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The Third Eye: The Theory Of Political Brands

The AAP brand under Kejriwal is perceived as brilliantly opportunistic, dictatorial and believes in politics of grievance

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What is the role and relevance of brands in our lives? Brands, simply defined, are “a benchmark of expectations”. These expectations will vary from individual to individual…i.e. my expectations from Horlicks, a malted health beverage, would be very different from what an professional athlete would expect. These bunch of different expectations culminate in what we call as the collective craving value for a particular brand…i.e. how long you would go till you get the brand you crave for.

Cigarette brands tend to have loyal customers; and if you are a loyal consumer your brand loyalty or craving would be defined by the number of ‘Pan’ shops you would go to until you get your pack of Classic Milds.

Brands are the only assets a company can possess. It is imperative to understand that brands pay your and my salary. The income that helps us earn our daily bread. This may sound as an exaggeration, but that’s how important brands are in our life.

There are brands across categories, services, geographies, spiritualities and lifestyles. Company brands are seldom spoken about, so are countries as brands. Today, we have god men as brands competing with each other for greater followers and volunteers.

Countries or cities as brands have always fascinated me. Let me briefly explain what I mean: Paris, Delhi, Calcutta and Mumbai are contrasting brands as they have very different traits. Paris is about romance, laid back leisure. Paris is more coffee than tea. London is more tea and more businesslike and purposeful. Calcutta is about “adda culture” and “knowledge and wisdom” are the more important currencies than real wealth.

Mumbai is about the heartbeat of life and thus needs to go on with purpose, forever. Mumbai is not about neighbour warmth, as you seldom know your neighbour well. Neither have the time to know him. Mumbai is never switched off.

Delhi is in a different space, where stature is judged by the car you drive, the designer clothes you wear, and the socialising you do. It’s about flash value and deep pockets. It is artificial and hollow in real wisdom and most of this imagery is driven by the political class and environment around it. It’s always heard in common places: “Tujhe pata hai mera baap kaun hai?” It’s as pathetic as that, but the Delhiwala proudly flaunts it.

So, coming to the most important category that run and decide our lives. Politicians. They are a weird tribe, and are always seen in the frame of dissonance. The main reason being a trait called “Trust” and this is not a given. One may evaluate a politician on various benchmarks. Some being ability, credibility, vitality, intensity and affordability. Once you screen any political brand or any tall leader you will get different answers from different people. That’s why the benchmark of expectations, which keeps on differing.

This may be the right time to evaluate different political brands as two major elections are around the corner. We have Punjab and Uttar Pradesh going to the polls in a few months from now. We have the big brands like the senior and junior Badal, Arvind Kejriwal, Amrinder Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, his son Akhilesh Yadav, and his brother Shivpal Yadav.

Now if you run these names on the five benchmarks I had mentioned earlier it is evident each one of them would score very low on at least three counts. This clearly means that the reason they are in power or are likely to be voted to power are not for any sane or logical reasons. Then what is the magnet that gets them the pulling power with the masses? Is it driven by fear, money power or lack of options? Many would argue that it is an optimal mix of all three traits mentioned.
The AAP brand under Kejriwal is perceived as brilliantly opportunistic, dictatorial and believes in politics of grievance. Have you heard any AAP party leader saying anything good that has happened in India? Can you name any leader who has been a successful achiever in any field? This is the bitter pill that citizens have not been able to digest.

The party shot to instant fame with the legendary Anna Hazare and known names like Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi, and Yogendra Yadav. All educated, successful people with excellent track records. None are any longer in the picture, frame or landscape.

Strong and aggressive leaders have a pattern: they seldom have capable people around them as they are used to Yes Men. Kejriwal is no exception. His entire team fell apart and fell from grace as the party surged towards glory in the historic Delhi elections. The party and the main movers and shakers won the elections but lost credibility and trust of the people. This is what we call erosion of brand equity. Once equity is lost it is seldom possible to regain it, and this the earlier the AAP and its supremo understands, the better it is.

The Yadav family bastion has been through its share of turmoil, and in the end, education, pleasantness, and commitment has scored over harsh loyalty and working at the grassroots level for the party. Maybe the party needs to understand that the best chance they have with the people with specific skill sets, work in their own turf despite the towering ambitions all in the family have. There has been significant work that has been done by the young chief minister and this will not be easy for the rival parties to counter, in spite of the strong religious and caste equations in the state. It is here that Akhilesh as a brand has scored well. Since the development is visible, all he needs to get right, is his backyard, his family and the fanatic sycophants within the different family turfs.

The drug menace and governance are at the centre stage of the Punjab psyche, with conflicting data being churned out by each party on the drug problem and the state’s prosperity. I am told that the youth from Punjab do not qualify in the armed forces and para military forces as they used to 10 years ago. Their physical standards, which used to be the pride of our country, have suffered; so one needs to believe the drug menace and cannot wish it away. No political brand has come out with a solution or workable plan as to how they can sort this problem.

So the politics of grievance continues. And hence it’s anyone’s guess as to who will rule. Frankly, nobody gives a damn and the people of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh know this reality. At the end of the day, the common man will have to slog for his daily bread and there is no way anyone would compromise for that. These are the default values of democracy.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Gopinath Menon

The author is a Delhi-based business strategist

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