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Marketing lessons from Aam Aadmi Party


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The Aam Aadmi Party has recently shown marketers how to do marketing. From their genesis to their campaign and the ultimate win, there are several insights that we can learn from. Here is a small attempt to capture some of them.

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Marketing lessons from Aam Aadmi Party

  1. 1. What marketers can learn from the Aam Aadmi Party?
  2. 2. It is believed that only two kinds of people vote in India. 1. The poor: who’s votes can be ‘earned’ with food/alcohol/money and hollow promises 2. The young: who’re impressionable and still hopeful of change Everybody else is too disillusioned with the system to bother to vote.
  3. 3. In December 2013, it all changed.
  4. 4. For the 1st time in the history of world’s largest democracy, a party founded by non- politicians, less than a year back crushed the ruling party. And, humiliated the incumbent CM by defeating her in her own constituency of 15 years. Ouch! DELHI
  5. 5. This is an attempt to learn a few lessons from this great marketing case study
  6. 6. Great brands are built on a strong consumer insight that clicks, sticks and connects.
  7. 7. The background The political landscape of democratic India has always been dominated by governments and politicians who are ‘perceived’ as most corrupt. This corruption starts at the top & trickles through the bureaucracy and percolates right down to the grass root level, where every public servant abuses the power vested in them.
  8. 8. The background (cont’d) Its rare to find a person who’s not been asked for a bribe – either by the municipal officer for a ration card, by a police officer to avoid a traffic fine or by a passport officer to expedite your file Indians, across states and social strata, are brimming with angst about the corruption and frustrated about the unwillingness of govt. after govt. to do anything about this harassment.
  9. 9. The insight There is growing public anger against the political machinery about corruption & other economic issues (price rise, inflation etc) and the power-bearers’ lack of accountability to fix these problems meant that the average Indian was getting desperate for change.
  10. 10. How this insight drove a rousing victory for AAP? 10 lessons for brand marketers
  11. 11. Lesson 1: Have an idea that connects • The average Indian does not understand ‘economy’ or ‘sociology’ • She only understands prices of onions, increasing power tariffs, and the growing lack security for women • India’s angst against the ‘system’ was demanding a honest, transparent, clean governance AAP de-jargonized the economic terms and highlighted the basic problems, which attracted the audience
  13. 13. Lesson 2: The name is the game • Nomenclature is the most basic ingredient of good marketing • An evocative & compelling name: like Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), quickly relates to every common man • Also the abbreviation AAP, means YOU – which makes one feel that the party if for & about YOU • Not to mention, ‘democracy’ itself is a form of governance FOR the people & BY the people With one clean branding masterstroke, the party managed to successfully shift focus to the average IndiaN – the common man – The Aam Aadmi
  14. 14. Lesson 3: The resonating symbol • Every brand has its symbols and icons that are timeless – Think Apple, Think Steve Jobs – Non violence is synonymous with Mahatma Gandhi • Similarly, Arvind Kejriwal has emerged as the abiding political icon for anti-corruption • And he has created a brand symbol that is absolutely synergistic with this icon: Broom The ‘Broom’ mnemonic not only fitted in extremely well with the mission, but also resonated with the classes & masses alike
  15. 15. Lesson 4: Outsmart the competition • A successful brand is always surprising • Aam Aadmi Party kept its competitors (Congress & BJP) constantly guessing on its next moves. • For e.g. Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to contest elections against the incumbent Chief Minister, Mrs. Sheila Dikshit (who eventually lost by 25,846 votes) The trick for a new entrant is to behave like an underdog but keep a close watch on the changing market dynamics
  16. 16. • The standard behaviour of all political parties & leaders at election time is to organize for large rallies in a show of strength. AAP played it very differently. • Since, AAP was a rank fresher, the unconventional door-to-door campaigning gave voters across constituencies a real feel of what they’re about Every brand must have a soul & character and the most successful brands manage to deliver this character through the experience they provide to their consumers Lesson 5: Offer an experience
