If FMCG brands had to market like election marketers!

Sanjay Mehta | Updated on May 16, 2019

NEW DELHI, 27/04/2019: An Electronic Advertising hoarding put-up by the Congress party for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections at a bus stop shelter, as a washerman arranging clothes after drying at DDU Marg in New Delhi on April 27, 2019. Photo by Shiv Kumar Pushpakar /The Hindu   -  THE HINDU

Patna/Bihar: A large hoarding of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi praising space mission of his goverenment and soliciting votes for BJP in the ongoing parliamentary election, at a road in Patna on Monday April 15, 2019. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar/The Hindu   -  THE HINDU

A tongue-in-cheek look at what would happen if a cola brand borrows from the political campaigner’s handbook

Many marketers have commented on the election marketing strategies of various parties, and even suggested how they could do better taking a leaf out of FMCG brand marketers’ notebook.

Well, the reality is that election marketing is a totally different ball game! In fact, FMCG companies should thank their stars that sales and marketing for them is nothing like elections, else they would have had serious challenges.

Not convinced?

Let’s take a look at how FMCG firms would have had to struggle, if they had to fight their sales and marketing wars, in elections style. Let’s take for example, cola brands.

If cola brands had to fight it out in pure election style:

1. All the marketing efforts they’d put in would culminate in a one-day shoot-out, with a ‘winner-takes-it-all’ end. The brand that wins will have exclusive access to the market for the next 5 years, while the competitor would have to cool their heels during that period.

2. The cola brands could have done a wonderful job of pleasing their customers with an awesome product, great deals, etc., for all of those 5 years. But it would boil down to that one day, where the shoot-out happens, and at which time, the consumer could change their preference and go to their competition.

3. The competition could focus on the most exclusive deal offerings, wholesome freebies, in that last one month or so, leading up to the shoot-out, to make themselves come out looking attractive, to generate that final impulse preference on the day of reckoning!

4. There would generally be die-hard fans for both the cola brands, who will stick with them no matter what. However, those will account for about 75 per cent of the total consumer base. Perhaps split equally. Which means that the 25 per cent fence sitters could decide the fate of the colas, for the next five years.

5. This field could further get skewed by the orange juice brand that would put its hat into the ring — saying that it too, ostensibly, has a chance to become the beverage of choice for the next five years. In reality, it would never muster up enough votes to challenge the colas. But it would queer the pitch for the colas, by taking away some of the fence sitters, and perhaps also a few of the die-hard fans of the colas, who have started to think health-first.

6. Which, at the end of the shoot-out, could lead to interesting scenarios, with no one cola emerging to be an absolute winner. At which point, each cola would pander to the orange juice, and get the orange juice to pledge its vote share in favour of the one cola, and which could swing the vote in favour of that particular cola.

7. While the die-hard fans and other consumers of each cola, prefer the colas for different reasons (taste, price, deals, coolness factor of the brand, contests, etc.), and ordinarily, the cola brands could have marketed to each of these segments selectively, with the right kind of marketing messages, however, since it is a winner-takes-all situation to be decided on one fateful day, the colas get insecure. And choose to push out all of the messages to allof the audiences, and across all media as well. It clearly becomes excessive messaging and even starts jarring for the die-hard consumers, but the cola brands would not take a chance. They have to give it their all!

8. Which also means that the cola brands have to appeal to a variety of audiences, and therefore, they need to work with brand ambassadors of all hues and shades. From the Bollywood hottie to the Bhojpuri star to the IPL teams as well as the Kabaddi league players! All of these are in demand, to represent the cola companies.

9. But there could also be a marketing strategy of polarisation that could be used. If they do their math well, and understand the consumer demography sharply, they could also decide to appeal to a specific segment, which by their estimates could be a majority of the consumer base, even at the cost of alienating the rest of the consumer base.

10.And with just a one-month promotion period available, and with this extremely high-decibel campaign, and with the winner-takes-all situation, ethics are compromised to an extent. Because even if a cola does a below-the-belt messaging against its competitor, there is hardly any time to do the investigation and penalise the brand. In that much time, you are already at the D-day, and the damage could have got done by then. So, for example, one of them can talk about how the other has pesticides in their water input, while the other can claim bad working conditions in the bottling plants, etc. And get away with it!

11.And hey, it is not just about putting out marketing communication through various media channels. You need to do a whole bunch of activation and direct-to-consumer facing activities too. So, all the sales and marketing folks of the brands would have to be on road-shows almost through the entire promotional period. Forget sleep, forget rest, forget vacation time, forget weekends!

12.And certainly, there is a huge role for the influencers and the media partners, to play. The PR and social media teams of the colas would also be working round-the-clock. To ensure that there are very friendly mentions of their brand in editorial content, and to get their brand trending day in and day out, on social media!

Now don’t you realise how challenging all this is?? Suddenly, that sales and marketing role in your FMCG company looks so much more comfortable, than doing the same for elections, doesn’t it??

Trust these facts will invoke a deep sense of empathy for the election marketers, and we will start looking at them with renewed respect now!

The author is Jt CEO, Mirum and a keen observer of marketing trends

Published on May 16, 2019

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