Brands get involved in India's elections

9 April 2014
CHENNAI: Brands have been searching for ways to leverage the Indian elections currently underway, from lending their name to an encouragement to vote to making voting day a holiday for their employees.

Some are more obviously placed than others to follow this route. Tata Tea for example, had already taken a stance on social issues, with its Jaago Re campaign against corruption. The latest incarnation of this, Jaago Re – Power of 49, is aimed at educating women voters, the 49 figure being a reference to the percentage of voters who are women.

The flip side of this coin is Virgin Atlantic's offer of a draw for flight upgrades to people flying from Delhi who can prove they have voted by showing their inked fingers at check-in.

Infosys, meanwhile, has been running an employee-led campaign telling those eligible to vote of the relevance of that action. This has involved working with educational institutions, participation in SMS campaigns, street plays, puppet shows, quizzes, debates and flash-dancing in shopping malls.

Hindustan Unilever's approach was born out of an inter-schools marketing challenge it runs annually when it asked participants to come up with a plan to tackle voter apathy. The resulting film depicting voting as a coming-of-age moment was endorsed by the Election Commission.

Google India went back to the country's first-ever general election with the story of 97-year old Shyam Saran Negri who has voted in every such poll since 1951-52 and is getting ready do so for the 16th time.

"Elections, like cricket, is a box-office hit or bigger when it comes to India. You get to connect with every strata of the society," Prathap Suthan, chief creative officer and managing partner of independent agency Bang In The Middle, told Livemint.

"For brands, obviously this is harvest time," he added. "Everyone is keen, intent, absorbed, since the current elections are far more complicated than ever. It also [allows] every brand to be in public light, yet not side with any party."

While declining to take sides, some brands will be nevertheless be taking a keen interest in the outcome of the elections.

UK supermarket Tesco, for example, has agreed a joint venture with Tata Group's Trent. But this could be scrapped as the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), which is ahead in opinion polls, is opposed to foreign direct investment in the multi-brand retail sector.

Data sourced from The Hindu, BBC, Livemint, DNA; additional content by Warc staff
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