Brand #RaGa Break-out


BrandRagaNobody seems to be sparing a thought for a man once touted to be the future Prime Minister of India. The past year (slightly more) have possibly formed a part of a nightmare that Indian National Congress Vice-President – Rahul Gandhi (and many around him) would be hoping ends soon.
If one were to put it simply the ABC’s of this trauma are his recent ABSENCE from the political scene, what is widely seen as his strategic BLUNDERhis interview with Arnab Goswami in the lead up to the General elections last year and getting caught CATNAPPING on camera a debate in the parliament.
Ever since Mr. Rahul Gandhi has become butt of all ridicule with fresh jokes viralling on social media almost on a daily basis. Come to think of it, haven’t been passed on the good old Santa-Banta jokes for some time now!
On a serious note, who hasn’t made mistakes in life? At a time when most articles, reports and posts across media are taking the poor man to the cleaners – here’s a post that says “Give the man a break!”
A Brand View Story proposes the following 9P’s for Brand #RaGa

  • Presence
    If their previous Prime Minister was hounded for being silent then #RaGa has been hounded for being absent! It’s not just his recent sabbatical that is in question. The opposition has often used terms like “tourist” to imply his part-time interest in politics.
    Therefore PRESENCE is an imperative if Brand #RaGa has to make a comeback. By this we don’t just mean physical presence but we mean skin in the game! His personal commitment shouldn’t ever be a matter of discussion.
  • Purge
    The Indian National Congress has often been found guilty of inaction against deadwood. It’s high time the congress eliminates in one fair swoop a host of people who are known liabilities and loose cannons. Yes, it will not go down well for a short while but the Congress will be better for it. If #RaGa wants to be seen as the boss he needs to act like one!
  • Promote
    This one needs to be viewed in conjunction with the previous P. The organisation definitely does not lack talent. What it perhaps has been missing is an open acknowledgement! The extreme focus on one ‘family’ has been the signature of the congress. Even today the replacement for #RaGa is his sister Priyanka. This needs to change. #RaGa needs to build and openly announce a ‘guiding coalition’. Yes democracy is needed in the long run and the congress needs to put up a transparent system in place for talent to bubble up.
  • Professionals and Professionalism
    Why should politics be the last refuge for scoundrels? Why can it not be a career choice for professionals? Why not corporatize? These are questions that have often been asked but seldom answered. Shouldn’t potential law makers and administrators themselves be aware of the laws or adept at management?
    This is an opportunity for #RaGa. If he needs to appeal to the aspiring youth of the nation he needs to operate like a corporate and it cannot be just limited to hiring agencies anymore. #RaGa office needs to be work on the lines of that of Bollywood stars; teams of salaried professionals. Gone are the days of the zarda chewing, diary jotting secretary! It’s time to get the economists, the market researchers, the marketing and finance guys etc. to manage different aspects of your brand.
    Sycophants and people with entitlement need to make way for people with qualifications and performance.
  • Positivity
    This is a tough P given the circumstances and needs to flow from #RaGa himself. As they say in Sanskrit “Manasa, vaacha, karamana” i.e. in thought, word and deed. Brand #RaGa needs a copious dose of positivity. Quick wins need to identified and they coupled with some of the other P’s should get things moving.
  • Preparation
    Malcom Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hour rule in his book Outliers. #RaGa himself and his team need to prepare like mad if they are to be seen as true contenders. Yes he has been around in the political arena for over 10 years. He should by now have mastered the ropes of politicking but the perception is still that of someone who is a novice. He comes across as someone who is under prepared, superficial. #RaGa needs to be ready with the stats and sources and needs to be comfortable with the subject of his speech. His speech on return from his holiday helped neither the cause of the farmers he purportedly stood for nor his own cause.
  • Plank & Promise
    In his much ridiculed interview with Arnab #RaGa mentioned his priorities over and over and over again regardless of what the question was.
    i. Changing a system that is “unfair” to people everyday
    ii. Empowering women
    iii. Democratization and decentralization of power
    iv. Right to information
    All noble causes to espouse yet he failed to impress the millions that watched glued to their screens.
    Brand #RaGa doesn’t need a new plank or promise. What is required is a visible, tangible action and delivery on the above. The opportunity to start is available right at home. Puppet organisations like NSUI and Youth Congress do not count. The changes have to be in the Big Boys League!
  • Propagate – Paint the Picture
    Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither can brand #RaGa be. The brand values of “Change”, “Empowerment” and “Transparency” need to be codified. People at large need to understand these terms from the perspective of Brand #RaGa.
  • Participation
    This is a connected world. Brands are conceived behind closed doors by a small group of individuals and decision makers however they evolve and breathed life into by millions who interact with it. Brand #RaGa needs to involve the people (few as they maybe) who have faith in it. Give them a stake in the brand. A lot can be learnt from the success of participative politics in India. An old congress war cry of “Swaraj” is now appropriated by someone else. Brand #RaGa needs to allow itself to break free from its manicured, protected image.

