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Executive Doodle May/ June 2023

Political branding and narrative building determine the success in modern-day politics worldwide. Narrative building is based on facts and creating newness and appeal around the message that is close to the hearts of the constituency. However, when it comes to Pakistan, the scenario seems quite different.

The phrase “Ganda hai par dhandha hai” aptly captures the challenges faced in this realm. The absence of effective political narrative building in Pakistan poses significant obstacles for politicians and political parties in shaping public opinion and securing electoral success. One of the primary reasons for this predicament is the reluctance of good agencies and skilled individuals to engage in political branding campaigns. While old school agencies like “Clarient” and “Interglow” have been known for their involvement in such endeavors, their presence remains limited. The question arises: why are talented professionals, new age agencies, and brand strategists are hesitant to participate in political branding?

  1. Recovery issues loom large in the minds of agencies and professionals. The fear of financial loss, commonly expressed as “paisa doob jayega,” discourages potential collaborators from engaging in political branding. Secondly, a zero-design mindset exhibited by political clients further exacerbates the situation. Without a creative vision and an understanding of the importance of aesthetic appeal, campaigns can fall flat.
  1. The absence of professionalism in political circles hampers effective narrative building. Political actors often fail to understand that people in this day and age won’t resonate with what worked for them two decades ago. Their adamancy to use strategies that are like a relic from a bygone era result in the failure of a campaign.
  2. If these aren’t enough reasons; personal hidden agendas and a prevailing trust deficit contribute to the overall reluctance. When political actors prioritize personal interests over the common good, it becomes challenging to establish authentic and compelling narratives that resonate with the public.

Consequently, the current state of narrative building and branding in Pakistani politics can be described as absurd. The prevailing notion that “the louder, bolder, and more visible, the better” defines the norms of narrative, rather than meaningful issue-based conversations. Substance and policy take a back seat, while superficial attributes dominate the political landscape.

The absence of real campaigning, which involves data analysis, mapping, and technology, exacerbates the problem. Without utilizing these tools effectively, political actors miss out on valuable insights and fail to connect with their target audience in a meaningful way.

In the era of 5th generation warfare, where information and perception play critical roles, it is crucial to recognize the pitfalls of excessive rhetoric. As the saying goes, “Jitne log utni baten.” Hyperbolic and unsubstantiated claims may attract attention momentarily, but they ultimately erode public trust and contribute to a toxic political environment.

It is essential to acknowledge that the power to control the media lies with those who can shape the narrative. Whoever controls the narrative has the ability to shape the opinion of the nation. It highlights the importance of responsible and ethical political branding and narrative building in Pakistan. By focusing on substance, engaging in issue-based conversations, and utilizing data and technology effectively, political actors can overcome the challenges and shape a better future for the country. I hope and pray that the next elections will demonstrate some substance in narrative building that relates to PAKISTANIS.

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