to the brands that offer patriotic attributes.

If patriotism has any value, it would be as friendly competition between equals who have the same rights, where one hopes that all competitors do well, but that his own side does the best.

Economic perspective

From an economic perspective the merits of patriotism are numerous. Most States in the world use it to demand blind, unthinking obedience to the dictates of the leaders.

The consumer behaviour in Sri Lanka is 'funny'. Every patriotic Sri Lankan consumer expects everyone else to buy 'local' but he himself buys what offers value to him.

The market share split in every industry bears ample testimony to this. You may search, analyse and be convinced, more importantly use it to formulate wining business strategies. My conclusion is, patriotism plus real value can make you win; not patriotism alone.

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