The poll-season in the world’s largest democracy is indeed a good time for its marketing and advertising players. While the world already knows the expanded role of marketing during elections, the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in India has pushed brands to try on newer ways to market themselves on an election wagon.
Once defined by loudspeakers, large tents, flex-hoardings, and radio jingles, elections advertising and campaigning no longer depend on any of these. It has evolved tremendously with the coming of the digital era. With the increased role of digital media and smart phones, the political parties and brands are directing the content to the voters in a way to increase the content consumption.
– Media advertising
The role of media owners has been significant during elections. Zee Media has dedicated its morning 8:00 am-10:00 am slot to pull election-related programs. The slot’s impact will be apparent as India’s elections lasts for over a month. It aims to encourage voters to get out and vote.
On the other hand, MTV—a channel favorite among the youth—is running a series of film ‘Vote Because You Can’ to emphasize how voting right equates a privilege. MTV’s agency has tracked down the refugees from Sudan and Somalia to speak about the valued opportunity of voting in a democracy.
– OTT platform
The media companies know where the audience really is. Realizing that the modern India is hooked to its mobile phones and is consuming its news, entertainment, and information on mobile, OTT provider MX Player has released a cynical commercial portraying the Indian elections as the ‘world’s biggest drama’. It tells its viewers to stay tuned on the OTT platform to keep up with the elections.
– Store campaign
In another incidence, McDonald’s in Hyderabad staged a ‘Make a Choice’ campaign by staging how a non-voter loses his ‘right to choose’ by fouling with their meal orders. The campaign was conducted when the voting in the city was still going on. In another motivating campaign, McDonald’s and Subway, are offering discounts and free drinks to young voters who show their ink-stained finger to prove they have voted.
– Product campaign
Samsonite – the luggage maker –says that elections are one big celebration. Every Indian, irrespective of religion and caste, is a part of this democratic practice.
It adds that brands get to connect emotionally with consumers of all types during this time.
Samsonite’s has launched #EkDinKiChutti campaign to encourage people to take a day off and travel home to vote. It has established a very subtle link between the product and the campaign. By reminding people of their basic duty to vote, it is persuading them to carry a Samsonite-made luggage. But the brand says that its objective behind the campaign is more social.
Branding of Political Parties
Apart from the brands, the new category of branding to have occupied centre-stage is the branding of political parties. These parties want to woo their target consumers – the voters of India – with huge marketing spend. In fact, political marketing is the largest direct marketing campaigns to have ever mounted in the country.
With the increase in the modes of public transportation, transit advertising (advertising in or on modes of public transportation & its areas) has become a new focus for political parties. Congress, for example, is branding itself via the interior and exterior promotions in Delhi Metro trains across a number of lines. In addition to this, Congress and BJP have each invested in more than 20,000 ad spots on auto-rickshaw.
Another emerging trend in political marketing is of influencer campaigns. Parties see these people, who have made a name for themselves in the digital space, as an effective medium to reach out to the critical millennial voters.
– Social Media Influencer
These are the first elections in India where social media influencers are playing a significant role in campaigns.
From a budget perspective, approximate 20-25% of the political budget is allocated for influencer marketing. The parties want to tap into the 450 million people who are available online. It includes new voters and the people voting for the first time.
Actor and comedian Ssumier Pasricha—the fame behind Pammi Aunty — has worked on a pro bono voting campaign for the registration of voting IDS for the Punjab government. With over 1.5 lakh followers on Instagram, he says there is nothing wrong if political parties were approaching influencers.
The importance of digital marketing is bound to grow bigger in future. Millennials are an incredibly loyal generation. They see beyond the political pomp and have nothing to do with political campaigns from the past. For them what matters is being able to interact with candidates on their own terms and on their own channels. The candidates are starting to pay more attention to digital marketing channels—either via influencers or by their own profiles or websites—as the need to appeal to different, segmented groups is going to get more pressing.
It is an obvious thing for the political parties to invest in every available channel to garner the voters’ support. These elections are also seeing an extensive tapping of the social media influencers to push the political messages in the form of subtle campaigns.
The media owners, brands, and political parties understand the ultimate need of tapping audience, and hence are keenly leveraging the democratic process for a range of their promotions.