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Branding & the Nobel prize

Bobby Pawar 

Unless you had head in a cloud of opium smoke the last couple of days, you must know that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Now you may be pro the decision to bestow the honour that Mahatma Gandhi was nominated five times for but never won, to a guy who is fighting two wars (okay so he inherited those, but still I don’t see anyone taking their fingers of the trigger, do you?). You may be anti the decision. You may be, like, wthhh (what the hell happened here)? Or perhaps you just don’t give a monkey’s derriere about the whole darned tootin affair.

What’s a popular take on the hoopla? That Obama didn’t win the peace bonanza just because he’s Obama. He got it because he’s not Bush.

You could argue that everybody was so relieved that the President whose diplomacy was as evident as the weapons of mass destruction in ‘I-rack’ and under whose stewardship the economy went ‘nuculeer’ on all of us was gone they just hugged the guy who came next and anointed him the savior. I would argue otherwise.

When the Nobel committee was deciding who was worthy of the Peace Prize, Obama was eleven days into his presidency. His brand shone over the world like a beacon of hope. Many of us were swayed by the talismanic words ‘Yes, we can’.

Obama, from the time he made his run for the highest office in America, built his brand on one value ‘Optimism’. He held out hope that things could be different. And that the people who walk the old corridors of power in Washington DC could be more answerable to the folks who live on Main Street. Obama stayed true to his brand.

The thing is he didn’t just talk the talk. He lived it. And he inspired others as well. His campaign had an army of unpaid volunteers numbering hundreds of thousands. They evangelized his brand in their neighborhoods. They converted skeptics into believers and some hardcore nay-sayers into fence sitters. They did it because they felt they owned the brand. His optimism became their optimism.

Was it just serendipity? Was Obama just at the right place at the right time? Was he the ultimate anti-Bush when the Bush brand had flamed out? All that and a helluva lot more.

His campaign did not rewrite the book as much as write a totally new one. It was a masterful combination of new media, door-to-door and community grass roots campaigning with clever tactical use of traditional TV advertising, which culminated not in one big moving commercial but a 30 minute address to the nation, something that only the elected President usually does.

Everything they did rang resoundingly their message of hope, ‘Yes, we can’. By the time the voting was done it had not only caught the imagination of Americans but people across the world. Hope had a new champion and for the first time it felt like he was one of us.

This is what the Nobel Peace Prize committee voted for. Not the actuality, but the glittering promise and the Hope that it held. The brand had won, once again.

We have seen that a human being can go from being an individual to a Megabrand on the strength on the Values he shared with his consumers. Can our brands do the same? Call me and I’ll tell you.

(The author is the Chief Creative Officer of the Mudra Group)

First Published: Mon, October 12 2009. 00:56 IST