The Brand ‘Anna Hazare’

Disclaimer: All views are my own.

As I write this post today, there is a growing sense of optimism projected by the media around the developments of the Jan Lokpal Bill and to a certain extent this optimism has been absorbed by some influencers and opinion makers. Slowly but steadily this optimism is growing. Its based on how members of the parliament reacted to the current situation; government’s ability to handle the situation responsibly and portraying itself as “reaching out” to the concerns of Team Anna; and a growing sense of admission among Team Anna that – there is no quick fix solution on the Lokpal Bill in a democracy like India. At this point in time, I would briefly like to explore ‘Brand Anna’ – how it was built and what made him a torchbearer of such a mass movement

Step One: Act on the Insight

Everybody knows corruption is a major issue in this country. The continuous scams – 2G, Common Wealth Games, Adarsh Society, Mining etc made sure that the common man is frustrated enough to at least show his support against corruption. At a mass level, ordinary citizens of this country couldn’t understand the rise in prices of oil and petrol; or the complex dynamics on which “inflation” operates upon. The sentiment against the UPA government was only growing. And Anna Hazare along with his supporters started their first campaign around March and April 2011 acting on these key insights. However, things took a different colour (read: saffron) when they were supported by spiritual gurus like Baba Ramdev. And over a period of time, the Government with its shrewd negotiation tactics almost forced Anna to end his fast and silenced Baba Ramdev with a CBI enquiry.

Step Two: Do the home work

This in many ways forced Anna Hazare and his team to re-work on their strategy. And periodic media spot-lights ensured that they sent another message to the government – Anna Hazare will again go on a fast on August 16th 2011 if the Bill is not presented in the Parliament. While they knowingly got rid of the saffron colours hi-jacking the single focus over the Lokpal Bill – emissaries like Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Justice Santosh Hegde were projected continously by the media. The date of the fast was strategically chosen to be on August 16th, post Independence Day, when India witnesses a sense of ‘Indianness’ both emotionally and physically. And this time around they came across as ‘Team Anna’ and not as ‘Anna Hazare + supporters’.

Step three: The rebirth of Brand Anna

Brand Anna is built on simplicity and Gandhian values. It doesn’t look at ‘fasting’ as the last moral resort but as a right to demand its objective before a government that appears to be ‘cold’; ‘uptight’ and ‘deaf’. The person at the center of it – Anna Hazare – is consciously showcased as righteous and selfless. The giant picture of Gandhi on the stage evokes strong imagery of values and integrity. Patriotic bollywood songs charms the audience constantly. Stories about India’s struggle for Independence are retold and this is dubbed as India’s second Independence struggle. Anna always wears white and he only talks when it is required.

Step four: One Message

In its campaign against corruption, there was just one message that was plastered across the consciousness of the masses. And that single minded, strong yet simple message was – “I am Anna Hazare”. This message was personal. And this message was put up on various languages on Nehru Caps (now known as Anna Hazare caps), t-shirts, slogan boards, etc.

Step four: Marketing

A team of volunteers led by the core team members scanned the newspapers daily and identified the sentiment of people. A seven member team monitored what is happening on the web and social media. Whoever took a stand against Anna Hazare was contacted and things were clarified. Read this in order to understand in detail the ‘media management’ behind the movement. If they found influencers like Sagarika Ghose taking a stand against them on social networking sites like Twitter, a plan of action was called for. Personalities like Shazia Almi, who have been educated in media, has considerable experience along with an understanding of the medium joined the movement and offered their expertise. Read this to understand how they built and managed the show. Marketing jargons like “creating long lasting differentiation” and “constant engagemet + partcipation” were actually set into action. Meanwhile it also gave rise to a whole new merchandising business by people who were smart enough to buck the trend. ‘I am Anna’ cap were sold for Rs.5 each. Tri colour was painted on the cheek for Rs.10. One could buy Anna masks for Rs.10 each. ‘Support Anna’ badges were sold for Rs. 10 – Rs. 20 each. The Indian Tricolour was sold anywhere between Rs. 5 to Rs.1000 each. Tricoolur wrist bands and head bands for Rs.10 each. Anna Hazare branded t-shirts with various messages were sold from Rs.100 to Rs.450 each. Tantra – a popular t-shirt maker in India launched its “anti-corruption” range of T-shirts. SMS sites like Site2SMS.com were visited by people and more than 640,000 SMSes were sent every day. Both individuals and companies created small online games around Prime Minister and Anna Hazare – one of the online games ‘Angry Anna’ became an instant hit. Attempts were also made to memify Anna Hazare. Ironically, celebrities like Aamir Khan and Raju Hirani joined Anna on the podium in the last leg. Celebrity support ensured that people stay glued to their televisions.

And finally, most importantly, Anna emphasizes on the people even when he announces to break his fast today at 10 am. The people are at the heart of his campaign. He says in Hindi “aapke anumati se mein anushan chhodna chahunga” (with your due permission I would like to break this fast). So clearly brand ‘Anna Hazare’ wasn’t build in a day. Everybody contributed their own bit. But its also important to know that it just didn’t happen by chance, at the heart of it was ‘Team Anna’.

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~ by rb on August 28, 2011.

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