Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its founder Arvind Kejriwal could soon be the topic of management classrooms.
Kejriwal started out as “niche”, but soon acquired mass appeal. He created a buzz around his idea, built trust around his movement, converted sceptics along the way and tested the market before a formal launch. How did he do it and what are the compelling lessons B-schools could glean from his movement?
It takes a great product to build a brand. And it must click, stick and connect. A product must fulfill a consumer need. Often, it’s about providing an improved or upgraded version of similar products already available in the market.
Growing public angst against the government and politicians for lack of accountability meant that a new political movement centred on clean governance was an idea whose time had come.
Kejriwal recognised the potential behind the idea. It would “click”. So, the hugely successful anti-graft agitation, was actually a campaign to publicise his product: a clean, efficient administration.
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Think of it this way. Kejriwal’s idea was to sell a new detergent which would be really effective in removing stubborn stains from India’s political system.
And he had a powerful new original ingredient, akin to a patented stain-buster, to do the job: the Lokpal or anti-corruption ombudsmen.
Experts said a brand works best when it recognises the vacuum in the market and then, identifies when it should talk louder. “He is the one who brought the essence of marketing back into practice –door-to- door marketing.
This strategy makes one understand the need of consumer,” said Prahlad Kakkar, an ad- man. Also, the party struck the right notes with right slogans and election symbol.
“He has become a marketer’s delight as he could potentially create case studies on how to create a market for your own product by creating common competition,” said Santosh Sood, former COO of Rediffusion Y&R. “Despite working on his own imagery, his focus was on casting aspersions on the imagery of others.”
AAP party leaders agreed that the growing anguish against the main parties helped keep the campaign focussed.
“The disconnect of Congress and BJP with the masses helped us a lot. We were clear that public perception makes all the difference between a successful and unsuccessful brand.
With Arvind (Kejriwal) being the icon, we had won half the battle even before it had begun,” said AAP’s chief spokesperson and Patparganj MLA, Manish Sisodia
Product launches, like cricket, is also a glorious game of timing. “Voters were aggressively looking for answers to issues ranging from prices of onions to increasing gang rapes and Kejriwal took the lead.
From a marketer’s perspective, he smelt the demand of the audience at the right time,” said Piyush Pandey, creative director, south Asia, Ogilvy & Mather, India.
Veteran lawyer and AAP’s patron Shanti Bhushan put things into context. “There was ample scope for turning a new idea into a practical reality and the young AAP team outwitted the well established political rivals with its unconventional approach which was received by the public like a breath of fresh air.
The key difference was that in-house AAP experts and professionals planned their strategy much better in comparison to the outsourced work of Congress and BJP.”
Deepak Kumar, a party volunteer from IIT, Delhi said, “Media played a key role in helping the AAP brand gain credibility. Wherever we went, the challenge was not to market ourselves, but to clarify doubts, which was not a very difficult task. The young army of volunteers also contributed in sending the message across effectively.”
The fight against corruption started with Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal movement but the face of Kejriwal gave continuity to the fight. “Initially, Anna also was a man of the hour and today, Kejriwal is a face of changing India,” Kakkar said.
AAP’s communication strategy was different from its competitors. No frills. No big rallies. Call it B2B of a different kind, back-to-basics. It opted for the time-tested conventional word-of-mouth publicity and pamphlets and posters that had long been dismissed as belonging to a different era.
The strategy: reputations are built in neighbourhoods, not billboards and the vehicle is what people say about a company or brand. “He (Kejriwal) selected the right audience, selected right ways to communicate and see, he is hugely backed by India’s increasingly assertive middle class which is the toughest to be wooed,” said Kakkar.
“Their poster campaign was also accessible and readable to those who were sitting in luxury cars. The strategies were pocket friendly -- from harnessing social media to the creation of door- to-door publicity crusaders, said Pandey. “Our idea was to keep it straight and simple. The emphasis was on creating a brand which instantly connects with the common man. Our research and field studies showed the voters are no longer interested in lofty and impractical slogans. The key issue was how credible are you and we concentrated on it,” Sisodia said.
At the end of the day, this is the age of start-ups where companies have blazed the trail in very short periods to rise to the top backed by credibility.
AAP can well be B-School case study.
MD & CEO of Futurebrands India Ltd
Thousands of local volunteers worked backstage which created a local canvas for the party. They launched door-to-door campaign which touched the right chord with the local audience.
The clear lessons for a successful campaigning are - have a clear mission, involve your audience and then treat the audience like an individual.
AAP had a clear mission and ideology which was fight against corruption.
The mission was crisp, clear and consistent. From the early days of the Jan Lokpal Bill movement till today, the mission has been consistent and the consistency helped create ‘brand recall’ for the audience.
Kejriwal’s decision to stand against Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit was the most thrilling. It had a shock value. He took a big and calculated risk, which is again an important element of marketing.
His win against Dikshit did magic for the entire brand. A brand works best when it recognises a vacuum in the market and moves to fill it.
Ad film maker
They (AAP) asked for donation which is like asking for a token of commitment. If one would give the donation, it obviously means that he/she is inclined towards the ideology.
Also, the meaning of their election symbol ‘broom’ is very deep and could be interpreted in several positive ways.
In addition to being the most recognisable symbol, it goes with the ideology of the party and also connects to the lower strata of society. Another step was the ‘metro wave’ in which the volunteers created a buzz among the commuters against corruption.
Around 10-15 party members would walk on Delhi’s Metro train platforms with the party cap and flag and tell commuters about the objectives of AAP.
This sort of basic ground work and approach helped them to reach out to the grass-root level audience, which was otherwise sought to be earned by handouts such as alcohol and gifts. Meanwhile, the educated class always knew that AAP has a consistent mission and face.
An independent media consultant and former COO of Rediffusion Y&R
The new fundamental of marketing is to focus on imagery of competitors instead of focusing on your personal branding. AAP was successful in creating a section of people who had a common enemy, “corruption.”
AAP succeeded in creating connection with the hottest issues.
The manifesto issued by AAP made many parties sit up and wonder.
But the audience did not question the feasibility of the manifesto and evidences behind such promises. The strategy was to create pressure on the ruling government.
Also, the party has benefitted from the relentless media exposure.
Kejriwal used every weapon of communication - Facebook, Twitter, Television – to create a strong anti-corruption image for the party.
AAP created a distinctive brand in a highly competitive marketplace.
The use of Gandhi topi and the broom as an election symbol was a brilliant decision.
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