We live in some very interesting times. A competition or contest of any kind makes for an interesting read or watch. Politics perhaps has been the longest running entertainment show known to civilization. Politics is also an important teacher of strategy as much as it is a practitioner.
Ever since the new BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) led government has been sworn in, its predecessor in government, leader of the alliance and hitherto India’s principal political party, the INC (Indian National Congress-I), has been fighting a battle of existence. Its diminishing relevance to the political context has its leaders vexed and despite the bravado, extremely worried.
No, this is not a post on politics. It’s a brand view on the latest tiff between the two that has been hitting the headlines. One may argue that it is media created but the fact is spokesperson from both sides are eagerly firing salvos.
The allegation is that the BJP government at the centre is systematically hijacking and ‘appropriating’ the icons of the INC. Mind you, the reference is to tall leaders of the nation such as Gandhi, Patel and Nehru; the makers of modern India.
How so? Well first up (and well before they came to power), the BJP took up the cause of reviving the forgotten legacy and contribution of Sardar Patel. Next, one of BJP government’s biggest initiatives – a cleanliness and sanitation drive “Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan” was dedicated to the memory of Gandhi.
Now, for long years these brands have been considered property of the INC simply because they were members of the same and for over 50 years of independent India the INC was also the ruling party. They were the inheritors of the ‘legacy’!
Roads, railway stations, bridges, schools, universities, hospitals, you name it, have been christened or re-christened to keep the memory of the leaders alive. Scores of government schemes too have been named after them.
So what is new, one may ask. Well, it is the bold in your face use and invocation of the names of these leaders by the BJP that seems to have ruffled some feathers.
In what may in hindsight have been a strategic masterstroke, the BJP think tank instead of creating and building new “brands” read use the names of their founding leaders chose to stick with the mega brands that were already present. Not that there have been no great leaders in the BJP or the Janta Party from which the BJP was formed. Jaiprakash Narayan or Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee or Deen Dayal Upadhyay or even former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee they were all stalwarts.
What then are the benefits of sticking with the likes of Gandhi, Patel and Nehru?
- The positive perception that BJP government is embracing the leaders of yesteryear. Thinking of them in their capacities as icons of the nation and not a specific party.
- Not creating new brands also shows the BJP as not practicing the sycophancy that INC has often been accused of.
- Brand Gandhi, Patel & Nehru do not need to be explained. Their values and what they stood for atleast at a surface level is already known; for generations. They are names you come across everywhere from textbooks to airports.
- This is a young country eager to move forward, something we referred to in a previous post as well. 60% of this country was born after the emergency era and over 40% post liberalization. The romance of living through the emergency, the ideological wars have no relevance since they were never eulogized outside of the so called intelligentsia. Establishing JP or SP Mookerjee or Upadhyay and their values would take years bringing out from the intelligentsia to the masses.
- Even in the use of the brands the BJP has hit the nail on the head as far as using them for what they stood for
- Gandhi for equality and human dignity. Connected with Sanitation as a human right and linked with his famous quote “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”.
- Patel for unity. Often accused of being divisive in ideology, the BJP’s use of Brand Patel has been masterly.
- Nehru for progressiveness and scientific temper. The last nail in the coffin so to speak. With the 4th generation of Nehruvian descent vying for the top job, the INCs last minute scramble for Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary celebrations has been subject of ridicule.
Lessons in marketing again, a seemingly successful strategy of taking latent brands, connecting them to contemporary requirements in a relevant manner. For the bean counters fantastic Return on Marketing Investment!