BJP has done it again!
Thursday 24th May 2019 - BJP shocked the opposition and the world by scoring a historic landslide victory in the Lok Sabha Elections. BJP did not only win but also improved upon their numbers from previous Lok Sabha election pushing some of the other parties into an existential crisis.
How did the Modi Govt. achieve this; in spite of -
- active campaigning by other major parties ?
- a wave of confusion owing to the promises that were not delivered?
- Not giving a single press conference in the last 5 years?
The 2014 elections saw for the first time a party campaigning and using the power of Digital Marketing to further their reach amongst the population of India. It felt like a breath of fresh air, and we could see the result in people buying into the dream of “Acche din Aayenge!”.
In 2014 we saw the rise of Modi from a regional brand to a national one. With the help of advertising giants, campaigns were made across TV, Print, and Digital to create the father figure that a nation deserves.
To make him likable we were introduced to the struggles of Modi as a child serving tea, folklore of his youth and his work told in a way that we buy-in to the “unwavering all-knowing father figure” who would bring “Acche Din.”
This was done with resounding success with India getting a leader who connected across all ages - “Abki Baar Modi Sarkaar” was a brilliant master-stroke in Marketing.
Fast forward five years and a lot has changed. But have we got the “Acche Din” we were promised? Owing to the landslide victory, one would think so - because why else would BJP win by a landslide. But Was this a victory of a Well deserving party or well executed Marketing Strategy we will never know but if you are a Marketer there are some great lessons to learn from the 2019 General Elections of India!
Let’s deep dive and understand the 10 lessons of Digital Marketing from the BJP Campaigns of 2019.
1. Brand Positioning is all about owning a space in the consumers’ mind based on their world-view. One simple statement that defines your campaign strategy and then the tactics required to push this message far and wide in an attempt to create a surround-sound effect.
Let’s look at the slogans used by BJP
|Ab ki baar, Modi Sarkaar||Phir ek baar, Modi Sarkar!|
|Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat||Aayega to Modi hi!|
|Acche Din Aayenge||Main bhi Chowkidaar!|
The messaging is clear and direct in all of the slogans. There’s nothing left to the imagination. Therefore, creating a high recall value and instant brand recognition.Fun fact - “Abki baar, Modi Sarkaar” was inspired from the 1996 BJP campaign slogan that said “Abki bari, Atal Bihari”.
In opposition to this, Congress used “Ab Hoga Nyay” as their main slogan.
Srinivasan also points out that the Congress party was very late in starting their campaign outreach. He says, " They came up with their slogan, 'Ab Hoga Nyay'( There will be justice now) only in April this year, while the BJP has been working on their PR strategy consistently for 5 years now."
Source : https://www.prmoment.in/pr-insight/advantage-modi-the-success-of-the-enrage-and-engage-communication-strategy
A parallel to this can be drawn with the US election race between Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump - of which the latter emerged as the winner.
Other secondary slogans that were used by Hillary were - “I’m with Her.”
Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is direct and paints a picture that connects people to the glory of the nation’s past and the possibility of a great future. It connects people to not Donald Trump but America directly.
In the case of Hillary, the messaging becomes ambiguous as the focus is more on electing her as a president. Even if we take the example of “Stronger Together” - it’s a great message but can be applied to any situation.
When it comes to Mass persuasion - it is essential to have a clear, concise message rather than an ambiguous one.
Take Congress, for example - “Ab Hoga Nyay!” - It addresses the “when” but fails to connect with themselves as a party. It suggests that there is an atmosphere of “Anyay (Injustice)”. It is hardly a Call to Action and merely suggests wait for it! Doesn’t have the necessary energy that can give a push to the people behind it.
Let’s break this down with “Phir Ek Baar, Modi Sarkaar” - it’s a call to action; Let us once again, Choose the Modi Government. The slogan also suggests that Modi was the people’s choice earlier, and you just have to repeat it. At a deeper level, people rarely change brands - so invoking the thought of Modi being selected earlier is a smart move that reminds people you had made the right choice then, let's repeat the same again. Our minds are programmed for repetition and sameness - this is where the slogan works on multiple levels.
