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Points of View: Will brands experience the 'AAP Effect'?

By Rashmi Menon and Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | January 07, 2014
Brands respond to the social environment. And the Aam Aadmi Party aka AAP has changed that significantly by giving the Indian society a new environment of honesty, transparency and answerability. Will this urge brands to own a higher purpose? afaqs! finds out.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has come as a breath of fresh air for many Indians. As far as the impact of this on brand communication goes, the first domino has fallen. Brand communication tends to reflect the prevailing social sentiment and it's a matter of time before we see a visible impact of the AAP phenomenon. After all, honesty, transparency, accountability and a sense of newness, are the principles AAP stands for and they also happen to be the very virtues consumers seek in brands.

Will brands cash in on the current social sentiment of hope and awakening? It's already happening: Online shopping portal Tradus.com has launched an opportunistic ad to communicate the slashed rates of broomsticks, AAP's symbol. Can brands take a lesson from AAP? Sure, the list is lengthy: effective use of social media, crowd sourcing, single-mindedness, brand promise, etc. Moreover, it may give challenger brands or the Davids across categories some much needed encouragement to take on their respective Goliaths.

But above all, it might just drive -- perhaps even compel, for lack of an obvious fit with the product proposition -- brands to stand for a noble purpose. To go beyond fancy promises and make a real difference, like AAP has ventured to do. In the event of which, we will see perhaps more ads of the Jaago Re (Tata Tea) and Open Happiness (Coca-Cola) variety. While some experts believe advertisers will stop taking the consumer for granted and stop talking down to him/her, others feel brand stories will become more "middle class".

As industry veteran Arvind Sharma puts it, "AAP's success is proof that brands with a human purpose are more powerful. I do see more and more brands embracing this philosophy over time." Do marketers agree? Excerpts.

Pravin Kulkarnii

R S Sodhi

Bedraj Tripathy

Samar Singh Shekhawat

Pravin Kulkarnii, general manager, marketing, Parle Products

Yes, I think this is an evolution stage for brands. So far, brands have been answering the question 'What is the role of the brand in the life of the consumer?', because consumers themselves think 'What is the role of the brand in my life?'. But tomorrow we will see brands switch to 'What is the role of the brand in society?'. That is bound to happen. In fact, that is how brands in other countries (like Germany) have started operating. There brands' role in society has become important.

I see that happening in India as well over a period of time. Currently brands operate at a very 'individual consumer' level but in the future it will become very important for brands to be socially responsible and relevant to society at large. And if not at the brand level, then it will happen at the company level at least.

R S Sodhi, managing director, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation

Amul is owned and consumed by the 'aam aadmi' or common man of Gujarat. In the last 60 years of the brand's existence, it has served the masses. Having said that, I don't think political changes can impact brands perception, brand consumption or consumer behaviour. We cannot mix the two.

Bedraj Tripathy, senior general manager, marketing, Godrej Interior

A lot of brands will try to have a message of higher purpose in their communication strategy. But, I doubt it will affect masses beyond a point. Instead of weaving their communication around social causes, brands will prefer sticking to where they stand and truthfully conveying their proposition.

I am not sure whether the elected members of Aam Aadmi Party are good or bad guys. But, unlike the established political parties, AAP levels accusations on the back of data. Lot of brands, good ones included, run advertisements with statements that have no data backing them. They feel, 'Let's see if people will accept it'. Hopefully, this may change. Brands that were 'just talking' will now 'walk the talk'. This is a good sign.

Samar Singh Shekhawat, senior vice president, marketing, United Breweries

Every responsible and iconic brand, throughout history, has endeavoured to benefit society, to give back to society and its stakeholders beyond net profits, in the long term. Building customer loyalty and thereby creating brand evangelists is every brand's dream. So, most of the good, iconic brands are doing this through various ways including CSR.

Indians are very emotional. Hence, everything we do or speak is mostly over-the-top and full of hyperbole. We are all about escapism and our advertising has tapped into that. As a result, most advertisements have fair amount of 'over promise'.

I am not sure whether the Aam Aadmi Party will necessarily accentuate the intent of brands to take on a higher purpose in their communication messages. However, what's happening is that brands are viewing AAP as a corporate entity that has entered politics. By looking at AAP's success, brands can learn to be honest, realistic and down-to-earth in the brand's product service, delivery and communication.

Sanjay Saraswat, vice-president, marketing, Bajaj Auto

This proves, once again, what we have been following -- the key to success for any brand is to be relevant and differentiated in the field or category that it operates in. Of course, it needs to prove its credibility and communicate its differentiation well to the target audience. Brands have to do good by delivering well on the promises they make.

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