Early this year a report, “The Brand Trust Report, India Study, 2011” was published by Trust Research Advisory (TRA), a leading research organization dedicated to understanding and simplifying concepts related to 'Trust' Based on responses collected from approximately 2,300 participants spread across 9 metros mini-metros of India, the results showcased the level of trust every individual has in these brands. “As many as 61 individual components were identified by TRA which were then grouped into 10 composite descriptions like competence, sincerity, respect, empathy, enthusiasm, responsibility, et al” TRA's CEO N. Chandramouli tells 4Ps BM. After all, 'Brand Trust' is defined as the soul of the primary bond of engagement. However, “over time, the more evident connotations of trust like pedigree, size, performance, et al, have changed and the subtle forces are beginning to extert their influence on Brand Trust,” adds Chandramouli
Well, the results too are astounding! It's dramatically clear (through the study) that consumerism rules and what India trusts most, amazingly, are brands they use extensively or are totally familiar with. So, Nokia, TATA, Sony, Samsung & LG tops the list (and in that order). Even superstars Sachin Tendulkar (52nd rank) and Aamir Khan (242nd rank) feature and... er... are way ahead of an old toothless gentleman by the name of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi! So, 2011 'Brand Gandhi' is slung out by not only Finish phone makers and Korean consumer electronics major, but also sports and film celebs! Is it that brand Gandhi is finally losing out to Nokias, Lgs and Samsungs of the world?
To answer this, Shyam Benegal is first of the block. He laughts loud and long and is convinced that what the TRA guys need is not a sane response but the number of some very dependable shrinks! “To begin with the comparison is ridiculous. A brand reflects commodification and deals squarely with the equations with the marketable product and its consumers in the backdrop of market forces. Gandhi is hardly some one who can be promoted, positioned or marketed along those parameters because he didn't represent any monetary value. What he stood for (and died for) can hardly be compared with what Nokia, Airtel, Sachin or Aamir stand for. He will always remain a symbol of something much larger – human values that enriched and empowered for all time,” Benegal tells 4Ps B&M. Social commentator Santosh Desia too agrees as he says, “I think these surveys can never be taken seriously. To compare to apostle of nonviolence with Nokia and Amir is bizarre and totally trivialises the whole issue beyond measure. It suggests that any and everything can be branded and they must be judged on the parameter stated. To me it appears nothing more than a populist time-pass venture which no serious or sane person would look at twice!”
Theatre personality & Ad-man Bharat Dabholkar is convinced that it represents a giant step … in the wrong direction! “Does it make sense to compare timeless icons with brands? One is an everyday consumable item, which is constantly being appropriated to appease a hysterically voyeuristic audience base. It obviously taps into people who are more curious and knowledgeable about SRK & Katrina Kaif than Nehru & Gandhi. For them, Gandhi is … Ben Kingsley!” says Dabholkar.
Columnist and writer Anil Dharker however disagrees. He believes that in this information-overkill age, where self-absorptions rules & attention-span threshold is shrinking by the second, where out of sight is out of mind, this is bound to happen. “I believe it's less about reverence and more about an immediate connect. Also it's unfair to go misty eyed about the past and pronounce value judgment because back then there was no insane media-glare and the slow pace allowed for repose, respect and nostalgia. Today in these savage heretoday-gonetoday times, unless anything or anyone is marketed aggressively, it disappears.. and that includes Gandhi. It is clearly a sign of the times and there is no reason to get hyper or overreact. The survey had an agenda. Gandhi fitted in the slot. Period,” Dharker tells 4Ps B&M.
Political journo Paranjoy Guha Thakurta wraps up this debate with a telling take: “To place Gandhi alongside Nokia and Samsung speaks more about the people behind the survey, the agenda & context and the sample-base profile than Brand Gandhi. Besides, to compare a revered and globally respected figure with inanimate objects is something too ridiculous to even discuss. If these are the results emanating from, say-elitist, metro/urban types, that what can one expect from masses!”
Over to you, dear readers...