While I watched Rahul Gandhi's first Press Conference after becoming the Congress President, I could not help but revisit Philip Kotler and his marketing doctrine. It would not take a rocket scientist to figure out Rahul's problem. If I can identify and have the course correction, why can't his coterie?
Maybe they are too blinded by the 'Dynastic SOP' or knowing politics maybe they want Rahul to completely ruin the party before staging a coup. Irrespective of ulterior motives, let us discuss the issue at hand. Well, I wish to be kind but can't help and state the main problem to be the Product, Rahul himself.
Let us accept; he is not cut for 24x7 politics that grueling and unforgiving. To make matters worse, everything is live, accentuated on social media and cutthroat competition from the marketing savvy Modi.
With a faulty product, no amount of course correction would alter the debacle. Marketing history is inundated with case studies of bad products or products which were never needed. But I am sure there would be a way out. What should he do to make a dent or rather not do to further damage his market?
1. Re-position and stick to it: You cant wear a skull cap in UP and then start talking of Shiva and Rudraksh in Gujarat. It creates a flutter amongst the TA, assuming you have any. Even if you don't, the crowd is not amused to see you change roles to suit the day. Remember, every product has a market, provided it can stay in the market for long enough, either waiting for the market to change, mature or for the competition to fade. Rahul has the backing and the marketing heft. NO wonder, despite his 28 loses, he has been promoted. He should just choose one positioning and stick with it. If I were to offer him free advise: Stick to the Hindu facade, talk of people, not minorities, speak in broader terms; country, economy, growth, inclusive politics and appear to be a learner, who wants to do something good, rather the 'know it all.'
2. Market Segmentation: It is not possible to fight every election and win them all. UP, Gujarat, Bengal, Karnataka, all so different from each other. Any product that fails in one market is supposed to fail in other too. In today's age, reviews, words travel fast. Similarly, one win ensures ease of winning other markets too. Rahul, we are a 'me too' market and we love to follow. Win one state and see how your fortune would change. So identify your on-ground strength and strategize. After winning Punjab, you should have entered Gujarat with limited stakes. There is a huge bonus if you can topple Modi in Gujarat but looking at the odds, well... And if you lose Gujarat, the Punjab victory would be of no use.
3. Packaging: This needs a lot of work. The ill-fitting Kurta-Pajama makes you look like a flunkie, rather than a leader. Remember, we are in the times of Social media, 24x7 electronic media. Revamp your wardrobe. Maybe you should start wearing specs. For sure, it will lend you an air of authority, sanity, and wisdom. Decide, if you want to be clean shaved or with a beard. Chandrashekar sported a rustic look as it went with his brand image and Modi, a cultivated look, as it reflects his ambition and growth saga. Choose a look that you are comfortable with. I would have you clean; representing clean governance, clean politics. Look at your team member, Randeep Surjewala. Always spic and span or for that matter, Shashi Tharoor.
4. Brand Identity Manual: Yes, you need one. There is so much inconsistency in your appearance, tone, tenor and messaging. Get it fixed. Consistency is the key. Look for 'hooks' or phrases that you can own. Cultivate a speech style. And please, shrill is not a style neither is rolling up of sleeves. It makes you appear combative, aggressive and rude. A brand is always well cultivated and pleasing. Look at Shashi Tharoor again.
Guess you have enough to start with.
Loads of luck.
And keep me posted.