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Digital Political Marketing

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INTRODUINTRODUCTION

Political marketing has its focus on electioneering and political communication.

Various titles compete to define the common object-political marketing’, ‘political management’, ‘packaged politics’, ‘promotional politics’ or more broadly ‘modern political communication’ (Scammell, 1999). David M. Reid says (1988) that the business of vote winning is essentially a marketing phenomenon and knowledge of consumer behavior may be related to the principles of persuasion and thus be utilized in the formulation of political marketing strategies.

A marketing planning framework to aid political parties in improving their image and coordination of election campaigns has been developed to reflect the changing nature of electoral campaigning in the developed world towards the need for more long-term planning; 

Together with the development and implementation of marketing models in a wider sphere of social institutions (Baines et al, 2002). 

The authors suggest that national political parties need to coordinate their election campaigns more effectively in order to strengthen their image among key citizen and voter groups by determining which target areas are most in need of resources. 

It is more so in the Indian context where the voter groups are more diverse and varied. Vis-a-vis political marketing a lot of fundamental questions need to be answered about marketing tactics of political parties in India: 

  • How does advertising affect voters? 
  • How should candidates allocate marketing budgets across campaign activities? 
  • How should candidates choose policy positions?  

A lot of researchers are left dumb-founded on such question which calls for research in marketing and political science.  

POLITICAL MARKETING MODELS

Political marketing bears a lot of resemblance to the marketing of goods and services. 

Consumers choose among brands just as voters choose among parties or candidates. Consumers display brand preferences (party loyalty and party identification) and are exposed to campaign advertising. 

Candidates, like firms, choose product positioning (policy positioning). These decisions need to account for and anticipate competitors' actions, implying that candidates participate in games of strategic interaction.

There are various models that can be worked upon in the political sphere. One such model is based on customer value or voter value.

Woodruff explains the dynamics of customer value and voter satisfaction with the received value. Other than the 4 Ps (product, price, place, promotion) of marketing there is a 4R model of marketing which is more applicable here in the political scenario and has been implemented partially by the BJP. 

Hence Indian election 2014 has been viewed within this perspective.  

INDIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS 

Let us now look at the Indian Prime Ministerial elections. In the Indian Prime Ministerial elections, since 1947, there has been a lot of growth and development in the way Indian democracy has shaped up. 

Since the dominance of the Congress Party in 1947, Indian democracy matured up to having other political parties like the Janata Party in 1977 when the Indian National Congress lost control for the first time in General Elections. 

Further on, there has been the growth of several regional parties in the whole country leading to a system of coalitions. 

The 1989 General Elections again saw the ousting of the Indian National Congress and the formation of the 9th Lok Sabha with the formation of the National Front under the leadership of Mr. V.P. Singh where minority governments like the Left parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party joined hands together in this alliance (IPU, online). 

The 13th Lok Sabha election in 1999 (months after the Kargil War), however, is of historical importance as a united front of parties attained a majority and formed a government that lasted for a full term of five years (Hardgrave, 1999; Wallace & Roy, 2003). 

National Democratic Alliance headed by Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed the government at the Centre (ibid). 

The 2004 General Election saw the emergence of both the alliances-the UPA on one hand and the NDA on the other, since 1999. The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) formed soon after 2004 General Election when no single party attained a clear majority. 

The UPA, too, continued to enjoy external support from certain parties (Shastri, Sur & Yadav, 2009). The 2009 General Election and the win of the United Progressive Alliance (with Congress heading this alliance) again at the Centre headed by Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister further strengthened the belief of Indian democracy in the success of coalition politics. 

Coalition politics was here to stay (Wallace & Roy, 2011). Inclusive and populist policies with good youth leaders have been considered responsible for this UPA success. 

However, things changed drastically with the candidature of Narendra Modi as a candidate. In this case, a shift was seen towards more targeted campaigning and planning by the BJP, whether it was managing Modi’s rallies across the country or even giving the membership of the party by Modi to all and sundry.

It may be said that there has been a trend among the BJP towards what may be called ‘Americanization of election campaigns’ where the focus is on personality, agendas, issues, and promotion of party ‘brand’. The main area was the personality-centric election that was seen in 2014.  

AMERICANIZATION OF ELECTION CAMPAIGNS IN INDIA

The American presidential election is one of the largest, most expensive, and most comprehensive marketing efforts. 

Political campaigns are some of the most expensive marketing efforts in existence today. Candidates in the 2008 general election spent about US$2.6 billion-a 53% increase over the last general election on every possible marketing tool from direct mailings to television advertising to social media (The Economist 2010). 

The way election campaigns have taken place in different parts of the world in the past, it may be divided into three phases-party-centred periods after Second World War; media-centred, personalizing and professionalizing period from the 1960s to 1980s and an emerging phase of political marketing, fragmentation of voter-groups, new media channels (Blumler & Kavanagh, 1999). 

