digital and politics

How Digital Marketing is changing the way elections are fought in India

Voting for the first time:

 

I remember voting for the first time in the year 2009 when the 15th general elections were held in India in the month of May. I vividly recollect that there was no folklore, no bitter campaigns and even after over 50 years since independence the manifestos of the parties in the contest were hardly any different. The contest was between the ruling UPA-1 which was then trying to get a second term under the prime ministership of Dr. Manmohan Singh and the BJP which fought the election under the leadership of Mr. L K Advani. UPA-1 could overcome anti-incumbency and won the election in 2009.  However, the campaign for both parties revolved around door-door campaigns, public rallies and news paper advertisements.

 

Brand NaMo:

 

The general elections in the year 2014 were a completely different ball game. They were fought between personalities and the traditional party politics took a back seat.  The election saw the rise of brand Modi who was greatly assisted by the digital marketing campaigns that were designed much before the elections. The BJP roped in Prashant Kishore to do an image makeover of Narendra Modi who apart from the blot of Godhra Riots enjoyed an image of a pro-development leader. The party used multiple tools of digital marketing one of which was online reputation management. The social media teams of BJP posted content on channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter which influenced people’s perception of Narendra Modi.

 

In all posts, he was projected as a leader who was pro development backed by his impressive record in governing the state of Gujarat. Campaigns such as “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas” meant development for all, and appeasement to none attracted youth who had lost interest due to the traditional communal and caste politics played by parties earlier. Channels such as WhatsApp and Youtube were used to spread the message which was heart of the campaign,” Abki baar Modi Sarkar.” This line became extremely popular and was shared widely on social media in the form of political manifestos, agendas, memes and satire.  The Opposition on the other hand failed to understand the growing popularity of this new and an important marketing platform.

 

Narendra Modi’s digital teams used search engine optimization extensively to suppress negative content relating to Godhra riots and his estranged wife.  The BJP campaign team made brilliant use of technology when hologram was used by Narendra Modi to address multiple rallies at one time. This enabled BJP and Modi to develop a huge following on the social media. Later, we saw the advent of user generated content for the first time in politics. A number of pages in support of Mr.Modi were created and they outnumbered the number of pages which communicated messages against him and the party. BJP tapped  this opportunity of user generated content and developed brand loyalists who would swear by and defend any strategic move which the party undertook then.

 

The BJP replicated the success of its social media strategy effectively in the state elections which followed in Maharashtra. Their digital outreach program targeted properly segmented population in the state under the campaign “Kuthe neun thevla aahe Maharashtra majha.”This slogan signified the falling growth and shoddy state of development in the state. The digital teams after doing on ground surveys could effectively segment Maharashtrian population based on their development needs. Every segment was targeted through specific WhatsApp messages underlining BJP’s development vision and highlighting shortcomings of the government of the day.  BJP made significant gains in this election and emerged as the single largest party by winning 122 of 288 seats. The BJP formed a minority government in the state and later allied with Shiv Sena in December 2014 to form a majority coalition government.

 

Delhi and Bihar Assembly Elections:

 

Interestingly, the BJP continued with the social media strategy in Bihar and Delhi election but was handsomely trounced in both. In my opinion, Lalu Prasad Yadav used his political acumen to stitch a political alliance with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) .  Nitish Kumar roped in Prashant Kishore to handle his digital outreach. However, the JD(U) was measured in its digital marketing strategy considering low internet penetration in the underdeveloped state. In Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal was aiming for a second term as the Chief Minister after a 49 day stint in the first term. He realised that many people in the state were upset at his hasty exit in 49 days. He used Twitter and Facebook to apologise to the people of Delhi and campaigned for a second term.  This small step helped the Aam Aadmi party greatly in the Delhi 2015 state elections and the party won 67 out of 70 seats in the election. This social media outreach helped Kejriwal improve his image. From the Delhi example, we learn an important marketing message, “Customers are willing to forgive brand’s mistakes as long as they are perceived as genuine.”
Leaders and Digital Media.

Conclusion:

 

I believe that gone are the days when elections were fought by distributing pamphlets to households and by using tampered manifestos. Digital marketing has left no voter untouched and voters form perceptions about candidates and parties every day on the web. The digital marketing outreach has to be specific and targeted for parties to achieve maximum gains. Online users are smart enough to segregate leaders with good potential from under performing ones. Be it a ruling party or the opposition, digital marketing has created platforms where voters can now hold their leaders accountable. Importance of marketing your work on social media, making use of user generated content and prompt action on voter feedback is the need of the day. I am excited when I read what citizens share about Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Railways. These two ministries have set the bar for other ministries to follow. The domain of digital marketing has certainly transformed the way elections are fought in India.

 

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62 thoughts on “How Digital Marketing is changing the way elections are fought in India

  1. Well articulated the various stages. Digital is the way to go. Penetration levels of digital marketing is increasing with a large majority of the population owning smart phones. This domain is only going to dominate more in the coming times. Those who don’t take to it will be at a disadvantage. Very well written.

