Thursday, May 08, 2008
Fargo's Superferry Kauai strategy: Divide and conquer
"Adm. Fargo is a strategic thinker and a visionary who has the depth to continue growing Trex Enterprises," said Kenneth Tang, chairman and CEO of Trex Enterprises. [Fargo named Trex president, Pacific Business News, November 16, 2005]
It's safe to say that everything Thomas Fargo says as CEO of Hawaii Superferry is also strategic. And so when we read the AP story (via KPUA), Superferry CEO says Kauai residents will decide return, we can be sure that Admiral Fargo is pursuing a strategy:
The new CEO of Hawaii Superferry says Kauai residents will decide whether the ferry service returns to the Garden Island.
Retired Navy Admiral Thomas Fargo says the service will resume to Kauai only if the community signals it wants it.
That strategy may be "divide and conquer." Why not; let residents and businesses of Kauai duke it out among themselves. Don't think for a moment that HSF will not be a player in the controversy, though.
Superferry spokeswoman Lori Abe says the company is continuing to talk with community members on Kauai.
Could the community members Abe has spoken to please stand up? Where are you? Watch, they could magically appear now. Or Abe will magically disappear. She has been saying this for some time, I think people know enough to distrust her.
Now, if I were Adm. Fargo, how would I pursue this strategy? Letters to the editor. Comments on newspaper articles. Support for Chamber of Commerce members to speak out. Low-key stuff like that.
Maybe even put Lori Abe on an airplane (Hawaiian, of course) to Kauai to speak to actual Kauai people. Regardless of what they say to her, publicize how much they want the Superferry to run to Kauai. Publicize how the community is divided but moving towards favoring the Superferry. Emphasize "divided" and support those who want it.
Meanwhile, predictably, Maui ridership will increase as the seas calm down and barf becomes less of a hazard. There will be many tourists and residents who report breathtaking views and what a great time they had. There will be plenty of genuine opportunity for positive publicity, barring a whale kill or some unforeseen operational problem.
Of course some do want the ferry, the community really seems to be divided.
Mel Rapozo, one of the seven County Councilmembers, has run a poll on his blog. Of course, this poll is as unscientific as polling chamber of commerce members (note the low sample):
Support for the decision allowing the Superferry to operate was 79.5% versus 20.5% opposed among 73 respondents. [Planet Kauai, 1/24/2008]
The divide and conquer strategy is a natural when the community really is divided, but it needn't be successful. The problem, as usual, is that one side has lots of money to devote to PR and the other does not. Up to now that investment has not been made.
Let's see what Tom and Lori do next.
All l this has done is dig back up the extreme disgust with not only the Ferry, the State actions and the issue itself but it’s proponents.
The biggest reason for anti-Superferry sentiment on Kaua`i is our having to hear from the outsiders, mostly of the mainland “progress and development is always good” type. The comments from them are so irksome that local folk are angry that they have to hear again from people who want to come here and bring their mainland values with them and force them down our throats.
Obviously Fargo and Abe don’t get it if indeed their business/PR plan is as you describe it. The Ferry makes us think about all the new and unique problems of roll on roll off but with their “retail” effort to get their people to write call etc. is re igniting the Kaua`i populace’s emotional guy-level rejection of the Ferry and, more so, it’s supporters’ values.
We’ve seen this movie before with others telling us what’s best for us and it always turns out that we pay the price of their “vision”.