Some of the headlines in the news media reported the situation of Kashmir after the killing of Burhan Wani as the following:
- ‘Kashmir on edge as Wani buried’ (The Hindustan times)
- ‘Kashmir on boil after face of new militancy, Burhan Wani, is shot dead’ (The Indian Express)
- ‘15 Dead, 200 injured In Clashes After Terrorist Burhan Wani’s Killing In Kashmir’ (NDTV)
- ‘Kashmir tense after Hizbul leader Burhan Wani’s killing, Amarnath yatra suspended’ (The Times of India)
- ‘12 dead, scores injured as Kashmir boils over killing of militant Burhan’ (Deccan Chronical)
This piece I write purely from the marketing and branding perspective without any intention to glorify terrorism or judge military action.
The reported outcry over the killing of Burhan Wani purely from branding angle shows that he was outward concrete manifestation of an idea brand which was very strong brand within his constituency or target market. The must have enjoyed phenomenal resonance and relationship. His elimination has sparked off unrest and violent protests in Kashmir. These protests imply some of kind of breach or violation within his constituency. In the literature on branding one example that comes very close to this is that of withdrawal of Coke in mid eighties. This action of the Company was met with violent protests and outburst of public anger.
Most of us easily relate with brand of goods (Lux or Luxor) or service (Visa or City). But then there are brands which operate as idea or ideological level. For instance, PM Modi became the face of an idea brand at the core of which sat the proposition of ‘development’ extended with strands like ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ and ‘subka saath sab ka vikas’. Donald Trump is contesting his election of the idea of ‘Make America great again’. The human existence is not merely about physical survival. It extends beyond the realm of physics into imagination. Often the quest for meaning is much stronger and powerful than the quest for things. Donald Trump’s campaign lowers an idea deep into multilayered consciousness of Americans to activate desire for a mythical greatness. After all we all are creatures of body and mind.
We have all been through the childhood stage and cried over a lost toy. It is the nature of post loss reaction which shows nature of bond or connection. It is violation of this bond that evokes reaction. When a loss can be perfectly matched with a new replacement, the outcry is lesser. However when a loss does not have perfect replacement it is likely to create violent protest. The physical objects have perfect replacements but when something physical is extends into becoming an idea, the replacement is harder to find. A doll can be replaced because they are mass produced but if a child has made emotional investment in a doll, it becomes unique. Now it extends to become a friend, companion, mother, teacher or sibling.
Brands often forge links connections become attractive by the process of identification. The consumer identifies or links with what the brand stands for and willingly creates a relationship. It is the sense of oneness or unity with the brand idea which plays out in this regard. So Burhan Wani may have enjoyed liking based on his appearance. But it is superficial basis of connection. At the heart of the protests lay the deeper connection with the idea that he symbolized. Like physical products can be eliminated but idea can sustain longer. Like Lifebuoy or Lux’s products keep evolving but the resonating idea remained constant. Similarly new physical symbols would keep emerging in Kashmir’s context if the idea continues to find resonance with its people. In the battle of ideas, it is only the ideas that can win. Its time that a double tiered strategy is adopted.