'Brand Anna' holds vital lessons for marketers

'Brand Anna' holds vital lessons for marketers

This explains the unprecedented success of Anna Hazare's anti-graft campaign, which helped him morph into a brand, holding vital lessons for marketing and the ad world, says a study by a leading public relations firm.

In marketing metaphor, it boils down to a good product, which in Hazare's case is the Jan Lokpal (ombudsman) bill against corruption. This is amplified by the symbolic tricolour and the Gandhi topi, his spotlessly white dhoti-kurta and image as a crusader and the impact of slogans like "Mein Anna Hoon", "Vande Mataram" and 'Inquilab zindabad", says the analytical study commissioned by Hanmer MSL.

This mesmerising appeal directly impacts all age groups, interests and classes, without relying on props of publicity, adds the study, which covers the period from Jan 30, when Hazare held his first anti-corruption rally at Jantar Mantar, to Aug 28, when he broke his fast at the Ramlila Grounds in Delhi.

Hanmer MSL is an Indian public relations firm operating in 40 cities, part of the Publicis Groupe, a global giant in digital and healthcare communications, headquartered in Paris, owning brands such as Leo Burnett and Saatchi and Saatchi. 

"We chose Hazare for the study because business learnings don't always come from other businesses. There are public relations lessons to be learned from Hazare's campaign, and  we wanted to highlight those," Hanmer CEO Jaideep Shergill told IANS.
"We believe that thought leadership is the key to what we do, and for our clients."

Taking the Hazare example, the study shows what a determined and conscious populace can achieve within a social framework, more so when the cause and motivation are right. The age of the empowered citizen is here. A free media, social networks, a large population of youth hungry for change and higher literacy rates were skilfully harnessed by Team Anna.

Ramlila Grounds, the venue of Hazare's 13-day fast for a more effective anti-corruption measure came to symbolise for the common person the rallying point for probity in public life. The location offered a platform to tens of thousands of Indians to connect and engage with the campaign directly, experiencing it at a deeply personal level, including denim-clad youngsters, housewives and professionals, the study says.

The study analyses the role of social media networks in magnifying the impact of such campaigns. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube helped catalyse protests sweeping Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. But unlike those countries, ripped apart by violence and bloodshed, these networks enabled Hazare, an ex-serviceman, to mobilise millions of youths for entirely peaceful protests against graft, the study says.

It points to the relevance of Hazare taking up an issue that affects the common person in every aspect of life-- bribing officials even for simple things like a driving licence. His dealings with the government or bureaucracy is frustrating and painful. Nothing gets done unless he pays a bribe, according to the study.

"Hazare's appeal as a leader lies in his homespun simplicity, mixed with a robust approach to problems and reformist zeal, but above all in his identifying and articulating the unspoken need of the masses, which is freedom from corruption through the right 'product', namely the Jan Lokpal bill, which could even investigate the prime minister, bureaucracy and judiciary," said Shergill.

In his view, a real-life case study like this can be an eye-opener for today's marketers who tend to think of complicated solutions for their brand-related issues. "The Hazare campaign reminds us that simplicity is the key to successful branding," said Shergill.

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