Lok Sabha learnings for print entrepreneurs - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

By 02 Jun 2019

The Loksabha Election 2019 is done and dusted. BJP won, handing its opponents one of its worst defeats. So how did they do it?

It was the professional execution of crucial messaging. They did it better. In PM Modi, they built a brand – “created the most extraordinary personality cult in modern Indian political history, buttressed by larger-than-life imagery”, says Shashi Tharoor, three-time Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram.

In this Sunday Column, six print CEOs discuss eight brand lessons which emerged from the elections

Brand is everything

The brand is most important, bigger than the product and bigger than a company. The NDA shared this concept with the Indian voters and it became clear that in most states, the voter votes for the PM Modi.

Akshay Kanoria, executive director at TCPL, says, “Absolutely. Modi's brand is that of a Chowkidar, from a simple background, fighting the corrupt and rejuvenating the nation. Although there were many economic missteps like demonetisation and a flawed GST, he stayed true to that message, even underlining it with his 'Main Bhi Chowkidar' campaign.”

Dwipal Patel, director at Shree Printwell Offset, Ahmedabad, says while a brand is everything, without a strong backing of work and ethics, it does not count for much. “Modi became a brand because of the Gujarat model he created, and popularised. It created an aura that catapulted him to the candidature of PM in 2014. The same ‘brand Modi’ repeated the success on the strength of the work put in the last five years,” he says.

Protect your brand at all costs

It is important to protect brand value at any cost. Once damaged, it is difficult to regain the damaged brand image. Jibes from Rahul Gandhi like "suit boot ki sarkar" were taken very seriously by this government, leading to a pronounced populist theme and message. “They would not allow their brand of being "pro-people" to be diluted,” feels Kanoria.

Everything is fair in love and war. BJP devised a number of strategies to protect brand Modi. “Fill in the gaps in your marketing effort, use media, social or whatever. Leave no stone unturned to project your brand. Become the “ice-cream wala, and keep everyone happy,” says Patel.

Do not confuse customers

The opposition failed in their messaging. “Did they want us to focus on Rafale/ chowkidar chor hain, or did they want us to focus on the economy/jobs/ GST/NYAY? Ultimately they fell between the two stools,” asks Kanoria.

Further, BJP declared its prime ministerial candidate, expressed in no uncertain terms to the voters that  nationalism and national security were the core issues that it will tackle. The Indian National Congress and the regional parties did not project a prime ministerial candidature.

Moral of the story: instead of showing off innumerable features of the products, entrepreneurs should focus on one or two key customer characteristics. Further Patel says, your goals should be in sync with your customers, who always see ‘what’s in it for me’. “WIIFM always works.”

Everybody is not your customer

You need to focus on the low-hanging fruit; and then fight the difficult battles. In Bihar, the BJP gave up seats to its allies so that it could focus its energies on Bengal and North East plus the states where it had a direct combat with Congress. This paid rich dividends.

Entrepreneurs should also work hard to develop a suitable market and develop it. “Frequently, businessmen get arrogant and overreach. They could learn a lot from this,” says Kanoria.

Communicate more and clear / talk to your customers

Prime Minister Narendra Modi constantly remained in touch with the people in different ways. By continuously informing the people about his government’s schemes, he educated the people. The public never had so much information about a government’s work. “A look at the PM's twitter feed is more than enough,” says Kanoria.

Patel cites a wise-old man’s advice during a recent seminar he attended. “It was – focus on your activities and meetings. Keeping your customers engaged with the correct information is important.”

Every brand needs revival

The PM fought a constant campaign from 2014 election result announcement all the way till May 2019 – constantly reminding the people of his presence and sought to infuse new messages and symbols to support his agenda.

Congress failed to give a new form to its ‘Congress’ brand.

“PM Modi went from Acche Din, to New India 2022 to Main bhi chowkidar in just five years,” says Kanoria, adding, “We businessmen need to realise that we can't sit on past laurels. We need to constantly strive to do new things to keep people engaged.”

