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Monday, November 20
India's Fastest Growing Brand
My college friend Ram who runs a boutique travel agency - soulitudes, often helps me step out of my routine, regimented life/ comfort zone. Ram, thanks for it! I have always come back from those experiences richer, humbler with the mind having expanded just that little bit extra!
So, yesterday morning when he called me to attend an 'Art of Living'(AOL) gathering with the added bait of 'Shanker Mahadevan', I fell for it.
It was worth the effort. I always had this feeling of AOL being a fast growing new-age spiritual brand. But first-hand experience is a different ball game.
The event was held at BKC grounds. It had about 30-40K believers, and few odd interested by-standers like me! The event itself resembled a spiritual loan mela:-) With the usual bells and whistles and pestering spiritual salesmen/women!
While I was there, just jotted some pointers on AOL. It's based on a very limited understanding of the organisation. So, don't pin me down if my analysis is wide off the mark:-)
1. AOL is a new age brand. An example of Capitalism with a Conscience
/Cause Marketing . Evangelism is an integral part of their marketing communication...
AOL practices 'Believer gets believer' instead of Member-Get-Member':-). The brand bond is 'the art of living'. A brand which is dedicated to serving society by strengthening the individual.
So while most marketers choose to stay away/ pay lip-service to the larger issues concerning society/India, AOL is busy raising money for the dying farmers in Vidarbha!
2. Global Indian Brand . It's more Indian and more global than Mr. Mittal's steel empire! AOL is one of the largest volunteer based NGOs active in over 140 countries.
It is claimed that AOL is the fastest growing organisation after the UN! There are millions of believers, thousands of active, passionate ones(called teachers in their lingo).
AOL is one of the most multi-faceted organizations in the world and works in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.
3. Crossover Brand.. Try slotting AOL into the narrow silo of a product category and it would be impossible. True, they have a flag-ship product/ killer-app called Sudarshan Kriya, sundry other products and services. But AOL is a much larger crossover concept. A remix of 'social/cause marketing' and 'network marketing'. A remix of culture and cause!
4. Amway Model . To my knowledge, AOL is the best Indian adaptation of the in-(famous) Amway network marketing model. At the top of the pyramid is of course Sri Sri! Then there are layers of 'teachers'selling spirituality instead of soaps, cause instead of cosmetics!
5. AOL has the DNA of a 'New Age Brand'. It is collaborative instead of competitive, participative instead of producer-consumer archetype, it uses more of WOM than mass media and the brand is built through communities of belief rather than customer acquisition.
AOL - the organisation has an Al-Qaeda like cell structure rather than a rigid hierarchy. Event marketing is not a BTL activity, its almost the entire marketing!
(A stray comment - Politics is not a bad word for the AOL brand. In fact, AOL actively seeks and gets political patronage. Vilas Rao Deshmukh was present at the ceremony last night!)
6. Brand Communication . And how does the fastest growing Indian brand communicate with its audience! Not the conventional way!
It hasn't needed a 30 sec commercial till date! Instead it has used the CEO as 'Spiritual Guru'. Forget celebrity Endorsement- 'AOL' uses half of Bollywood as endorsers( that too for free) ...
It is quite in-tune with the times when it comes to 'co-branded activities' and collaborative Marketing( sample the Tata Indicom promo leaflet in the pix).
It's more into youth marketing and on a wider plane than many youth brands in the country. Sample this. AOL is organising India's largest youth marketing festival - with over 100,000 students on 24th Dec in Mumbai. Check the details at http://yuvaratri-night.blogspot.com!
After last evening's brief encounter/ interface with AOL, I feel there is much for us agency people and marketers to learn from this alternate brand. It is using all the strategies and tactics of marketing 2.0. In fact AOL is ahead in thinking than most of us, while we may blissfully slot it as a subaltern marketer/ organisation!
Looking forward to comments, suggestions, barbs et al!