Not PK, Congress needs an AK!

Notwithstanding the poor performance in the recently concluded state elections, Congress managed to hog the headlines in India for the past 2 weeks. And the reason for that was the imminent roping in by Congress of Prashant Kishor (PK), who has now clearly made a mark as a master election strategist in India.  After his very successful stint with TMC for the Bengal state elections where he had openly challenged the BJP on its final tally and won that round, PK had announced that he is moving on from being an election strategist for a party. Instead he said he will be associated in politics in a different avatar.

From then on, we have been hearing about his rounds of discussions with the Congress leadership to work with them for future which ultimately culminated last week with an announcement of a breakdown of discussions between Congress and PK. Except for BJP which was PK’s 1st assignment in working with a party in a poll campaign, the other projects that were successful were when PK and his organisation were signed up by a regional party. These regional parties had supreme leaders and PK had access straight to the top. PK’s package was absorbed and implemented by and large without dissent and he could show results. Even during the 1st assignment, PK was working for and with Modi and not for BJP per se.

Secondly, PK’s wins have been where he has been riding winning horses. I still would say his value addition must have helped in bringing a method to the madness of campaign management, data analytics in candidate selection and culling, innovation in campaign tools and last not but the least, handling a monster called the Social Media with deft. Yet, when it was not a winning horse on the race as we saw recently in Goa (TMC) or in UP in 2017 (Congress), PK’s magic didn’t work.

For PK therefore, working with the Congress comes with a substantial risk.  Congress is an elephant of an organisation and in its weakest form presently.  Yet his keenness to work with Congress and help them win by even joining the Congress comes as a huge surprise and circumspection. Now, with the announcement of PK not accepting the invitation of the Congress to join its Empowered Action Group, it seems it is back to square one for the Congress.  So, how does Congress pick up the threads from here and try to win?

There have been suggestions, ideas and models galore from political commentators in the past few weeks for the Congress that include fixing the leadership issue, building the organisation at the grass roots and of course coming up with a credible narrative against the ruling BJP.  In fact some of these have been detailed in the leaked power point deck of PK which he made to the Congress last year. So, I will skip repeating the same points here.

In my opinion, what Congress needs is not a PK but an AK i.e. an Arvind Kejriwal. And I will tell you why.  Among many, I would like to pick up 2 aspects:

  1. To become leader of the ruling party, you should first become and excel as a leader of the Opposition. Today, though Congress is the single largest opposition party, it has singularly failed in being an effective opposition party. How did AK become what he is today – A sitting two time CM and the leader of the party which is emerging as a credible challenger for the BJP? The answer is simple. It all started with AK launching the Anti-Corruption movement in India which shook the nation thereby taking on the ruling party – Congress in 2011. If you recall, the key aspects of that movement were
  • Picking up a subject (Corruption) that touched all citizens irrespective of caste, creed, religion, class, geography and demographics.
  • Having a credible face for the campaign (Anna Hazare).
  • Garnering support from mainstream media that produced a multiplier effect and clever use of social media.

The campaign propelled AK as an effective activist which he used well to launch a party and win Delhi.

In the past 8 years, can you recall an Opposition campaign spearheaded by the Congress or any of its top leaders on a country wide basis?  Whether at the Centre or at the states where Congress is the principal opposition party, the only place it chooses to take on the ruling party is Twitter. Tweets do not win elections by themselves.  If Rahul Gandhi wants to challenge Narendra Modi for the post of Prime Minister, first he should prove himself as an effective and credible opposition leader.

  1. Once AK became the CM of Delhi, he has made a mark by having his own “Arvind Kejriwal model of governance” with its impetus attached to Education, Health care and cheaper utility bills for the Aam Admi. This model has got a thumbs up from the people as seen by his re-election in Delhi with a massive one sided mandate in 2020. Now this model has also got acceptance in another state namely Punjab where AAP recently swept the Congress out of the state.

Herein lies the next ironical tale of the Congress. In some many years of governing so many states, Congress still doesn’t have a model state to boast of as the “Congress model of governance”! What is stopping Congress from adopting all its professed good ideas in states where it rules and turn into a model? Unfortunately, Congress has been struggling to hold to states where they get an opportunity to rule (Punjab, Karnataka, Andhra, Kerala for example)

A consultant like PK can come and only show the mirror to the Congress. But the weight lifting at the political arena has to be done by the Congress leadership, for which you need be an AK. At the Centre, be a credible opposition leader. And in the states ruled by Congress, show case a model of governance, for starters.

