KOLKATA: If Mamata Banerjee was a brand, her core team its marketers, and voters of West Bengal its consumers, the entire package – from positioning to performance – would make for a striking case study in marketing journals.
It’s a brand that has seen its ups and downs, right from the day – January 1, 1998 – when the then 43-year-old firebrand broke away from the Congress to launch the Trinamool Congress. A couple of weeks ago, Brand Mamata hit a high when citizens of West Bengal bought her carefully-crafted proposition and paved the way for her appointment as West Bengal’s newest chief minister.
To use an analogy from the world of fast-moving consumer goods, the street-fighting competitor who previously could never enter the main stream had succeeded in unseating the long-standing leader-in this case the communists who were deeply entrenched in the state for 34 years but whose shelf life was near over.
It’s a heady marketing mix that saw the party using many of the traditional Ps of marketing-product, people, placement. The product lent itself to another P that might have eventually tilted the scale in Mamata’s favour: Packaging.
That’s in sharp contrast to J Jayalalithaa’s winning strategy in Tamil Nadu: She relied heavily on the Ps of price and promotion by promising freebies like fans and laptops to voters.
“Much like a seasoned marketer, Mamata packaged herself and her state successfully,” says brand expert Harish Bijoor. Brand Mamata had many avatars and she positioned herself according to the demands of the electoral market.
A few years ago, she resembled a bit player battling to stay relevant. “Like a struggling FMCG brand, Mamata first used the plank of rebellion during the Singur and Nandigram crises to garner eyeballs. Closer to elections, she successfully repackaged herself as an underdog and a saviour of a regressive Bengal,” the CEO of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Packaging, however, work only up to a point. After that, consumers need to see a value proposition in the brand if they are to believe in it. Celebrity quizmaster Derek O’ Brien says, “If Mamata Banerjee is considered as a brand, the core value would be her struggle to meet people’s aspirations.”
O’Brien, who joined team Trinamool in 2004, provided Mamata’s campaign with a credible voice that people could empathise with. Others like theatre personality Bratya Basu and artist Shuvaprasanna lent added power to that voice.
O’Brien says that one major reason for Mamata’ success has been her unwavering focus of her value proposition over the years. “Be it Chota Angaria or Nanoor, Nandigram or Singur, the core value of the brand-struggle for existence-has remained intact. Over time she managed to convince more and more people and that eventually led to her victory at the elections,” he says.
Strains of Obama’s presidential campaign of 2008 can be found in Mamata’s communication to voters: Both focused on change.
Shibaji Panja, who crafted the promotional campaign, says, “The core communication revolved around two most popular brands of Bengal – poriborton (change) and Ma, Maati, Manush (Mother, Motherland and the People).” Compare that to Obama’s campaign slogan “Change we can believe in”.