Jai Ho! Re-cycling Brand India


Recycling Brand IndiaThere’s something about nation and pride. You just need to light the spark and the forest fire will follow. There have been dozens of campaigns across the globe that have relied on stirring patriotism as an emotion. With no numbers to back me up at all I would venture out and say that Hollywood as an entity panders to it the most. I am pretty sure that I am not the only one who has wondered why a certain country is the choicest destination regardless of whether it’s an alien attack or a natural calamity. Just to set the context this is not a review of the Bollywood release either.

Coming back, this post is more to talk about two specific campaigns. 2014 is the year of general elections in India. Media, paid and earned has been flush for little over a year with a government sponsored campaign. Bold, considering the fact that a similar campaign in 2004 allegedly alienated the larger populace from a government that according to the poll pundits was all set to comeback.

The campaigns in question “Bharat Uday” or the India Shining campaign as it was called and the current “Bharat Nirman”. There were several films that were made for both campaigns I am showcasing two that will help make my point.

Have lessons been learnt from the past? Well the answer is yes if you think about whether communication pegs have been changed. The earlier 2004 campaign was considered “urban/middle class” in its approach, the current one attempts to be more inclusive (the politically correct word for populist).

Any brand communication should have its bearing right as far as its relevance to the consumer and the competitive context are concerned. An ill-timed or ill-directed communication can do more damage than good that could possibly come out of a campaign.

Either way, millions of dollars get spent in conceiving, producing and airing these campaigns. Many would argue that it is money that could well be spent for several deserving causes. This brings me to the question that I want to ask as a marketer.

“Does show-casing the effect by default communicate the cause?”

This is where I believe the communication has not really shifted or changed.  Both the campaigns tried to stake claim to the progress India was making as a nation. Both have tried to piggy ride Brand India.

Political brands need to be marketed akin to services and not as products. To put it at a very basic level, I could probably get away selling toothpaste showcasing shiny teeth but could I really sell a burger saying it shall rid you of hunger?

In a country where the have-nots outnumber the haves, wanting to use Brand India as a surrogate is always going to be a knife that cuts both ways.

It perhaps is not prudent to weave tales that showcase your neighbour’s prosperity. In this country it’s not my relative, it’s not my friend it’s about me.  If I have not “experienced” it then it is not true. The mood and sentiment is best communicated by a song from a recent release.

So as much as you want to be seen as the “do-gooder” with every communication that you put out, there is perhaps a larger set that attributes their lack of progress to you.

Problem is in a democracy, majority continues to count!

Happy Republic Day!!

The Bollywood Dancers Theory


We all are born different, look different, react differently to things and want to be seen differently yet, at some level, each one of us has this strong urge to blend in.

My interactions with people across a cross-section of society during numerous Consumer Home Visits have reinforced this belief that people want to “Blend In yet Stand Out”. The Ryder to that one however, is that no one wants to Stick Out either.

Is there a difference? You bet.Image

A big part of growing up is the time one spends with friends or a peer group of some sort. It is here, in my opinion that the seeds of this Blend In yet Stand Out philosophy are sown.

You want to listen to music, you play it out loud! You make sure you stand out by being the one who either has the latest releases or the guy who knows all the lyrics or the one who has the coolest “system”. You do not want to be seen as the guy who is unaware, out of touch or as the one with a radically different taste in music (try playing Boyzone out loud in an all boys hostel).

Blending in does not mean not having respect for an individuals choices. You hang-out some guys drink, some do not, some smoke, some others do not. But you definitely do not want to be the guy who throws up after a few or if you do not drink the guy who’s gotta be dropped back early coz Mama’s gonna be wild 😉

It’s not just a guy thing. Not that I am an authority but I’d wager that girls have their own set of what constitutes being a part of the gang and what is seen as not being with it. American diamonds perhaps are one such controversial area (cannot fathom whether they belong to the with it or not category for the life of me, was told once that they are good only if they are not obvious)

We grow up and move on into doing different things but this feeling stays with us. It manifests itself in things we do or things we buy. Take for example cars we all buy cars of our choice (make and model) however when was the last you heard of a friend who bought a yellow or orange or some other bright coloured one. Might like it but won’t buy it coz you do not want to stick out.

This therefore is the essence of what I have chosen to call the “Bollywood Dancers Theory” and it perhaps lies somewhere in the Esteem Needs zone of what Mr. Abraham Maslow talked about.

People inherently want to stand out in the context of their immediate environment

Like a typical Bollywood dance sequence while the protagonists want to express their love to each other by singing and dancing around trees or montage sets they need to be seen as gyrating to the same beat and doing the same steps as a host of other dancers (who appear and disappear as miraculously as the invisible orchestra does) they always wear a different colour. Blending in yet, standing out!