The Art of Electioneering


Art of Electioneering

“Where absolute superiority is not attainable, you must produce a relative one at the decisive point by making skillful use of what you have.”

Karl von Clausewitz, On War 1832

As I write this post I am aware that hundreds like me are analyzing what the world’s largest democracy has witnessed and trying to put in perspective.  As the election juggernaut rolled through the country under intense media attention the various angles to the 2014 elections in India have been explored, analysed and have been discussed threadbare.

One of the things that has bubbled up to the top and been referred to often with an accusatory tone is how India’s PM designate was a well marketed product.  There is little doubt that what has just concluded is a milestone election in India’s history. One that introduced several elements into the Art of Electioneering.  For sure there will be cases made out this election that students of business, social and political science will delve into across universities. I have in a previous post talked about how the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) captured the imagination of millions in Delhi. What the creators of the Modi campaign have achieved is far bigger and far reaching in its impact.

“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”

SunTzu, The Art of War

In hindsight what has been executed and arguably to perfection have been text book strategies.  Be it SunTzu, Porter or Aaker or Prahalad what the strategy cell of Bhartiya Janata Party has done is research, organize, propagate and execute or as I call it the ROPE trick.  For the purpose of this discussion I shall attempt a retro-fit of my observations of the campaign to popular models in marketing strategy.

Customer MotivationsAlong the lines of the adage “Customer First” we’ll take a look at how the BJP campaign tested on understand the drivers for this election and the needs of the voters i.e. Customer Motivation.

The marketing brains behind the BJP campaign ticked these boxes well and proper. They clearly identified the mood of an electorate that was young and aspirational.  From an Indian perspective, we have as marketers devoted hours cracking the code and allocated millions of rupees trying to win the youth over. The BJP campaign identified the Youth as mainstream.  As per the 2011 census 65% of India’s population is below 35 with a median age of 29 putting an eligible workforce (15-64) at a whopping 430 million, higher than the entire population of the USA!

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The strategists at the BJP HQ caught on to this early in the day and having identified their target segment distilled their motivations.  So what were the motivators they identified? Speaking of the high level motivators (since each has contributing factors and dimensions), a strong yearning for growth and opportunities, a need re-assert pride, a secure environment and a decisive leadership were what were chosen as the pegs of the campaign.

The campaign planners were also smart enough to place their communication not just on traditional media but where the Youth were on the internet constantly communicating with each other using a variety of social networking tools from BBM to Instagram to Pintrest to Google Hangouts! This enabled BJP to speak to them at an individual level as well as a collective, influential mass. More importantly, this was not just at the time of the campaign.  The social leg of the BJP campaign started a couple of years ago with senior leaders writing blogs, active on twitter etc.  The buzz around BJP was atleast 3X their nearest competitor in the sociosphere the AAP.

Several articles have been and will get written regarding the extensive use of digital media by the BJP in election 2014.  The use of technological wizardry with the 3D rallies or the beat and booth level mass outreach mobile screens carrying their leaders message the campaign exploited every possible touch-point.

So was it just a media and technology blitzkrieg based on consumer (read voter) understanding or was it more?

Here’s where I would introduce another text book model to which in perspectives will answer what the BJP went about doing. This is about understanding your competition better than anyone else. The BJP used this understanding at every step of the way and in all their communication verbal, written or visual to attack them.  Again in hindsight, the way the numbers panned out they seemed to have done it well.

 Competitor Actions

The strategy cell of the BJP along with their campaign creators seemed to have blended their understanding of the voter and the ruling Congress to create the perfect potion that cast a spell over the electorate.  The silence of the Prime Minister, the reactive nature of the Congress campaign, the disconnect of their leadership all became weapons in the BJP campaign arsenal.