Image courtesy: Outlook India

“Ideas Mela” – What an Idea Sirji !!! Part – 4

 “All the forces in the world are not as powerful as an Idea whose time has come” – thus said the famous French writer Victor Hugo on the power of Ideas. I think today the world – whether it is managing an enterprise or Governing a nation thrives on 2 I’s – Ideas and Implementation. In marketing and communication, “What’s the Big Idea???” is the question often asked but with few answers. Great Ideas are few and far between. Hence the need to celebrate the power of great Ideas and the people behind the same.

In these posts “Ideas Mela”-What an Idea, Sirji!!! series, I share interesting marketing Ideas which I come across which have used unusual and innovative media which made me say “Wow”. These posts are not about great marketing campaigns (there are so many) but “Big Ideas” hidden in “Small places”, novel ad placements, innovative media adoption,…  If you have not, do read my earlier posts Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 and here’s some great stand out Ideas from the recent past:

  • For a great Idea, concept is the Key. Yes, in the Tata Zest car Campaign, that literally was the case. Readers received The Times of India (TOI) paper dated 26th Aug, with a “Car Key” and an invitation to test drive the car. A smart innovation to a normal full page ad which would have been just an also ran.

TOI,Zest

  • It’s now well documented that BJP ran a Hi voltage 3600 campaign in the last Lok Sabha elections. “Abki Baar Modi Sarkar” resonated all over. But the stand out phenomenon was the way they used social media to reach out which I personally got to experience. On the day the BJP Manifesto was released, when I tweeted using #BJPManifesto, lo I got a direct message from Narendra Modi’s twitter handle, thanking me for the message with a link to the full BJP Manifesto. Anybody who tweeted with that hashtag got this response. Normally I don’t read manifestos of parties and so I believe do most of us. But on receiving this, I did do a quick read of the party’s promises.
  • Talking of promises, a marketer’s job is always to communicate the brand’s promise effectively to the customers. And what better way to do that than providing an experience. So when Emami launched their men’s deodorant – HE, they chose the International Men’s day to spread the brand promise, well literally. The TOI newspaper of 19th Nov. smelt nice of the HE Deodorant, making the product stand out or rather smell out. (Though this is not the 1st time a brand used the smelling newspaper route – HUL used It for their coffee as well before)

Emami HE

  • HUL has been a torchbearer in India for marketing innovations. So was not surprised when they chose to tag along with the Prime Minister’s social awareness campaign – Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to promote their products. “Toilerforbabli” was an interesting social media campaign supported by Domex (a sanitation related product) where they goaded people to blog about sanitation, cleanliness,.. and invited people to join their effort to make India’s villages “open defecation” free. Read more on this campaign here. The brand and cause association makes it a Big Idea.
  • At times, you find great Ideas parked in unforeseen places. In the parking lot of a mall for example. At the parking lot of Mumbai’s Inorbit mall, the automatic entry gate was seen wrapped with branding of a store (Me n Moms) that was in the mall. As cars stop in front of the gate for a few minutes to collect the parking ticket, this branding cannot be missed. A brilliant Idea which I am sure that doesn’t cost a parking lot.

Hypercity,parkinglot,102014,1 (1)

  • If you have been through the passport issue routine in India recently, you would have experienced the waiting ordeal. As I was killing time, watching whatever was dished out on the TV screens there, I was impressed to see a pop out spot for Godrej Safes running continuously which said something like– “Keep your passports safe in Godrej Safes!!!” Again the placement of the spot takes the cream for a fantastic Idea.
  • I have said this in my earlier “Idea” posts. I have always found interesting Ideas at PVR Cinemas in Mumbai. A few days before the film PK was released, the guys at the cafeteria were wearing this PK T Shirt as part of its promos!!! Thankfully they did wear something unlike the alien in the movie!!! The whole marketing campaign for the film was excellent and this bit was quite interesting. Do you remember seeing this???

PK promo,122014

  • And among interesting Ideas this one which I just saw couple of days ago takes the cake. There are many ways to caution people not to drink and drive. And a toll naka is one of the apt places to remind this I guess. And it is more apt is this reminder is served by Lord Yamraj (God of death) himself. So here it is a seemingly innocuous banner at the Mumbai Airoli Toll Naka which cautions people not to drink and drive with a visual of Lord Yamraj on the side view mirror which prominently says “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear”!!! I don’t know who came up with this Idea but hats off and What a brilliant Idea, Sirji!!!

Airoli Toll

 In the meanwhile, Idea Cellular the brand behind the “What an Idea, Sirji???” continues to impress with its latest campaign – called “IIN” – Idea Internet Network!!! What an Idea!!! Till the Idea for the next blog post, cheers!!!