Friday 2 October 2020

Mahatma - the Brand

PC: Bharati Varrier

Come October, the nation would be on a spree of events and discussions reminding the people of Gandhiji’s life and messages, and reflecting on their continued relevance. There is hardly any subject or walk of life that he had not deliberated or discoursed on, be it politics, governance, religion or business. While his concepts on the former three have been tried and tested, his thoughts and opinions on business are more relevant now than ever. “The things that will destroy us are: politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; and worship without sacrifice.” He said this years ago when India was thinking freedom, and only freedom, not business. While Gandhiji himself was famous for his frugal living – a motto that prompted Winston Churchill to refer to him as the ‘half-naked fakir’ – he knew with great clarity how to ‘sell’ (if one might be audacious enough to use the word) his message.

Gandhiji was a brand in himself, a genuine brand. His walking stick, spectacles, spinning wheel and the coarse khadi that he draped around him are all elements of the brand icon that reflect the identity - Mahatma. The recall value of these icons is time-tested. Show a charkha and ask any Indian who it reminds them of, they would spontaneously identify it with the Mahatma. They are all (the walking stick, the spectacles, the charkha, khadi, etc.) symbols or the visual characteristics of the brand represented by him. Any mention of the Dandi March brings to the mind the Mahatma walking barefoot to Dandi for the famous Salt Satyagraha. The march in itself is a story of patriotism, non-violence, protest against injustice and, in the end, victory – a story that struck a chord with the masses, and still continues to. Today the business world is slowly waking up to the importance of storytelling in building brands.

Any Indian, if not the entire world, knows what the Mahatma stood for – truth, simplicity, and non-violence, among others – the values that decided his actions. Businesses today have realized the importance of underscoring their core values, which are constantly represented by their actions, to demonstrate the genuineness of their brands. More than ever, they know the importance of brand promise and the need to keep it, for today customers cannot be taken for a ride. They have more power and better access to right information through the social media and other platforms.

More recently, brand purpose, it’s been said, unlocks customer loyalty. A successful brand offers products or services that make their customers’ life better. It changes the world for the better. What Gandhiji offered was justice, equality, freedom and self-respect. His objective was India’s freedom, but he had a purpose that was far beyond achieving freedom. His higher purpose was to create an India where his fellow Indians would live with equal status, rights and opportunities. His higher purpose was to enable inclusive growth of his country. He worked relentlessly for the uplift of the downtrodden. He stood for India. And India stood for him.

[As published at] 

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