BJP Crisis as Marketing case study

BJP Crisis: Is it a positioning problem?

Was the BJP crisis was expected? Why BJP lost election again despite of having good tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee? Why Advani can never become PM of India? If you go through marketing concepts and check BJP story than you will find – yes it was expected. Let’s take BJP as a company/brand and its leaders as products, where we can call Advani & Vajpayee as Flagship product.

BJP rise: Market scenario

BJP started rising around 90’s. This was the time when Indian market was opened. People were looking for change in all kind of system. They were not expecting much from congress. Also the policy of congress to get minority votes was somewhere hurting people.

BJP came in limelight by highlighting the Ram Mandir issue. It suddenly created a bang in market. They positioned themselves as Hindu Party, and strengthen this positioning during Rath Yatra of Advani & demolition of Babri Masjid.

After demolition of Babri Mosque big group felt attached with this party including those who are basically socialists or of congress ideology. BJP directly hit on the nerves of those silent people who were against congress policies regarding muslims.

Competition Scenario

Congress was struggling with regional parties like Janta Dal, CPI as well as its internal issue. It was also struggling with lack of popular and effective leader in party. Nehru family was always so dominating in congress that it was not able to create any leader & this time Nehru family was away from politics. Many scams came out about congress leaders which arouse the anger of public.

Target Group

BJP targeted majorly to urban people. It attracted youth. Hindus & majorly Brahmins / baniyas became supporter of the party. BJP targeted all those markets / states which were big in size & population in North India. UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Delhi were first targets of BJP where it got success.


BJP was able to create positioning of a party with nationalist and Hindu ideology which is thinking of country first and its development. Party which have effective young and intelligent leaders not only in first line but also in second line such as Sushma Swaraj, Pramod mahajan, Arun shourie, Arun jaitley, Jaswant Singh, yashwant sinha etc.

This positioning helped BJP in getting young and urban supporters.

Changing the perception.

Now after getting well known and making a supporters base it was necessary for BJP to increase the base of supporters in all states and position itself as a progressive Hindu Party & get the benefit of situation & weakness of the competition.

Here the Atal Bihari Vajpayee came into scene and became Flagship product of BJP. Vajpayee criticized the Babri issue and created a soft corner in hearts of all Indians.

Now BJP started talking about Foreign Policies, Jobs, Country, Development, Youth & all those topics which people felt congress sidelined or didn’t worked aggressively. Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the face of the organization.

Attributes were not matching as Advertised.

BJP forgot about Hinduism after coming into rule. They justified that this is because of not having majority in parliament. BJP supporters wanted BJP to take a strong step on Ram Mandir or many other issues which they raised. Also BJP was not so much successful in terms of fulfilling other promises.

Supporters started feeling cheated.

Where problems started?

If BJP could have taken a strong step without thinking of saving the government it could have increased the base in next election. It happened when Vajpyee lose in 13 days, next time they got more seats. BJP supporters started feeling cheated.

Competition became stronger due to entry of Sonia Gandhi. They were also having a sellable face against Vajpayee.

BJP lost the election, Vajpayee took retirement after some time. Advani became the flagship product now. Please mark that Advani was not choice of liberal hindus.

Positioning Error

Advani was positioned as strong Hindu Leader than Vajpayee. Now again people started looking at BJP, expecting that party will strongly come up with its agenda. BJP & Advani made a blunder by trying to change its positioning.

Advani tried to position himself as a soft leader having respect for all religions including Islam which was strongly against his image & difficult to accept. Jinnah controversy also created a doubt in Hindus for his genuineness & Muslims saw it as publicity stunt.

If flagship product fails, it’s difficult to save the brand. This happened in case of BJP. Advani who was an aggressive leader suddenly tried to became soft which created doubt in minds of people.

The positioning of PM in waiting also damaged Advani. His all acts were seen in that context only. Even Hindus started feeling that Advani can do anything to become PM & Muslims started thinking he will come in his original colors after getting elected.

Communication Error in BJP election campaign in 2009 elections.

While planning the communication BJP & its agency were not able to assume that people started doubting on Advani & his capabilities. Or they felt that public is fool, they will forget everything & become emotional again.

1st mistake: BJP started communicating Manmohan singh as a weak prime minister. If you analyze consumer behaviour of Indians, we are sympathetic towards those who are weak but honest.

People didn’t like such statements against Manmohan singh who actually performed well in adverse conditions. Atleast people don’t doubt on Manmohan Singh’s character and his agenda.

2nd Mistake: Too much on Advani. The punchline with pics of “Advani – Majboot Neta, Nirnayak Sarkar” started irritating people.

Even after getting chance Advani didn’t proved him as a strong leader. Kandhar case went against him. People have doubt that Advani who can’t decide he have to follow Hindu theory or secular theory, how he can give a decisive government.

3rd Mistake: No clear communication on Varun Gandhi’s statement.

BJP was in dilemma whether support Varun Gandhi or not. Some leaders supported him; some said it’s his personal view. When you are not able to take decision which side you are, how can you give a good government. Also I will repeat, it created doubt in minds of both Hindu’s & Muslim’s that is it just an election stunt or it is the real face.

4th Mistake: Positioning Advani as PM in waiting. I already wrote about it.

Final Scene

The case of Jaswant Singh is part of all this study only. Party is not ready to face one more positioning issue due to Jinnah controversy, which Advani started. Losing the election created this entire crisis & now BJP leaders are thinking why they accepted all these blunders.

Advani have to go now. He can never make BJP win Loksabha now. BJP have to think in a fresh manner. Define its TG & positioning again.

Moral of the Story for Marketers:

  1. Fulfill the promise as advertised.
  2. Don’t try to change your positioning to inverse direction suddenly. It’s difficult to accept. If you want to do it, do it in subtle way.
  3. Decide what your product is. If it’s a washing powder then let it be washing powder. Don’t position it as bath soap.
  4. If people have negative feedback about your product then plan communication in such a way that it gives a positive message in subtle manner. BJP again started singing its song knowing that voters don’t trust, they lost.
  5. It’s difficult to build a perception but very easy to break. While taking any marketing step or launching communication it should be taken care that it is not hampering the good perception.
  6. Highlight one attribute strongly. If you will try to highlight everything you will end up with nothing in hand. For ex: Nomarks cream says it remove marks, by that time its fine. As they started saying this is having turmeric to make you fair, confusion starts. You want me to buy it for marks or for fairness???
  7. If your customer is silent, it doesn’t mean that he accepted you. He might be thinking something else. Do a deep study to understand that your communication is accepted or not.
  8. Last but not least – DON’T THINK THAT CONSUMER IS FOOL. BJP did that, you have seen the result.

P.S. These are my personal views and I am open hear your views.

Click to read more marketing cases. I recommend reading case study on Balika Vadhu. Tried to explain why it changed the TV scenario.

BJP Crisis as Marketing case study

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