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States outdo each other on social media to lure investment

Last updated on: March 27, 2017 10:14 IST

Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh use celebrity endorsers and social media campaigns to brand their state and court big business to eventually bring about job creation. Can they deliver on their promises?

Cricketer MS Dhoni speaks up for his state, Jharkhand

IMAGE: Cricketer MS Dhoni speaks up for his state! You can see Jharkhand's new logo -- a flying elephant symbolising making the impossible possible -- in the foreground. Photograph: Kind Courtesy: Jharkhand government.

Over the past few months two states have gone full tilt on their campaigns for investor summits.

Jharkhand with celebrity endorser M S Dhoni has spent close to Rs 48 crores in print advertising alone.

Andhra Pradesh, with Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, has been raising a digital storm for an undisclosed sum. It is also the only state to have pitched its tent at the recent World Economic Forum at Davos, an exercise it says it will repeat next year.

If the tone being set by these two states is any indicator, 2017 could well see a rash of high-pitched, combative campaigns where states go up against each other in their hunt for investors. This is different from the flurry of tourism campaigns that states have been running for a few years now, say experts, because the challenge of delivering the state as an ‘easy-to-do-business-in’ brand is far greater than leveraging its natural beauty for tourism.
State governments are not shying away from spending big on their summit campaigns because the stakes are higher. Job creation is a big issue say those involved with the campaigns and unless companies can be convinced to invest, the states are staring at a dark tunnel ahead.
Jharkhand got son-of-the-soil M S Dhoni to promote the summit pro bono, but it hired a professional agency to helm the campaign and design a special logo -- a colourful small elephant with wings.

States like Andhra Pradesh and the new kid-on-the-block, Chhattisgarh, are also working with branding agencies and image consultants on a credible positioning strategy.

Gujarat was a pioneer with its Vibrant Gujarat summit while states such as Punjab have spent Rs 25 crores, Tamil Nadu, Rs 32 crores, Rajasthan, Rs 48 crores and Madhya Pradesh, Rs 40 crores in recent years on advertisements for investor summits.
It is crucial to create the right image, apart from a suitable investment environment say the states. Sanjay Kumar, principal secretary to the chief minister of Jharkhand, said that it was important to break the common perception that people held about his state.

“If you have not lived in Jharkhand you may have a conflicting impression after reading the newspapers. That is the reason we feel that building a brand Jharkhand is extremely important,” he said.

“The ‘flying elephant logo’ symbolises the quest of making the impossible possible. The elephant is the state animal and the style reflects one of the oldest tribal art forms native to Jharkhand,” said Samir Kapur, VP, Adfactors, whose agnecy was tasked with the work of designing the campaign.
The choice of Dhoni as the face of the campaign was an easy one. Brand Dhoni symbolises cool and stands for success, the very traits the state wants to pin on its lapel.

The tag it is eager to shake off is that of being a politically volatile state. “The state has made a big leap of its own when it comes to ease of doing business. It has risen almost from 29 to third position,” Kumar added.

The summit attracted 210 memorandums of understanding worth investments of close to Rs 3 lakh crore, according to the government data.

Kapur says that the basic objective of the summits is to create the right atmosphere to attract investments. For the campaign they focused on the fact that Jharkhand was an investment-ready state, hungry for growth. The aim was to create a positive image whenever anyone thought about investing in Jharkhand.
Residents of Davos, Switzerland travel on buses that have advertisements promoting Andhra Pradesh on their sides!

IMAGE: Residents of Davos, Switzerland, travel on buses branded with advertisements promoting Andhra Pradesh on their sides! Photograph: Kind Courtesy: Andhra Pradesh government.

Naidu is the face of Andhra Pradesh's campaign. Brand building is important for states, says Kartikeya Misra, director, Industries, at the state’s Commissionerate of Industries.

“Currently the states are in a period of competitive and co-operative federalism and for Andhra Pradesh, post bifurcation, it is important to meet the aspiration of the people for which industries play an important part,” he adds.

For AP, the tagline being used is ‘Make Andhra Pradesh your business again’ and on the first day of the summit, the state signed memoranda worth Rs 4.25 lakh crore, double the number it did last year.
Every year, the number of states holding investor summits is rising and the branding exercises are getting louder. From just one state (Vibrant Gujarat) in 2003 and 6 in 2015, the number went up to 10 in 2016.

Adfactors, which works with several states, says that the objective is to highlight the state’s growth strategy and position it right.

Kapur says, “The basic idea is how do you identify the core competence and leverage on that.”

All states want to create jobs and boost local business; the campaign tries to highlight the ways in which they can do that. Kapur is quick to point out that brand building is a continuous process and much of the brand’s credibility and ability to last the long haul depends on how well the state harnesses the potential that is being promised in the campaign.
Image Makers

IMAGE: State governments are not shying away from spending big on their summit campaigns because the stakes are high. Job creation is a big issue. Unless companies can be convinced to invest, the states are staring at a dark tunnel ahead. Photograph: Kind Courtesy: Jharkhand government.

With MS Dhoni as brand ambassador, #MomentumJharkhand trended on Twitter for several hours on the days of the summit; Ernst & Young, knowledge partner, was in charge of the social media campaign
Jharkhand spent close to Rs 48 crore on its print media campaign for its maiden summit in 2017, the same as Rajasthan spent cumulatively on print, radio and outdoor in 2015.
Andhra Pradesh used Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu as brand ambassador and KPMG as knowledge partner; it ran a digital campaign and had the CM tweeting about it incessantly before and during the summit.

T E Narasimhan