Patriotic voters vs patriotic consumers | Sunday Observer

Patriotic voters vs patriotic consumers

The recent presidential election results have again proved the fact that patriotism is a strong element of decision making by the majority of Sri Lankans. Is it only patriotism with no anticipated value? What’s in it for the people? Well my discussion is not about politics but about patriotic consumers.

Most very authentic local brands have had natural deaths in the local market not being able to keep pace with the evolving market challenges due to numerous local and global developments.

Other than a very few local brands that too with a minor market share, multinationals dominate most industries though you may not see or know the actual ownership of such organisations.

But the reality is that most products and services we Sri Lankans consume on a daily basis are owned by multinationals - if not fully with majority shareholding. 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. You may search, analyze and be convinced – more importantly use it to formulate the wining business strategies.

While the concept of marketing is about satisfying individual customer needs and wants, the concept of patriotism is about collectivist thinking and action. Patriotism demands that the individual subjugate his desires to the collective interest of the nation, even to sacrificing himself, family, and friends.

We see an increasing number of marketeers in Sri Lanka joining the ‘patriotism band wagon’ and riding free for business and marketing reasons. The synergies due to single minded positioning thus communication and influence over consumer choice provide the rationale for this platform. Few people question whether this patriotism is actually in their own best interests. But the fact remains that local brands have very little share in many industries.

‘Love for one’s country’ is taken as being a good characteristic for any individual to possess no matter which part of the world you live in. We are aware that many Sri Lankans who live abroad came down to vote during the recent presidential election. 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 a shining example of patriotism. One political party trying to outdo the other in terms of level of devotion is a common phenomenon in Sri Lanka.

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.

Don’t ask the consumer to sacrifice. The Sri Lankan marketers 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 that it is a recipe for disaster.

My focus is not politics but business and marketing. In the recent past the Sri Lankan consumer has been forced by patriotic product and service brand attributes 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 the purchasing decisions. Many companies use patriotism as the last refuge to market its products rather than focusing on the right value proposition that will naturally sell.

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

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

From an economic perspective the merits of patriotism are numerous. However, it’s up to the local business leaders to effectively challenge the MNCs supported by the policy of the state.

India is a good example and if we simply copy their philosophy and policy, we will have a market that will have honestly patriotic customers who actually wholeheartedly buying local brands to support their own economy.

Let’s hope that the new president will make the Sri Lankan companies win for economic independence for all Sri Lankans.