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Taking lessons of Brand creation from Indian politics

(Wrote this for a friend who needed an article about this topic)

Indian consumers are quite typical in their tastes and preferences. If you wish to learn brand management and desire a role for yourself as a business leader, you can learn quite many lessons from political science. Of course, political sciences in today’s times have been left quite behind, and it’s the business and technical sciences that rule today’s trends. But what people, conveniently forget is the fact that there is a lot common between political science and business management. Both have power as the integral plot of their story. You got to have the power to run a business behemoth and you need power to win an election and rule the masses.

Sadly, we have never learned a lot of lessons in building brands from history. I will give you here an example of Mohandas KaramChand Gandhi. He was a political and social figure of high repute in India. But he was and is still used as a brand called Mahatma Gandhi. The brand, till date continues to reap rich dividends for its marketers and like all powerful brands, Mahatma Gandhi has an immense recall impact. Go around any major city in India, you would find a MG road. You will also find a lot of schemes and building and the like in that name. When National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was under a lot of criticism, with brazen loot of money by political figures in its name, guess how did the brand come to their rescue? The Indian National Congress swiftly renamed the scheme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. We also continue to use this brand on the international podium, whenever we want to harp anything related to peace. To create a good amount of goodwill, it is always useful to have the brand power in your pocket.

So, how did this brand came into being? Right from the time of Indus Valley Civilization, when we bought stuff from Greece, till today, where we love to lay hands on an imported Apple phone, we Indians have been in huge awe of ‘foren’ made goods. So, in the year 1915, comes to India, an NRI from South Africa. He came from a bourgeoisie family, got an education from abroad. If you ever study brand psychology, these are some of the things, you would learn from Indian mentality. They want to grow rich, powerful so they yearn for brands, for which they can aspire for. Gandhi had the right ingredients and he used them all well. Of course, like all good brands, this was not just made in a day nor does it lack quality and substance.

Another significant step of branding in Indian politics is of creating the brand of Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru. Since the Gandhi brand was already a good one, The Indira brand gets more power for it. More than four hundred and fifty central government schemes have been named after these three individuals, with most of them using Rajiv’s name (Indira and Jawahar follow the order). Then there are the numerous numbers of roads, bridges, airports, institutions, universities and other projects on there names. This has been highlighted by A Surya Prakash in his book, but media on its side, the Indian National Congress, continues its brand building exercise. It is largely due to this brand building phenomenon, that they won the General elections of 2011. The voters are being forever reminded of the name Rajiv Gandhi, and his widow, son and daughter get an instant recall power. It is being made to believe that only these three individuals did anything substantial for the nation and credit for everything good that is happening should go only to them.

And it is here, that the story takes a tragic turn. Businesses can afford larger than life, mega brands. They would also not mind, spending huge billions, on just one single brand. But politics is more about national service. The billions of money that is being blown around in the name of brands come from the common man’s pocket. Although, Indian youth, especially the well educated one, does not often complain about it, in certain instances, scorn has been observed. Especially, when taking a cue from the Congress, Mayawati, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, starting naming anything and everything in UP in name of B.R. Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram, the mentors of her party. A huge outrage was seen at that time in the intelligentsia, as if pointing out that only those belonging to rich and namely family backgrounds should be branded about and not such common folks.

Good or bad, precedents have now rolled out. Every political party now has to counter this huge behemoth brand that is being continuously fed with public administration and support. At best, they can counter this with creating brand personalities of their own. Indian consumers like the feel good factor. They pick up brands, which they think is good to look at. But problem is, in politics, it is not always wise to pick up the brand that comes with the best packaging.


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