Thursday, August 14, 2014

Management Lessons from Independence Movement – Chapter 1: Marketing Skills of Mahatma Gandhi

M. K. Gandhi (1869 - 1948) never won a Nobel Prize. He never wrote a best seller. He never won a war. He never was a President. He never was a movie star. He never made it big in industry. He never even made money. Still, virtually every poll across the globe, names him as the Man of the century.
Marketing Skills of Mahatma Gandhi
So what is it that makes the frail man from Porbander, such a towering Titan? Is it his ideas? Probably not. Ahimsa and Satyagrah are age-old concepts. There have been many apostles of peace before. But none enjoyed as much adulation as this humble person. What makes this man the ultimate icon?

It may sound preposterous, but can we credit this phenomenon to his marketing skills?
  1. Logo: He was a great creator of ‘Logos’. He made ‘Charkha’ (spinning wheel) a potent symbol of freedom fight and he devoted some part of every day to work on ‘Charkha’ to give it the required publicity. Charkha became so powerful a logo that it ended up on the National Flag till it was replaced by Ashoka Pillar.
  2. Brand Identity and Brand Ambassador: ‘Khaadi’ became the brand identity. Gandhi himself became the Brand Ambassador for Khaadi. It was not a mere rejection of Western attire– it was a response to the economic ills that beset the country. 
  3. Brand Extension: His brand recall was so strong that his name got associated with the humble khaadi cap, which he never wore! What could be a better example of brand extension?
  4. Packaging : When Gandhi came back from South Africa he promptly gave up his westernized dress and moved to dhoti, kurta, turban; and he had a ‘packaging’ which was different than other leaders of freedom fighters like Motilal Nehru, Mohammad Ali Jinnah etc. When he picked up the ‘walking stick’ he did not need one, but again it could have been a part of ‘packaging’.
  5. Slogan: While some of the best independence slogans/ punch lines written almost a century back still ignite passion among Indians e.g. Vande Mataram, Inquilab Zindabad, Tum Mujhe Khoon Do, Main Tumhe Aazaadi Doonga etc. Gandhi created a unique alternative in ‘Raghupati Raghav Rajaram’ and like Charkha, started spending time on it every day to give it enough publicity. We all are aware which is more relevant even today.
  6. Event Management:  Gandhi’s genius was evident in his staging of events and through them – to dramatize situations. He was one of the greatest event marketing man the world has ever seen. The greatest event staged by him was his Salt March to Dandi.
In sum total Gandhi could have been 'Head of Marketing' of any organization. He had full understanding of all the nuances of marketing and he implemented them to the "T". Only difference here was that he applied that knowledge for fighting for independence and social movements like struggle against untouchability.

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