It is not uncommon in marketing to come across cases in marketing that resemble with Delhi’s politics. Most markets are dominated by two or three dominant players who together enjoy shares close to three quarter of total market. In their book ‘The Rule of Three’, Sheth and Sisodia explain the dominance of this phenomenon across industries. Consider PC operating system- Microsoft, iOS, Linux; browser- Google, Microsoft, Mozilla; beer-Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Coors/Stroh) and batteries-Duracell, Energizer, Rayovac. The political market in Delhi has been dominated by two brands- the Congress and the BJP. These parties are have long standing history, experience, presence, resources and above all known leaders with dedicated following. These forces at play favor the insiders and put any new entrant to severe disadvantage.
How does one play out in this situation of predicament? The literature on war and their application in marketing spell out strategic options. Pepsi battles with Coke, Energizer wrestles with Duracell and BJP combats with Congress. It is not unusual to see two dominant companies or brands engaged dual in which the leader’s strategies are motivated by a design to retain and maintain its position. The aggressor on the other hand deploys its mind and materials to steal share form the leader. Broadly the leader’s strategy falls under the rubric of defense- protection of share against potential attack from challenger (flank defense, preemptive defense and counter defense). For its Coke or HUL lever try to cover all their flanks (segments- consider bathing bars of Lever), preempt possible assault (Surf Excel and Lifebuoy hand wash preempted launch of Airel and Dettol hand wash), counter defense (counter offensive by Fair & Lovely for Men against Fair and Handsome , Clear antidandruff shampoo against Head & Shoulders).
The second player enjoys status of a challenger or aggressor (BJP) and its strategy is that of an attacker-to hit the leader and steal market (voter). Broadly the strategic options available to an attacker include head on attack (bloody strategy requires preparedness to sacrifice and withstand loss). This is not recommended especially if warfare is psychological. It is extremely difficult to convince a Congress committed voter to shift loyalty. The second option is to launch attack on position that is weakly defended (flank- force concentration against vulnerable points). In this case it could be some minority, religious or occupation groups. The leader can be overwhelmed into losing control by ‘encirclement’ offense. This requires attack by deploying all kinds of ammunition to all sides- grand offensive. Titan at the time of its launch overwhelmed then leader HMT by launching huge variety, advertising, distribution, price points, and service guarantee. The pockets of voters like the Sikhs or urban slum dwellers offer scope for encirclement. Another option is to ‘bypass’ the leader in a unattended or latent market. The so called ‘indifferent’ voters or people who do not figure in the current agenda of the leader become possible targets. The young first time voter was one such segment but challenger BJP has not been able to target with ‘specific’ manoeuvers.
What options do AAP has in its kitty. It lacks ware withal that of a challenger. It is new, resource deficient; lacks experience and above all its leaders are new. One is reminded of a war between unequal in Vietnam. There is no way Vietnam could have countered the US’s sophisticated, big and able force. The challenger or aggressor options just did not exist for Vietnam. So what did it do? A close striking resemble exists between the AAP and Vietnam. If you go head on you will get decimated in no time by launching an attack on strengths (Congress’s) – entitlement, secularism, heritage. The big flanks are guarded (minorities, marginalized groups) and small ones will not give any benefit. So what do you do?
The US was humbled in Vietnam by not matching strengths against strengths or strengths against weakness. The strategy subtly altered the way a battle is fought. A battle is usually fought with arms on a given space but in Vietnam, Vietnamese changed coordinates to a place where the US forces’ strengths became weakness and then they played out what is called guerilla warfare. The AAP has managed to change the discourse on which the forthcoming elections are likely to be fought- corruption (both dominant parties on this space get humbled for their corruption stories), experience (redefined by AAP as experience in misgovernance/ corruption), resources (muscle power to mind power- social media, visible caps, flash mobs and direct connect). And the most important tool in the arsenal of a guerilla is ‘surprise’- attack and vanish strategy. AAP party launches selective and localized attacks to their fullest advantage- electricity bills, demonstrations in favor of victims of any kind, women security, protest against rapists, targeting auto drivers.
The discourse introduced by AAP and putting it in the center of electoral agenda- corruption and misgovernance- has dragged two of the dominant players into a court where their firearms and strengths prima facie appear diminished. The competition stands repositioned in favor of AAP in marketing terms.