Marketing tactics used during #GE14: The art of handing out discounts

Discounts are a typical way for companies to attract more consumers, and when launched at the appropriate time, can bring benefits to brands. In the week leading up to election day, several companies - mainly food and beverage and convenience stores - offered discounts and free meals or products to consumers which were publicised on social media. Brands such as Krispy Kreme, Boost Juice Bar, Kenny Rogers Roasters, Dave's Deli Malaysia were among the few that launched discounts and promotions during the 14th Malaysia General Election (GE14).

According to statistics from Meltwater, the list of trending topics on 9 May included "promo", "get rewarded", "Aeon vouchers", "special promo" and "free giveaway and offers", among others. Meanwhile, trending themes before and after election day include "free brownie giveaway", "free burger", "free Kenny" and "GE14".

While some businesses have dished out discounts to portray themselves as good corporate citizens that have the country's interests at heart, others might have seen GE14 as a good excuse to draw more customers and increase revenue, thus capitalising on it.

Geometry Global Malaysia's CEO Kenny Loh said it would only make sense for companies in certain industries such as FMCG and automobile to launch discounts during elections. He added that unity should be one of the main drivers behind the discounts or promotions, for example, AirAsia slashing ticket prices on polling day. According to Loh, this works "very well" for AirAsia as it being seen as a caring brand that is proud of its Malaysian roots. He also agreed for the need to remain neutral, as companies will be addressing consumers from all walks of life.

Prashant Kumar, senior partner of ENTROPIA, said that while companies can leverage on the election fever in their marketing strategies,

It is important for them to remain apolitical and not touch on sensitive issues.

"This GE, some brands may have crossed the line and I am sure, they came out regretting it," Kumar said. He added that brands with values that are representative of democracy, such as freedom, togetherness, choice and rights, are "best placed" to ride the elections. However, the emphasised that they must do it right.

(Read also: Social talk: What were Malaysians most concerned about during #GE14?)

Agreeing with him is Casey Loh, creative chief of The Clan, who said that while it is important for companies to show that they are a part of every Malaysian's life, there is a thin line a brand might cross if the campaign appears to be politically charged or biased.

"Be respectful of the elections and humble in the approach. Either treat the campaign and the meaning of the election with care, or risk getting embroiled in a conversation you don't want to have with a very vocal and involved audience," Loh said. According to him, one of the best ways to not draw unwanted attention to the brand is to focus on the rakyat (citizens) and how much their vote matters to the country.

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