The DA’s poor positioning

The Democratic Alliance

The DA’s priority is to, every 5 years, get as many votes as it can, with an end goal of becoming and staying the leading party.

So what is the best way to get more votes in 2014? Well, to start answering this question, we need to take a little tour of history. In Grade 10 or 11 (2004/2005) one of my class mates managed to, after doing an internship at the DA, get Helen Zille to come and speak to our class.

There were two things that are still top of mind;

  1.  How the DA had become the Official Opposition in the 1999 Elections
  2. The DA had a strategy to win in the 2009 General Elections

Zille explained how, after the 1994 elections, the DA focused on its goal of becoming the official opposition. She explained how they achieved it by displaying signs that they were the official opposition. This boiled down to imagery of them making a lot of noise wherever they could, until the ANC started to respond to their noise in the media. She explained how this helped position the DA (aka DP pre 1999 election) as the official opposition, as in the media, the leading party was responding the their opposition. This was of course not the only reason they achieved their goal, but it is significant that positioning was a major contributor to their success. Then on the second point, about the DA winning the 2009 elections, well that was significant, because as you all know, the DA didn’t win the 2009 General Elections.

But this is a piece about strategy rather than politics, so let us start discussing strategy. The DA needs more votes, or written in a different way, the DA needs more South Africans to believe that they will do the best job of running the country.

So how do individuals decide who will do the best job of running the country? A very complex marriage of your experience of the different political parties, as well as your political influencers (family, friends, Gareth Cliff, etc.), stated, implied and assumed experiences of the political parties. This decision is largely emotional, as are most decisions, and not as logical as all the party communications would imply.

So what is the problem with DA’s strategy you ask?

Well they still seem stuck on the pre-1999 methodology of publicly criticizing the majority of what the ANC does which was noted by Mandela in his 1997 farewell speech as ANC president. This is important because, as a voter, I would like to vote for the party whom I think would do the best for the country, but the vast majority of my experiences of the DA has been them criticizing the ANC. Why not rather focus on becoming objective, i.e. congratulate and support the Government when they do something well, as loud in the media as when you disagree with them. And when you do disagree with the Government or the ANC, suggest an alternative, or improvements.

This kind of objectivity is what would emotionally connect with me, not necessarily the majority of South Africans, so it is just an idea, a thought to disregard if it doesn’t hold. But what is clear is that this change of tact will enforce the imagery that the DA isn’t exclusively in opposition of the ANC, but rather a political party that is exclusively focused on the best for South Africa, and I would like to believe that I live in a country where the majority of people find a stronger emotional pull from a party that shows it has the best interest of the country at its core, rather than an emotional pull from legacy.

We would love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to comment below.

If you would like to read more about positioning, read a summary of Ries and Trout’s famous book on Positioning.



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