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Saturday, 12 November 2011

Has Brand Anna redefined the Big Idea?

The Big Idea is usually defined and understood as "a surprising solution to a marketing problem expressed in memorable verbal and /or graphic imagery". However, management and communication gurus have been quick to spot the lesson from Anna Hazare's astonishing example of how a Big Idea can sweep the nation and mesmerize all right-thinking people --especially the Indian diaspora -across the globe.

Could anyone have ever imagined in his wildest dreams that the next leader who would storm popular imagination in India would not be a young, fresh-faced leader, who would contemptuously fling aside the cobweb-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? Hardly, one would think, a likely candidate for the ambassadorship of Brand India or Incredible India or India Shining!

Vijay Govindarajan, professor at Tuck School of Business at Darmouth College, believes that it is dangerous to embrace stereotypes or use 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 the path-breaking leadership skills that have pulled middle class India out of cozy homes to hit the street, making it a true people's movement." He believes that Anna's movement scores big on three points: "Re-enforcing the notion that democracy is alive, well and kicking; that the biggest enemy to economic growth is corruption; that social justice is critical (to a sustained 300 million.")

Leo Burnetts' 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 Lokpal Bill -- a strategic device to address this dreaded disease. Giving shape to a solution away from an amorphous context, in a tone and tenor everybody understands. No wonder his Big Idea is getting such big response!"

But Bharat Dabolkar, theatre actor and ad man, explains that Anna's movement has nothing to do with either branding or the Big Idea. "C'mon, both corruption and the Lokpal bill have been around for over four decades. It is Anna's persona -simple, direct, uncomplicated sans glamour or personal vested interest, old world charm, powered with passion and conviction from the heart - that has fired the 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."

The last word, however, must be reserved for Delhi-based director of Concept Advertising, Esha Guha: "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 seminar and symposium jabber into an explosive deliverable by merely articulating the USP: Corruption." Let's also, she points out, not underestimate the power of television in providing close-ups of a reality show that was real. "The defining image of an old man fearlessly praying at Rajghat- evoking the image of the Mahatma himself -was brilliantly timely and emotive enough to touch a million hearts. Also his reclaiming of the pride reserved for the Gandhi topi, making it a dynamic statement of truth, is brand building at its best."

So is Brand Anna truly redefining the Big Idea, as the marketing and communication fraternity says, or is it merely a case of the right person, the right time, the right place, the right message reaching a receptive, captive and right audience?


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