Reach out to customers or face the music. A new brand communicates better than the big brands. Customer engagement & loksabha election advertising in Kerala.

A 500 crore budget by the ruling party, 300 crore budget by the opposition party and undisclosed but definitely low budget by a new entrant makes up for the Lok Sabha Election Advertising Campaign 2014. Advertising to the customers in Kerala market always brings up interesting analysis whether it is a new product or an existing product. It turns out all the more interesting when it is a national election which is the biggest festival of all. All the political parties are trying to woo customers (read voters) by advertising their products (read candidates) and the most interesting part is the big names in advertising are behind creating each campaign.

Glaring mismatch

All the while we ad fraternity cry to clients that knowing the target audience and reaching out to the TG is more important than old fashioned advertising technique of spending a lot of money on bombarding all the media. Then here comes an election campaign where all the parties are made to do the same thing that we ask every client not to do. Every time a change in a copy of an ad is met with disdain by us adpeople and here comes an election campaign with glaring use of misappropriate words.

Local Markets differ

It is a fact that India now has more diversified local markets. Unlike in the old days where a single national campaign would work across all the markets (of course because the ads were mostly targeted to the urban market in each region), now every national campaign is either translated/adapted or even made in local languages taking into consideration the subtle cultural nuances in each region. The local markets have upgraded in their knowledge/info thanks to the technological advancement. Especially the easy accessibility of the internet & smart phones has changed the rules of the game like never before.

Kerala market is all the more unique

High rate of literacy, high rate of English knowledge, different dialects even in their mother tongue (Malayalam) across the state, hypocracy in ideals, always ready to experiment are just some of the key features of Keralites which makes it a unique market. And coming to figures, Kerala has the highest gender electoral ratio which stands at 1,079 women to 1,000 men. 9,06,420 more women than the male voters to be exact as per the figures released by Chief Electoral Officer for 2014 polls. Now comes the most interesting figures – 8.1 percent of the total electorate in the state are first-time voters, 19,33,844 to be exact. Apoliticisation of campuses in Kerala has resulted in making these first- time voters non lenient towards any one political party and the majority of them would vote based on issues or specific candidates. This number of new voters is much greater than the winning margin of LS polls in 2009, in 17 out of the 20 constituencies in Kerala. So the target audience is quite clear in this campaign but yet all the leading parties have gone haywire in their advertising communication.

Why the money gone down the drain?
Communication blunders & wayward selection of media


The campaign thought or the idea behind the campaign is quite interesting provided the fact that it tries to convey that the party has a broader outlook & is inclusive of all sections of society at the same time promoting its brand ambassador Rahul Gandhi as a person who leads from the front. Now let us have a close look at the outdoor campaign and there comes the glaring mis-match in communication. The meaningful Hindi words in the national campaign was translated to Malayalam painstakingly but resulted in words of the meaning which may have to be analysed and interpreted by Malayalam professors if even an educated Keralite should understand. Instead of the campaign being simple it became all the more complex where it doesn’t connect to the uneducated or the educated.

The campaign revolves around the brand ambassador Narendra Modi alone and instead of a campaign that showed what BJP could do right if elected, the campaign focussed on what the other brand (read congress) did wrong. And the worst communication blunder is seen on the outdoor campaigns of BJP where no sense has gone into the translation of the Hindi words into Malayalam. For those who don’t know Malayalam here comes the explanation – A retranslation of the outdoor campaign of BJP from Malayalam to English goes like this “Lots of atrocities against women happens, this time it’s the turn of Modi Government”!!! Is BJP asking for a chance to do the same? Maybe the translators or the agency people know about it. God save them.
Left Front: In shortest words LDF campaign can be defined as wrong positioning. Elections are for Lok Sabha and the voters especially the new ones think it at a national level whereas the whole LDF campaign revolves around the disadvantages of the Kerala ministry. The PR & better use of their cadre party system though has done much damage control still doesn’t clearly know who will buy them and who will not. The use of independent candidates to woo the non political votes in some constituencies seemed to be a smart move but only the results will tell us whether it has backfired as the new products were not backed up with good advertising support. Also the low usage of digital media & the high usage of outdoor (flex put up at every single street) doesn’t seem to be a good proposition in this market.

For a new brand entering a new market, they have outclassed the big brands in their PR & Advertising that too without spending too much money. First thing they put up famous personalities in their chosen field who were well known especially among women & youth in Kerala. Maybe they knew that most of the Kerala media have political leniencies and won’t give much space for their candidates unless they were famous. They overcame this scenario through its candidates where it became the products-speaks-for-itself case. Second when Congress, BJP and the Left Front concentrated more on high cost media like outdoor, electronic & print, AAP used customer engagement, one of the most powerful tools in modern advertising, and low cost advertising to reach out to the target audience. For this AAP candidates went down to the target customers directly by conducting grama sabhas (nobody thought it could be done in a sophisticated market like Kerala) and the first direct communication to reach the voters in most constituencies were from AAP candidates through their B&W leaflets inserted in newspapers. The content of the leaflets were so specific to each districts that a lot of time & energy seems to have invested in the study of each market where the product has to be sold. Third, the high usage of digital media has helped AAP to reach out to its customers at relatively low cost. Fourth, they gained free PR from activities by its brand ambassador Arvind Kejriwal at a national level and at the same time at the local level they were involved in every single issue happening on the streets as they didn’t mind whether another party was already involved in each issue. But does that mean this new brand will outsell all other brands? Ofcourse No, But only the results will tell us how much this new brand eats into existing market share of the bigger brands.
In short, the selection of outdoor as the main media for bigger brands is just opposite to the new age advertising of reaching out to specific target audience & let them experience their product before making a decision. A mass media like outdoor drains out all the money in this case and especially the first time voters & the women voters will expect to meet the candidates or atleast be able to know what each of them stands for. Time is fast running out for all the political parties as the election date is on April 10th, so dear candidates its better late than never to beat the road and reach your voters directly if they should take notice of your worth as a candidate.
On a lighter note, it is better to keep in mind that it is said that nobody can sell a product in Kerala market unless accompanied by a dream. So atleast for next election campaign better keep in mind to weave a dream around your candidature or the product will be pushed out of this market for ever in no time.