    1. I fully agree fact that Digi Marketing playing a mpuvot role not only in elections but in financial services industry esp banks Asset managers a faster way to create financial awareness this is thx to Mobilectechnology also I see this as a bigining we will see digital play a much larger role going forward the above analysis by Mr.Nayak was very insightful

  2. Very well presented thought. You have rightly said in Bihar it didn’t meet the same success that was in general elections. But What explains the success in UP. Probably in Bihar the alliance did the trick whereas in UP the opposition was fragmented. Same was probably was the case in general elections too. No doubt the digital marketing helped in projecting Modi as a national leader but he was probably helped by disarrayed opposition too.

  3. Good read! Got a bird’s-eye view of how SEO can affect a country’s politics :-).But in the case of Delhi,I would say, we have heard lot of corruption and Modi blame game recently,let’s wait and watch if Delhi again can be retained by Kejriwal. Can digital marketing , effective SEO can change the fate of our national capital?If so, we got to wait and watch.:-)

  4. The writer has excellent skills in analyzing how the digital wave has come to stay with facts. I think he has the potential to launch his own platform to take up further. However, it’s not exclusively due to digital marketing that Mr Modi has come up this level. To do something big like Mr Modi you need the call of your conscience! As the roots of Mr Modi are from RSS he is able achieve and heartily show to the world that he has lived upto the commitment in just 3 years which none of the politicians since Independence have done. It’s also a requisite whom you are projecting in politics. This is the reason why Congress is struggling about its future! People have come to stay in the digital world and the world is in your pockets! So there is a danger if the promises are not fulfilled as every second the newlines flash with the vibrant media around! So the digitization has plus and minus and it’s upto you how you take it forward. Congratulations Mr Viraj for your excellent analytical skills.

  5. Digital marketing surely holds the weight and has the potential to sway public opinion. In the times to come when even toddlers mimic their tv besties, the biggies in politics still holding on to pamphlets and handouts will soon be shown the door, if not already. Very well written.

  6. Very well communicated..
    And yes election have too gone digital. And by the time other parties with conservative thinking could realize, BJP has proved that how their campaign of Digital India can lead to success and development.
    Still it will be difficult for others to come out of the traditional thinking of caste based politics.
    Anyways.. all the best..

  7. Very well written.. Digital marketing is not only helping politics taking new shape, but all facets of day to day life..

  8. Digital is the way forward. Traditional marketing has limited reach thus the importance of digital marketing would be growing. With this article the author has highlighted this phenomenon by taking example of Indian elections.

  9. Digital is the next step. Its important to observe how fast it can happen as internet penetration is very low in India. It is a real challenge to bring all Indians under digital umbrell. Its difficult but possible task.

  10. Digital Marketing is an upcoming and evolving area in marketing. It has vast reachibility and can have target audience according to age , geneder etc. Article mentioned is very interesting and of course in recent election it was put much into use and results everybody knows.

  11. Very interesting and insightful write up. Digital marketing is the new theme in marketing today. Mobile Data users are growing in a big way and this is today the fastest way to reach any target audience.

  12. Very well Articulated and agree in today world of fast changing technology. Making technology your friend is important. Very well written

  13. Well written Bro! Nicely captured the subject.
    Digital is definitely the present and future of world and India…may it be politics, banking, economic reforms or anything else… and the pace it happening in India is truly commendable thanks to our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and every person in India supporting it.

  14. Excellent.. crisp n focussed analysis. Comprehensive yet to the point. The best part in the blog is the content arrangement of the story. Well articulated and professionally presented.. All the best.

  15. Excellent – Well exoressed & explsined-
    Digital Marketing is the future for India though low internet penetration would be a challenge – but opinions can be formed among the literate and intrnet savy , with well plannef &’ targrted Digital Marketing ,

    Good Work Viraj – Keep it up

  16. Digital marketing is here to stay. Mobile usage is now more than traditional web channels. Messaging is going to be pushed wherever you are…

  17. Well,it is a mark of changing times that marketing has become the most important tool to deliver even the bad products. People just have no time to analyse issues on their own but are carried away by carpet bombing of digital marketing. Interestingly it did not work in Bihar and Delhi for exactly opposite reasons. In Bihar, digital penetration was poor and in Delhi the quality of one digital marketing was better than the other. I would say that digital campaign per
    Se is not bad, but it’s time we have a Regulator to contain misinformation.

  18. Well articulated man!
    Truly, digitization is the need of the hour, and the best part is big venture such as jio is helping Indian govt. to spread this wave through out the country.
    Just hoping, this technology would bring people closer rather than isolation.

  19. Well articulated. Yes in time to come this is the way to go. Already the country is marching ahead in a very fast pace vis-a-vis digitalization. It is a matter of time the country fully embraces this mod or elections too.

  20. Well articulated article. Brings out the essence of today’s biggest opportunity and challenge that we have.. technology!

  21. Cool post! Enjoyed reading it. As Modi has proved, it’s not enough just to promote your positives, but it’s also necessary to stifle the negatives! Have one doubt though, how does digital marketing help in the rural areas (which is a substantial portion of the population) where there’s presumably no social media?