The respective campaign taglines represented the middle of the road, motherhood tenor of the congress versus the more exhortative call for action from the BJP. Much again has been written and talked about this having been a “Presidential style” election.  The author disagrees. Granted that this was an election of personalities like never before, but to say that this was the first is incorrect atleast as far as the past four or five elections are concerned. The BJP always has portrayed a leader whether it was the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee with the slogan “Ab ki baari Atal Behari” during the 1998-99 elections or L.K. Advani with “Majboot Neta Nirnayak Sarkar”.  Even in the past whether declared or not the contenders for the top post were always clear.

Endnote: The victory of the Bhartiya Janta Party in these elections was a result of a very well thought out strategy and smartly integrated ground realities.  It was a journey that began well in time. Yes the leader himself had a role to play, but the magic was him resonating with the youth of this country. Voicing their aspirations and promising a better future. Clichéd and overused as it maybe it goes without saying that with great power comes great responsibility.  The burden of the mandate will now be on the BJP it is for them to perform to their promise. The nation hopes for deliverance.

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The Sixth Sense: Appealing to Consumers with Mobile Advertising


The Sixth SenseMarketers of today have to contend with a media consumption pattern that is very different say from even 5 years ago.  Where the proverbial push comes to shove, India was always expected to leap-frog technology generations.

For example not conforming to the traditional diffusion of innovation cycles India aborted its pager journey and quickly jumped onto the mobile phone bandwagon.

And what a ride it has been! Almost 19 years since the first mobile call in India was made possible, India has a mobile subscriber base just shy of 900Mn and almost 176Mn subscribers accessing internet through their mobile devices and 15Mn broadband subscribers. If the service providers play their cards right and the powers that control don’t get greedy the data revolution beckons!

Just for perspective, even the current number of mobile subscribers in India is 3 times the population of the United States, there are only six countries in the world that have a population in excess of 176Mn (the reported number accessing internet through a mobile device) and finally there are 175 countries that have a population less than the broadband subscriber base in India. Having posted phenomenal growth rates as a category the recent explosion has been in the smartphone space. In the last two years alone, smartphone shipments have grown by over 225%, an estimated 12Mn smartphones shipping every quarter in India during the past 2 quarters.

Point is, numbers in an Indian context have been and are always going to be there for taking. It’s a whole different question if we start peeling the onion layers and start getting down to the real stuff which is engagement levels.

The focus on ROMI or the Return on Marketing Investment has never been higher.  With marketing budgets in absolute terms pointing south for most brands a multiple X return is the constant lookout of most marketing planners. Couple that with amount of measurability digital media affords, the growth in internet consumption using mobile devices and we can start to understand demand-supply dynamics.

Digital marketing brought in new paradigms and marketers such as us started living with the so called new rules of communicating with our customers. Mobile marketing has been a close follower of its cousin and is invariably clubbed with and is a sub-set of the “Digital strategy” of brands.

The concern that I would like to put forward is that we somehow seem to be applying same or similar framework to mobile as that of traditional internet marketing.  And why should we be not?  One could argue since numerous reports tell us consumers are doing the same things on mobile internet as the traditional desktop/notebook internet.

So why mobile advertising should be treated differently?

Communication sent out by brands has to appeal to the consumers senses for it to register. The mobile today is an extension of the consumers self almost an appendage. It is the consumer’s sixth sense! It connects the person to whatever is relevant at a given point in time, more importantly in space! Augmented Reality or AR as most of us have started to refer to it has been around for a while. Sadly though, marketers are yet to figure out its best use.

Keeping the above in mind, while building their mobile advertising plans brands should perhaps go back to the very basics of planning communication figuring out the Who, When and What.

Who to speak to. The quintessential Target Audience definition now with pin point precision

When to speak to them. Approach with an understanding of what they would be or have been doing. Which marketer has not built/studied a day in the life of the target consumer?

The additional dimension that mobiles have brought about is where. Brands therefore need to weave in the where into the context of the communication. Fortunately technology affords us this luxury.

With mobile advertising Time & Space are to my mind, an imperative.