In India at this time election campaigning has definitely become more media-centered with various political parties projecting individual personalities, individuals, and candidates among the voters using traditional and new media campaigning tactics.

The trend in the last fifty years in election campaigns in India has shifted from being party-centric to personality-centric and the adoption of various new media campaigning tactics. 

There has been more professionalization with political candidates becoming good communicators in their election rallies. This may be due to a partial Americanization in election campaign communication (Kamps, 2000; Schulz, 1997; Kleinsteuber, 2004; Mancini & Swanson, 1996). 

The main aspect of such Americanization is the modification of political action according to the logic of media; for example, politicians fit their appearance to fit the rules of television (Donges, 2000:28). In Germany, a study of their 1990 election shows that despite highly personalized election the voters did not fixate on candidates instead of on issues (Holtz-Bacha, 2000:51).

In the parliamentary election of 1997 in Great Britain, there was the talk of Clintonization of political communication practices by Tony Blair (Plasser & Plasser, 2002:17; Butler & Kavanagh, 1997). In Israel, too, since 1981 American political advisors have influenced political campaigns with several American election tactics like nightly polling and searing attack advertisements on television taking place in the Middle East (Gurevitch & Blumler, 1990:311; Nagourney, 1999). 

It may be said that other election strategies were orientated towards the medium television-campaigns containing political events specially designed for the media; where politicians offer emotions and pictures for the camera; the whole event is stage-managed; a politician is in the focus of attention-less the content of the parties’ election program. 

This is also called de-ideologization or a case where the strategic orientation of campaigning is being geared to marketing policies (Kamps, 2000:18). 

This trend may be noticed in Narendra Modi’s election rallies ahead of the State Assembly elections held in December 2013. In fact, almost 250 rallies of his have been planned ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 (The Economic Times, online). Swanson and Mancini (1996) hypothesized Americanization of campaign strategies and revealed international common patterns in media centered campaigning. 

The main question, however, is: what are the media responses and its effects on the electorate in India? This requires a further study of Indian political candidates being projected in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections of 2014.  

CANDIDATES IN LOK SABHA ELECTIONS 2014

Narendra Modi was projected as the main candidate for Prime Minister by the Bharatiya Janata Party in September 2013. 

He is currently the 14th Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat. Modi was the key strategist for the BJP’s election campaigns in Gujarat in the elections of 1995 and 1998 (Ramakrishnan, 2009). 

In March 2013 Modi was appointed the member of BJP Parliamentary Board and also Chairman of party’s Central Election Campaign Committee (The Economic Times; BJP, online).

At the national level executive meeting of the BJP in June 2012, Narendra Modi was announced as the head of the poll campaign of 2014 parliamentary elections. This was opposed to by senior BJP leader L.K. Advani initially. 

In September 2013, amidst much debate and discussion, Modi was announced as the prime ministerial candidate by the BJP (The Hindu, online). Three opinion polls conducted suggested that Narendra Modi was a popular choice for Prime Minister (Indiatvnews.com; One India news; First Post). 

In September 2013 Nielsen and The Economic Times published the result of a poll of 100 corporate leaders of whom 74 wanted Narendra Modi and only 7 wanted Rahul Gandhi as prospective Prime Minister (The Economic Times; Live Mint, online). 

THE CHANGING TACTICS OF THE BJP 

The Bharatiya Janata Party is one of two major parties in the Indian political system. Its roots lie in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh formed in 1951 by Shyama Prasad Mookherjee. 

Following the end of the state of emergency in 1977, the Jana Sangh merged with several other parties to form the Janata Party which came to power in 1977 general election. After three years in power, Janata Party dissolved in 1980 and the reconvened to form the Bharatiya Janata Party. BJP soon grew in strength on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue. 

Following victory in several states and increasingly better performances in the national elections, the BJP became the largest party in the national parliament in 1996. It was invited to form a government which only lasted 13 days. 

After an election in 1998, the BJP-led coalition named as NDA (National Democratic Alliance) formed a government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. 

This lasted for a year. In the 2004 election, NDA suffered an unexpected defeat and for the next ten years after that BJP was the principal party in opposition. In 2014 election long-time Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was projected as the PM candidate by the BJP and under his leadership, they won the parliamentary election.

In addition, the party holds a majority in 5 states. The stated ideology of the party is ‘integral humanism’, formulated by Deendayal Upadhyaya in 1965. The party is committed to its Hindutva agenda. The party advocates ‘social conservatism’.

Key issues for the BJP in power have been an abrogation of the special constitutional status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and implementation of a Uniform Civil Code for all citizens. The building of the Ram temple in Ayodhya has also been one of the foremost things on their list of priorities. 

