Thursday, June 18, 2009


[Is Rahul Gandhi India’s hottest brand, post elections? 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri attempts a checkout]

In the beginning came the outpouring … (The heir to the throne. Politics’ new Prince Charming. The Dimpled darling.) Then came the (tsunami?) gush from the fairer sex … (Mr. Most Eligible; Classy. Cultured. Intelligent; Stable, good looking, sincere; A Guy you can confidently take home to mom; Hot n’charming; Cool, new-age and savvy; Humble, understated) Suddenly Rahul Gandhi is the new Rock-star, youth-icon that Youngistan is rooting for! What makes Brand Rahul sizzle? More importantly, is he really a brand?

The irrepressible Alyque Padamsee fires the first salvo … and does so with typical flourish. “Rahul Gandhi is most certainly a brand! He represents youth, dynamism and new-age thinking, as is manifest in the way he leverages technology to connect with the masses. I don’t know why people are so cynical or against branding human beings … We live in a market-driven age and each one of us, in our own way, is a brand. JWT’s Creative Director Sonia Bhatnagar, (who worked closely on the Congress campaign), shares the veteran’s enthusiastic belief and reckons that the dimpled darling’s charisma, transparency, sincerity, down-to-earth demeanour and relentless focus on galvanising youth to help the disfranchised, needy and backward rural community in Uttar Pradesh swung it in his favour. “Add to that his cool, good looks and confidence, along with his inspirational leadership qualities – and you got a hip, hot n’ happening brand on the block!”
Hive’s Sushil Pandit – a veteran in engaging with political advertising – presents a perspective reflecting gravitas and sober logic. “First things first. Rahul is really more of a sub-brand. The mother brand is the Nehru-Gandhi name, but having said that, I think this euphoria has to do with the fact that this quiet, low-profile young man has actually been able to turnaround a floundering party and scored in the most critical arena of all – Uttar Pradesh!” Pandit believes that this is a classic case of attributing to the brand, qualities it does NOT stand for! “For example he is most certainly not a visionary yet. Young, innocent, charming, fresh … certainly. However, does he have the ability to see, understand, engage with and solve the vast, complex problems that plague this huge, diverse country of ours? Remains to be seen.” Unlike Padamsee and Bhatnagar, Pandit is uncomfortable about branding politicians … “For me branding inanimate objects make sense but human beings change, evolve … I think it has to do with marketing gimmickry in a world that is fast becoming a market place …” Future Brands’ Santosh Desai wraps up the debate, in style. “The phenomenon is fascinating because just a few months ago he was seen as politically na├»ve, belonging to an elite family and totally disconnected, from grassroot Indian reality. Suddenly, he is not only the STAR politician but also Mr. Eligible, the man who saw tomorrow, youth icon, an agent of change … the works!” Desai believes that this overpowering, multi-dimensional projection has something to do with youthfulness, being a surrogate for telegenic and the compulsive need to consume Rahul Gandhi in a particular way. “It is amazing that his astonishing victory in Uttar Pradesh seems to have been hi-jacked in the public eye by just two simple characteristics: youth and success. Everything else is a spin-off from these two traits.” Desai believes that it is unfortunate that things worth celebrating – placing the long-term above the short-term and endeavouring to institutionalise some processes – (both, more old-fashioned than youth-driven moves) are being perceived as new-age initiatives! Regarding BRAND RAHUL, Desai believes that a brand is about identifying and resonating with an ideological core, with a set of predictable actions. “For me, so far Rahul Gandhi is nowhere near a brand because there is no clear sense of what he is all about. He is emerging. What he really stands for and represents – Brand values – may come soon. Unfortunately the word is bandied about by one n’ all and has become cool n’ fashionable to flaunt and coming to mean anything or anyone that is popular.” So from Brand Obama and SRK to Brand Kamasutra and Amul Macho to Brand Pepsi, Coke, Sprite, Thums-up and Mountain Dew to Brand Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat and India … and now Brand Manmohan and Rahul, anything goes! 


Thursday, June 04, 2009


4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri investigates this new phenomenon that is gaining frightening and hysterical dimensions in the ritzy, glitzy and glamorous metros of a nation that continues to look west for self esteem!

It is an astonishing paradox of human life that, with progress, sophistication, modernity and success comes depression, loneliness, alienation and insecurity! Today in year 2009, as we scan the lifescape inhabiting planet earth – with special reference to the so- called advanced and developed western countries – we find startling horror stories of dysfunctional life amidst plenty. Why? Because nothing in this world comes for free and the first world joys offered by the enticing packages called Consumerism and Globalisation come with a sinister price-tag! Family life, social life, cultural life, intellectual life … everything is sold at the altar of moving up in life. So, what’s next? What is the solution? Where is the salvation? Enter the marketers of Spiritualism…!

Declares today’s hot young, controversial film- maker (Dev D, Gulal) Anurag Kashyup, “If you have a Sapnon Ka Saudagar, why can’t you have a guy hawking spirituality?! The con-game is the same, boss!” On a more serious note, Kashyup believes that in today’s troubled and recession-hit times where tension and pressures rule the roost, spirituality is in high demand and low supply. “Hence, the smart, shrewd marketer who has his ear to the ground and is able to think on his feet, can do wonders – for his desperate clients and laughing wallet.” He cites the example of Astha and a host of similar TV channels which enjoy a wide viewership cutting across all stratas of society. He also points to the success of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, Robin Sharma’s The Monk who sold his Ferrari and most of Deepak Chopra’s best sellers. Sister Yogini of the Brahmakumaris (a spiritual movement like The Art of Living, The oneness university, Isha Yoga) looks at it differently. She admits that a lot of seekers come to them because they are freaked out by life’s pressures and desperately desire peace and happiness. “Our movement is not necessarily about renouncing the world but offering peace and progress within the confines of daily life.” Adds Avanti Birla, high profile businesswoman, “Spirituality for me is as much about fulfilling my responsibilities at a personal level as it is about connecting with it in a societal way.” To Parmeshwar Godrej, Mumbai society’s celebrated diva and social activist, “The real path is about self-discovery.” While she agrees that there is a trendy, hybrid spirituality being marketed, she believes that people are evolving all the time and their personal sense of spirituality doesn’t necessarily depend on what’s written in the instruction manual.

The irrepressible Prahalad Kakkar in typical forthright fashion, provides a cool conclusion. “It’s like selling coals to Newcastle! C’mon guys, we are, historically and traditionally, a spiritual nation with rituals and beliefs embedded in our psyche. Whether it’s the sandhya-deep accompanied by conch-shells at dusk or the vision of what life is about – Karma, Maya – spirituality remains an intrinsic part of our being. Unfortunately, pathetic West-apers that we have become, we seem to be enthusiastically buying - into their hard-selling spirituality to us in the form of a fashion thing; a with-it and uber-cool solution to all worldly problems that blitzes our sense of peace and contentment. Its sold – and bought – (like in the West) as a quick-fix, a fevicol for the battered soul, imagine! But then, at the end of the day I guess it makes sense to remember that we live in an age of Vigyapan not Vigyan, brother… So just about anything goes!”