The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.
Tantipudi Abhilash, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur.
By definition election is a “formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office”. By applying marketing to it, it gives rise to a new science called political marketing. “Political marketing” has its sublime existence right from the inception of democracy. This involves the external presentation of the political candidate or political organization to the contemporary world. The candidate is compared to other candidates in the election just like a product being compared to the other similar products in the market. Unique selling proposition (USP) of the candidate is to be given to the voters to make their decision-making process easy. Clearly it shows the need of effective communication of USP to voters, which is called as political branding.
It is no wonder that politicians or political organizations recruit the advertising agencies specially to create a brand image these days. Advertising agencies generally formulate their strategy according to the agenda of parties. Branding involves branding politicians, branding party candidates, branding political parties and sometimes the other government entities.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, major strategy and tactics behind the creation of Brand Modi was taken care by advertising agencies which executed it well. Taking lead from Prashant Kishore, a political strategist, advertising agencies Soho Square, Ogilvy and Mather, and media buying agency Madison World the media team that helped Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sweep to power in the LokSabha elections. On the other hand Indian National Congress hired Japanese advertising and communication firm Dentsu to give their campaign a fillip in the same election of 2014. Even in 2004 elections Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee used the slogan “India Shining” which was given by Global advertising agency. The advertising campaign in the other camp containing underdog Indian National Congress Party (INC) was managed by Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett, via a wholly owned local subsidiary called Orchard. In contrast to that Aam Admi Party (AAP) didn’t intend to hire advertising, public relations or any form of communication agency. But certainly political branding strategy was there which was led by an in-house team.
The strategy for political campaign is similar to launch of any new product in the inception. The two important processes, consulting and research are used by the advertising agencies to know the current position of political parties. Consulting helps in operating primarily through the analysis of existing challenges of image issues and the development of plans for improvement of party’s image in political view-point. Research is used in knowing the requirements of the public, latest trends in advertising election campaigns and most importantly existing impression about the candidates and political parties.
Political branding has taken a new turn from traditional advertising which includes print media and advertising on television. Now the advertising agencies emphasize on candidate getting a significant number of loyal followers both on Facebook and Twitter. Twitter India had announced that more than 56 million election-related Tweets were tweeted from January 1 till May 12, in 2014. Advertising agencies also take the responsibility of developing a well maintained party website. This is effective way of communicating the party agenda and where all the party related queries are answered effectively. Search engine optimization (SEO) is outsourced to companies to increase the visibility of political party or candidate on the internet.
Motion picture has its own importance in election campaign. Video making is taken special care by agencies as the length of the advertisement has been much increased which was a mere thirty seconds in the past. This development is a result of substantial increase in social media users of the country. Creativity and relevance play a most important part in advertising to make sure that it goes in to the public with ease.
Now with US elections approaching soon, let us see how Donald Trump who hired a Florida based advertising firm and spending more than 20 million on political branding strategies to win the US presidential election over Democrat Hillary Clinton. On the other hand Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has hired Burrell Communications, an African-American advertising and media firm. Let us ‘ad’here to the fact that positive and emotionally provocative campaigns proved more successful than negative attack campaigns.