They have usually focussed on neoliberal economic policies with a focus on Indian industry. In the 2014 election, the BJP won 282 seats and led the NDA to a tally of 336 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. This was the first instance since 1984 that any party achieved an outright majority in the Indian Parliament.  

BJP MARKETING WITHIN 4RS 

It may be said that the 4Rs were religiously followed by BJP in their political marketing this time: 

  •  Relationship-This implies one-to-one or one-to-many relationships with customers and voters in order to generate marketing opportunities. It is noticed that through its Hindutva agenda, BJP retains its relationship with its core vote-bank. Alongside by highlighting a main issues it seeks to reach out to a segment of voters who continue to increase the party’s popularity among the old party loyalists. Through its economic policies, they continue to garner support from the Indian industry. 
  • Research-This implies access to key information about markets, customers, and competitors. In this case, too, the BJP has played safe and managed to incorporate some of the tactics adopted by other parties in projecting their positive-self-image to the electorate. In 2004 it was ‘India Shining’ and in 2014 it was the projection of Modi as a candidate who would give the good stable government to the country and harness the economic resources of the country effectively in a targeted productive direction. 
  • Reputation-This implies interest in the company by target markets based on company or organization’s credibility. Here BJP has focussed on its voter base that has a certain conservative mindset and an inclination towards Hindutva. Even though they have tried to reach to a Muslim audience these elections, the basic credibility of the BJP lies in its tactic to incorporate mostly Hindutva-promoting agendas and the party that can keep Indian culture and tradition alive through its policies. BJP has earned itself the reputation of not only working for the upliftment of the nation but also for integral social welfare and values. 
  • Recognition-This entails awareness of the organization and its value proposition by target markets. It may be said that the party seeks to stick to a certain set of standard core values which make the party attractive to a certain set of investors and stakeholders. Those values are more intrinsically Indian and nationalistic in nature. BJP stands by its core inherent values and, therefore, not only expands on its voter bank but also retains its loyal supporters, whether in business or industry.  

CONCLUSION

It may be said that even Kotler’s marketing model is followed by BJP. The marketing mix of this political party is better than any other. It seeks to promote a culture that is quintessentially Indian, despite the globalization. There has been a general trend towards Americanization of the Indian elections and campaigns as well.

This is noticed from the 2014 election. The organized way in which Modi’s rallies were held in every important city to attract the vote not in the name of the party but in the name of the candidate-Narendra Modi. The personality-cult of Modi goes ahead to resound the main agenda of the BJP for the future, too, that of Hindutva. Modi was strongly linked with the Godhra riot and retaliatory attack on Muslims of the region. The projection of such a candidate for Prime Ministership is a major step by the BJP. Their economic policy, too, has taken a big jump where efforts are made to increase investment in the country and work towards making the country an economically stronger and self-reliant one. Narendra Modi is a strong BJP candidate and the most effective marketing tools were adopted to promote him as a BJP candidate. His candidature was also seen as a major shift towards more Rightist policies in the country. However, his promise of giving good governance (on the lines of Gujarat with 10% growth rate in the economy) to the country has attracted the electorate and is looking to him for more inspiration, hope, and development of the nation.   

Modi was strongly linked with the Godhra riot and retaliatory attack on Muslims of the region. The projection of such a candidate for Prime Ministership is a major step by the BJP. Their economic policy, too, has taken a big jump where efforts are made to increase investment in the country and work towards making the country an economically stronger and self-reliant one. Narendra Modi is a strong BJP candidate and the most effective marketing tools were adopted to promote him as a BJP candidate. His candidature was also seen as a major shift towards more Rightist policies in the country. However, his promise of giving good governance (on the lines of Gujarat with 10% growth rate in the economy) to the country has attracted the electorate and is looking to him for more inspiration, hope, and development of the nation.   

Their economic policy, too, has taken a big jump where efforts are made to increase investment in the country and work towards making the country an economically stronger and self-reliant one. Narendra Modi is a strong BJP candidate and the most effective marketing tools were adopted to promote him as a BJP candidate. His candidature was also seen as a major shift towards more Rightist policies in the country. However, his promise of giving good governance (on the lines of Gujarat with 10% growth rate in the economy) to the country has attracted the electorate and is looking to him for more inspiration, hope, and development of the nation.   

His candidature was also seen as a major shift towards more Rightist policies in the country. However, his promise of giving good governance (on the lines of Gujarat with 10% growth rate in the economy) to the country has attracted the electorate and is looking to him for more inspiration, hope, and development of the nation.   

Editorial Note - This article was written to cover the elections of 2014 which we see as a major shift in the ways elections are run in India. It included a massive use of marketing principals used for consumables in free markets and the tools used including more and more digital ways were the same. The whole front loading of incentives and pushing the costs far back in future creating a definition of development based on one closely guarded and curated state's definition of development was something which happened for the first time in India.

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