Youth marketing – Congress the best practitioner – Election 2009


Congress cracked the code and it reaped the rewards. Rahul Gandhi became the face of youth and helped net in 100 million first time voters.

The definition of youth in politics is not under 25 or under 30. It is to be seen in the relative context. And while most parties missed the bus, Congress really had the right strategy to market itself. And this strategy also helped them gain the metro vote. The face of BJP was an old man and then there was no fallback if he were to cop it the next day.

Congress on the other hand, while proclaiming that Dr Manmohan Singh will be the Prime Minister, most utterances were from Rahul Gandhi. There was also enough buzz projecting him as the next PM too. What came across was that Congress had an alternative. An alternative which would provide stability for years to come. Rahul literally became a spokesperson for the winds of change in Congress. I do not know how the analysis would pan out, but if some PR agency were to do the analysis of finding out how much column centimeters and sound bytes were for Rahul vs other congress leaders, it would make for very interesting numbers.

And here are some interesting statistics:

Of the 266 MPs under 50 elected for parliament this year, 77 are from congress. Thats a very healthy 30%

Out of the chosen 10 youth congress leaders to fight the elections, 8 have won – 80%.

In fact I have heard somewhere that all the candidates who were under 40 in this election… irrespective of the party they represented… all have won.

Rahul Gandhi probably started a movement which spread across the country and started a youth frenzy (maybe frenzy is an exaggeration) and it echoes in newpapers now. While the young MPs may not get very significant portfolios this year, but the stage is set for the next parliament. We will see more and more young and first time faces in the future elections. 

Congress as a brand is investing long term in its strategy. And they have been doing it for a long time now. It started with 2004 when Rahul got active in politics and over a period of time became stronger. Learnt the ropes and unleashed the youth power in this election. With sister Priyanka also campaigning actively, its the youth brigade of Congress that has won the election for them.

And let me put myself out on the limb and say that Dr Manmohan Singh is a stop gap. He was projected as a Prime Minister because the country was looking for stability and continuity. Anti-incumbancy was only in the minds of the opposition. The population was tired of the horse trading and old fossils deciding where the country should go in a modern world.

Congress latched on to this sentiment (shows that they had researched the consumer well) and amplified it in their campaigns. And unless other parties change their stance , next election would see Brand Congress gaining further market share for sure.

How many brands in this country, who claim to target youth, can honestly say that they have such a strong strategy? More importantly, how many can say that they have such a long term perspective for their brands? 

Youngistan is not looking for a cola anymore. They want to invest their time in a transformation. For themselves and their country.

I mean, lets look at it. There is no instant gratification in voting. Gratification would come through not now, not next year… it will come gradually. But they have probably figured out the brand that represents their aspirations because the brand itself has a young face and speaks their language.

Its strange, I had always believed that politics is far removed from the realities, but here Congress has learnt a few marketing and communication lessons from Corporate India and been successful.

I think its time that Corporate India learnt lessons from this election and moved away from their traditional marketing and advertising strategies. Its one thing to say that we know that youth is going to be the biggest market… quite another to invest time, effort and money into a long term strategy to understand and make the market work for them.

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