Name Recognition of the New Political Options in Croatia

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A new election season begins and a new crop of political hopefuls sprouts from the fertile Croatian political soil. We have a colorful new batch of ‘Domoljubne’ center-right oriented parties and movements are trying to gain the attention of the growing number of disappointed and disenfranchised voters.

Over the last year dissatisfaction with the present large parties, the SDP and HDZ, has increased and a new market has developed for a new third alternative. Roughly two thirds of the population thinks that Croatia needs a new alternative. It is normal that whenever a new market develops there will be a plethora of new market entrants. The objective of the new entrants will be to show how they are different and better than their competitors. As time passes, each new party will try to gain visibility, credibility and support. Some will grow faster than others and consolidation will occur with slower growing parties joining the faster growing parties. Survival of the fittest and most relevant.

An election campaign is nothing more than a sales and marketing exercise. Many entrepreneurs think that if they build a better mousetrap that the world will beat a path to their door. This is never the case, especially when there are many mousetrap options. Similarly political entrepreneurs can’t expect voters to flock to them just because they exist. These new parties must go out to the people, create awareness and sell themselves as the best political mousetrap in the market.

Over the last six months a number of ‘Domoljubne’ political parties and movements have come to life and are trying to gain visibility and grow. Some of the notables are:

Over the weekend of May 28 & 29, 2011 we took a look at the Croatian political market to assess name recognition of the new parties and movements. The test was a telephone survey using a computerized automated dialing system that asked pre-recorded questions and then tracked the results that respondents provided via number pad entries. The following is a summary of the findings and an assessment of why the recognition levels are at the levels they are at.

Croatian voters want a “New Option”. This is no surprise after we have witnessed the street protests and ongoing criticisms of the establishment in various social media channels. Overall 66.7% of Croatians want a new option. Women want change more than men, 72.7% vs. 60.3%. The younger generation, ages 18 to 34 is the key driver for change when compared to the older generation aged 55 and over, 79.8% vs. 49.6%. Young women had the highest desire for a new option, at 83.8% but we see them under-represented in the leadership structure of the new options, which are predominantly older males.

Only about 1 out of 6 have heard of the new options. After six months of activity, the name recognition of the new parties and movements is relatively low. The two most recognized parties are Volim Hrvatsku at 16.6% and Hrvatski Rast at 14.6%, unfortunately people are not very familiar with the party leaders. The two most recognized leaders are Ivan Pernar at 32.2% and Zeljko Sacic at 23.8% but people do not recognize the parties which these individuals lead.

The third most popular person in this survey is Kristina Curkovic of Volim Hrvatsku, at 9.9% , whose name is more recognized than the leader of Volim Hrvatsku, Roko Sikic at 8.4%. The commonality that unites the top three most recognized people is that they have taken an active role in publicity activities. Pernar is known for the street protests he organized, Sacic is known for the large branitelj rally in Zagreb and Curkovic is known for climbing buildings and taking down EU flags.

These recognition statistics are roughly reflected in online social media. If we look at Facebook, Volim Hrvatsku has about 8,560 friends, Ivan Pernar has about 7,700 friends while Roko Sikic has about 830 friends. Hrvatski Rast on the other hand has about 3,000 friends split between two public groups and the Hrast leader, Zeljka Markic, does not have an identifiable Facebook page.

An interesting case study for further analysis is Hrvatski Rast. At present Hrvatski Rast has about 15% recognition which translates to just under 250,000 Croatians of voting age. This group is attempting to unite numerous associations and parties with a center-right philosophy. Present members include Glas roditelja za djecu – GROZD, Hrvatska republikanska zajednica, Hrvatsko kulturno vijeće and Obiteljska stranka. High profile intellectuals and public figures include; Miroslav Tuđman, Josip Jurčević, Hrvoje Hitrec, Ivica Relković, Željko Tomašević, and Ivan Tomljenović. Even with all these big hitters, the name Hrvatski Rast (Hrast) is curiosly low at about 15%. It would be interesting to understand why their party is not connecting with the people.

What are the next steps? Over the last six months, which we can consider the political surfacing phase, all the new players have done a relatively poor job of developing visibility and recognition. At a national level, by most standards a 15% recognition level is low. We now have about 4 to 7 months before the election campaign starts and recognition levels will need to increase to at least 60%. This sort of a significant recognition increase will require a substantial increase in communications strategy effectiveness.

Hrvatski Rast, Volim Hrvatsku and Akcija za Bolju Hrvatsku are on track to get between 120,000 to 160,000 votes each. At these levels they will be irrelevant in the next Sabor. To be a credible force, which can bring about change, the new Domoljubna option will require at least 450,000 votes to gain the number of seats required to initiate change and steer the course of the Croatian future into a new direction.

An election campaign can’t be run on passion alone. Operating on a ‘wing and a prayer’ is not an effective strategy. Questions that the Domoljubne parties need to ask themselves if they want to develop a relationship with their voter target market:

• Are we targeting a market segment of viable size?
• Do we understand what our voter target market wants?
• What is our core issue?
• Are we communicating with the target market in an appropriate manner?
• Do we have a coherent branding strategy?
• Do we have an effective earned media strategy

Effective political communications strategies have been developed and used in the West over the last 50 years. Unfortunately the ‘Domoljubni’ options in the new political market see the use of modern public relations, publicity and political communications tactics to be manipulative tools that are not to be used by ‘respectable’ politicians. A tool, on its own, is not inherently good or evil. Good or evil is defined by how the tool is used. Here in North America, we have the Amish that do not believe in technology and they do not drive cars. The Amish can accomplish most of their daily chores using the horse and buggy but it takes them a long time. My car on the other hand allows me to travel further and faster.

Do we understand what our voter target market wants? Don’t assume you know what the voters want. Surveys will help you understand.

  • Use automated dialer based in Toronto calling to Croatia
  • Dialer speaks pre-recorded message, questions and vote options.
  • System records response provided via keypad response
  • Pre-recorded questions are in Croatian language
  • Call introduced as coming from a Canadian Market Research company

Date of calls: May 28 & 29, 2011
Time of calls: 11:00 to 19:00 hrs - local time Croatia

Calls Made: 1,549
Successful: 760
No Answer: 347
Hang-ups: 283
Not voters 87
Errors/Unusable: 72

Margin of error: 3.55%, 19 times out of 20

Age Categories

Mladi = Young = 18 to 34 years of age
Srednji = Middle = 45 to 54 years of age
Stari = Mature = 55 to 79 years of age

Zeljko Zidaric
Mississauga Canada
Željko Zidarić