Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 2101
, Published on 01 August 2012
“POLITICS IS NOT A GAME. IT IS AN EARNEST BUSINESS” By WINSTON CHURCHILL
The above quote breaks the blasphemy that surrounds the usage of ‘business and politics’ in the same breath. Politics has indeed become an earnest business. Gone are the days when the pomp and show of the campaign rallies would decide the fate of an election campaign. Today politicians, like businessmen, are expected to communicate, interact and engage with their customers continuously.
Nowadays even the politicians are engaging in brand building exercise to send out clear & crisp messages to their electorate aka the proverbial customer. It is very important to understand the customer in the business of politics. Therefore let us take a step back and understand the broader canvass of the Indian political milieu. India is a country of mindboggling complexities - ethnic, linguistic, cultural, socio-economic and geographic. To add to the diversity, the country has been in a state of transition on different fronts – globally, locally and economically. As a result, the electorate has evolved into a complex market place. Political success is directly proportional to the effectiveness of political marketing i.e. the art of selling political ideologies cutting across the diverse social fabric of the country. The success of political marketing rests on the pillars of brand building and brand portfolio management.
ICONIC BRAND: CHARISMA & PR
Sociologist Max Weber defined a charismatic person as someone endowed with super human qualities. These super human qualities have been passed over generations. In this context, the first political brand that comes to mind is the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. The Nehru-Gandhi family has been looked upon over the years as the savior of the poor and the downtrodden. The indirect connect to the Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy has further added to the aura that surrounds them.
The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty symbolizes continuity, coherence and national unity. The brand has been bestowed with charismatic leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv & Sonia Gandhi and now Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi. Even after 65 years of Independence the country is still awe-struck by this dynasty.
On the flip-side let us examine the curious case of Anna Hazare and his fight against corruption. Anna Hazare comes from an unknown hinterland of Ralegam Siddhi, a village in the Ahmednagar District of Maharashtra. All political parties have talked about corruption in the past but Anna Hazare decided to take a stand and do something about it. Anna has become an iconic brand today which has ushered in an “Indian Jasmine Revolution”.
Although he lacks the charisma that many other leaders have he has been able to establish a truly iconic brand with the help of an astute PR campaign being run by Team Anna. Brand Anna has established a close association with qualities like Selflessness, Self-righteousness and Fearlessness in the minds of the masses. Thus in Anna’s case a little charisma coupled with a sound PR strategy has created ‘the differentiator!’
THE BRAND PORTFOLIO
The days of single party rule in India are long gone. The diverse electorate needs a coalition which is strong, nimble and agile at the same time. Thus the portfolio should offer a good mix of Power, Niche and Regional brands. The idea behind having an exhaustive portfolio is that the alliance becomes a one-stop shop for the customer. Power brands can be defined as the brands which have an appeal across all electorate, e.g. Sonia Gandhi for Congress. A niche brand would cater to certain segment of the society. Politicians like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot and Naven Jindal, the faces for the future, are well educated and suave which helps them connect with the urban middle class population. The most difficult to manage but probably the most powerful brands are the regional brands.
EMERGENCE OF REGIONAL BRANDS
Today mere brand awareness is not sufficient. What is more important is, brand relevance and brand resonance. People should be able to identify themselves with the leaders either regionally, religiously, ideologically or communally, whatever the case may be.
In a country like India with so much diversity in every aspect, it is not possible for a single leader to connect with the people on each of these aspects. At the same time a party may not have enough representation in every section of the society and may not be able to connect with the people on every aspect. So we see the emergence of regional brands (leaders) who connect with the people based on the issues which are dearer to the people than the larger national issues. They chose to play to their strengths, albeit willingly limiting their scope. These leaders work meticulously on a segment & use a myopic but relevant strategy to engage the target audience. The focused approach has created iconic brands for these leaders which has given them the arm-twisting strength not only in their states but also at the national level.
These brands can be used to strengthen the position of any alliance in the regions where either there is low brand resonance for a single party or there is threat of competitors.
Examples of the regional brands that enjoy high brand equities in their respective regions
Developing a strong sense of identification with the target audience and connecting with the target audience is the key to occupy the top rung in the mental ladder of the target audience. And when it comes to politics, it becomes even more vital.
The three leaders mentioned above successfully connect with the people regionally, communally or ideologically and have established themselves as brands that people can identify themselves with.
There are many such regional players in the Indian political landscape who because of their strong regional brand equity, have a strong say in the national politics and have the ability to make and break alliances.
Hence, in today’s era of coalition politics, managing a political party is exactly similar to managing a business corporation. The basic tenets of management hold true for both the cases.
This article has been authored by Anand Tajpuria, Omkar Deshpande & Anurag Thakurta from NMIMS Mumbai.
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