What I learnt playing with Politicians last year ...
February 07, 2017
As the election fever is rising up in Uttar Pradesh, so the political campaigning is gaining momentum. What so ever the results after March 11, 2017, it is the marketing tools & strategies used by political parties professionals which are catching the eyes and minds of general voters.
I love interacting with people and conversations with unknown always excite me. I work with a startup where I take interviews and train people for Interview skills. This domain expertise landed me with an assignment for conducting Focused Group discussion and In depth Interviews of politicians (of the great grand oldest party of India) to understand the ground level issues & realities for deciding campaigns agendas. This assignment took me to hinterlands of Uttart Pradesh in the hot summers of dust & sweat. After interacting with so many politicians & party workers and devising some of the interesting political campaigns last year, Here I am trying to share what I learnt from this interesting assignment in political domain.
Campaigning for political parties involves rigorous marketing strategies so as to magnetise votes from the citizens and to win the elections. These marketing strategies have been experimented with and are expanding over time on various fronts. With the world rapidly transitioning towards a digitally and technologically dominant scenario, social media marketing, SEO, political blogs, awareness, PPC and other digital marketing campaigns are on the rise.
However, traditional methods of campaigning have still been ubiquitous in India with prospective political candidates going from door to door distributing freebies, promising a well-being, gesticulating manners and courtesy, and portraying themselves as a personification of transformation and evolution. The reason these door to door and traditional campaigns have prevailed is the belief that is invested in personal contact. Personal contact is more impactful, and this is further executed by distributing freebies, announcing and requesting for votes through blow horns on rickshaws, TV and radio ads, broadcast, campaign posters, vouchers, and so on. Hence, political parties have also been attempting to balance out and strategise their marketing campaigns between conventional and digital, and media and social media.
Primarily, there are two significant components that political campaigners aim to collaborate and maintain in sync: the candidate focus and the environmental forces. Under the former, there are further four classifications namely, party concept, product concept, selling concept and the marketing concept. And, the latter forms party to technology, structural shifts, broker shifts in influence, political action committees, consultants and pollsters. These 2 factors are blended and organised systematically through the marketing campaign along with the stages of the political campaign. In the marketing campaign, the initial step is a market or voter segmentation. The campaigning team has to assess and evaluate the needs and exigencies or the voters. This assessment should be followed by creating a general profile of the voters and then identifying the segments of the voters.
Moreover, marketing and political campaigning is not just all about the voters and their responses, but also the fact that the prospective candidate holds a balanced out quintessentially prominent significance in the entire general picture. The campaign has to first analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate. On the grounds of these strengths and weaknesses, the competition of the candidate is circled out and evaluated and compared. And, lastly, once the campaigning team figures out the target segment and relate it to the expertise of the professional, the image of the candidate is established and portrayed to the society in a good light so as to highlight their involvement, efforts, diligence and credibility.
Once the voter and the candidate and thoroughly scrutinised, the strategy formulation and implementation commences with a product campaign platform, push marketing and gross root efforts, polling and organisational development and control. For instance, the political party BJP is an epitome of how they followed marketing campaigners to the tee. To begin with, their strategy of analysing their voters and segregating them on different levels so as to ace the persuasion and trust gaining and receiving the maximum number of votes. The vote acquisition took place by identifying the values of the voters in terms of functional values (such as Swadeshi and its juxtaposition with globalisation, free market and foreign policies), social values (such as Dharam Rajya, secularism, security, justice and efficient development), emotional values (such as Hindutva, and a uniform civil code), conditional values through temporary events, and lastly epistemic values (such as innovations, varied orientations, and incumbency factors). Every citizen, irrespective of caste, creed, gender or race is a voter and hence, this voter has to be the highlight and the objective of the entire campaign. Considering the aforementioned example of the Bharat Janata Party (BJP), we could claim that the cognition and emphasis laid on all these factors from a universal standpoint is what led to its victory.
The brand imaging of a political party or a leader is one of the most initial and quintessential factors that go into the political marketing campaigns. The US elections too greatly focus on the branding of the party. It is a brand that helps acquire votes and eventually trust. In this digital era, campaigning has expanded leaps and bounds and has been absorbed into various means such as forums, hangouts and chats, tweets, blogs, unique agendas for promotions, and other social platforms through which problems could be addressed while campaigning simultaneously and user participation would be encouraged, and thus proving the worth and ability of the political party or leader.
The most ideal instance of exemplifying the most accurate and the best use of social media and campaigning strategies would be the case of Mr. Prashant Kishore and the seminal role that he played in the elections and the victory of the Modi campaign during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and how he designed and devised his strategies while working for Nitish Kumar.
Prashant Kishore chose to channelize the marketing strategy for the Bihar elections through a different style of campaigning- by targeting the opponent and trapping that competitor in a web thus diverting their attention from their original motives and agendas of going about in the campaign. A while before Modi was about to give his speech at the rally in Bihar, Prashant Kishore, being aware of Modi’s temperament and plans of action, attacked his twitter wall with a plethora of questions. Just through the medium of this platform, he succeeded in diverting Modi’s attention to replying to his word attacks rather than focusing on his own goal. He states, “He walked into our trap. Instead of saying what he wanted to, he started his speech by replying to our tweets…Our purpose was limited: do not allow a Modi hype to build…”.
Kishore’s team was very well knit with lawyers, web professionals, financial managers with whom he planned out the marketing strategy while taking every aspect into account. Around 10,000 phone numbers were added on the list of people who were informed about the latest developments via audios, videos, and infographics and pre-recorded messages. Bicycles were distributed, and every action clearly projected out the purpose, objectives and capabilities of the progress driven political party. The strategy further involved allies and collaborating and chalking out actions to overpower a particular opponent (Kishore collaborated with Lalu Prasad).
The functioning of the Prashant Kishore campaigning team is an epitome of how marketing strategies and new trends can be efficiently and precisely implemented in political campaigns while catering to the youth as well as the aged. Prashant Kishore is very much clear in his thought process and always demands what he finds best for the client whether its projection of a Brahmin Face as a CM candidate from INC or a month long Kisan Yatra from Deoria to Delhi by a senior leader or open interaction of ground party workers with senior leaders. His philosophy in his own words “Go Big or Go Home”. He always wants to capture audience minds with larger than life campaigns whether it’s Chai pe Charcha or Har Ghar Dastak. His strategy is always simple backed by data and analytics, but it is execution which is tough and makes PK the modern Chanakya of Indian Politics. Who have thought even in wild dreams, coalition of two contemporary big political rivals Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav.
However, the purpose of such campaigns must be extended and their goals must be more long-term and more focused on the citizens and their welfare rather than votes and a seat in the Parliament!
February 07, 2017
February 07, 2017