  17. 17. Lesson 6: Test waters before diving in • All products that eventually become successful are first test marketed with a small sample of consumers, before exposure to the entire market. • For Aam Aadmi party, the Lokpal movement gave them a glimpse of how viable a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative can be. Test marketing can offer invaluable learnings, putting to test hypotheses and either validating/negating them – so that the final launch can be as robust as possible
  18. 18. Lesson 7: Everything is the brand • The movement was well packaged with all part members, volunteers & supporters donning a spotless white cap saying “Main hoon Aam Aadmi” (Yes, I’m the common Man) • In a major departure from the khadi-kurta synonymous with most Indian politicians , the look & feel of the Aam Aadmi Party leaders & supporters was also a seamless of extension of its image – simple, unassuming & unpretentious The ‘Gandhi topi’ associated AAP with the honesty of the great Indian leaders from the pre-Independence era and became a very visible symbol of the movement
  19. 19. Lesson 8: Consumers make the best brand ambassadors • Unlike legacy parties like Congress & BJP, which have been around for several decades and therefore had strong financial muscle & supporters, the < 1 year old AAP had none. • So, they decided to reach out to the common man & recruit those who strongly believed in its promise of clean, corruption-free governance • Thousands of Indians from India & abroad descended on the capital to contribute their time India is at a point where people (especially the youth) believe that “CHANGE BEGINS WITH THEM”. This sentiment helped raise rousing volunteers & support for the party (
  20. 20. Lesson 9: Reach people where they are • Instead of calling the voters to large rallies, which is the norm during elections in India, AAP went to neighborhoods where common people live and spoke to them individually • Internet & social media became perfect breeding grounds to capture the mindset of young India – (FB = 689,683 fans; Twitter = 800,000 followers) • The target was to get these two voter groups to vote. Everybody else who came was bonus. Always start with the lowest hanging fruit. The consumers most likely to buy into your promise and then generate a viral word-of-mouth through them.
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  22. 22. Lesson 10: Walk the talk • The promise of transparency & clean governance begins had to be brought to life. • Funds were generated for the AAP election campaign purely through donations from resident & non resident Indians. • Fill financial disclosure was practices and the sources & usage of all funds were disclosed on the party website, for all to see and scrutinize. Sending out a message is one thing. Living it is quite another. The greatest brands in the world live their message consistently across markets & across time
  23. 23. Quick recap
  24. 24. • Lesson 1: Have an idea that connects • Lesson 2: The name is the game • Lesson 3: The resonating symbol • Lesson 4: Outsmart the competition • Lesson 5: Offer an experience • Lesson 6: Test waters before diving in • Lesson 7: Everything is the brand • Lesson 8: Consumers make the best brand ambassadors • Lesson 9: Reach people where they are • Lesson 10: Walk the talk
  25. 25. In conclusion 5 things that worked for AAP
  26. 26. • A clear & consistent message: – From the early days of the Jan Lokpal Bill movement till today, the mission has been consistent and this helped create ‘brand recall’ • Perfect choice of mediums: – While politics has always been about talking one-to-thousands, AAP involved the audience and treated them like an individual
  27. 27. • Through the line synergy: – From the party brand name (Aam Aadmi Party) to the symbol (broom) to the message (Clean governance) to the look & feel (simple & ordinary), everything had incremental effect • Calculated risks: – Kejriwal’s decision to stand against Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was the most thrilling. It had a shock value. And, it paid off eventually!
  28. 28. And, above all… • Brand Ownership by consumers/voters: – AAP’s message of corruption free India & clean, transparent politics was taken to the masses not only by the party’s leaders but by hundreds of thousands of unpaid volunteers who wanted to be part of the movement. – They just didn’t want their country to change. They wanted to bring about change in their country
  29. 29. This man will soon become the Chief Minister of India’s capital. The times. They sure are changing.
  30. 30. Thank you.