In the incredibly competitive world of marketing, acquisition of customer information is critical for marketers of products and services. Companies will go to any lengths to acquire details of their consumers to keep them engaged, customize their offers to them, understand their buying behaviour, seek a bigger share of their wallet and prevent defection by way of loyalty programmes.

Fortunately, technology today enables collection of crucial customer intelligence through digital footprints via email, mobile, Facebook, Twitter and much else.

But if you thought that companies are the sole repositories of big database on their consumers, think again. It is the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that boasts one of the largest database, having enrolled 105 million people as its members between November 2014 and April 30 this year. (The Future Group, which has the country’s biggest customer loyalty programme in retail, has 23 million members.) With that number, the BJP is reportedly the world’s largest political party, ahead of even the Communist Party of China.

Being the largest political party may be significant. But what is even more important is what it can do with the enormous directory of voters that it has created. A political party is also a brand and a brand can make use of customer data for building a relationship with the end-consumer via email, text or calls and to solicit feedback.

Through the membership drive, the BJP is trying to understand who its brand user is versus its competitor’s brand user. “Their objective is to ensure that their brand user stays with them and the non-user of their brand converts," said Preeti Reddy, senior
vice-president at research firm IMRB International. A
marketing-savvy political party like BJP can use this data both during war time (read elections) and peace time.

Marketing solutions company netCore that provided the technology back-end support to enrol the 105 million members, will now be using the same register to launch surveys commissioned by the party. These could be on the popularity of its elected representatives, the performance of the party and any other relevant or pressing issue. “People could also be reached for their response on important matters even before the decisions are taken. As a voter, you want to be engaged with the brand and you want to give feedback. It is a win-win for both," said Rajesh Jain, managing director of netCore.

Political parties are increasingly collecting information on basic voter demographics—age, gender, economic condition—as also their affiliations and voting patterns. However, the BJP has an edge owing to the size of its database. “There is a scientific way to use the data. On the basis of consumer profile, they can decide on what to say to whom—in short, the messages could be customized. They could talk about environment and pollution, health and education or rising prices, depending on who they are addressing," said Reddy.

To be sure, the data was collected with the help of a missed call campaign popularized by BJP cadres and promoted through advertising. People gave a missed call to a given number to register their mobile numbers. Once the mobile number was accessed, these people were asked to text further details—their names, addresses, email, voter IDs and area pin codes. The BJP targeted every person aged 18 and above, much like a packaged consumer goods company.

The party is smart and is not sitting on the data it has captured. Immediately after enlisting the mobile numbers and other details of its supporters, it launched an on-ground outreach programme—Jansampark Abhiyaan—in May that will continue till 31 July. This is a door-to-door know-your-customer exercise. Human contact is important in politics so the party cadres are calling up people and fixing appointments. This helps them gain a deeper understanding of their user base and to identify active supporters.

However, they are not giving up on the digital initiatives either. Digital will be used for more personalized communication. For instance, since the party already has pin codes, voters could get personal invitations to their events in the area or calls during elections. Surely, the information will be utilized during the Bihar elections expected in October this year.

According to some estimates, 550 million people voted in the 2014 elections. Among first-time voters, between the ages of 18 and 23—the BJP got twice as many votes as the Congress. Of the 810 million eligible voters, almost 120 million or 15% were first-time voters.

It is important to enlist young voters though digital engagements as there will be 600 million people with smartphones in 2019, just in time for the next elections. “These phones will be better than what we are using today with higher Internet speeds. 2019 will be a very different world from the one in 2014," said Jain of netCore.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing, and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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