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Branding of a politician

Branding of a politician
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Brand building is an important part of marketing strategy. There are numerous instances where a product or service from a company commands a premium...

Brand building is an important part of marketing strategy. There are numerous instances where a product or service from a company commands a premium in pricing and loyalty of consumers because of the aspirational value of the brand. In the United States (US), the choice of cola drink (Pepsi or Coke) is made once and people steadfastly consume the same drink throughout their lives. And whenever Apple launches a new product, people camp outside the stores, days in advance. Branding has entered the political lexicon with the increasing span of mass media in the form of cable television and the growth of Internet as a source of news. Some people believe that the first time political branding went mainstream was in the 1960 US presidential polls. The Republican candidate was Richard Nixon, who was coming out as a Vice-President for two solid terms of President Dwight Eisenhower. The challenger was the young and handsome Senator John F Kennedy. It was a tight race but Nixon had an edge before the 1st televised presidential debate. During the televised debate, Kennedy was better prepared in terms of appearance. He took adequate rest and looked tanned and relaxed; whereas Nixon had been campaigning till the end and looked weak, tired and also refused make-up. As per the opinion polls, Kennedy easily trumped Nixon. The interesting part is that the listeners to the same debate, on radio and without the visuals, believed that Nixon had outperformed Kennedy. On that night, Kennedy did not just win a televised debate, he won the elections. In the Indian political arena, it was in its re-election campaign of 1984 that the Congress moved to an organized marketing and advertising campaign. It engaged an advertising agency to craft its ad-campaign.
The campaign question � "Can you name the country that has a higher growth rate than the US or the UK" - started a formal marketing effort in Indian politics. The efficacy of that advertising campaign is debatable because the Congress won a landslide victory which is believed to have been due to the sympathy wave generated by the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The next elections in 1989 were a setback for Congress though it undertook a high-decibel print and video campaign. The other famous elections for a concerted marketing effort were the 2004 elections, when the "India Shining" campaign led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) backfired and it had to face an unexpected defeat at the hands of Congress alliance. As the Indian electorate is getting younger and using Internet and television as primary sources of news and information, it has become imperative for political personalities to fit the needs of the new demographics. In recent times, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been most marketing savvy. He hired Apco Worldwide, an American lobbying and Public Relations (PR) firm to promote the "Vibrant Gujarat" investment summit. The summit was a resounding success and came to be known as the "Davos of India". After Apco was assigned the Vibrant Gujarat assignment in 2009, the investment Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) signed in Gujarat increased from $152 billion to $450 billion. The grand success of these summits added to the profile of Gujarat as a progressive and business-friendly State and to that of Narendra Modi as a development-focussed CM. However, debate is still on about how many of these MOUs got converted to projects on ground. The use of PR machinery by Modi-backers to promote his handling of the ground situation in Uttarakhand after the recent calamity has divided mainstream media. The news that Modi helped evacuate 15,000 stranded Gujarati visitors to safety, in a single day, was countered with a rebuttal by a senior journalist. In his article, the journalist notes that it is not factually possible to move that number of people using ground movement in Uttarakhand. But Modi has a number of supporters in the media who praised his spirit and readiness for relief effort, while blaming the hyped numbers on overzealous supporters. People may be divided in their opinion on the politics of Modi but his success in promoting "Brand Modi" is undeniable. A few weeks back, Modi charmed Jim O' Neill, the much- respected former Goldman Sachs Asset Management Chairman and the originator of the acronym � "BRIC" (Brazil, Russia, India & China). In a recent article in Bloomberg, while evaluating Indian economy, O' Neill is all praise for Modi. O'Neill presented a set of recommendations, on Modi's request, on how India could realize its enormous potential. The interaction seems to have so impressed O'Neill that he writes: "He (Modi) is a controversial figure. Detractors call him a sectarian extremist. I will say this: He's good on economics, and that's one of the things India desperately needs in a leader. I don't think it's a coincidence that Gujarat has avoided the slowdown that has almost halved India's national rate of growth. The State just keeps on growing at double-digit rates."
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