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Why are brands wary of riding the election wave?

Even in the world’s biggest democracy, not many brands are willing to cash in on the election frenzy. Best Media Info tries to find out why

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai | February 16, 2017


America recently voted Donald Trump as their President, evoking all sort of reactions from across the world. There was surprise, dismay and vindication. But one thing people will agree unanimously is that the US Presidential election was a mega event that the whole world watched intensely. It was no surprise then that a lot of brands jumped at this opportunity and came out with communication that revolved around the elections.

Similarly, some states in India are going to elections but not many brands seem keen to ride the election wave. While a few brands like Fortune and Tata Tea have come out with communication centred round the elections, they still take up broad topics such as corruption and the need to vote. So why are Indian brands wary of coming out with communication that has political undertones?

Harish Bijoor Harish Bijoor

“The general sentiment is that brands must not associate with politics. The idea is that politics is a divisive force, that politics divides people whereas brands are meant to unite people. So, the idea is to not go with something divisive, but to be associated with something that is unitary oriented and I think that is the reason not many people touch politics in India,” said Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

MG Parameswaran MG Parameswaran

Echoing a similar sentiment, MG Parameswaran, Brand Strategist, Founder, Brand-Building.com, said, “I think brands tend to play it safe. They don’t want to antagonise any party. Basically, it is just a question of playing safe than anything else.”

Azazul Haque Azazul Haque

The man behind the latest election eccentric ad from Fortune, that takes up the issue of illegal party funds, Azazul Haque, Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather, Bangalore, pointed out another interesting insight on why brands refrain from politics in their ad communication.

“The communication TG is always the women of the family because she is the one taking household decisions. In India we have a perception that women aren’t as interested in politics as a man is and being a woman is all about being emotional, loving your family and taking care of their health. That was one of the reasons we went ahead with this campaign because we thought that this kind of communication will also make the brand look progressive. So, as you can see the protagonist is a woman and she is the leader of the party and although it wasn’t very apparent, it had cues of a progressive brand.”

But with news of paid trolling and purposely tarnishing a brand that doesn’t toe the line flying fast and furious, are brands hesitant to take on politics because of the ramifications it could have?

“As long as you are taking a stance that is not pointing at a political party but questions the system at large then no one can have a problem with that. Like the Fortune ad did not question any particular party but it just questioned the prevailing system in general. But given the atmosphere, brands will be extremely cautious in doing anything even a little controversial,” said Haque.

Amer Jaleel Amer Jaleel

Amer Jaleel, Chairman and CCO, Mullen Lintas, has been in the ‘Jaago Re’ journey with Tata Tea right from the very first ad to the recent ‘Jaago Re 2.0’ version of the campaign. Was there ever a fear of getting trolled and heckled in his mind while working on the campaigns?

“I think people recognise intent. People heckle and troll when they see the intent going wrong. Tata Tea has always been so clean and so clear in its purpose that people see the intent. I think because of that clean intent we have always been encouraged to take the campaign further,” said Jaleel.

Sushant Dash Sushant Dash

Sushant Dash, Regional President-India, Tata Global Beverages, thinks a lot of brands have now started doing election-centric communication.

“If I remember, during the last elections, there were a lot of brands that came up with communications relating to elections. We have done that for the last two elections and in 2009 we talked about talking. We got the youth to say that if you want a difference then you need to go out and vote. We followed that up in the 2014 election when we talked about women empowerment. So, we have been coming out with communication about elections and I do believe that some other brands are also doing the same.”

But are elections a good time to gain traction for your brand?

Giving the example of an ad for Santoor, Parameswaran said, “One needs to link the context to the brand. We once did this ad for Santoor based on election. In the ad someone in the booth thinks that the protagonist is too young to vote (in typical Santoor commercial style, when asked for an age proof, a child comes rushing in calling, mummy). We also linked the ad to a pen offer in the end. So, you need to link it to the brand otherwise it is meaningless, the brands need to have customer value proposition.”

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