Example, an 18 year old urban female mobile phone user who is a frequent YouTube or an Internet Radio user would be subjected to a certain kind of advertising because there are a certain set of brands that want to target her. Now, say if a cosmetic brand had to say different things to at different points during the course of the day they technically could and some brands are. It is common place to super-serve a certain segment and the wasted communication on rest of the audience is considered acceptable collateral damage.

Where is an extension of the logic and potentially an opportunity to give different messages. The same cosmetic brand could communicate differently depending upon whether this 18 year old girl was commuting, in her college canteen or sitting in a café in a mall?  Time and space!

In the digital space brands are striving for engagement more than anything. So while we may still be buying and selling in CPM, CPC and CPV terms and busy calculating our ROMI basis the conversion rates. What is going to really bring in results is the quality of engagement that brands have with their TG.

Engagement is a function of opportunity & dispensation and the “where” has a significant impact on dispensation.

Brands, creative agencies, digital agencies, media agencies….anyone listening!

Somewhere over the Rainbow: Principles for Finding the Pot of Gold in a Digital world


In a world full of choices the consumer remains elusive and is turning into somewhat of a recluse. Regardless of age, gender, geography, occupation, social strata the consumer is exercising his right to choose and consume content of his choice at a time of his determination.The promise of the present is “On Demand”.  Now given this situation any other message or communication apart from the content  that we as marketers want to deliver is a serious challenge.

The changing spend patterns of brands as far as the marketing investments are concerned indicate increasing outlays on
Digital media.

Hitherto our investments have been based on Reach x Frequency objectives for our Target Group. Digital media supported by the
growth of e-commerce however, has brought in an immense amount of measurability and brought to fore the “response function”.

The question we as should ask ourselves is whether using digital media is indeed a requirement or are we enamoured by the
measurability.

Here are a few thoughts on what to look out for before making the decision.

Visible in the right context and environment
In their hurry to ride the digital wave marketers have been guilty of placing their brands in places and contexts.Given the deep engagement of the consumer with the medium, brands should avoid being intrusive and being seen outside of context.

Involving and interactive
Interactivity is not a given. While there are no absolutes in terms of wrong or right a “Pick the Right Grain” mobile game on the lines of Candy Crush might not be an idea worth investing. Brand managers need to be wary of falling into this trap.

Build on communication or messages from other media
The digital natives are a smarter race. They are more aware and tend to be put off by messages that do not give credit to their intelligence. Communication on the digital media should not be a “repeat” it should be a “build”. Take off from what I already know or have seen about you. Makes sense especially if digital is not the only media that your communication is riding. In recent memory Nokia is a good example of how different assets were created to complement each other.

Generate interest
Brands should endeavour to create curiosity around or with the communication. Interest groups are an increasing trend. People
are comfortable interacting with and engaging with “Familiar strangers”.  Strangers who seem familiar because they share the
same passions. Meri Maggi campaign is a good example of well executed digital campaign
https://www.maggi.in/meandmeri-maggi.aspx

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Youthful in approach
Youth is mainstream for many contemporary brands more so on the internet. Youth is a demographic but youthfulness is a state of mind and needs to be embedded in any communication. Here’s an example of IBMs recent 5in5 communication it put up through its facebook page “People for a Smarter Planet”

http://ibm.com/5in5

Optimised across Assets
We are aware that most internet journeys begin with a search.Very often brands do not ensure that all their assets are visibly pointing in the same direction. Whether it is owned media, social or bought they must all be singing from the same page.

Receptive
This is applicable in the real world also but even more so in the digital world.  While we plan for Facebook likes, trending hash-tags and positively biased conversations, it is critical for brands to keep their ears close to the ground. In the digital world nothing spreads faster than bad news. Brands have to learn to take feedback positively, to respond quickly when someone writes in, create memorable moments from miserable ones. Consumers are likely to repeat a brand that made good over trying a new brand.

Brands will need to objectively evaluate their personality, product, the message and tick the boxes on what are really notes to self compiled over time. Hope you find them useful.