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Competitive Strategies in Politics & Marketing 9 FEBRUARY 2010 6 COMMENTS After the STP approach of a political party, I was planning

to do a 4P analysis for them. However, I figured that it would be a tad too boring and academic. So , I thought of a much more interesting, and probably the most exciting topic in marketing: competitive strategies. I agree that it seems a bit cold to view the political parties driven by their ‘pa ssion’ for ‘education’, ‘social equity’, ‘inclusive growth’ etc as ‘market leader’, ‘challeng However, I hope you’ll agree with me after going through the 1,000 odd words below . Let’s consider the competitive marketing strategies as described by Mr. Kotler & C o. Leader: Defender No. 2 or 3: Challenger No. 4-10: Follower Smaller players: Niche The ‘market leader’, i.e. the ruling party tries to defend its market share, i.e. vo te-bank. The challenger(s), i.e. strong contenders give the leader a strong figh t and aspire to replace the leader. More often than not, the leader and the chal lenger(s) are national parties. Then there are some regional parties, which are seasoned players but lack the capability to reach the top. These parties are gen erally content as long as they are able to hold on to their ‘market share’. Last in the decreasing order of market share are what can be called ‘niche’ players in the e lectorate. These parties are generally non-conventional in their ways, their pro mises, and sometimes, their representatives too. As with the niche marketer, the se parties are able to identify the needs and aspirations of a small section of population so precisely, that it becomes impossible for the larger parties to at tract that segment. Thus, size of their ‘target segment’ is significant enough to ke ep them going, and insignificant enough for the larger parties to ignore. Let’s consider each of these strategies one-by-one. Defender It generally said, “Reaching at the top is easier than staying there.” However, as A l Ries & Jack Trout put it in their book Marketing Warfare, in marketing, it is opposite. The leader has the advantage of its position and is very difficult to displace it. Ries mentions that the leader commands power through its size, its understanding of the market, a better connect with the customer (in most, if not all the cases), budget for R&D, promotion etc. Drawing a parallel with the poli tical parties, the ruling party obviously has the maximum support among the peop le. They are in a position to take some actions, make some policies, and see the results before making any long-term binding promises; that is their R&D. Furthe r, they can use the policy making power to complement their promotion campaign. Through the actual efforts, they have something tangible to support their claims during the promotional campaigns. Thus, it leaves very little scope for any oth er party to dislodge the ruling party unless the latter itself goofs up during i ts reign. If we observe close enough, we can identify nearly all the strategies of a defen der mentioned by Mr. Kotler & Mr. Ries in the political world, being followed by the ruling party. I would have loved to state some examples, but my lack of cur rent affairs knowledge stops me from putting some solid facts here. Challenger The challenger is the no. 2 or 3 players in the market. These are the players, w ho have the potential to be at the top, and are on the lookout for every opportu nity in the market to advance to the ‘top of the hill’. In politics terms, this role is played by the opposition party or in case of multi-party political systems l ike India the major party in opposition. Let us focus only on the Indian context (as multi party system is more similar to the average market today). The nation al parties like BJP or Congress are the ‘challengers’ in most of the Indian state le gislatures. It has been suggested by Mr. Ries that a challenger should attack on as narrow a front as possible to maximise the chances of success. The explanati on he gives, is based on the fact that a focused attack on a small area would le

There are two types of players who leverage their size we ll in the market: the leaders and the nich-ers. engineers and judges as members of the party) form excellent examples. nor do they have th e wherewithal to become one. unconventional promotional techniques (not unlike the marketing field). Their motive in the ‘market’ is mere profitable existen ce. Similarly. I’d like to answer that and also make a statement here: Political strategies are derived from marketing theories. . Every now and then. The big size. We observe that the opposition parties. there is no specific formula for a niche player. apart from the fundamental strategy to target a very small segment of th e electorate and capture their demands precisely. The impact of the attack gets mag nified if the topic is already (un)popular among the public. Though they are the smallest players in the market. consumer knowledge is important to the leaders in warding o ff the challengers. in terms of market ing fund. Parties like Youth for Equality (promising anti-reservation in educational institutions ). the opposition party would come up with some issue focusing on the one or two programs/policies of the government. rather than building c ampaigns to criticize ALL of their programs. I started this topic with the pre vious article on STP of a political party and asked a question. Simil ar is the case with the politics. Probably. are the regional parties in t he political sense. when attack the ruling party. these parties do as per their classification. which would have gone bad. or a dopt whatever their alliance leader promotes. Consequently. These parties seldom come up with any revolutionary idea/unconventional promise etc for the public. However. be ing nimble footed and being the most efficient ones in capturing the opportuniti es. Coming back to the political scenario. when the leaders and challengers look for acquisitions once the ma rket moves towards consolidation. the regional parties are the most s ought after. Niche These are the most dynamic of them all. These players are the first ones to come und er the radar. I hope now we’ll look at the decisions of the political parties in a new light whi le keeping the marketing fundamentals in mind. defined as the also-rans of the market. they are responsible for mo st of the innovations. R&D spend. and try to create hype around it. ‘followers’. and the latter doesn’t let go of Ayodhya Ram Mandir while criticizing the former (based on whoever is ruling in that particular state). when BJP & Congress look for alliances. Follower Followers. Shiv Khera’s Bharatiya Rastravadi Samanata Party (targeting the educated upper middle class Indian by highlighting the doctors. the niche players benefit from their small size. Neither do they intend to be the to much damage than a scattered attack on the whole ‘empire’ of the leader. and probably the most exciting to study. these parties be come the ones with the most unconventional promises. Regarding the specific stra tegies to be undertaken. this is o ne of the reason why BJP often revisits the Bofors case while attacking Congress . They either follow the age-old techniques for politics. and given their small size. without ruffling many feathers. focus on r elatively small issues.

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