Arvind Kejriwal, Aam Aadmi Party, Guerilla, Repositioning the Competition- Congress & BJP

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.   



5 thoughts on “Arvind Kejriwal, Aam Aadmi Party, Guerilla, Repositioning the Competition- Congress & BJP

  1. Respected Sir,

    Like always, the article is a very good analogy between everyday happenings with Marketing. I love reading all your insightful articles.

    Just to add on to your present article…….AAP’s Gorilla warfare has another kitty. It is doing what the Congress & BJP have long forgotten or what was their strength earlier and now has become a weakness. AAP is going to voters and touching upon each and every constituency. This is akin to convincing or rather creating a doubt in the customer’s mind whether their present options are really worth their vote, very much like the “Surprise Attack” you have taught us in Consumer Behaviour classes. It is jolt to the customer telling him/her to wake up from their present positioned players… is hitting the positioning of Congress & BJP in the mind of the voters.

    With Regards

    Mayank Kaura
    MBA(PT), 2010 batch

    • Dear Mayank, AAP’s core strategy has been to approach/attack in a smaller issues and constituencies which bigger parties have taken for-granted. It managed to shake and overwhelm both the bigger players out of their positions.

  2. Dear sir

    Pleasure meeting you yesterday at North campus.

    Thanks for another of your delightful read with excellent connection between theory explained beautifully with a practical real life example.

    AAP repositioned the battle ground successfully by creating new parameter to fight upon. They found a weak spot in Congress and BJP arsenal (corruption) attacked it to fullest, which is almost indefensible. In words of Jack Trout “the attack must resonate”, AAP could make corruption and bad governance as top issues in mind of votes and placed secularism, caste, religion at back seat.

    Judgement day is not far away; soon we shall see who emerges as the real winner !!

    Prashant Jain
    2011 batch

  3. I really liked some of the points in this article Harsh. I would like to elaborate on one that was briefly mentioned above.

    Overcoming challenges: The AAP had a clear villain – The corrupt government parties. Everyone could resonate with the story of an underdog battling for the greater good. AAP had it’s first challenge in Anna Hazare’s rejection of the party’s entry into politics, proceeding which it entered a phase of intense questioning related to its sources of funding. But, throughout its journey, AAP overcame all obstacles an created a strong position in every Indian’s mind.
    This is the fundamental difference between Jullian Assange‘s appraoch and Arvind Kejriwal’s. Assange, like Snowden, fled and did not enter into politics. Kejriwal knew that if he followed Assange’s footsteps, then his efforts would be in vain. Although, Kejriwal came nowhere close to Assange’s level of investigative journalism, he knew that people don’t retain information for too long. They needed a call-to-action for the information that was being delivered to them. In the case of the AAP, it was a single vote. Comparing his strategy to that of the Arab Spring, Kejriwal knew that causing mass revolts would not solve the fundamental problems that affected this country.

    Original article at: –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s