There are lessons in the two old brands – Lifebuoy and Honda City. Despite being old brands, these companies have redesigned their products from time to time. The companies have revamped their products, repackaged it because of which they have been able to sustain their success

Customers don't buy they choose

You may not be a top player but you must be different from your competitors. The customer is always looking for something different, not necessarily the best. Modi may have made mistakes, but the voters chose him because he brought something different to the table.

Kanoria explains, “Ultimately there's always going to be competition. We need to make the choice an easy one for the customer, which is in our favour. It's not enough to be good; you need to be better than the competition.” 

Make your customers your promoters

Unless your customers become your fans, it is difficult to achieve big success. The true promotion of Modi was done by his fans, who staunchly defended him at every step or countered the strategies of the opposition.

If your friends and family were all opposed to Modi, chances are that you would be too. “If our customer's purchasers/packaging team are not in favour of our company within their own organisation, we would be lost,” says Kanoria. Hence, instead of telling the world how good you are, entrepreneurs should create a mechanism which will inform the world how good you are. In marketing terms, it is called ‘social proof’.

 

Falit Pandya | Print Vision, Ahmedabad

Brand is everything. 

How can one argue against this? Product, strategy and execution are the key ingredients in creating a brand and all three have to be perfect within themselves and together in order to create a brand. I believe the whole purpose of having a brand is to command loyalty from its followers and create a feeling of being associated with something that you believe in. 

Protect your brand at all costs

Unless you are okay with someone else taking advantage of your hard work, protecting the brand should be a top priority from day one. We have seen time and again that people don’t take this point seriously till it’s too late. So being protective of your brand should be part of the business model, rather than an afterthought. 

Do not confuse customers 

Lack of clear communication within an organisation or outside is a disaster. Clear communication within the organisation improves morale and creates efficiency. Similarly clear external communication helps your customer understand you better and once they understand you it’s easier for them to connect with your brand. 

Everybody is not your customer

Everyone has probably heard the line ‘Specific is terrific’. I believe this is more relevant today than ever. 

If you know your product and have a sound strategy for your brand, you will know who your target audience is. With multiple avenues for marketing available today, a brand which doesn't have clarity about its audience or considers everyone their audience will burn through money without achieving any tangible results.

Talk to your customers

I would say talk less and listen more to what your consumers are telling you. Ask questions, but then hear what they have to say, this is extremely important if you want to stay relevant in this fast-changing world. Today’s customers are well researched and can probably tell you more about the market from their perspective than any survey you conduct, so listening to them will give you far more insights of the market, which if used effectively can help you position the brand better. 

Every brand need revival

Absolutely, every brand no matter how strong needs to be in front of its audience at regular intervals. Today we are bombarded with information from all sides. Increased competition in the market means everyone is looking for your attention, this leads to confusion and chaos in the customer's mind. As a result, we have to keep reminding the customer about our brand. 

Customers don't buy but they chose

Yes, this is probably true, but I don’t care much about this. As long as you are strong with your product, strategy and execution all this will take care on its own. 

Make your customers your promoters

Absolutely correct, but it’s easier said than done. Only with fierce brand loyalty can one achieve this. You have to be inside the customer's mind and soul in order to invoke a serious belief in them to get their support. I believe PM Modi has been brilliant with his campaign, which turned his supporters to be his biggest promoters. 

 

Shailesh Sharma | Inndus Cards & Gifts, Mumbai

Brand is everything

It is important to communicate in simple words, what does a brand stand for. For example, value for money, integrity, reliability etc. This helps the customer to understand the significance of the brand.

Protect your brand at all costs

If you communicate and connect with your customers, your brand is automatically protected. Wrong practices to protect your brand will be short-lived.

Do not confuse customers

It is very important to keep your communication clear and simple.

Everybody is not your customer

Identify your customer and focus your communication to the target audience as everybody is not your customer.

Communicate more and clear / talk to your customers

That’s the key to success.

