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.


Thursday, 7 August 2008

Paris Hilton, Barack Obama and John McCain: the fine art of seduction

Whilst the John McCain ad comparing Obama to Paris Hilton & Britney Spears ( I guess they were aiming for Obama to be painted as "inexperienced" and hence unqualified to lead) has been the subject of intense scrutiny- Meet the press last week led with this as a topic, the lady Paris has actually hit back with an amazing repartee- which has, in my eyes, put McCain completely in the defensive- fancy that- A seasoned politician with all the might of the best brains in the business being given an amazing response by a 27 year old who was supposed to undermine Barack by being compared with him. Fantastically amusing and interesting for sure, but I wonder if there is a deeper message here?

I believe Marketing is about "influencing" behaviour change, and hence, I propose that elections and the entire political process is the ultimate form of influence for behaviour change – as a candidate, one needs to take their people from point A (don't know/ don't care about you) to Point B (I like/ will vote for you). Hence I am absolutely fascinated by political processes and hence the presidential campaign.

The point I derive from the above episode, apart from the considerable humour, is this- the entire influence game is about seduction and creating sex appeal, not about logic. The coolest people/ gadgets/ brands are not cool because they have logically convinced us that we need to be associated with them. A sense of mystique needs to be created, and whilst what you say and how you say it is important, even more important is what you don't say!

Must say my respect for Paris Hilton has gone up a few notches!