Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brand Anna - a case study on branding

Today I am going to give my views on why the Brand Anna has seen such a meteoric rise. I have tried to relate this meteoric rise to branding theories that we study in marketing classes in MBA.

To me Brand Anna is a brand extension of Brand Mahatma Gandhi – The physical similarities between the two (the topi, the white dress, the physical features etc), the similarities in their core promises (a better future based on value systems), the similarities in their approach (fasting indefinitely, non violence, superior and unconquerable value systems etc)  - all these have made us relate at a personal level to the core meaning of Brand Anna, trust the value proposition of Brand Anna and associate with it in ways that reminds us of the stories of freedom struggle that Mahatma Gandhi lead.

 A brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer”. If you want to build a brand you must focus your branding efforts on owning a word in the prospect’s mind -there are many examples - RIN, NIRMA, FEVICOL, INFOSYS all own a word that connotes something to us as consumers. In this case “Anna” is the word that has got etched into our mind.  Even though Anna means elder brother in India– today, the word Anna does not get the image of elder brother in our minds –it is the image of Anna Hazare that comes to us when we hear the word Anna. And we relate to brand Anna based on our interpretation of what he stands for.

The crucial ingredient in the success of any brand is its claim to authenticity” – If Anna Hazare had not been there and we had the same core team except him (i.e. Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal,  Santosh Hegde etc)  and the same Lokpal bill– this movement would have gone nowhere. There is something in Anna Hazare that has made this movement what it is today.  Anna Hazare’s credentials as a Gandhian and his past record are his claim to authenticity that the consumers of this brand trust.

The birth of a brand is achieved with publicity, not advertising” – this is a golden rule for creating a brand. What the Anna team has achieved without spending any amount in terms of publicity is something that can clearly be a benchmark for any marketing campaign anywhere in the world. Now beyond media, the brand is being disseminated by the brand followers through events like marches all across India, and using “branded” items like the Gandhian topis with “I am Anna”slogan.

The essence of branding is finding a compelling value proposition, something that differentiates it from the rest” –Team Anna has caught the imagination of people as they have been able to create a compelling product (the Lokpal Bill) that meets a latent need (freedom from corruption) of the common man. This latent need of “freedom from corruption” has been there for long – but has been ignored by the political class – and this is the gap that Team Anna has filled with the Lokpal bill. This emotional connect with the brand followers has been so strong that any smear campaign against it (like Anna’s arrest) would only bounce back.

A brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus” –India may have many issues that needs to be resolved – but this campaign is completely focussed on one issue - anti-corruption  - if they had fought on a broader platform  – then we as consumers may not be able to relate as clearly to it.

Needless to say that Brand Anna is every politician’s dream. All politicians try to create a brand around themselves (think Rahul Gandhi) –but they lack credibility as their promise is not supported by performance (as I write this blog – I understand that Rahul Gandhi is hiding in rural Maharashtra). They differentiate themselves through physical aspects like white cotton dress, security guards, long chain of powerful cars, lots of people welcoming them with garlands etc – but over time these differentiators need to be backed by a core product (in this case delivery of something good for the people) - as they do not deliver, over time, the market understands the hollowness of these political brands. Due to this non performance, there is currently a commoditization of political brands in India and only few people (like Manmohan Singh, Narendra Modi) are able to rise above the clutter.
Brand Anna has connected so well at an emotional level (instead of physical level) that it’s followers are willing to bear extreme physical inconvenience just to connect and contribute.