Those are A Brand View Story’s two cents. We hope we see Brand #RaGa adopt some of these P’s and rise up to the challenge. Old wine new bottle or re-branding or re-launch call it what you may but this tale is far from over.

As they say, time only will tell!

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The Art of Electioneering


Art of Electioneering

“Where absolute superiority is not attainable, you must produce a relative one at the decisive point by making skillful use of what you have.”

Karl von Clausewitz, On War 1832

As I write this post I am aware that hundreds like me are analyzing what the world’s largest democracy has witnessed and trying to put in perspective.  As the election juggernaut rolled through the country under intense media attention the various angles to the 2014 elections in India have been explored, analysed and have been discussed threadbare.

One of the things that has bubbled up to the top and been referred to often with an accusatory tone is how India’s PM designate was a well marketed product.  There is little doubt that what has just concluded is a milestone election in India’s history. One that introduced several elements into the Art of Electioneering.  For sure there will be cases made out this election that students of business, social and political science will delve into across universities. I have in a previous post talked about how the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) captured the imagination of millions in Delhi. What the creators of the Modi campaign have achieved is far bigger and far reaching in its impact.

“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”

SunTzu, The Art of War

In hindsight what has been executed and arguably to perfection have been text book strategies.  Be it SunTzu, Porter or Aaker or Prahalad what the strategy cell of Bhartiya Janata Party has done is research, organize, propagate and execute or as I call it the ROPE trick.  For the purpose of this discussion I shall attempt a retro-fit of my observations of the campaign to popular models in marketing strategy.

Customer MotivationsAlong the lines of the adage “Customer First” we’ll take a look at how the BJP campaign tested on understand the drivers for this election and the needs of the voters i.e. Customer Motivation.

The marketing brains behind the BJP campaign ticked these boxes well and proper. They clearly identified the mood of an electorate that was young and aspirational.  From an Indian perspective, we have as marketers devoted hours cracking the code and allocated millions of rupees trying to win the youth over. The BJP campaign identified the Youth as mainstream.  As per the 2011 census 65% of India’s population is below 35 with a median age of 29 putting an eligible workforce (15-64) at a whopping 430 million, higher than the entire population of the USA!

poppyra

The strategists at the BJP HQ caught on to this early in the day and having identified their target segment distilled their motivations.  So what were the motivators they identified? Speaking of the high level motivators (since each has contributing factors and dimensions), a strong yearning for growth and opportunities, a need re-assert pride, a secure environment and a decisive leadership were what were chosen as the pegs of the campaign.

The campaign planners were also smart enough to place their communication not just on traditional media but where the Youth were on the internet constantly communicating with each other using a variety of social networking tools from BBM to Instagram to Pintrest to Google Hangouts! This enabled BJP to speak to them at an individual level as well as a collective, influential mass. More importantly, this was not just at the time of the campaign.  The social leg of the BJP campaign started a couple of years ago with senior leaders writing blogs, active on twitter etc.  The buzz around BJP was atleast 3X their nearest competitor in the sociosphere the AAP.

Several articles have been and will get written regarding the extensive use of digital media by the BJP in election 2014.  The use of technological wizardry with the 3D rallies or the beat and booth level mass outreach mobile screens carrying their leaders message the campaign exploited every possible touch-point.

So was it just a media and technology blitzkrieg based on consumer (read voter) understanding or was it more?

Here’s where I would introduce another text book model to which in perspectives will answer what the BJP went about doing. This is about understanding your competition better than anyone else. The BJP used this understanding at every step of the way and in all their communication verbal, written or visual to attack them.  Again in hindsight, the way the numbers panned out they seemed to have done it well.

 Competitor Actions

The strategy cell of the BJP along with their campaign creators seemed to have blended their understanding of the voter and the ruling Congress to create the perfect potion that cast a spell over the electorate.  The silence of the Prime Minister, the reactive nature of the Congress campaign, the disconnect of their leadership all became weapons in the BJP campaign arsenal.

The respective campaign taglines represented the middle of the road, motherhood tenor of the congress versus the more exhortative call for action from the BJP. Much again has been written and talked about this having been a “Presidential style” election.  The author disagrees. Granted that this was an election of personalities like never before, but to say that this was the first is incorrect atleast as far as the past four or five elections are concerned. The BJP always has portrayed a leader whether it was the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee with the slogan “Ab ki baari Atal Behari” during the 1998-99 elections or L.K. Advani with “Majboot Neta Nirnayak Sarkar”.  Even in the past whether declared or not the contenders for the top post were always clear.

Endnote: The victory of the Bhartiya Janta Party in these elections was a result of a very well thought out strategy and smartly integrated ground realities.  It was a journey that began well in time. Yes the leader himself had a role to play, but the magic was him resonating with the youth of this country. Voicing their aspirations and promising a better future. Clichéd and overused as it maybe it goes without saying that with great power comes great responsibility.  The burden of the mandate will now be on the BJP it is for them to perform to their promise. The nation hopes for deliverance.