Every brand needs revival

I think brand revival is a continuous process

Customers don't buy but they chose

When there are options customers tend to choose, otherwise, they just buy to satisfy their needs.

Make your customers your promoters

If your customers are satisfied with your services they will surely promote you.

 

Tejas Tanna | Printmann, Mumbai

Brand is everything

A brand is a value you need to create over the years. It is a promise to your customers and makes them believe in what they can expect from your products and services consistently. A brand can be derived from who you are, what you want to be and most importantly what people perceive you to be. So it is like your baby in whom you would want to instil the right values and ensure that the baby grows into a fine human being with the right ethos.

Protect your brand at all costs

If we are consistent in what we are doing in the right way your brand value would only grow.

Do not confuse customers

It is important to understand the needs and expectations of your customers. This research for the existing and prospective customers is very important to have satisfied customers.

Everybody is not your customer

You need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your company and accordingly select the customers you would want to work with. You can’t be everywhere and you can’t satisfy everyone. Hence, it is very important to know what you want and also what your target customers expect to derive on your prospective customers.

Communicate more and clear / talk to your customers

Best way to build on the customer relationship is transparency. Everyone likes to be cared and a personal touch to your customer always helps.

Every brand needs revival

More than revival it needs building. It’s an ongoing continual improvement plan. Change is the only constant and you have to keep up the pace.

Customers don't buy but they chose

Every customer has an option but the reason they’ve come to you needs to be respected and valued.

Make your customers your promoters

A happy customer would be a marketing tool for you to promote you to their peers. The word of mouth tool has immensely helped our organisation.

 

Mudresh Purohit |Surya Offset, Ahmedabad

Brand is everything

A brand is like a character – an iconic role model which like the shining lighthouse remains the beacon for the incoming boats. A leader becomes a brand, showing the right path to his followers.

Protect your brand at all costs

Ethic in business is requisite to success. Every brand inhibits strong character and can only be summarised by the famous prose – when wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when the character is lost, all is lost. The soul of the brand is the character which is intrinsic.

Do not confuse customers

Confusing a customer is the best way to lose a customer. Drowning the customer with ever-increasing information through multi-channel and promoted in multiple ways causes three different kinds of confusion – One, brand similarity; two, information load; and three, misleading or ambiguous information. Best way to resolve confused-state-conflicts is to ask open-ended questions and validate the context with close-ended questions. Question well stated is half the battle won.

Everybody is not your customer

Like everybody cannot be your friend similarly not all can be your customer. Before making a customer, we have to accept him on the platform of ideal communication. Physical proximity between a customer and suppliers is always not feasible. But mental and emotional proximity is always essential and is CSF (critical success factor) of the forged relations. Absence of the same will result merely a transaction without joy, success and satisfaction to either entry.

Communicate more and clear / talk to your customers

Communication is not to impress but to convey – unless communication doesn’t happen on the platform where the receiver’s end understands in the way it was conveyed, and channel of communication is distortion-less the communication will never be termed an ideal communication and will result in nothing but chaos or confused directions to achieve the end objective.

Every brand needs revival 

The brand is like a baby and constantly needs to be nurtured, patted, consoled, be heard and provide able support in order to revive and resurrect his performance. Brands are nothing but your favourite and you are responsible for their existence and wellbeing. Brands when encountered with the conflicting situation, market or trends need a sense of direction, timing and strategy – a revamp. Everybody needs to develop into a new avatar in these changing times.

Customers don't buy but they chose 

Choice is a virtue, which we seldom franchise in order for the product, service or value to be chosen by the customer. The creator must first know its product and its strength, after which he must be able to relate to the market and strategise for.

When a customer buys a product, he does not buy it blindly. He compares, values, matches it with his need, and at times peer review.  

Make your customers your promoters

Customers are the true ambassadors of the product, value or services. This is achieved only when you have understood the requirement, his aspect of looking at the issue on hand, and shared the entire process whilst building his solution. Making your customer feel special and providing them more than the cost rather the value would make him your non-paying salesman, who would not only promote but ensure the deals are executed too.

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