Of poll symbols and their promotion in Tamil Nadu

By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Chennai : “It is Mango season” begins a PMK TV spot for its election symbol. In other TV commercials, ripe mangoes burst into juice – but PMK’s mango symbol bursts out of mango juice!

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Perhaps PMK is the only party in Tamil Nadu to buy airtime on different satellite channels mainly to popularlse its election symbol ahead of May 16 assembly elections.

While the party’s chief ministerial candidate Anbumani Ramadoss has reached the people through its campaign – Change and Progress – it is time for PMK to popularise its symbol so as to make the connect between the two.

On election day it is the battle of party symbols that would determine the winner and political parties have to popularise their symbols to gain the voter’s mind share.

This is important as rival parties tend to prop up candidates with identical names to confuse the voters.

According to an Election Commission official, each voting machine will have 15 buttons against the symbols of political parties and one NOTA (none of the above) button.

“Symbols of political parties are more earthy and functional than the logos of corporates. People recognise symbols and shapes,” Ramanujam Sridhar, founder and CEO, Integrated Brand-Comm Pvt Ltd, a brand consulting company based in Bengaluru, told IANS on the phone.

According to him, logos of political parties are consistent, unlike corporate logos.

Tamil Nadu has around 15 known parties, several smaller outfits and many independent candidates in the electoral fray.

This time, the ruling AIADMK is contesting the polls aligned with a couple of small parties in 234 constituencies.

However, all the candidates will be contesting under the AIADMK’s two leaves symbol – a first of its kind in the party’s history.

“I may not agree with the ruling AIADMK’s policies. But when it comes to voting it is only the ‘two leaves’ symbol for me,” a taxi driver told IANS, stressing on the symbol’s brand equity.

“In Tamil Nadu, the two leaves and the rising sun symbols are very strong and have easy recall. Similarly the colour scheme of their flags also have good recall among the voters,” Sridhar said.

The DMK has aligned with the Congress, two Muslim parties and some smaller outfits.

While DMK candidates will fight under the rising sun symbol, the Congress candidates will do so under the pary’s hand symbol.

The third front led by the DMDK (symbol- drum) comprises the CPI-M (hammer, sickle and star), CPI (ears of corn and sickle) VCK (ring), TMC (coconut trees) and MDMK (top) under its fold.

The BJP (lotus) leads another front with smaller outfits while Naam Thamizhar Katchi is also contesting 234 seats under ‘two burning candles’ symbol.

There are independent candidates who will be contesting under different symbols.

Though the election symbols of AIADMK and DMK are well known, the two parties are not complacent.

In all their advertisements and other mass communications they lay stress on their logo so that the voters do not forget.

Comparing and contrasting the political and corporate logos, a political strategist not wanting to be quoted told IANS: “The logo strategy for a political party comes from its political strategy whereas in the case of corporates it is derived from their business strategy.”

He said the symbol allotted by the Election Commission is in black-and-white and the colour scheme for the logo is decided by the political party based on its philosophy.

Though corporates change their logos at regular intervals in line with the evolution of the market and customer perception, political parties do not change their logos as it is their lifeline.

Physical promotion of an election symbol is also possible in the case of certain parties like AIADMK, DMK and Congress.

In the case of AIADMK, the two leaves symbol can be depicted by showing two fingers -ring and middle – like the victory sign.

The DMK’s rising sun symbol is depicted by showing the open palm and spreading the five fingers.

In the case of the Congress just showing the open palm is sufficient to convey the message.