UNFOLDING A RIVETTING TALE OF AN UNLIKELY HERO WHO TAUGHT OUR MARKETING GURUS A THING OR TWO ABOUT THE ART, SCIENCE AND POWER OF THE BIG IDEA. 4Ps B&M's CONSULTING EDITOR MONOJIT LAHIRI ATTEMPTS A CLOSE-UP OF THIS AMAZING MAN AND HIS IDEA THAT HAS TAKEN THE NATION BY STORM
“A surprising solution to a marketing problem ex-pressed in memorable verbal and/or graphic imagery” is how the Big Idea has been defined and understood. Management and communication gurus however have been quick to spot the learning from Anna Hazare's astonishing example of how a Big Idea can sweep the nation and mesmerise all right thinking people – especially the Indian diaspora – across the globe.
Interestingly, could anyone have ever imagined in his/her wildest dreams (even a year ago) that the next popular leader, who would storm popular imagination, would be far from a young enthusiastic, fresh faced, inspirational leader contemptuously flinging aside the cob-web-ridden ideologies representing the old guard to lead us to a dazzling, glittering, new technology-enabled future, but a largely unknown khadi clad 73 year old with a benign look going by the unlikely name of Kisan Bapat Baburao Hazare? Hardly (if glib analysis were to be believed) a likely candidate for the ambassadorship of Brand India, Incredible India, India Shining?!!
Vijay Govindarajan (Prof. At Tuck School of Business at Darmouth College) believes that it is dangerous to embrace stereotypes or ride on cliches. “Companies, communities and countries can be inspired and empowered by the Big Idea. What better example than Kennedy's Man on the Moon or Gandhiji's non violence? Anna's common trait with the 'Father of the Nation appears to be his path breaking leadership skills which has pulled out middle class India from the cosy confines at their homes to hit the street and make it a true People movement,” says Govindarajan. He believes that it scores big on three points, “Re-enforcing the notion that democracy is alive, well and kicking' that the biggest enemy to economic growith is corruption; and that social justice is critical to a sustained 300m up.”
Leo Burnett's head honcho Arvind Sharma brings his own take to the table. He believes all great brands are great because they serve a human purpose and iconic communicators are those who connect the brand-values powerfully with the select target group. “Anna's Big Idea is not corruption – because that's nothing new. It's the amendments to Lokpal Bill – a strategic device to address this dreaded disease. Giving shape to a solution away from an amorphous context, in a tone & tenor everybody understands. No wonder his Big Idea is getting such big response,” says Sharma.
Bharat Dabolkar disagrees. The theatre-actor ad-man explains that Anna's movement has nothing to do with either branding or the Big Idea. “Come on, both corruption and Lokpal Bill have been around for over four decades; so what? It is Anna's persona – simple, direct, uncomplicated sans glamour or personal vested interest, powered with passion and conviction from the heart that has fired popular imagination. It is not an image created or manufactured by a PR agency, but one that responded spontaneously to the most overriding concern of the day, in an identifiable way, cutting across all strata of society. That's all,” Dabolkar tells 4Ps B&M.
The last words come from renowned ad guru and Chief Consultant, Planman Marcom, Alyque Padamsee. “It's clearly the biggest idea since Gandhiji's movement relating to India's Independence! Anna Hazare has single-handedly converted cocktail party chatter as well as seminar and symposium jabber into an explosive deliverable by merely articulating a USP that was waiting to catch fire: Corruption,” Padamsee tells 4Ps B&M. In fact, let's also not underestimate the power of
television in providing hard close-ups of a reality show that was real! “The defining image of a 73 years old man fearlessly praying at Rajghat (evoking image of Mahatma himself) was brilliant, timely and emotive enough to touch a zillion hearts. Also, his magically reclaiming the pride and passion of the Gandhi topi – commonly perceived as corrupt posturing of politicians – and making it a dynamic statement of truth, is brand building at its best,” adds Padamsee.
Padamsee could well have a point. Behind the charged sentiment of an entire nation and groundswell of an astounding nature, hawk-eyed media strategists supported by solid intelligent, loyal and disciplined back-room boys, were at play. Be it Abhinandan Sekhri (a 35 yeas old former TV professional) or Shazia Ilmi (former Star News anchor) or any of the crack team of 25 youngsters from Delhi who handled the entire mammoth Ramlila show with clockwork precision, it was focussed teamwork in action, with a one point agenda: Project Anna Hazare as the New Mahatma! Team Anna's brilliant connect with eyeballs, the stuningly well-timed news breaks, sound bytes and press conferences could hardly be termed as a coincidence by media-watchers.
So is Brand Anna truly re-difining the Big Idea, as the marketing and cummunication fraternity insist – or is it merely a case of right person, right time, right place, right message with right tone of voice to a totally hundred percent ready, receptive, captive and right audience?
Over to you, dear readers..