The world of Marketing & Realpolitik

(Wikipedia) Realpolitik (German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions. The term realpolitik is often used pejoratively to imply politics that are coercive, amoral, or Machiavellian. Realpolitik is a theory of politics that focuses on considerations of power, not ideals, morals, or principles. The term was coined by Ludwig von Rochau, a German writer and politician in the 19th century, following Klemens von Metternich's lead in finding ways to balance the power of European empires. Balancing power to keep the European pentarchy was the means for keeping the peace, and careful Realpolitik practitioners tried to avoid arms races.

The last time I heard the use of Realpolitik was when Shekhar Gupta on a political discussion program on TV advocated its use in dealing with the unrest in Myanmar. His view was for India to stay disengaged. Speaking on that very same program, a lady, a Burmese dissident, based out of the United Kingdom, expressed views in contrast to that of Shekhar's. She asked for India to intervene and said if it didn't, which meant tacit support to the Junta's actions, when one day Myanmar would be free, they would surely remember the nations that helped and that didn't.

The latest round to a call to an application of Realpolitik is the Iranian unrest. Obama, though has called for a stop to violence against civilians, is dithering to a dilemma. Wanting to engage Iran on the nuclear issue requires he not meddle in the current situation. Obama's stance on Iran is in direct contrast to that of Bush's, who termed Iran as part of the 'Axis of Evil'. If Obama intends to negotiate with Ahmedinejad on the nuclear issue, he has to stay clear of current events. Staying clear will definitely portray the President as a weakling who can't stand up to defending what's morally right, that is, Human rights. Of course, Obama's implied defence would be Realpolitik.

Now I think Realpolitik is smart. But its application is what's the difficult part. Most Realpolitik driven decisions seem to look only at the present, discounting what could emerge in the future. I agree, the future can't be predicted too well. But then does that mean, Myanmar will never be free? What I mean is, the way Realpolitik is practiced today, seems to remind me of the classic Marketing folly termed, 'Marketing Myopia'. 'Missing the wood for the trees'. Letting the present blind you to the implications of the future.

In Marketing too, Realpolitik is called for. Albeit without the Myopia. For example, take a case of negative publicity. Should a Brand react and try and contain it or should it stay clear, stay silent? After all, isn't public memory short? Engaging or staying away from a bout of negative publicity would again, like politics, depend not just on the impact of the present but of the future too. Let me explain. Should bad publicity result in only negative perceptions (note, I said, perceptions) against the brand, I would advocate a disengaged policy. After all perceptions don't last. But if you predict that those perceptions will take a down-the-road journey to turning into negative 'attitudes' against the brand, I would recommend immediate engagement and a campaign to arrest the bad publicity. Attitudes are what comes closest to the formation of a particular consumption behaviour. Negative attitudes result in a decision to not buy. Negative perceptions, on the other hand, can only stop purchases for the present, till the time the perception stays. Over time, everything's forgotten. The brand can then start its campaign of communication after the period of lull, where it stayed quiet, so as to build positive attitudes towards it.

About Iran, should the US intervene? My call's a Yes. This is a watershed moment in History. America's actions will be remembered. And remembered for a long time to come.

I say, Stand up and be counted. Speak up and engage. After all, what's more important to anyone than FREEDOM? And now, it beckons.


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