Thursday, 30 October 2014

The fight over 'broom': Brand symbols and their importance

Broom was the most differentiated weapon of AAP and also gave it a unique character. Has Modi's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign has left AAP broomless?

In the case of BJP and AAP; AAP was a relatively new brand which with its differentiated marketing and values created an instant brand recall and positive associations. They had a strong and clutter breaking brand identity. However, the implementation of brand promise was poor and hence AAP suffered a quick set-up. The intended brand identity is very different from brand image. We live in a transparent world in which customers can easily expose unsatisfactory experiences with brands. This means that companies must absolutely deliver on the promises they make. Denise Lee Yohn in her book- ‘What Great Grand Do’ states that good communication and advertising alone cannot build your brand.  She exhorts that your brand is a verb: and not just the image. It is ‘what’ you do. A brand is more about action, and not about advertising.
That’s where AAP faltered and now BJP is trying to leverage on. They have made ‘broom’ their implementation weapon. BJP is not trying to change on the values of ‘lotus’ or giving broom any strategic place in BJP brand’s core philosophy but using it as a tactic of brand implementation. Yes I can see the strategy of robbing AAP of a strong brand property (read potential brand equity). Over time, people may associate broom more with Modi’s cleanliness drive rather than AAP’s political symbol. But this would depend on implementation efficiency and success of Modi’s Swatch Bharat campaign. Only time will tell whether citizens of India remember broom as a vehicle of ‘clean corruption’ or as a weapon to ‘clean streets of India’. In the context of AAP’s performance in the past, this step of BJP definitely can further dilute AAP brand by redefining the values its symbol stood for.
But there is a word of caution for BJP. They have recently worked on their brand and redefined ‘lotus’ values which worked for them. Leveraging too much on broom or any attempt to include it as strategic brand imagery may dilute its own brand image. It is good only as a tactics to support a campaign.

Another perspective to this entire debate is ‘if there is a reason at all to debate this’. Political parties have all kinds of symbols and so are these symbolic objects forbidden for use by other people. Broom is for cleaning and so had to be a part of cleanliness drive. Would people stop using bow/arrow during Dussehra, or can someone not promote bicycles for cleaner India, or stop using chilies just because they are certain party symbols. Is so much of media attention to this only helping BJP more to leverage on broom!!

The above phenomenon is a kind of indirect ambush marketing which involves the use of certain brand’s imagery or advertising themes by the other brand without making specific reference to the trademark/ symbol. The brand which ambushes other brand’s property either gets benefited from the use of this imagery or dilutes the equity of the latter. Some academicians also may want to term this ‘offline brand hijacking’, an activity whereby one brand acquires or assumes the identity of another brand for the purpose of acquiring/diluting latter’s brand equity. 

Brand symbols can definitely build brand recall and contribute to brand equity but what matters more is brand implementation or fulfillment of brand promise. People remember brand symbols only when implementation is strong not because symbols were different. McDonald arches are recalled and contribute to its brand equity because McDonald has created positive customer experiences over years and not because they write 'M' differently. 

So time will now tell if Modi's Swatch Bharat Campaign could rob and dilute the brand equity from AAP's political symbol. 

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