  22. Well written. Today’s generation applauds and spits on famous personalities (politicians, movie and TV stars etc.) at the drop of a hat.
    In a way, this kind of behaviour on social media fosters a culture where politicians also have to walk on tip toes so as to not make decisions that appease only a certain section of the society or displease/ offend a larger one. I hope it encourages them to make well thought through decisions and have a strong voice on digital platforms.

  23. Very well paced article with apt examples..
    With more affordable n fast penetrating internet on mobile platform Digital will soon become a must ,not only in election campaigns, but in future of marketing of everything

  24. Excellent analysis of new age technology impacting elections. Those not able to recognise the potential are going to fall behind. Apart from this deep data analytics is playing a big role. Let’s also hear from you about that.

  25. Nicely written. Perhaps it is time to start thinking about digitizing the elections. No booths, no queues, no security infrastructure, no teachers on election duty, and no set time limits.

  26. Well framed. The digital approach is getting so much of importance and acceptance not just because of its reach to the general public be it politics, brands or any organization/system but more so because it creates a platform for enhanced responsiveness… But for urgency with which we act upon the whole lot of data generated due to the digital activity, going digital would lose all its sheen!

  27. An astute commentary on the rise of the most consequential contrivance of the elections in recent history. The ones who did not pay heed to this have evidently been taken by surprise, and that would be being discreet here. Interesting follow-ups to this piece would be the current allegation of foreign power interference using this same device to influence the election outcome in the USA and the vexing problem of the “fake news” and how it can be dealt with so that the efficacy and the informality of digital marketing do not become its own nemesis, as rightly pointed out by Aswathi Nair in the comment above.

  28. Very insightful and amazing sum up Team NaMo and his hold on Digital front. It shows the progress of India as a country and its progress

  29. Nice write-up Viraj, it was quite informative. It is quite interesting to see the impact of digital marketing and social media on democracies and how political parties disseminate messages across to the people.

  30. Very well put, digital marketing is next genx, it will be very huge industry. Creativity will be seen. Viraj All the Best

  31. Being from a media industry I can understand this blog in a better way. The penetration of digital marketing is more as compared to other traditional media. It reaches millions of people at the same time plus you can find out the hit rate i.e.how many people it has reached. Also, digital marketing is cheaper as compared to other traditional media marketing.I think bjp was the only party to realise this and use this platform extensively during the 2014 general elections which gave them outstanding results. Social media is the face of marketing in todays world. You have done an indepth analysis while writing this article. Would like to read more from you.

  32. Very well written. Just a thought to share. Use of digital media to influence target audience is becoming common practice in many fields. Early adopters have got first mover advantage and they were able to beat competition the way BJP did in elections. But once this becomes standrad common practice for all then what ? Can digital marketing offer sustainable competitive advantage? In last US election there was level playing field as far as ability to use digital media is concerned. In fact most of the digital content that I saw was against Mr. Trump. But outcome was different.

    1. I fully agree with your views Mandar. Even though it’s fact that in recent past digital media played very crucial role at least in Indian politics. So as far as India is concerned views n analysis put together by Viraj make sense.

  33. Very well written..digital marketing is the future for our country not only in politics but in all fields.

    Will be very interesting to see how 2019 elections r fought.

  34. Great analysis on digital marketing. Going forward this is going to be the way marketing will change. Keep up with good work and keep posting.
    Thanks

  35. This was a very enlightening read . Very well thought of and put across . Not denying the competitive edge that digital marketing has to offer . Thankyou for an insightful read … would like to be posted about future blogs . Good luck !

  36. Well summarized essay on the trends and strategies being used by potical parties in India capture new voters other than banking on traditional vote banks.

  37. Well written article, Viraj! Shows your command over politics in as much as your ability to pull out the effects of digital marketing strategy and its impact thereof!! The boon and bane of digital marketing is well known and your article does full justice to it!!

  38. I believe the line between the functioning of a political party and a corporate is becoming more and more thinner every passing day specially in the case of a developing nation. Though there is still a big difference but in areas like projecting themselves or brand building, a political party is not much behind a corporate. Now the campaigns are planned on the lines of a product launch, market analysis is being done, target audiences are zeroed in, statistical tools are being used and above all there is significant amount of technology being used for garnering the expected results. Viraj your article beautifully covers all this and it also gives us an idea what will be the road ahead.

  39. You have very well narrated the change enabled by digital platforms in such a short span of time on political campaigning.

  40. Very nicely written. It is good to know that political parties are adapting to the new trend in communication. Hopefully they will use effective methods in executing their duties as well.

  41. I really liked the way you have intertwined the impact of digital marketing with the story line of Narendra Modi. I agree that though his credentials may have been strong, the marketing campaign created the mass hysteria needed to garner votes. Kudos!

  42. Very well written, Viraj. You have perfectly articulated the role digital marketing played in 2014 general elections. NaMo brand was created via by the digital marketing team of BJF. I particularly like how you highlighted the shortcomings of digital marketing in Bihar and Delhi (from BJP’s perspective) elections.
    Good job.

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