The I.D.E.A of I.N.D.I.A!

Ever since the opposition grand alliance named itself I.N.D.I.A in its 2nd meeting at Bengaluru, I.N.D.I.A is in the news. Obviously, it has attracted much commentary, as it sort of ended up pitting INDIA against the Modi-led ruling alliance. Depending upon who is doing the commentary, the opinion is either laudatory or damning. But if you look at the idea objectively and put it through a branding test, how does it fair?

First thing first. Whoever came up with this idea, an acronym called I.N.D.I.A for an opposition alliance that is a clutch of many parties taking on a formidable ruling party and its alliance is a master stroke. What it has already done is, to associate the opposition alliance with India and thereby imply that the ruling alliance is Anti – India.

Expectedly, it has drawn a strong reaction from the ruling party. It is to be expected that Narendra Modi and his party members from here on will look at every opportunity to take potshots at the opposition alliance who have attempted to usurp “India” from them. Therefore, the recent jibe by Modi that just adding the name India will not mean anything and he went on to list entities with India name attached that Indians will not be proud of like the East India Company, SFI etc…

Dilip Cherian, a reputed Communication consultant and one who has also been involved in the past with campaigns for political parties says that basically there are 4 Is as far as branding is concerned. They are Impact, Intent, Integrity and Interplay. And he assigns 20% each for Impact and Interplay and 30% for Intent and Integrity. While in reality the weightage people would assign may be different, Cherian’s theory makes sense for putting any brand through a quick smell test.

If you put the brand I.N.D.I.A through this test, it may be a mixed bag at this point in time. It is high on Impact because it plays on the country and nationalism sentiment and therefore comes with an inherent advantage. Now coming to interplay or interoperability, the acronym I.N.D.I.A lends itself to many possibilities. The group I am sure will be referred to as Team I.N.D.I.A shortly. Similarly, I.N.D.I.A parties, I.N.D.I.A front, I.N.D.I.A meet, I.N.D.I.A leader etc will all soon enter the lexicon of reporting. And soon enough, I have no doubt that the dots will vanish and it will be just INDIA. There will be no way that the ruling party can build any narrative against “INDIA”, which is a huge dampener for BJP.

Having said that, it is on the other two counts that there will be more scrutiny as far as the electorate is concerned and that is where the I.N.D.I.A front starts with a disadvantage. Talking of Intent, it is clear that the parties in the front have just come together to defeat the Modi-led BJP.  They all recognise that considering the present situation and looking at what happened in the past when the opposition was fragmented, the only way they could give a fight is if they come together. Is this a good enough reason for the voters to look up to this front and cast their votes in favour of I.N.D.I.A is a One hundred and thirty crore question.

On the question of Integrity, there is a larger question. While all these parties have managed to come under the common I.N.D.I.A umbrella, there are inherent conflicts among themselves in terms of ideology, regional aspirations and the need to protect their own fiefdoms. Therefore, the longevity of the coalition becomes suspect beyond the next Lok Sabha elections. And just on the coinage the generic nature of the name comes up with its own complications in this day and age of “Search” engines!

The more fundamental question to me however is “Does the name matter at all”? When we were marketing students way back in the 80s, every author worth her salt would come up with their own ideas as to how a brand name should be coined. Among other things like being simple, catchy, impactful, short, likeable, extendable, memorable and so on, one criterion mentioned always was association with the product or relatability to the product/category. Ceasefire – a brand name for a fire extinguisher was one such brand name that ticked off all these boxes.  It did well and was a market leader in that category. Unfortunately, the brand doesn’t exist anymore. Similarly, Nano for an ultra-small car goes well from a branding perspective yet, it failed to take off due to other reasons.

On the other hand, we have seen that there are brand names that have defied all established branding conventions and yet became successful. Apple comes to mind straight away. What has a fruit name got anything to do with a computer? Yet, Apple today is one of the most successful brands in the world that has also spawned many me-toos like Blackberry, Orange and so on. There are other examples like McDonald’s, Toyota and Caterpillar too which have been extremely successful brands in their categories without any relatability to the category. In the end, what matters is how a brand connects with the consumer, and how it performs and meets or exceeds the consumer’s expectations.

Now, coming to the political arena that too in India, did BJP and its alliance win the elections in 2014 because of the name NDA which stood for National Democratic Alliance? It won because of the Modi factor or the Modi brand which had and continues to have a certain positive connect with the voters in India. Therefore, for the I.N.D.I.A formation, the acid test begins from now on in terms of building a strong credibility. Calling themselves I.N.D.I.A is only like winning the first game in the first set of an epic 5-set Tennis match.

In recent memory, AAP (Aam Admi Party) is a case study as far as political branding is concerned in India. In my opinion, any offering (product/service/party/personality/leader) is about an idea and I.D.E. A©C where I stands for Identity, D for Desire, E for Engage and finally A for Act. Let me explain. I in terms of “Identity” or a name, it could be anything. But if it is simple, catchy and interoperable it is good. The product should create a “Desire” through its communication and attributes to attract people towards it and lead to constant “Engagement”. Then finally, when the time comes, it should lead to a positive “Action” which is to buy the product. Now to bring this into the context of politics, a party with a name should have an identity of what it stands for, create a desire among people to support it through its thoughts, actions, governance and its promises, create enough opportunities for its supporters to engage with it (programs, videos, the works) and finally Act in its favour by casting the vote during elections. You can see how AAP fits this bill nicely with respect to Delhi so far. Even “Modi Sarkar” is an offering that fits the I.D.E.A model very well.

Coming back to the idea of I.N.D.I.A of the opposition, it is a good start for creating that Identity (I). How the other attributes – D, E and A play out remain to be seen and will be interesting to watch. Name alone is not enough.

Postscript: In 1996, when Coca-Cola was the Official sponsor of the ICC Cricket ODI World Cup, its arch-rival Pepsi ran a “Nothing Official about it” campaign and ambushed the “Official Sponsor” campaign of Coke. I am sure the minders in the BJP camp must be working overtime to come up with something like that to ambush the “I.N.D.I.A” campaign. Here is an idea. “There is no INDIA without NDA”!

Illustration Courtesy: Ajit Ninan, Times of India


0 thoughts on “The I.D.E.A of I.N.D.I.A!”

  1. Kannan Rajagopalan

    I.N.D.I.A has two Is. I stands for EGO and all the parties of I.N.D.I.A are full.of Ego. The Navagrahas are together but never see eye to eye. The I.N.D.I.A parties are just like navagrahas not seeing eye to eye and are full of EGO. Today if they declare the PM candidate tomorrow there won’t be I.N.D.I.A. NDA on the other hand is United India without any EGO.


    Really enjoyed reading with a brand perspective and its impact. Not read anything that took this line of thinking.

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