Najib’s 4-Step Guide To Reinventing Yourself & The Art of Failing Upwards
How To Persevere And Answer Life’s Tough Questions When Everyone Wants You To Fail
COMMENTARY | BY JONATHAN LEONG | 4TH JULY 2019
From non-profits to publicly listed companies…history is littered with the corpses of former titans who succumbed to scandal or natural decline. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak found himself in hot soup over alleged mismanagement of Malaysia’s 1mdb financial investment fund, which resulted in an international scandal spawning tabloid reports revolving around its ‘advisor’ Jho Low, features on how his wife Rosman owned hundreds of Hermes Birkin Bags, and stories of stock piles of cash in Najib-linked apartments.
Despite the heat, Najib has somehow managed to stay afloat. We’ve condensed his exploits and examine how he’s managed to rebrand himself and even troll the media by becoming an Internet Meme.
Step 1: Never Admit Defeat Or Responsibility Directly
How Najib Fares Compared To Other Disgraced Leaders:
When Enron (a previous revered organisation in America) fell due to a apocalyptic-sized accounting scandal, their CEO Ken Lay (who was once worth more than $220 million) had this to say:
“I have to take responsibility for anything that happened within its businesses…but I can't take responsibility for criminal conduct of somebody inside the company” - Ken Lay, Ex-CEO of fallen firm Enron
From an outsider view Ken Lay’s reply to his charges sounds rather rational and seems to effectively distance himself from the criminal wrongdoing that contributed to Enron’s downfall. Post scandal however, portfolio ranked Ken Lay as the “third-worst American CEO of all time”.
Lay later died of a heart attack in 2006 three months before he was scheduled to be sentenced. Poor chap probably couldn’t even take the strain and wasn’t looking forward to retiring in prison. His body gave up the ghost, under all the shame, pressure and public scrutiny.
Najib Razak however, proved his detractors wrong due to his cockroach-like ability to live to fight another day. Unlike Ken Lay whom we can consider to have faced the same level of scrutiny post scandal, Najib simply refused to roll over and disappear from existence.
Instead, he started to sing…
While the prosecution declared that they had an “almost iron-clad case against the former politician”, Najib’s trial fell to constant delay due to some “legal technicalities” much to the frustration of his detractors.
Najib was also quick with his words, distancing himself from the 1mdb scandal with public statements such as the following:
Bizarrely despite all the circus frenzy surrounding the scandal this was the result:
Thus, Najib manages to live another day, continuing his crusade to rebrand himself.
Step 2: Become Your Own Media Machine
Unlike most politicians who are often caught off-guard with awkward quotes and answers that seem to dig their own graves…Najib knows how to take charge of the online narrative by endlessly trolling his opponents, the media and artfully curates his new existence: doing ‘normal people stuff’ such as jet skiing, eating with his supporters and praying.
While most politicians struggle to output good online content for their personal brands, Najib has left most of his competition in the dust…amassing more than 3million followers on social media. He shares lighthearted anecdotes from his life, such as working out in the gym and riding on a light motorbike - a popular mode of transportation amongst Malaysian youth.
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Step 3) Enjoy The Simple Things In Life & Build Rapport
Most social media influencers tend to stick to a tightly curated online persona complete with multiple trips to exotic locations, a flow of branded items #blessed, and images of them in first/or business class #grateful.
Not Najib, as part of his new brand he rides coach on planes, tours the supermarket with an empty trolley to examine the ‘rising cost of living’ with his followers and often poses for photos with commoners, smiling youth or young children - because #ChildrenAreTheFuture
Najib’s wife Rosman, who has had her fair share of bad press revolving around her excessive luxury bag collection has been carefully ‘curated out’ from Najib’s many public appearances….
And to bring things full circle, no new brand turnaround is complete without a trip to the hospital to visit the less fortunate:
Step 4: Take Selfies With Your Cat
You know what never goes wrong? Cats.
No matter your previous sins, real, alleged or imagined…once you pose with your cute cat or just upload photos of your pussy, you have a 70% chance of becoming more likeable. Just look at these pictures:
Najib has his pulse on pop culture, he astutely displays his up-to-date knowledge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a photo of his cat while hash-tagging #CaptainMarvel:
Taking a leaf from the playbook of many popular cat-based instagram accounts on the internet, Najib hams things up by slowly eroding his audience’s image of him as an allegedly corrupt politician one cat picture at a time…
Oh…and his cat’s name is Kiky.
When your pet has a name like that, there’s no reason to hate.