Sunday, 10 August 2008

Mahatma Gandhi: my Epitome of Marketing Excellence?

Father of the Indian nation, the creator of Satyagraha (non violence), the inspiration behind Martin Luther King Jr, the man described by Churchill as the "half naked faqir"- multiple are the epithets given to this man, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, aka Mahatma Gandhi. and I am sure I join many more people ( including Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Al Gore, John Lennon, James Lawson) in acknowledging his influence.

However, this post is intended to focus on his marketing genius in creating the cause, the path to the cause, and unifying a nation of extreme poverty and extreme illiteracy to rise in unison and win freedom, non violently, against the greatest colonial power – all this was done without money, without other resources that most causes can command today. The following are some of the underlying principles:

  • Extreme Simplicity of message (articulation, garb, appearance, lifestyle, diet etc)- in today's age of clutter and the need for the so called unique selling proposition, think about how he had to cut thro and get across to the masses of a largely illiterate and an unconnected India, and one perhaps starts to appreciate how beautifully that message is designed to penetrate and hit straight home.
  • He was the ultimate Pragmatist- I define pragmatism as the ability to take the prevailing trend and to ride on it to get to your destination (sort of how birds use rising columns of hot air – "Thermals"- to get higher). His support of the British during the World Wars, his acceptance of the need for partition, his timing of the big movements (Non Cooperation, Civil Disobedience, Quit India) , as well as the timing of their cessation all point to this
  • His brilliant use of evocative symbols- this is perhaps brought to life most through his "Salt Satyagraha" movement- Salt was and is amongst the more reasonably priced of the commodities, owing in part to its abundance. And yet, for someone to take something that was not really the center of Economic or political power, and yet so essential to life and important to the poor of the then india, and turn it into a symbol of liberation and freedom was a brilliant masterstroke, executed with precision.
  • His leveraging of religion- Pre independence India had deeply divisive forces, and religion, particularly differences between Hinduism and Islam was one of the dominant ones. However, through his lifestyle, embrace of other religions, and through multi-faith prayer meetings, he took the divisive issue of religion and neutered it enough ,though it refused to go away completely, that the masses rose as one for the cause.

Clearly someone to learn from.

 

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