Politics and Marketing goes hand in hand in our democratic world. The only way to win over people is communicate and market yourself. Correspondingly it is natural that most political leaders are effective communicators and great marketers. And with something as critical as “Power over People” up for grabs, the number of people staking claim over it is humongous. Hence, it should not be surprising that India has over 1800 Registered Political Parties. Yes! 1866 parties to be exact.
Conceptually, in a market where there is abundant supply and heavy competition, the ultimate beneficiary would be the customers. But does the above theory apply to politics. A big “NO!” This is because there is a secret weapon that can bypass this theory – “Marketing”.
Allow me to explain. If I sell a bag of rice for Rs.1200 and if my competitor sells for Rs.1150, I will lose my customers and ultimately the business. But if I am able to convince the customer that my bag of rice is actually worth Rs.2000, what will the customer do. Apply the same to any political party and its campaigns.
So who rules over people? The one who works for them or the one who says he does?
Naturally your next thought should be – why would the competitor not do the same. Well, politics is not a simple numbers game as the previous example. It is a function of multiple factors such as Religion, Development, Pride, Emotion, community and what not. With each party positioning along one of those factors, or a combination of them, a consumer does not really know who he “should vote” for. And in some adverse cases, whom he actually “Voted” for.
Ultimately – “We cannot be sure if the one whom we vote for is the best of the lot, but he definitely is the ‘Best Marketer’ of the lot”. And the above statement cuts across all ages, not just the present day. And now with the advent of Digital and social media, the ante of marketing in politics has reached new dimensions.
Did you know that the educational article you recently read on the health benefits of Coffee, was actually sponsored by a company who is going to launch a new flavour of coffee next month? That’s content marketing.
There was also a time when cigarettes were recommended to reduce mental stress. We should give it to them. The fact is true. But it ignored the larger picture.
In similar fashion, do you know that the warning signs (Damaged Lungs, throat cancer) put on cigarettes actually increased the sales of Cigarettes? Well, that’s the effect of “Neuro marketing”. Put in simple terms, affecting your unconscious mind to behave in a certain way, over riding your conscious decision making skill. To know more about the same you can start by reading the book “Buyology” by Martin Lindstrom.
What is Happening:
In politics, with the inception and active usage of concepts like content marketing and neuro-marketing, people are increasingly prone to making irrational decisions. This leads to the destruction of the essence of democracy.
Additionally, the internet is getting flooded with vibrant youth with pure intention but naïve ground experience. This offers political parties a lucrative and easy segment to target. Everybody wants to be smart or rather “sound smart” and that is exactly what social media helps one to do. Websites such as Quora make their living with this insight.
So if a political party is able to convince this segment that I am doing great work, in all probability, it shall retain them for a long time. But how does it do that?
First, find the Social media influencers – the ones whose opinion (Quora answers, blog, etc) have a wider reach and popularity. Second, offer him incentive (Cash/Kind/Intrinsic motivation) to write an article with “true facts but biased interpretations” leaning towards a particular party. The modern, sophisticated kind will find these answers intellectually stimulating and appeasing. They will start resonating the same creating a ripple effect across the platform.
Are companies using Influencers? You bet. Amazon.com is renowned for Customer service? Right. How did it establish that? Did “influencer marketing” play a part? (A part; not the only part)
Well, forum questions like
Why is Amazon’s customer service the best?
What is your best experience with Amazon?
And the answers to these questions, do affirm my suspicion.
So, if companies are already doing it, how far can our political leaders be? Well not too far. And in some cases even better than the corporates. Few examples as follows
What are some of the badass moments of Shri Modi ji?
How has Yogi Adityanath transformed UP from its poor state?
What are the stupidest reasons people say to hate BJP?
From the opposition side:
Why is the BJP hell bent on supressing Muslims?
These questions are inherently biased and strategically planted. In marketing terms, these are questions which spur “Consumer Engagement” – which is critical to retain your customers.
If one is curious enough to go through the answers for these questions, one can see how beautifully the influencers use “True facts with biased Interpretations” to guide the conversations in favour of them.
This article is not against Political parties using digital marketing principles. But it simply aims to increase awareness amongst people, of the new avenues which political parties use to market themselves. This new avenues are dangerous because unlike traditional practises people are not aware that they are being subjected to marketing. I deem this unfortunate, particularly in Politics where “Power over People” is at stake.
Being aware of its existence is the first step in removing political bias from Digital platforms. Next time you read an article/meme/answer on the internet, separate facts from interpretations. Please do not blindly promote an article just because it sounds smart. On the flip side appreciate articles which are objective and critical, but neutral. Also be aware that the guy who promotes an answer might as well be an influencer!
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