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Guest Article: Gautam Talwar: Game of Thrones - National Parties

By Gautam Talwar , Rediffusion Y&R, Mumbai | In Marketing | April 08, 2014
Rediffusion's planning head consults the agency's brand diagnosis tool to analyse the attributes that best describe our political brands, oops, parties.

In the coming weeks, the festival of democracy shall sweep across India - people will give voice to who they believe should lead their constituency and the nation. The fate of 543 legislators and in turn the 14th Prime Minister of India shall be decided through the world's largest democratic exercise. While opinion polls have spoken and voter interviews conducted, the attempts to gaze into the crystal ball of Indian elections have yielded varying and multifarious results.

Gautam Talwar

We believe that political parties are also brands as much as they are political entities. BAV 2013, a proprietary brand diagnosis tool from Rediffusion Y&R, has gathered responses and opinions on 1400+ brands across 100+ categories from 10,000 Indians across all walks of life. Fifteen political parties were also a part of the study for consideration and responses. We begin with the two key national parties, Congress and BJP, understanding their relative strengths and weaknesses, and how they are perceived by Indians. And, most importantly, does the current imagery make them attractive to voters?

When we look at the BAV Brand Pillars, we realise that while the Congress is more Differentiated (reason to stand out); it is trailing BJP in Relevance and Esteem. As an incumbent, it does not bode well for the Congress that voters aren't willing to adopt (Relevance) or are losing respect and regard for the brand (Esteem). Perhaps after 10 years of governance riddled with scams, controversies and inaction, the party has eroded in the minds of the people. BJP on the other hand, it would seem, is ideally positioned to take the battle to the Congress.

To understand the BJP advantage better, we also looked at the imagery and perceptions these parties enjoy in the minds of the voter. And our analysis reveals that voters see the Congress and the BJP as belonging to two very different worlds.

Game of Thrones - National Parties

While the incumbent Congress is perceived to be Smart (Innovative, Intelligent), Amiable (Friendly, Charming), it lacks key attributes like being a Leader or being Trusted. Can a party really dream of success without this all-important halo? BJP on the other hand, is Dependable (Trustworthy, Reliable, Socially Responsible), Pioneer (Leader, Visionary, Daring) with an air of Familiarity (Social, Authentic). BJP enjoys what is arguably the most important attribute for brands in India, Trust. In the elections to come, this Trust deficit that Congress is struggling with could cost it quite a few votes. Also, BJP is clearly associated with Leadership perceptions, possibly indicating a growing belief in the BJP as an alternative in governance.

Game of Thrones - National Parties

We also analysed the various perceptions that would be critical for a political party to succeed in the minds of the voter and four broad spaces emerged.

• Charisma (Dynamic, Leader and Daring)
• Imagination (Intelligent, Progressive and Visionary)
• Approachability (Friendly and Social)
• Honesty (Socially Responsible, Trustworthy)

BJP was either at par with Congress, if not better, especially in attributes like being Charismatic or being Dependable. Does this come from the much-hyped NaMo effect? An effective administrator with a media presence like few others, BJP seems to be benefiting from his halo. Congress stands at par with BJP on being Approachable, but BJP retains the edge in Imagination. With the new age politics revolving around Change, Vision and Governance, being Imaginative may make all the difference in who can sway the majority to its folds.

With the incumbent trailing to opposition on most counts in Imagery and Brand Health, the preferred choice of the voters can be easily fathomed. Our analysis on a country-wide study of perceptions of national parties revealed a very one-sided battle. And, while the writ of the people seems clear and unambiguously against the incumbent, the opposition still needs to convert its advantages into action and votes. Elections in India however, are not only won on national perceptions but by winning regions and states. Keep watching this space for our next analysis, where we would cover brand perceptions for national and regional parties in a few key states.

The author is the chief strategy officer of Rediffusion Y&R.

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