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10 Marketing Lessons From Narendra Modi’s Chai Pe Charcha Campaign

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‘Chai pe Charcha’ is the latest campaign by the Bhartiya Janta Party with a target of reaching two crore people.

The campaign unfolds at a very crucial time with the Lok Sabha election just a few months away. As part of the campaign, Narendra Modi or any senior party leader would interact with people through special video conferencing using internet and custom TV monitors.

Chai pe charcha with NAMO

The one of the biggest ‘hangout’ would take place through 1000 tea stalls located across 300 cities. The locations are strategically chosen from all the constituencies where the party plans to contest elections. The campaign plans to have 10 rounds of tea-time discussion separated by an interval of 5 days each.

The ‘Chai pe Charcha’ campaign along with the ‘Statue of Unity, iron collection’ campaign will act as the 2014 version of the earlier public outreach programs like ‘Rath Yatra’.

While this has, for sure, attracted a lot of attention from the people interested in politics, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt for marketers as well.

I have jotted down some of key lessons from the campaign.

1. Bring-in outside perspective

Citizens for Accountable Governance or CAG is the organization behind the campaign. Though the professional support group defines itself as “not-for-profit organization to build a substantive and purposeful engagement with various establishments in the country and engage the youth in a movement to further strengthen accountable governance in India.”, the organization can be treated as a task force for the Modi Campaign. CAG is guided and mentored by Prashant Kishor, one of the behind-the-scenes Modi strategists and former UN mission chief in Africa.

The setting up of CAG was in itself a marketing master stroke. Any business / organization trying to find innovative ways of positioning itself better should include people from outside the industry to bring fresh perspective to it’s marketing. Experts from other industries bring with them ideas and processes which not only seem radical but also help organizations unshackle themselves from age old mentality and conventions. CAG serves this purpose extremely well.

CAG has 70+ members from IITs, IIMs etc and have strictly no prior association with any political outfit. The members come from diverse backgrounds such as journalism, law, consulting, investment banking, technology etc.

After its formation, CAG created multiple marketing and outreach programs like Young Indian Leaders Conclave, Manthan, Samvad etc. These programs were possible only because of the fresh perspective of CAG and no amount of political experience within BJP could have resulted in such initiatives.

2. Understand your target audience

The campaign hits the nail right on its head when it comes to the target audience. The BJP is known to have a strong support from educated middle and upper middle class. The party also has a strong backing from upper caste Hindus. But the party has always struggled when it comes to low income groups and uneducated masses.

The ‘Chai pe Charcha’ campaign might turn out to be the best solution for the problem. The campaign will allow the party to reach the lower income and uneducated population easily and directly. The format of the campaign too is simple and inclusive with higher chances of appealing to the audience than the format of conventional rallies.

3. Choose the right platform

The platform you choose for communication is always of utmost importance. It makes absolute sense to advertise an MBA college at CAT/GMAT forums or at career fairs. This is because people are already discussing about the pros and cons of certain MBA colleges and often form their opinions on such platforms.

Similarly, tea stalls have always been the preferred platforms for discussion related to politics, weather, cricket and everything else which is not personal. You often see people debating at tea stalls about the current state of economy and the performance of current government.

People influence others and get influenced here. Opinions get formed about political leaders and generic issues are discussed at length. This makes tea-stall the perfect platform for such a campaign.

4. Reach your audience. Do not wait for them to reach you

Another key learning from the campaign is that it is extremely stupid to wait for your audience to reach you. If your audience does not read newspapers or does not watch your speeches on Youtube, you do not ask them to change their behavior. You do not wait for them to start caring about you and get interested in you. Instead you get outside your comfort zone and reach them in theirs.

Live QnA is never the comfort zone of any politician. They always prefer to give monologues instead. But when it comes to marketing you need to do what best helps you reach your audience and do it with conviction.

5. Embrace Technology

No matter what your product is, no matter what your educational background is, in this era you can not be excused for being ignorant about technology. Technology can enable you to reach your audience effectively and if you don’t embrace it, your competitors certainly would. Also, if a 63 year old politician can be open minded to technology, you and I certainly must.

6. Make marketing a two way process

Gone are the days when marketers could just grab people and tell them about their products. Nobody cares about monologues and communication can no longer be one way. Organizations must include their customers in the process of innovation and interact with them constantly.

The ‘Chai pe Charcha’ campaign focuses on allowing people to talk, listening to them and making them feel that they are a part of the effort towards rebuilding India. This is vastly different from political rallies and even TV interviews where only a selected few get to be a part of the debate.

7. Focus on subtle branding

The campaign also serves a very important purpose of reinforcing the image of Narendra Modi of a man who sold tea in his initial days and rose to power from a very humble background. The campaign very effectively and subtly focuses on the branding which BJP considers important to win some additional seats. It uses the right symbol of tea in its communication so that it would not have to explicitly publicize about Modi’s chai-waala origin.

8. Integrate various communication channels

It is high time that marketers stop treating individual channels separately and instead try to create strategies to exploit synergies among different channels. They can not continue to differentiate between online, offline, conventional and new age channels. Most successful campaigns integrate all channels to get maximum impact.

The ‘Chai pe Charcha’ campaign takes the advantage of on ground kiosks to gather people in the offline world, connects them to party leaders and people from other towns using cutting edge technology and broadcasts the discussion to millions using new age media. The TV and print media would then talk about the discussions and further increase the reach and visibility. This kind of integrated campaign is what most companies need.

9. Associate your brand with things people already care about

Coca-Cola tried to associate itself with the word ‘Thanda‘, Maruti tried to associate itself with the phrase ‘Kitna deti hai‘, Oreo associated itself with the dunk biscuit before eating ritual. All companies have tried to associate themselves with something people are already familiar with.

Discussion over a cup of tea is something every Indian can relate to. And hence the campaign makes a lot of sense in this respect as well.

10. Do something which people will talk about

I am not sure how many suggestions related to national issues would emerge from the campaign nor am I confident that Modi would be able to communicate his agenda to the people, but what I am sure of is this:

There would be a lot of charcha about this ‘Chai pe Charcha’ and in the times like now, charcha is good. Charcha is ‘people talking about you’. Charcha is ‘trending’.

In my next post, I will cover the possible impact of this campaign on domestic tea sales. But it might take some time before I get all the necessary data. Keep checking this space for more.

  1. Indiran says

    Nice article.

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