Branding of Politics

A brand is a tool to identify and differentiate the exclusivity of a product from its
competitors. Brand loyalty is achieved when the consumers stay dedicated to a brand
because of familiarity, trust and relatability, despite the existence of similar products in the
market. This loyalty is achieved by analysing consumer behaviour patterns and catering to
the specific demands of the consumers. The process of branding requires the use of a
substantial amount of resources on advertising campaigns, celebrities as brand ambassadors
and flashy slogans. To an extent, loyalty to a brand trumps the durability, usability and
actual contents of a product. Similarly, political branding is done by analysing political
behaviour. Political behaviour deals with power and politics and helps identify what
influences an individual or the society’s political choices.

Politics is the struggle for power between two or more parties. Whether in the parliament,
corporate sector, domestic or societal sphere, politics is the struggle to be in a position of
authority and influence the way these sectors function. It is the desire to be in a position of
power in the society. The question is; whether there are standards to measure who
deserves such a position? As put by Shubranshu Singh, “To any electorate, the perception of
performance matters as much if not more than the performance itself. They notice input, not
intent and seem to reward effort, not outcomes.”. For example, suppose there are two
products in the market, product X and Y. While both would provide the same amount of
benefit and satisfaction to the consumer, the one that is packaged better or has been
advertised more on media platforms would be trusted more as a brand, and hence
purchased more than the other. Similarly, whether it is the “Ache Din Aayenge” campaign by
Narendra Modi or “Make America Great Again” campaign by Donald Trump, both aim to
invoke feelings of discontent for the current system, and the promise for better days ahead
in exchange of support.

With the advent of technology and social media, politics has evolved into a modern version
of itself, much like that of a brand. Social media campaigns, charismatic leaders with
passionate voices and catchy slogans have taken over the decision-making process. The
logical reasons for choosing a leader like their ideology, values, morals, strategies and the
vision of political parties, have taken a back seat

Political campaigns these days focus more on distracting people from the real problems
rather than addressing them. Political leaders across the world have a unique power to
control the narrative of any situation. Issues such as perpetual poverty and inequality,
racism and ethnic violence are neglected by engaging the audience in relatable content by
charismatic leaders. Relatability is a good strategy, but only if used to propagate the real
identity of a leader rather than frivolous narratives with the sole objective of gaining
popularity. What is even more intriguing is the way political leaders sometimes use their
personal brands to convey relatable and aspirational messages to secure support which
could be that of a celebrity to a tea-seller.

Nexus between Brand and Politics
The similarity between brands and politics in recent times can be observed by analysing
three important features. Cost of advertising, campaigning with catchy slogans and words
and personality associations. According to an RTI reply from the Information and
Broadcasting Ministry, the current government has spent over Rs. 713.10 crores of taxpayer
money on advertisements in just the last year. That comes down to Rs. 1.95 crore per day
between 2019-2020. Catchy slogans and phrases act like a subconscious mantra which
makes people perceive the party as more trustworthy than it actually is thereby generating
voter trust and encouraging re-elections.
It has been suggested that a parallel could be drawn between how a brand simplifies choice.
Brands do this by reducing the need to depend on product description. And political parties
simplify choice by relieving voters of the need to familiarize themselves with new political
agendas. Personality associations help form an emotional connection and personifies the
party striving for power. When people can relate to their leaders, they immediately become
loyal to them rather than rationalizing and carefully evaluating the pros and cons of why
they should choose a leader. It influences their political behaviour and they abandon
objectivity in exchange for bias.
The purpose of branding is to sell. For companies, it is the intention to sell the products to
the consumers whether they need it or not. To achieve brand loyalty and to ensure that the
consumers continue to buy their product. This concept when applied to politics leads to
problematic results and is in complete disregard for a fair and just process. Politics is an
agreed set of norms to live by, beyond an individual life that affects every person in the
society. It deals with passing of control. Therefore, the electorate must exercise great
responsibility while choosing someone to put in a position of power so that he/she can take
decisions for the society as a whole.
It must be understood that there is a difference between choosing the right political party
and the right detergent powder. The primary purpose of politics is development aimed
towards collective social welfare while keeping our fundamental ideologies such as
secularism, freedom, equality and international peace intact. This requires logic and
reasoning rather than blind loyalty. One has to look beyond individual preferences and
choose a person who can look beyond their own self-interest to perform well. The current system of “branding politics” under the cloak of flashy campaigns and “charismatic” leaders
could be severely detrimental to the overall system of welfare.

Aulina Pandey, a law graduate currently pursuing Masters in Diplomacy Law and
Business from OP Jindal University, Sonepat.

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