Back to the Future Part II

What can business learn from politics?

Back to the Future Part I:

On Monday (June 3 2024) we had a bit of a tongue-in-cheek analysis of the recent general elections where we concluded (backed up by facts and figures) that the recent elections produced the exact same results as the 1994 elections did.

Back to the Future Part II:

Now it seems that we were even 'more right' that we thought we were. A government of national unity is now on the cards (as at the time of writing this). So, it definitely is 1994 yet again.

Margaret Mead

The above reminds one of few quotes from (American anthropologist) Margaret Mead.

The first quote is a bit facetious in this context, so we will move on swiftly after posting it:

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.

The second quote provides a bit more food for thought here:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

And lastly, for today, the third quote may apply (a) to the pre-election polls, (b) the eventual voting patterns, and (c) how political analysts are looking at this - where their pervasive wisdom seems to be that there has been a huge change, whereas our analysis arrived at a very different conclusion.

What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things.

What does this mean for businesses?

It really is a bit platitudinous or banal to state the following, but our election results show how old truths are still truths when we try to (1) identify, (2) connect, (3) inspire, and (4) change groups of people.

Most companies (i.e. those that don't have the algorithm-and-AI driven mind-changing engines that companies such as TikTok, Meta and others have) cannot really change their customers.

So, what can businesses do then?

Consider the following 4 statements to answer this question.

Target Markets


We have to analyse and then target the correct markets for our products and/or services. We have heard this advice since forever (but, yes, 'Back to the Future' is still true). Finding target markets is more difficult than it appears to be, though, given Meads' third quote (above).

SA politics:
We definitely wave no flags for the Patriotic Alliance (or any other political party) here, but our example (posted here on Saturday) of what appears to have been a basket of good political marketing, based on a great sense of who their target market is, seems to have also worked really well for them. They were the only 'new' party that outperformed a sea of other such parties. MK, which also outperformed, did so for reasons that have less to do with their marketing actions than with other realities.

Target Market Expansion

Most existing businesses (of reasonably long standing) have managed to identify their target markets. But, once we have succeeded with our target market, it becomes difficult to grow further.

Then we may have to find adjacent target markets, or increase our target market's engagement with us. Many businesses are unable to do so and growth then slows down or stagnates.

SA politics:
Market-expansion-failure definitely seems to have been the case for most of our political parties (as per our analysis).



Our Brand must represent something.

The Brand must be a clearly visible incarnation of an identifiable concept. After you have (1) identified and pinpointed the correct audience and you then (2) target that audience, the audience will only (3) connect if they deem your brand representation to be relevant to them in the context of that concept.

SA politics:
You may disagree with this statement, but the SA political party with the clearest brand is probably the EFF? Most of us can articulate what they stand for - whether we identify with it, or not. It's a bit more difficult to do so for the rest of the parties, many of whom seem to largely be 'against' what they say the other parties are 'for'.



Our Purpose/Vision/Strategy-chain must align with our brand.

We may have successfully identified the right audience and we may have built a brand to connect with that audience, but none of that will go anywhere if our Purpose/Vision/Strategy-chain is then misaligned.

In the final analysis we have to deliver products and/or services. We arrive at and/or evolve those offerings (and we decide on how deliver those) based on a Strategy.

There must be alignment all the way from Purpose through Strategy to support the Brand that builds the connection.

Failure is the result of really messing this up.

Mediocrity is the result of doing this about as well as everyone else.

Great performance is the result of a harmonious chain of ideas and actions between Purpose and Customer.

SA politics:
Almost all of SA's political parties were, at most, mediocre in this respect. Rather than strategy, tactical actions seemed to have been pervasive.


Fourthly, and lastly for today:

There is this notion (often heard in Silicon Valley) of changing the world (or, at the very least, changing a part of the world that you want to change).

This is what we call Outperformance.

This also is what Margaret Meads says only "a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens" can do.

Often those small groups are built around very charismatic leadership ('good', 'neutral' or 'bad' - as the case may be) such as Genghis Kahn, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs and many others.

SA politics:
Jacob Zuma may be an example in the SA political context. He, and what he represents, is almost certainly the main reason for MK's outperformance.

Business Outperformance

Not many businesses are blessed (or cursed) with extreme levels of charismatic leadership. In such cases, outperformance and a changing of the world must be engineered.

There is good news:

There definitely are ways to engineer business Outperformance.

Forward to the Future!