Six Strategic Marketing Lessons from Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party

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Mehraj Dube, Associate Editor, NDTV India

Mehraj Dube, Associate Editor, NDTV India

Arvind Kejriwal’s David Vs Goliath battle to win in the Indian politics may have well been attributed to an anti-congress wave or the fatigue among the middle class with a persistent corruption problem, however Kejriwal’s branding of himself and his party has also significantly contributed to his success. Counting below some strategic marketing lessons any one can make use of.

1. Differentiate and keep differentiating
In his winner’s interview to Barkha Dutt on NDTV, Kejriwal was almost rude and abrupt when he cut her sentence off midway saying “we are not building a party”. Ms Dutt had asked him if he would go to the national stage in the coming months and build his party across the country. Kejriwal from day one has been advertising his party as a movement despite having registered it as a political party. This is his differentiation strategy that cut through the clutter of political news and delivered the message.

Kejriwal calls himself a Co-ordinator and not President. His brand philosophy has been to inspire his followers to take the ownership and he has stood by that promise day by day. Since the days of Anna’s fast and later when launching a political party, Kejriwal has found every opportunity to declare he and his party are different than others and made the most of it. When he went to a Delhi village to cut down an electricity connection as a disobedience protest against high tarrif, Keriwal convinced his voters that his was a different fight. In fact, that is where he converted one of his youngest winning candidates from Deoli, who quit his MNC job to fight the election with AAP and won beating one of the oldest sitting MLAs in Delhi.

2. Choose your symbols carefully
AamAdmi Party’s election symbol, the broom (Jhadu) has been very successfully utilized in delivering his anti-corruption message. It is tough to find an election symbol these days as the Election Commission only can approve it with a certain check but having won a symbol like jhadu matched AAP’s slogan of cleaning the corrupt system. Later newspaper headlines repeated it saying “ AAP ka Jhadu Chala”… people waving brooms outside his office on counting day was again a powerful and low cost marketing tool in use.

Anna topi was another symbol that Kejriwal refused to let go after his split with Anna, though he changed the print on the cap to “Mein aam admi hoon” ( I am a common man) from earlier Mein Bhi Anna (I am Anna). In a crowd of television guests on news channels AAP speakers were expected to wear the cap to stand out and they successfully implemented it. The party name Aam Aadmi Party too has hit where Kejriwal wanted it to.

Earlier Atal Bihari Vajpayee had used his party’s symbol “lotus” in his speeches as a symbol of awakening and rising( as a lotus blossoms with sunrise). He used to say”AndheraHatega, SoorajUgega, Kamal Khilega” (Darkness will go, Sun will rise and Lotus will bloom).

3. Narrow it down
Narrowing down your product to target the specific customer group has been an old and proven lesson in the marketing world. This much followed marketing strategy is well utilized by Kejriwal with a success in Delhi’s political space. Instead of focusing on one religious group(SP, Congress to Muslims), or one class of professionals ( BJP to traders) or an income group, Kejriwal made every other person feel like an Aam Aadmi with his anti-corruption stand. He didn’t get tired of repeating his message endlessly on how Aam Aadmi Party could become a voice of every “achcha aadmi” (good man). His message was very clear and his target narrowed down to “clean men”enabled him to garner support from every corner of the town.

4. Live your brand
One could easily compare Kejriwal’s dressing sense with that of Shah Rukh Khan. He knows exactly what he wants to wear and how. A retired IRS officer may well wear a jacket or a suit once in a while but Kejriwal will rather wear an old fading sweater (with his shirt’s collars half out half in). His interview locations at home or in office and his car Wagon R are all part of his message that he is an aam admi. He would never leave an opportunity to tell on camera about his diabetes and prove that he is striving to do something greater than what a common man has so far achieved.

5. Sing aloud about your promise…
Every brand promises something and a strong brand should remind you of that promise every time you see it. Arvind Kejriwal’s speeches and quotes carry the weight of his promise. He is leading people to believe he will fight against corruption and he does not stop mentioning it every minute.

6. “Pitching is old, Narrating is new”
Kejriwal has kept his promise noble and ethical. The brands world over are striving to do just that. Tata Steel talks about values greater than steel and Dove talks more about softer skin and not how fairer it can be. Among the leading political parties the crowd of Netas has often confused the voter but Kejriwal’s AAP has rather helped them to make a simple and straight choice. AAP’s story is perhaps the simplest of them all. Kejriwal has written it carefully.

Mehraj Dube is Associate Editor with NDTV India. The views expressed here are his personal.

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