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Opinions of Thursday, 18 August 2016

Columnist: Nyaabah, Solomon Abondegre

Manifesto launch: The 'first mover vrs fast second strategy'

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) officially launched its campaign on Sunday 14th August 2016 in the central region and all the major news portals I have scanned through have published headlines that seem to question the motives for launching their campaign without a manifesto.

These headlines are in my opinion as a result of the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) decision to withhold its manifesto launch for fear of it being copied by their opponent as suspected to have been done with the free senior high school policy.

This article will attempt to explain why these two political parties are withholding their manifestos, the strategy behind it and the options available to both parties from the writer’s perspective. Why withhold your manifesto?

In most high literate and information efficient societies, the best ideas that addresses the needs and concerns of the citizenry sells in the political space and this explains why both the NPP and NDC will want to portray themselves as the party with the best policies and programs.

It also further explains the posturing where the two dominant players in Ghanaian politics (NPP and NDC) will like to spy on each other on the policies and programs they want to sell out to the electorate before coming out with a policy program or manifesto.

Whiles the spying and “wait and see” approach remains, one party will eventually have to take the first step. Putting out its policies and programs in the public domain and risk the possibility of the opposing party copying and colonizing.

The NPP in recent history appears to have adopted the first mover strategy and strategically positioned itself as the party with the big ideas that will bring the desired changes we yearn for as a nation. Flagship programs like the Capitation Grants, Free Senior High School and most recently One-District One-Factory are and will be credited to the party.

The NDC on the other hand may have opted for the fast second strategy knowingly or unknowingly. They have a strong team that can colonize or repackage policies and programs of their opponents almost simultaneously in a manner that evades detection. This may purely be a tactical strategy by the NDC and does not impugn the absence of creative minds within the NDC. What is “First Mover” Strategy?

First mover is a term or business strategy that describes perceived competitive advantage a business or organization obtains by virtue of being the first to bring a specific product or service to the market. Those who opt for this strategy are of the opinion that, being first typically enables a company to establish strong brand recognition and customer loyalty before other entrants to the market arise.

This strategy involves significant investment in research and development in new product or service offering and it’s relatively expensive as compared to the fast second strategy. Politically the product or service offering in the context of this strategy is the policies and programs offered by the political parties and who puts it out first.

The benefits associated with this strategy however appears to be a myth in the corporate world and by extension the political space as there is considerable research that highlights the weakness of this strategy. Below table shows that coming out with an innovative ideas may not automatically inure to the benefits of the innovator or inventor.

Table 1

Unsuccessful Pioneers of Radically New Technologies.

Pioneer Technology Year

Robert W. Thompson Pneumatic tire 1845

Thomas Saint, Walter Hunt and Others Sewing machine 1790–1851

Stanley brothers, Colonel Automobile 1897–1905

Henry Mill, Xavier, Projean and others Typewriter 1714–1878

Valdemar Poulsen Magnetic tape recorder 1899

Alexander Parkes and Daniel Spills Artificial plastics 1866–69

Juan de la Cierva Helicopter 1930

John Baird and Francis Jenkins Television 1924

Frank Whittle Jet Engine 1930

Transitron, Philco, and Germanium Products Transistor 1952–55

Biologicals DNA synthesizing machine 1981

Source: Francisco-Javier Olleros, “Emerging Industries and the Burnout of Pioneers,” Journal of Product Innovation Management, March 1986, pp. 5–18.

I guess most readers will be surprised at the unfamiliarity with the names in the table. You guys were looking out for names like Samsung, Rolls Royce and Boeing right? Those who have been brought up to believe in pioneering and first mover advantages should be having a rethink by now.

The failure of this strategy in the business world remains widespread and even more so can serve as a learning tool in the political space. The NPP should therefore know that, bringing out the best ideas, and outdooring it first for the whole world to know how innovative the party is, may not be the best strategy.

The NPP’s biggest competitor, the NDC is well resourced and has the capacity to almost simultaneously colonize or repackage those ideas and deliver to a less literate and information inefficient society through their efficient propaganda machinery and reaping the benefits that come with those ideas.

What is “Fast Second” Strategy?

A fast second strategy differs from a first mover. A first-mover strategy would involve getting into the market quickly and producing your own product or service, hoping that your product emerges dominant design.

A second-mover strategy would involve waiting for the dominant player to be completely established and accepted in the market and then producing a me-too product under that standard. A fast-second strategy, however, involves waiting for the dominant design to begin to emerge and then moving in to be part of it, colonize it and make it your own or repackage it.

Research has shown that those who time their entry so they appear just when a dominant design/product or service offering is about to emerge or resonate mostly attain unassailable benefits over the innovator (first movers).

The political space is no different from the business community in the context of new product/service and the time for which it is offered. Fast second strategy in a low literate society like ours is a much potent option than first mover strategy.

What are the options for the NPP?

• Highlight the negatives of the ruling party and suggest alternatives whiles you keep your flagship policies to your chest for now.

• The campaign mantra that the NPP has no message going into the election because they have not launched their manifesto has minimal consequence since the Ghanaian populace is largely information inefficient and therefore should be ignored by the NPP

• Postpone your manifesto launch again and gauge the feedback from the NDC. Any attempt by the NDC to shift their launch again will inure to the benefit of NPP in terms of public opinion. What are the options for the NDC?

• Trumpet your achievement more aggressively and proceed to launch your manifesto to dispel the notion that you want copy that of the NPP.

• Your propaganda machinery is much stronger and any differentiated alternatives offered by the NPP in their manifesto could be countered strategically.

What is the option for the Ghanaians?

It’s all about strategy, so read in-between the lines and vote accordingly.

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