Before the text starts getting saffron or blue and white, let me shed some light on a few common terms and their connection in the field of branding and marketing:
Brand Purpose: Prevalent trends show that one brand can no longer be distinguished from another on the basis of physical features and design so brand purpose is one of the strongest reasons to stand out from the clutter. For example, the Shiv Sena emerged as a party that protects the rights of Marathi people (original inhabitants) in Maharashtra and gets directed in the same way. It is this purpose that commands immense loyalty among the minds of thousands of its supporters as they are all united by the strong belief in its purpose.
Youthful Brands: More and more brands are connecting with the youth to have greater reach and impact. A youthful connect is important for the brand to remain relevant among the majority of Indians (occupying 60% of the total population) for which young political leaders are one of the means to achieve. Indian Youth Congress is an example which specifically gives a call to action to the youth. Leaders like Sachin Pilot have been appointed to form an energetic and young brand among Indians.
Brand Slogan: In order to increase both mind share and market share there should be a brand slogan for the party which is often related to the socio-cultural changes they want to bring within the Indian community. For example ‘Gareebi Hatao’ and ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’. Simplicity and easy memorability are often required for formulating these slogans.
The Political Indian Saga:
The general election of 2014 recorded a 67.7% voting as compared to 57.6% in 2009. The high turnout was attributed to the promise of ‘Achhe Din’ by brand Modi who won the elections because he could strike a chord among the Indians that he would bring development, end corruption and get employment for the youth. He played on the fact that he was a ‘common man’ unlike the ‘Royal Gandhi Family Member’ and people could hence associate more with him. The entire BJP campaigned was spearheaded by 1 man – Modi. All the veterans, oppositions, critics and everyone else was left behind to make way for the ‘Brand Modi’. Inspiration for an active social media presence was drawn from Obama’s election campaigns and at the end, he was successful in getting the many non-voters like women to come out and vote for him. Female voters were hopeful with the kind of women empowerment that Modi talked about. There was a better representation of women in the Lok Sabha seats. This was an example of good targeting and segmentation. Through research, it was found that the top 3 brand personalities of Modi are ‘visionary, modern and earthy as compared with Rahul Gandhi’s ‘unapproachable, confused and dumb.’ This clearly depicts the overall sentiments of the people about both parties.
At the end I would like to share a few key learnings from both the BJP and the Congress 2014 campaigns:
1. Content Marketing of the BJP campaign was very efficient. They put forth consistent and continuous content promoting the vision of Modi on all social media platforms. The content was delivered by him personally with a tinge of humour and competitiveness which brought out authenticity and connect with a large number of audience.
2. Building a Loyal Influencer Base - BJP had more than 1 Crore influencers who promoted Brand Modi through both offline and online means and coordinated and synchronized with the top-level influencers to create and recreate echo impact among their followers.
3. Using Monitoring Technologies – Analytics and social listening tools were used by BJP in a localized manner to understand the regional and overall sentiments of the voters all across India.
After their smashing defeat in 2014, the Congress party has realized the importance of social media presence, redefined their strategies and used emotional branding to strengthen their campaigns. Following are some of the learnings from their current campaigns:
1. Riding on current trends – Congress has been very quick in building content on current ideological themes or news that become a rage. The party has been constantly updating its social media handles and pages according to changing trends among the youth. This has greatly improved the image of Rahul Gandhi, his number of followers and engagement rates.
2. Building influencer base which is vernacular and region-based – There has been a rise in regional influencers for the Congress party who address micro-level visits by Rahul Gandhi in their area and promote content by associating with the grand history of the Gandhi family.
3. The strategic entry of Priyanka Gandhi – In order to complement her brother, Priyanka Gandhi has stepped into the battlefield right before elections. She is, in general, being perceived as a ‘tough, inspirational and a pleasing personality.’ The stark resemblance with her grandmother is also evoking positive feelings towards her.
India has taken lessons from all across the world and political branding has become so commonplace and necessary here that dedicated firms like ‘Social Champs’ have emerged that cater to maintaining the perfect digital presence for the politicians using marketing tools like SEO, SEM, email marketing etc. Another fine example of political branding can be seen in Sanjaya Baru’s book on ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ where the downfall of a prime minister (brand ambassador) due to lack of continuous engagement led him to become irrelevant. Hence politicians like brands must keep engaging, evolving and staying true to their brand purpose in a continuous manner if they want to stay relevant among the voters.