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AAP in the air

India’s big election day is today. With another one to follow in a few weeks.

This time it has been more interesting than usual due to the arrival of a political party called AAP. They have fired the imagination of the common man and, I think, triggered a desire for change among a large section of the population. However, there’ve been missteps and opinions are divided. Some of my dear friends have signed up to be AAP members as well.

As a marketer, and sitting miles away from the action, I have been viewing the developments in India from a brand/communications angle than a political one and here is where I landed.

1. Imagine you see an ad for a detergent X that says quite clearly ‘ washes whitest. white as new’. You see it and think to yourself ‘yes I need that. My clothes have had this yellowish/beige feel about them and i really need to get them clean’. But then you notice that your neighbour, a rugby player, who gets his clothes dirtier than anyone you know doesn’t use X. In fact he uses Y. And that makes you pause and rethink.

Similarly in these elections AAP is the party of the clean, common man. And generally they have a bunch of good candidates. But the best candidate in these elections is clearly not with them. Nandan is head and shoulders above the 540 candidates standing for elections this year. He is the perfect AAP candidate. But he is not. Why? Pause and rethink.


2. A couple of days later you see X saying that it washes colours well. It gives clothes a pleasant aroma. You can use it to clean windows, crockery and in fact also makes for good manure and an insecticide. Now that is confusing. All you wanted was something that cleaned your clothes white. Now if something is so multipurpose can it really be good at the whiteness claim that attracted it to you in the first place?

Similarly, AAP fired everyone’s imagination with it’s anti corruption plank. Everyone is affected by it But as time has gone by it has slowly vacated that space and is talking things not connected with corruption. So what exactly does it stand for. What is it’s core idea?


3. On one of your travels in the hotel there was a sachet in the room for emergency washes. You think it is a good idea to try out the brand before committing to buy a big packet. So you decide to try it on your socks. And then you find that the powder lacks consistency, is clumpy, it didn’t lather too well and didn’t wash well either. You are disappointed. A week later you see a speech by the CEO saying that they had a bad production patch and that they have now tightened their QC processes to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

AAP was given Delhi to run. And by their own admission now they made such a mess of it that many people wonder whether they can ever govern? if they couldn’t manage a city can they manage a country?

4. A friends tells you that X is a very good detergent but you need to ensure that you remove all your buttons before you put it in the wash else it will also clean your buttons and maybe even corrode them. That seems like an awful lot of work for a wash.

AAP has picked fights with everybody. Media should be in jail. Big businesses are bad. We don’t want foreign money. The cops are useless. And so on.


So that’s your dilemma:

Your kid’s school principal has said that if you don’t sort your kid’s school shirt and get it sparkling white then he will be suspended. You kind of like X and you think ‘washing white. white as new’ is exactly what you need. But you are now in two minds. Should you try something new with its weaknesses or stay with a bigger brand that you know have their weaknesses but won’t let you down when you need it the most.

What would I have advised AAP?

1. Take complete ownership of the corruption platform. It is the one thing that bothers everyone be it Ambani, or Abdul the jagdari, or Blackrock the investment management fund. If they said they were fighting just that they’d be in a great place. After all it worked for them in Delhi.

2  Actively identify the corrupt politicians and focus the fights in those seats. Thus instead of fighting in 400 seats, they’d be fighting perhaps in 200. Would’ve made for a more focused and productive battle.

3. Acknowledge that the fight is about changing status quo. So be seen as encouraging and supporting those who were fighting this battle, no matter which party. I would’ve liked to have seen a supportive message from AAP to Nandan, for example. Goes a long way to be seen as this not being a power grab, but a ‘change’ party.

4. There is good business and bad business. There is good media and bad media. Not all money is evil. If you can’t make the distinction then keep quiet. Else talk only about rooting out corruption from business, media, public life and so on.

5. Apologise for the Delhi fiasco. Upfront. That has caused hug damage to the brand. There is a difference between CEO and a union leader. Delhi made them look like the latter. India needs the former.

I am not political scientist nor a philosopher. I am a common man. I want experiments like AAP (not just the party but the idea) to succeed. I think its time has come.

Now before many people jump into this with debate with their political glasses on. I just want to state that this was meant to be more a marketing essay than a political one.

It is as much about the product as it is about marketing. They know the former. I know the latter. A teenie weenie bit.



  1. Jatin Acharya
    April 17, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Well Said Mr. Vasudevan. Succinct and true. I really enjoy your blogs and find them very easy to read and understand. Kudos on a job well done. Thank You

  2. April 19, 2014 at 1:23 am

    Good post ! While on this please read my satirical take on Indian Elections – http://wp.me/p1dZc2-km
    Pls read and feedback most welcome. Thanks

      April 19, 2014 at 1:28 am

      Nice. Am a fan!

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by!


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