Top 3 marketing lessons: Indian Elections 2014

India recently had its general elections and the results were declared on 16th May 2014. On that day, India marked a moment in history. The winning party, led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) not only had a sweeping victory, but the win was also significant because this is for the second time in Independent India that an opposition party has come to power in such a manner, the earlier being the 1977 elections which was held after the infamous Emergency era that brought Janata Party to power.Narendra Modi

Team BJP and their leader and now the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi used some very basic but modern marketing strategies during these elections.

Following are the top 3 marketing lessons learnt from his very successful campaign:

  • Positioning: Narendra Modi has always been on the alert in terms of his competitors. Dated back to Oct 2012, he very openly dared the then Prime Minister of India to compete with him on developments in India. Even during the electoral campaign, he has constantly been alert on his competitors and his position with respect to them. He took on Rahul Gandhi and the Gandhi family majorly, knowing very well that they are the targets to be fought and won. The media uproar has majorly been between Narendra Modi and the Gandhi family, clearly ignoring and putting the AAP and the AIADMK parties to the sidelines. This was his positioning strategy.
  • Brand perception and knowledge: Narendra Modi constantly reminded the people of India of the work he has done for Gujarat, the state he was the chief minister of for 12 years. Instead of commenting on the infamous 2002 Gujarat riots, he majorly remained silent about it. He empathized and explained to the public his perception of that unfortunate situation. He very smartly detached himself from the 2002 events, rather than having anything positive or negative association with the event. He constantly reminded the public of the work he has done in Gujarat and how much the state has progressed over the years. He had single-minded focus on maintaining his public perception. So overall, instead of fighting on any and every issue (leading to brand confusion), he chose the right fights, put in the right people for the fights, ignored almost all other issues and focused mainly on increasing public knowledge of his achievements.
  • Guerrilla marketing with a singular goal: Guerrilla marketing is a marketing strategy in which low-cost, unconventional means (including the use of graffiti, sticker bombing, flyer posting, etc.) are used in a (generally) localized fashion to draw attention to an idea, product, or service. Today, guerrilla marketing may also include promotion through a network of individuals, groups, or organizations working to popularize a product or idea by use of such strategies as flash mobs, viral marketing campaigns, or internet marketing. This, in my opinion, has been the single biggest strategy, BJP and the Narendra Modi team used in this election. They went in for grassroots guerilla tactics, reaching out to the masses in a localized fashion. They had local rallies and supporters not only in India, but also outside the country and very much in the United States. However, what they did the best was use an end goal. The end goal was Modi’s win and that is the only thing they promoted in every guerilla campaign, be it local events or internet-promoted tactics. Clear end-result pursued aggressively through guerilla tactics sealed the deal for the BJP.

So, to conclude, the key takeaways here for companies fighting to find a niche in the market is to:

  • Strengthen their positioning – Not to compete with everyone. Chose whom to fight with and fight with them openly with confidence, not in a backhanded way.
  • Focus on brand achievements till date – To work hard towards reducing any confusion in the market with respect to the brand. The confusion can either be due to internal conflict in the company or imposed in the market by the competitors. The confusion about the brand has to go and the focus should be on educating the customers about how far the company and its products have come, emphasizing greatly also on the past achievements, not just the current situation.
  • Tie guerrilla marketing with a singular goal – This strategy has very high potential. However, where companies fail is in tying it to an end goal. The workers involved in guerilla marketing should be given a clear goal of achieving a certain target. They should keep at it until the goal is achieved. Just a standalone guerilla marketing event and an after-the-fact analysis of the event has no meaning, if the higher end goal is not achieved.

Overall, a great campaign execution providing onlookers with many marketing and leadership lessons!

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