Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How the hand Rocked the Lotus, Elephant, Bicycle, Lantern...

The revamp of the 124-year-old party and brand continues. Says Santosh Desai, CEO of Future Brands, “Congress as a party has understood that Indian elections are the largest marketing exercise in the world and that inclusive growth can be the best USP of the Congress brand.” But, inclusive growth does not mean literally going back to the villages embracing the old dogmas of socialism. The appointment of Nandan Nilekani as the head of the Unique Identification Authority with the rank of a Cabinet Minister sends out another powerful message about the new brand Congress – talent is welcome, even if it is from the private sector. If and when Nandan Nilekani succeeds in his mission, the Congress would have used a private sector entrepreneur to execute one of the most critical ‘public’ tasks. Tamper proof I cards can ensure the poor actually get the benefits from social welfare schemes. And if money meant for the poor actually manages to reach the poor, brand Congress would have nurtured a massive base of loyal consumers (Voters). There are twin benefits of this ‘private-public strategy, according to Congress insiders. Having Nandan Nilekani lead this mammoth task will be a big hit with the Gen Next that idolises successful and ‘ethical’ entrepreneurs like Nilekani and looks up to them as role models. Then again, Nilekani’s success means more than 400 million rural consumers will have a solid reason to choose Congress over other brands.

This unabashed and unapologetic ‘coupling’ of Brand Congress with the aam aadmi can be seen even in the Budget presented by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. He has simply junked the old – and insidious – habit of finance ministers of doling out largesse to corporate titans and Dalal Street while paying lip service to the poor. This Pranab budget is all about rural India, about farmers and about poor Indians everywhere. And more importantly, the Budget has not taken any step to take the Indian economy back to the bad old days of crony ‘socialism’. This aam aadmi socialism yes; but of a kind where entrepreneurs and wealth creators will have a key role to play. Senior Congressmen understand the potential power of this strategy. Says Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari, “ The Budget is a judicious mix of short term stimulus, medium term fiscal prudence and long term institutional reform.” When asked about how the market is perceiving the Budget as a marketing exercise, the politician Tiwari is quick to retort, “I don’t think the Budget can be really seen as an image building exercise or a kind of a political platform. A Budget can be evaluated in the context of circumstances.” Tiwari may be coy, but the marketing and advertising world knows that the budget is actually a huge boost for the new brand identity of Congress.

And lest you think that brand Congress is now all about doling out sops to the poor without a future vision, please re-examine what the Minister for Human resources Kapil Sibal has been saying for a while. Sibal has loudly and persistently made it clear that the private sector must play a key role in revamping India’s messy education system. Sibal and his team understand clearly that India can never reap the demographic dividend with the current education system where rent seeking and corruption is rife and rampant. Sibal is laying down a vision where the young – both rich and poor – will have more choices when it comes to education and careers. Once implemented, this strategy will create one whole generation of loyal consumers who have not yet reached the legal age of voting!

And of course, no matter what you and I say or the aam aadmi says, Brand Congress will also be closely identified and linked with Brand Gandhi. Like it or not, it is Sonia Gandhi who first gave a new lease of life to the dying Congress in 2004. In 2009, the CEO to be Rahul Gandhi is getting ready to take over from his mother, with sister Priyanka always around as a strategic advisor. Says Ad guru Prahlad Kakkar, “While Sonia resonates to dignity and simplicity, Rahul implies to modernity.”

That, as rivals of Brand Congress have realised painfully, is an unbeatable identity for a brand to have!

For more articles, Click on IIPM Article.

Source : IIPM Editorial, 2009

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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