Many brands used the election to their advantage but did they really wield any influence on the record voter turnout of 66 per cent?
Sundari Subramaniam, a Chennai-based professional from the chemicals industry, has mixed feelings about all the frenetic marketing campaigns that cashed in on the Great Indian Election. She liked some campaigns, did not quite approve of the incentives brands dangled in front of voters, and said these moves did not make her shift loyalties. “I did like the 49 per cent ad, the one that encouraged more women to come out and vote,” she says. She feels these ads and initiatives urge people, especially the undecided voter, to go out and vote, but the discounts “smack of a sop or bribe even, for doing what I consider one’s duty in a democratic system.” Voting has never been so cool. Besides the Election Commission’s efforts to encourage people to vote, which included roping in stars such as Kamal Hassan and exempting senior citizens from standing in the queue, did the brands wield any influence on the record turnout ever of 66 per cent?
Capitalising on the zeitgeist
“Brands have always used events such as elections as part of their ad campaigns but this time, they became a platform for engagement. To mention just two instances, Johnson & Johnson sponsored Operation Black Dot (OBD), an initiative to get first-time voters in Mumbai to register themselves as well as make politics interesting to urban youth, and Tata Tea used its ‘Jaago Re’ platform to encourage women to vote. Political parties, for their part, had to redesign themselves to appeal to voters who were disgusted with the state of affairs,” says Samyak Chakrabarty, Chief Youth Marketer, DDB Mudra and founder, Operation Black Dot. “No one looked at urban citizens as an important vote bank.” Liquor and cash can act as sops in rural areas but urban voters need a different appeal, adds Chakrabarty. OBD registered 40,000 first-time voters from across Mumbai’s colleges and got candidates fighting the elections to come to cafes, sit on bean bags and discuss stuff with students, to convert those disinterested in the electoral process. Chakrabarty feels advertising, marketing and smart packaging has played a very important role in getting people to vote. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which he credits with a large role in the phenomenon of pushing people to go out and vote, is a brilliant example of marketing, right from its caps to its social media strategy, he says. Abhijit Avasthi, National Creative Director, Ogilvy India, is fairly certain advertising had a role to play in getting people to go out and vote. Why? “The visibility of the campaigns was humongous,” he says, going on to add that this season’s advertising should show marketers they have the power to influence society in a positive way. Ogilvy was behind Google’s Pledge to Vote campaign as well as Fevicol’s.
“People will reciprocate by endorsing their brands,” says Avasthi of marketers who used the election as a theme. Sundari Subramaniam feels that while the ads would improve her recall of brands, they might not affect her buying decisions. She will buy Tata Tea “only if my favourite brand isn’t available”. Arun Iyer, National Creative Director, Lowe Lintas, believes advertising created a lot of societal pressure on people to vote and led to a better turnout. A lot of brands wanted to jump on because of the issue’s topicality, and most conversations, in real life and on social media, were about this topic. “Brands thought, in some way we will be in their (consumers’) consciousness,” says Iyer. Lowe Lintas was responsible for the ‘Jaago Re’ campaign and Idea Internet ads, some of which dealt with the elections.
There were many incentives too. Green Trend’s salons offered Rs.200 off on haircuts for women who had voted. “A lot of first-time customers didn’t know we were running this offer, they came in by chance and availed the discount,” says an employee of one of its branches. Likewise, Marry Brown offered 10 per cent off on the total billed amount to its customers, petrol pumps across the National Capital Region offered 50p/litre off to consumers who voted and Airtel offered its prepaid mobile customers in Tamil Nadu 50MB-worth free internet usage. Airtel hoped its customers would go online to read about candidates and post pictures of their inked fingers on social networking Web sites to inspire others to vote. MTS through its tie-up with social media content portal Social Samosa had launched an Election Tracker. “Close to 55,000 people accessed our election tracker and over 1.3 lakh people read the reports/infographics/reviews that we created using the tracker,” says Ankita Gaba, co-founder, Social Samosa. “As an engagement exercise, for us, it was a successful experience. We felt we added value to everyone who is interested in politics.” n
– The Hindu Business Line