One of my favorite characters in Hollywood was played by Arthur Kennedy, the legendary American actor in the 1962 cult classic – Lawrence of Arabia. Arthur played an American war correspondent by the name of Jackson Bentley who publicized Lawrence’s exploits, making him world famous. On further research, I realized that the character was inspired from a real time war correspondent named Lowell Thomas.
When the United States entered World War I, Thomas was part of an official party sent by President Wilson, to “compile a history of the conflict.” In reality, the mission was not academic. The war was not popular in the United States, and Thomas was sent to find material that would encourage the American people to support the war. Propaganda at its best! Commissar Danilov, in William Craig’s 1973 non- fiction book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad, also turned the tide of battle at Stalingrad, through his motivating articles and propaganda of Vasily Zaytsev’s achievements. These reel examples of using propaganda to change the tide hold immense relevance in the real political scenario of contemporary India.
Political outfits now employ and harness their own Lowell Thomas & Commissar Danilov in the form of industry experts, content writers and of course, ‘PR managers’. PR managers play a significant part in the pre- and post- election roll out of politicians, covering a variety of avenues including branding, perception mapping, image management, PR pegs, pre & post interview briefings, online campaigns etc.
The recent assembly elections held in India are an indication of this evolution of the propaganda phenomenon in Indian politics. The shift from organization centric marketing mix of 4P’s (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) to a target centric mix of 4C’s (Customer Value, Cost, Convenience & Communication).
The following breakdown helps us understand how the 4C’s helped the winners in the April state elections:
1) Customer Value: WEST BENGAL
Rather than focusing on the core values of the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), the party decided to adopt the values dear to the public of West Bengal. The core communication revolved around two most popular brands of Bengal — poriborton (change) and Ma, Maati, Manush (Mother, Motherland and the People). AITC’s TV commercial and radio campaigns, crafted by Shibaji Panja- the entrepreneur behind Chirag PCs and Kolkata TV, became hugely popular, with many people still humming the tunes of the TVC jingle. The campaign also took a 360- degree approach with an explosive online campaign spearheaded by Sabeer Bhatia, founder of e- mail service provider, Hotmail.
Commenting on the AITC Campaign, celebrity quizmaster Derek O’ Brien said, “If Mamata Banerjee is considered as a brand, the core value would be her struggle to meet people’s aspirations.” O’Brien, who joined team Trinamool in 2004, provided Mamata’s campaign with a credible voice that people could empathize with.
A blitzkrieg of values enamoured by the janata, reiterated over and over again, ensured the mandate’s swing in AITC’s favor. The janata wanted change; they wanted practical administrators as compared to experienced politicians. Mamata’s response to that demand was Amit Mitra, former Secretary General of FICCI, giving it a much-needed industry-friendly face. The campaign, which bordered around Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” & “Change” communication planks, ensured that the media does not lose steam even after the election results. Reports in national magazines & newspapers highlighting Didi’s labour during the first 48 hours on the job far beyond the swearing in ceremony is exemplary of post- campaign PR.
Te conspicuous packaging of all the values sought by the janata in a 360 degree campaign over print, electronic, radio and online helped create a positive perception of AITC and vanquished the 34 year old rule of the red in Bangla land.
Written by Rishi Vaidya for Image Management