2. Being Responsive to the campaign environment is very important to establish power and authority. Rahul Gandhi used the slogan, “Chowkidaar Chor Hain” actively to break the image of the Father Figure in the light of demonetization and the rafale scam. The BJP leader took note and started the “Main Bhi Chowkidaar” campaign on March 16 in response leading to us witnessing BJP leaders prefixing Chowkidaar to their twitter handles.
As of Thursday even before the announcement of the victory - PM Narendra Modi has dropped the prefix “Chowkidaar” from his twitter handle.
This kind of attentiveness to the climate and being responsive is not new to Modi. Even in 2014, the infamous “Chai pe Charcha” was the result of a remark made by Congress Leader Mani Shankar Aiyar wherein he mentioned that Modi cannot become PM and instead he can come and sell tea at the Congress conclave - a jibe at the PM’s humble background.
3. Rock solid PR has been a feature of the Modi campaign since the 2014 elections. Present day elections were no exception. In fact, the PR machinery has become so strong and potent that different narratives that had begun somewhere since last year saw it’s fruition now. Speaking of mediums the campaign was run extensively across the board - Print, TV, Digital, Social…. Much akin to Donald Trump we can see the BJP campaign actively picking up polarising topics, subjects and going all out across mediums - we could define it as the Enrage and Engage as the comms strategy.
According to social media influencer and communications analyst Karthik Srinivasan, "Narendra Modi's campaign has been based on two main planks. The first is to attack the Congress party and the second is around the Balakot airstrike These are the anchoring points of the BJP's and Modi's narrative. Both are very aggressive and polarizing narratives"
4. Contrast as a strategy was used in good effect throughout Modi’s campaign and not just from 2019.
Right from the former PM Manmohan Singh, to Nehru, to present day Congress’ PM candidate Rahul Gandhi - Modi relentlessly criticized each of them starting from 2017. This was when he laid the foundation to the 2019 campaign. Modi made bold statements that one would not expect to hear from a PM - but repeating these made the audience tolerant of the same - thereby creating an “illusory truth effect.”
Illusory truth effect is generated when one keeps on repeating a non-fact confidently multiple times leading to the audience accepting it as truth.
Add to this excellent oratory skills and a larger than life image - he was able to effectively use contrast and oversell myth that became main-stream stories of a distant past.
5. The AIDA model of Marketing can be primarily observed throughout the PM’s campaign as well as during his first 5-year run.
The AIDA model describes the four stages a consumer needs to go through to become a customer. The stages are Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action (AIDA). During these four stages, your content will ideally attract attention to your brand, generate interest in your product or service, stimulate a desire for it, and spur action to try or buy it.
Source : https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/aida-model
- Drive Attention towards the party activities, ideology
- Generate Interest by ads, campaigns, slogans
- Create a Desire to make the right choice
- Take Action by exercising the vote towards BJP / Modi
As mentioned, the current result is based on the widespread mechanism and intra-network of social posts, tweets, youtube videos, memes, songs, movie, web-series, print media like newspapers and magazines, and news. It was surprising to see that in the 5 years of running - Modi managed not to give a press conference and even when he did - he didn’t answer.
Modi is one of the first Indian Political leaders who has used social media to a great extent to further his party ideology. With 43 million page likes on FB and 46.3 followers on Twitter - he has one of the largest social following in the world for any political leader. Apart from this, a lot of propaganda is being spread using WhatsApp - the leading messaging app in India.
The party, which is known bring its social media chops and tech savvy to the pitch, is doubling down on WhatsApp this time. FactorDaily has learned that the BJP, which anticipates a tough election in Karnataka, has started working on creating nearly 5,000 WhatsApp groups to get its message across.
6. Personal Branding is a vital feature of the Modi / BJP campaign that made the audience gravitate towards their mission. Personal Branding has been so effectively used by Modi/BJP that people refer the BJP as Modi Sarkar.
