Monday, April 27, 2009

Politics of marketing

No, this is not another glimpse of my hypothetical book of marketing; don't go by the deceit in the title of the post, as this post aims to give you a peek into the world where being meretricious is a rule. This is the world which requires more marketing than the biggest corporate firm about to launch its product, this is the world where every form of art is given the best platform of showcase, this is the world which has the potential to create a buffoon out of a genius and vice versa; this is the world of politics, and with the current Dance of Democracy (courtesy: TOI) in The Political Theatre (courtesy: ET) this world has suddenly become much more interesting. I'll try to give a picture of this world from a marketer's perspective. A close follow up of Indian politics can give a marketer more experience of the true Indian market than that given by years of being a part of a corporate firm.

Rules of politics have always intrigued me from the days when any visit by a senior leader of BJP to our house, would ensure a number of phone calls from the most distant of family friends asking for the possibility of getting a ticket in the coming elections. The beauty and irony of the entire political system was the direct involvement of the huge number of people around you in a system which they blatantly abused. But I'll venture into those things later.

Marketing in politics is an important criteria which decides the fate of the path the country is going to take. One needs to be able to micro-market oneself, while also reaching out to the masses through the general means. So there are two faces to marketing in politics: Mass media marketing and Micro-Marketing. (Terms are given by me so they may not be technical). One deals with the methods to attract people on a whole primarily through brand visibility, the other deals with customized vote bank research.

Hence the LK Advani Google campaign, is a strategy adopted to ensure brand visibility of Advani, with a prime focus on targeting new voters by luring them through the power of online posters. Congress was not far behind, having a similar strategy adopted to ensure that at least the young brigade on knows its policies. TV ads and other such regular online/ media advertisements are the regular ways of mass media marketing.

Another interesting mass marketing strategy is to bank on the successful events around you and to somehow weave them into the political agenda. The benefit is that these situations around the public are actually fresh and raw in their minds, and an appropriate connection with your strategies instantly acts as a direct medium of effective brand visibility. The best example is the Congress Jai Ho Campaign. The high TRP of Oscars this year, along with the innumerable pages of newspapers and magazines with pictures of a smiling Rahman Sir, was clearly something which was forced to get etched into the memories of almost every Indian. Congress used the words "Jai Ho" which brought the world to its toes (strangely as per my opinion), to their advantage by buying the copyright of the song to be able to incorporate in their marketing campaign. Seems like a strategy adopted generally by any leading corporate firm, but the beauty of political marketing was actually seen by what the BJP did to counter this effect. They made a parody of Jai Ho, called Bhay Ho, taunting the Congress, and the music lovers who were tired of listening to the original at almost every function ensured that Bhay Ho was a success; thus crushing the Jai Ho Congress Campaign. BJP Marketing team thus proved that an interesting strategy of victory in market is to be able to use the cards played by your opponent to your advantage. Congress paid money for the copyright and it was BJP who reaped a greater benefit.

But a general doubt which people might have about this is whether such mass marketing campaigns actually create a difference. The answer is: yes they do, they help creating a vote bank which votes not on social/ religious/ caste issues, but on the charisma or the awe the party can generate. You can actually compare this vote bank to those voters in US who made Sarah Palin an important woman in American History, and also to those voters of Virar who gave Govinda a chance to create a new history in Indian parliament. But this bank is very small, how do you reach out to the basics, how do you make yourselves more easily accessible to the prospective voters. Here comes the micromarketing.

Now micromarketing is a concept which leads to the identification of a customized consumer base (in this case, the vote bank) and directly reaches out to them. In politics too, a perfect combination of customized voter base is planned (eg, a decision by Congress marketing team on the election campaigns in a place can be directly dependent on this analysis of customer base: So what they do is considering Jahanabad in Bihar shall cater to the Y-M-D vote bank while Bettiah shall cater primarily to Brahmins, they send a Muslim leader to Jahanabad and a Brahmin leader to Bettiah for campaigning). Exactly similar situations may exist in the corporate world where you need to know different strategies of targeting different target groups in market. You customize your marketing campaigns accordingly and then see the huge difference which such micromarketing can create. Using local media and local events, with the help of local influential leaders, is the strategy adopted by political parties in this form of marketing.

Before giving an end to this post, I shall give two examples of two of the greatest marketing personalities Indian politics has produced. Laloo yadav, a person known as a political clown, is a person who has the alacrity to make fun of himself to be able to attract more people towards him . He is a genius, who wraps himself in the garb of a rural clown to be able to ensure that the vote bank his party targets is able to identify itself with this personality which it can see. Interesting marketing strategy, something similar to what Unilver used to do- Hindustan Lever Ltd always brought a greater sense of identification for a patriotic customer than P&G, though by no means was HLL closer to Indian ethics than any of its other competitors. Another example is that of Mr Narendra Modi, who has transformed his personality into a witty stand up comedian, hoping that this jovial face of Modi will flash such a smile that the tears of Gujarat riot victims will disappear. Interesting marketing strategy again, projecting your company as something entirely opposite to the controversies/failures it was earlier involved in.

I end the post with this; marketing in politics tests every nerve of a marketer, thus proving what our leaders are actually capable of ;) . I have tried to tone down a few dirty aspects associated with such marketing and hence the focus is only on those points which can be directly applied to corporate firms as well.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Living my dream......... the time has come.

It feels so gratifying when you are able to start living your dream, or when you take the first step towards the achievement of that dream. The time has come when I am going to start work on my start up, and take my first step towards the journey of entrepreneurial dreams. Interestingly, the journey I am about to begin will be quite unique, as I will be running on two parallel paths which will converge after some time, causing the merge of interests. One of the paths is the startup whose seed has been sown with few of my good friends and the battle of ideas has begun; it won't be long before we embark on a journey. The second path is that of a startup which has funding from an established company and my aim will be to create a venture out of the funds provided.

When I start giving shapes to my ideas related to the second path in a few weeks, I will travel the journey from being an aspiring entrepreneur to a budding entrepreneur. The second step in the entrepreneurial journey will be tougher, but thats also the feeling which gives me immense pleasure. So here follows a small peep into the path 2 of my entrepreneurial journey and what I'll be working on.

When it comes to the modern economy, one word instinctively comes to our mind in a form which haunts you- 'recession'. Whether or not India is in recession, is a different debate, but the situations this word has created in our economy are so important that they are going to shape the path Indian business will follow. Recession or the fear of it, has suddenly brought employee management to the forefront; getting the maximum out of a few employees while not hiring new recruits should bring an interesting sector to the forefront, that which deals with the management of the T&A data of every employee and handles the security and access devices in corporate firms. This is because there are lots of sectors now where work is still there, but no recruitment. Another important group of people which have suddenly come to the forefront are SMEs and young startups, because even the best of business minds have said this to be the right time to get a strong foothold in the Indian business.

Well, my new work has got to do something with both the above groups of people; combining the two in a way that we are able to use the hype of the word 'recession' to our maximum advantage, while ensuring the formation of a market for us which can control things in the future. I really hope the plans I have in my mind for my startups do succeed, and at every stage of business, I am able to use the situations surrounding us in the right way to create maximum profit.

Yes, the time has come :)

"An entrepreneur is not a dreamer, he is a doer".