2009 Elections, Digital Strategy, India Elections, lkadvani.in, Social media

BJP’s Cyber Strategy- An Audacity of Hope?

With election just round the corner, there is hardly any buzz in media. There seems to be no “India Shining” or a “High-decibel-clash-between-national-party” media campaigns.

However such is not the case on internet. One of the most prominent faces that you might see on these days on net is that of Mr. LK Advani. In addition to his ubiquitous banner advertising across different websites and search campaign, he is promoting his personal website lkadvani.in. A few words on this website- it is neat and progressive in its vision. The welcome note- “Welcome to my website…” is engaging. Currently, the website has two language option (Hindi and English) and also promotes the other BJP websites- Mr.Narendra Modi, Mr. Shivraj Singh Chauhan. The home page is updated and follows Advaniji’s latest happening (he met the family of 7 that attempted collective suicide). The website also has other 2.0 features; it lets you subscribe Advaniji’s latest blogpost (through rss feed & email), has a number of discussion forums, and enables you to leave comments (You can read my comments on his blog here…). Completing the chain is the presence on Youtube, Orkut and Facebook.

Pretty much everything what a digital medium has to offer (well they missed out twitter!). The strategy seems robust considering what this project is set out to do- engage with 100 Mln new voter, who are primarily young and embrace digital media. BJP is following the footprints of US election, and aims to get more number of new generation folks (the so called IT generation) involved with the elections.

If so, this election might be hailed as the first “Digital Election”. Blogger, Gaurav Mishra has created the first comprehensive coverage of this action in his blog and wiki site (hats off!). He writes…

Shaken by the 11/26 Mumbai terrorist attack, and inspired by Barack Obama’s success in the US elections, the young urban Indian is likely to step out to vote for the first time in India’s recent electoral history. As a result, both BJP and Congress are targeting young, urban voters like never before. BJP and Congress, however, have adopted different tactic to appeal to this audience. While Congress is banking on the youthful appeal of Rahul Gandhi, the 39 year of scion of the Gandhi family, BJP has embarked on an aggressive 360 degree campaign, inspired by the Obama campaign (Chicago Tribune/ AFP/ Indian Express/ TOI/ Reuters). “ Read full article here

Gaurav Mishra’s wiki site, which also has insightful articles by other bloggers of repute (If social media interests you, you will find Sampad Swains article stimulating…). The 2009 elections is also exciting for us digital marketing folks, because it may deliver another success, thus enhancing the credentials of digital media coming as mainstream marketing. Mr.President Barack Obama showed the way in Nov 2008, a strategy that brought out possibly the maximum voters in US history, 67%, most of them young (some interesting statistics on Sampad Swain’s blog.

The question is whether a similar campaign will bring out the 100 Mln new Indian Voters and give BJP the first mover advantage in this space? Will this campaign encourage new voters to come out and vote? My guess is that it won’t.

My hunch lies the unique things about us, Indians. We don’t express ourselves, come forward and contribute and that our opinions count. We leave this job it to a few folks, whom we deem corrupt, self centered, and pro-minority politicians. In India, Facebook and Orkut would still be popular, because we are very social by nature and love to interact, discussion and debate (as infamous “Argumentative Indian”). We also may express our negative experiences in mouthshut.com or indiamike.com, but going out of home and voting is a different story. Can internet influence us to change?

Why I think that digital media will stand short of influencing, is also due to our media usage. Our media consumption for opinion depends largely on press and sensation Hindi news TV news coverage. The TV coverage is similar to a Bollywood action movie and entertainment is too much big an influence in shaping up our views. Digital media is different. We depend on reader, and point of view. Given a total of 45 Mln internet users, this seems small compared to over electoral base. Even in this small segment, a large majority would love to read blogs, but won’t even leave the comment behind. We are not conditioned to take that extra step. And this is why I think, digital medium used in this election will be short of pushing people that extra mile. However, will be a great marketing case study, academically. Influencing people to take decisive action is a difficult thing.

But there is silver lining. Efforts are being consistently on getting the urban middle realise the importance of their participation- Tata Tea’s “Jaagore.com“, is a great thought provoking commercial, which based on a great insight on our lazy educated urban middle class. Other campaign, such as Times of India’s “Lead India”, is also a stimulating step in a positive direction. If fortune favors the brave, we might see emergence of a new media during this election.

My intention in no way is to undermine the efforts behind the project. Hindi website, which connects to larger section of population, is a great step. This might be the precursor to language content inflexion point, which we have been waiting for a longtime and will catalyse the internet adoption on the country. This also might help to take social media off internet into more realistic ground level activity (efforts such as friends of BJP and its local chapters, which help activate the issues). The success of this campaign will also mean an large behavior change in our outlook as Indians. A great news for marketers, who are interested in new opinion forming vehicles. In fact, the more party follow this suit, the better it is for the media, which will help internet connect to deeper into tier2 towns. But alas, only if our other politicians had a vision for new India!

With my Voter-id card done, I’m ready to cast my mandate in this election and pray that new India also has the audacity to contribute to this “change” and “hope”.


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