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 Importance of Being Earnest


EarnestAAP

A promise to my readers and to myself, this will be last of my posts that have a reference to AAP (Aam Aadmi Party). I shall be honest here, the poll results and AAPs performance in the Delhi Elections was certainly mind blowing.

The biggest message that I drew out of the results was “It is indeed OK to make a mistake” the Ryder being “You must have learnt from it”.

Not many of us, yours truly included forgive mistakes that easy. The school of thought being “You got your chance, you blew it too bad! Now get back at the end of the line!!” It means that chances are not supposed to come easy. Doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have the required capability or talent to do what was expected; it means you need to prove yourself again. The thought itself perhaps is something that is inherited as a legacy of growing up in an environment where the have nots far exceed the haves. While few are born into the haves, the others have to rise up through the heap of potential “havers”.

So what is it that AAP really did?

The pollsters will analyse the stats to death but here is the ABVS take. Yours truly believes what AAP really did is read the situation and understand their payoffs well. With the all-round decimation of the Congress, Delhi was slated to be a head on fight between AAP and the BJP. The background to the elections being the resounding win of the BJP in the national and state elections leading upto the Delhi elections and the AAPs poor showing in the National Elections.

AAPkaGraph

Now for the strategic choices each had and a normal understanding of the payoffs assuming that both parties were pursuing self-interest (err why assume they are a bunch of politicians aren’t they?) and were aware of the choices the other was making.

BJP-AAPkaPayOffThe mathematics of Delhi’s 2013 result had almost ensured there would be a re-election. The media houses and research agencies kept their game up with the opinion polls in the run up. Most giving the BJP the edge in a tough fight.

The AAP really had the choice of being unrepentant and continuing their sting and dharna brand of politics or be apologetic about the 49 day fiasco and underline their passion for bringing a different narrative to the political context.

The BJP had the choice of being belligerent following all the electoral success under M/S Modi & Shah or to stay with the development for all plank they had chosen during the national elections. They chose the former and said “What India Wants, Delhi Wants”.

If one were to summarise the various opinion polls the payoff’s going into the Delhi elections in 2015 were as in the payoff matrix above.

To be fair to BJP, given the payoffs they went for maximum. They started off with an advantage that they hoped to maximize on. However, contrary to their expectations as the BJP upped its belligerence the tide started turning the AAP way.  While BJP estimated and assessed their own and their key opponents strength, they underestimated how weak Congress had become. Strange given their vision of an India sans Congress or as the BJP says it “Congress mukt Bharat”.

The AAP on the other hand remained true to their we got it wrong the first time around but trust us we have a plan to get it right this time pitch as they neared the election. Eventually resulting in a landslide verdict in their favour, a whopping 67 seats in a 70 seat assembly. The reward for being earnest!

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!!

AAP ka Brand: Tips for Sweeping Popularity


As I write this first post I am aware that reams of newsprint and hours of footage have already been dedicated to the meteoric rise of the Aam Aadmi Party. With all due respect to  the haloed first mover advantage, I shall regarImagedless, endeavour to present a marketers take on how the story has unfolded.

So without much ado here are some tips (no postulation here,just pulling a bookmark out of some dusty marketing books)  for gaining sweeping popularity from a brand perspective.

    
INSIGHT, INSIGHT, INSIGHT         
Like Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture said “Filmein sirf teen cheezon ki wajah se chalti hain. Entertainment, Entertainment, Entertainment” and just like countless marketers before me have said, successful brands are built on insights. Big deal!         
Yes! It is a big deal! Rare are the examples in Indian political history wherein we have had political brands being built and launched. Hitherto, political brands (parties and personalities alike) have been a resultant of situations not necessarily designed or controlled in any measure. Brands by chance.

        
AAP is a brand that has been carefully built. Brand AAP has effectively utilised all available platforms media or otherwise. The new age Congress and the BJP are no less savvy with PR doctors at disposal round the clock to feed the hungry new electorate. Why then did they fail to capture the imagination of people? The difference was Insight.    

    
“People believe that they have the power, albeit dormant, within themselves to change the course of history”. From Gandhi to Mandela, successful movements have tapped into and worked with this insight.         

OK! but what is to say that it was a careful construction unlike others? A quick point on that before we move on.    This marketer is of the view that the ways and methods that AAP deployed on the ground (read activation plan) run true with and indicate the insight
being put to work. Starting with the largely volunteer based cadre, to the need based cadre expansion during the 2 days leading upto the elections.         

AIM DEAD-CENTER: STAYING TRUE TO THE CORE         
The continuous conversations with the middle class was again a clever tactic; while their opponents kept discounting it as a middle heavy strategy it proved to be one of the reasons for their electoral success.         

“The Great Indian Middle Class” much abused in many a marketing presentations as the drivers of the consumption economy, fit perfectly into the AAP scheme of things.
         
Here’s where the insight resonated best. With the understanding, access, proximity and numbers to spread the message up and down the social ladder they became the prime movers. The middle class were the perfect influencers. They spread the word amongst the peer-group through endless conversations in their social gatherings and the  armchair critics suddenly turned into evangelists.  The lower income group who through ages of degradation in electoral politics were always lured, were suddenly having a conversation with their “sahab” and “memsaabs” on mehangai and were seeing a glimmer of hope and a feeling somewhere that they too had a say. The big-wigs ofcourse were getting guilt tripped since “Who has the time to vote?” and “Nothings going to change..” were not cool anymore.

Moral of the story stay true to the core, there’s nothing better than bulls-eye. So much for the Core TG, Consumption TG, Business TG theorists.

     
SUCCESS-BELIEF VIRTUOUS CYCLE         
There are 2 characteristics that the best Generals in history have displayed.         
1) They invariably have a clear vision of what success will look like and have  articulated it and         
2) Regardless of the situation, they always project success to be within reach and a matter of when and not if.    

Belief and success are companions. AAP throughout its campaign painted success as imminent. The others did so to, but did not bring the same strength of conviction. Some faltered in word, others in deed. What AAP did better was describe success better? True their manifesto was as populist in its construct, the benefit however that AAP portrayed for all to see was a virtuous one; the passing of the much debated and controversial Lokpal bill in a public session of the assembly. A benefit that re-emphasized the insight “I can make a change”.     

Regardless of what transpires politically, brand AAP has had a good launch and should they continue building on their insights about the “Aam Aadmi”,they will move the brand into the much desired “loyalty” space with the common man saying Amen!