This was done across the digital mediums by posting consistently across multiple brand pages, regular tweets, personalizing name by pre-fixing “Chowkidaar” and other such initiatives.
All major slogans that were used actively in the campaigning are all towards personal branding. Be it “Phir Ek Baar, Modi Sarkaar” or “Aayega to Modi Hi!”
From Jan 2019 onwards, we could see a lot of activities around the Modi brand that were out of the ordinary.
- Who can forget the selfie with the Bollywood stars?
- A 5 part series from the popular account Humans of Bombay took us on a journey of Modi -
- An Animated Modi became a part of Chota Bheem’s “Swachch Bharat Run” -
- an endless platform game wherein we experience the nationwide campaign in a whole new light
- The movie “PM Narendra Modi” was announced
- So was the web-series “Narendra Modi” on Eros Now - OTT
- Interview with Akshay Kumar
7. Ad Campaigns
The 2014 elections saw the rise of ad spend of an epic proportion in election campaigns. Post 5 years we see this as a growing trend. Post Jio the mobile penetration throughout India has increased drastically, and there is no better medium to push this than Digital Advertisements.
These range from simple image-based to video-based ads.
The table below shows a whopping number of ads, and it’s correlated spend. What’s interesting to note is that the INC has only one page mentioned whereas when it comes to BJP, there are multiple pages such as “My first Vote for Modi,” “Bharat ka Mann ki Baat” and so on.
8. Regional Content
India is a multi-cultural and multi-lingual nation and to reach to the masses it goes without saying that speaking their language appeals helps to connect more easily.
More-so video campaigns with songs has been created for each state in their mother tongue.
8. Video Marketing
Video content gets a higher reach, plus it offers higher brand recall. Video has been of the most essential formats to push the Modi Brand forward across all age groups. The videos range from documenting the PM’s visit, speeches to people’s testimonials, campaign videos - in live and also animated formats. To top it all there is an entire playlist named “Yoga with Modi” wherein we see a 3d animated Modi teaching Yoga.
Yoga With Modi
My First Vote for Modi - A campaign targeted towards the youth communicated in a very casual jargon, to get their vote for confidence around issues such as safety for girls, traffic laws or just a case of how do you come off as cool amongst your peers.
Janta Maaf Nahin Karengi - This campaign is a revival of the 2014 campaign with the same name targeted directly towards the questions raised by Congress.
Main Bhi Chowkidaar (Rajasthan) - Videos have been created for each state and to top it there are also quite a few small vignettes in regional languages that have been released.
Testimonial of the beneficiaries - This is a good example of social proof.
Live Streaming of key events, rallies and speeches made sure that one would get the latest and greatest news right on social media.
9. Peripheral Marketing or Marketing on the Fringe is a niche marketing tactic that was successfully executed to gain more confidence amongst the public around controversial topics quite close to 2019 elections.
January saw the release of Uri - based on the Surgical Strike operation that was the retaliation of 2016 Uri Attack. The Jan 2019 release date worked in favor of the elections as the movie went onto become a big hit and instilled patriotism all the while reminding us that Modi took a bold step as a PM.
The same day, 11th Jan 2019 saw the release of yet another film “The Accidental Prime Minister” - that explores Manmohan Singh’s (2004 - 2014) tenure as the PM.
According to Wikipedia, “Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party promoted the trailer through their official Twitter account. Reacting to this, a Congress spokesperson alleged that the film was "political propaganda."
There were also programs on the Zee Network that were promoting the PM sans his name using lines such as - “EK WOH AADMI HAI JO DIN BHAR DESH KI AKHANDTA AUR SWACHHTA KI BAAT KARTA HAI...”
In retrospect, as a marketer it is a severe case-study as to how Modi managed to capture the attention in all possible mediums - be it mobile, print, news, tv series, feature films, digital, social (videos, short videos, documentaries, interviews, testimonials….). The campaign not only ran deep across all age groups; but also with the width of the content strategy encompassed all the platforms, regions & languages. This created a kind of resonance with the population resulting in the re-election of Modi as the PM at the 2019 elections.