The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is at risk of seriously ruining its credibility – through poor image management of all things. Aam Aadmi Party’s debut in Delhi is one of the best new product launches. And one of the first successful all-India political launches in 30 years (I’m not counting the numerous regional parties). So park your ideological/political affiliations for a few minutes, and let’s look at them purely through a marketing lens.
Like many new businesses, AAP to a great extent is built on the personal brand of its founder, Arvind Kejriwal. And like others who have successfully leveraged that into large corporations, he needs to work out his brand plan. So what should his brand blueprint look like?
I’m going to loosely follow the ABCD model.
A. Added Value
Broadly, AAP stands for anti-corruption, anti-excess, and democratic/grass-roots governance. This is a clear, distinctive message that differentiates it from the existing national ‘brands’. Now that they have been given the mandate in Delhi they have an opportunity to show how their ideology translates into benefits for their base – a simple barometer or visual device to show progress against stated goals would be very helpful.
B. Behavioral Change
Mr Kejriwal’s clothes and styling are bang-on and convey his down-to-earth imagery. But to truly be aligned with their stated imagery some behavioral change is required, both by him and his followers/adherents. As a champion of the poor, and as an anti-government excess proponent, you cannot accept government housing or transport. Yes, there may be pressure on you to do so, but you need to withstand it. He needs to look for symbolism here too. IT icons such as Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji have shown that you can be a billionaire without compromising on your ‘simple’ imagery. Just stick with a mid-size sedan, travel economy class on flights, abstain from using porters and so on. It isn’t that hard, but it is essential. Not just for Mr Kejriwal himself but because he has to ensure his followers adhere to these values too. (In the IT industry context, travel is a huge component of operational cost and by travelling economy these leaders ensured that their employees did so too.)
It is reasonably clear what AAP stands for. Their manifesto is available online, though a greater push needs to make it more commonly known and available. Not many have actually read it, which in the political context is possibly a good thing as it keeps it simple! For the most part, they are consistent in their messaging.
For a movement to succeed, it has to go viral. AAP has been successful in Delhi but to ramp up its presence (distribution in marketing terms) it needs to now broaden its channels and increase diffusion. For this I would recommend:
- Print media vehicles (a weekly column in an existing mainline daily or an in-house journal)
- TV channel. Yes, I know, this doesn’t sound ‘earthy’ but it’s a great media vehicle for political parties as many Southern states have proven.
- A book (their manifesto is available free online, but print distribution will help).
- Their website sharing tools need to be relooked at too.
- The cap was a great idea, but it is not easily available. (In recent times, two ‘brands’ that have gone viral through clothing are the Vodafone ZooZoos and Salman Khan’s ‘Being Human’.
- Bumper stickers, badges…these work in the US, and should work here too
Will AAP stand the test of time? Will they be able to withstand the temptations of easy short term gains and build to last? As with any startup that’s hard to say. They have gone through the typical startup life cycle or starry-eyed enthusiasm to squabbles within the co-founders to some executives trying to grab the spoils in a hurry. They have also had instances of executives shooting of their ideas without checking with corporate PR. They have solved the funding crisis for now. But question is, will they have to pivot? And if yes, to what?
“Image courtesy of [jscreationzs] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”