Brands, Patanjali, Baba Ramdev and Culture

There are several ways brands adopt to make their way to consumer’s heart or mind or both. Successful brands embody value propositions that either fill a gap or promise transformation into some higher order of existence. The gap filling brands persuade consumers by pointing at the void or uncomfortable recognized or dormant state and offer solution. The brands in such a situation use ‘informational’ route. Consider the following:
• Two toothpaste brands Paradontex and Sansodyneuse informational route. The first offers solution to gum problems and the latter promises escape from tooth sensitivity.
• Crizal lenses are promoted on the propositions of their scratch resistance, anti-glare and UV protection.
• Dulux Weathershield offers protection against elements for longer period of time because of its unique chemical formulation- high performance acrylic resin.

In above cases, the product’s attributes or benefits assume center stage. In transformational method the consumer is not approached on rational basis by offering a problem’s solution (verbal expression) rather a pull is created by a desirable psycho-social consumer state (imagery). In these kinds of promotions the center stage is assumed by consumer’s being and becoming (not in a metaphysical way except for a limited number of brands). The product related thinking is deliberately stultified. The being and becoming take psycho –(emotional) social (symbolic) axis to develop connect with consumers. Consider the following:
• Enfield pulls its target consumers on the proposition of psychosocial experience. The machine bestows power and machismo to a person who in the absence of machine’s highly masculine body and thundering sound senses a danger of identity loss, typical of living in cities. The brand gives a sense of power internally (self symbolism) and respect/command externally (social symbolism).
• Coca Cola’s ‘Happiness’ campaign seeks to appropriate a powerful emotion of joy and delight. The imagery used in its communication- people, occasion, time, sounds and expressions- all collapse into communicating a highly desirable emotional state. The brand subtly creeps into establishing its legitimacy by becoming the key ingredient to happiness (happiness is incomplete without a bottle of Coke).
• Is it psychologically possible for a new mother to have a sense of completeness without using J&J products? Imagine a J&J ad and experience how it overwhelms you with emotions of joy, happiness and affection.

Is Peepal (Ficus religiosa/ ashvattha in Sanskrit) merely a tree or a person in saffron robes with flowing beard is only a person with a different look? Their meaning s are known only to people familiar with Indian cultural. Culture encompasses knowledge, belief, customs, practices and values. It both provides worldview and point of view. Brands are resisted when they violate culture. At the same time, by invoking right cultural meanings, myths and values a brand develop huge resonance. Take for instance, a newly launched brand of platinum jewelry ‘Evara’ evokes cultural construct of ‘blessings’ which are a must in an occasion like marriage. The gender roles (myth or assumptions) are evoked by brands (Bournvita, Vim, Wheel) targeted at women as homemaker, giver, and nurturer. When brand evoke already stores beliefs, meanings, values etc, the need for rational communication is reduced. Thus an image of a tree or saint/sadhu or word can evoke myths (don’t read as lies rather taken for granted assumption or beliefs) to work for the brand in a subtle but very powerful way. The picture of a cowboy on Marlboro evoked myth of rugged individuality and made the brand one of the top sellers.
What does culture have to do with the success of Patanjali brand? Let us take the umbrella name ‘Patanjali’. Does it invoke rich meaning stored in cultural warehouse and bestows its products image/associations highly desired in its product categories? The name’s semantic construction, phonetic expression (Sanskrit) and meaning which activates many legends (including founder of yoga) renders it very close to Indian roots ( Indian system of medicine- ayurvedic). This link with ayurveda further invokes religious linkages with god Danvantari. The name in this case is not a simple word with limited denotation. Rather it is tip of an iceberg with oceanic depth. The brand name pulls out these deeper meanings to the surface and thrives on the dichotomy between nature/unnatural; religious/unreligious; Indian/foreign/ and trust/doubt.
How about presence of Baba Ramdev as brand endorser? He is a ‘baba’. A sadhu, culturally means a renunciator or above material attachments, who operates at a higher level of consciousness. Sadhus are religiously significant and are respected. The renunciation implies Babas have no personal axe to grind (not driven by ‘artha’ or money for material well being of self). The selflessness of Baba Ramdev gives the Enterprise a social philanthropic sheen. The venture escapes scrutiny and suspicion that business typically invites. Babas/sadhus invoke religious imagery as custodians of what is good in a society.

The legends, stories and sacred books pass on different archetypes from one generation to the other. These live in our subconscious but are invoked by brands to make sense. Men with flowing beard and robes evoke ‘sage’ archetype that signifies expert, scholar, philosopher, teacher and teacher. Baba Ramdev’s presence and support for the brand commissions massive cultural meaning to work for the brand and that too without having to have a conscious dialogue. One of the important qualities of brand endorser is trust and on this count he is the best. Baba Ramdev route to credibility also lay in bringing yoga into mainstream. He first appeared as yoga guru who worked singularly for the cause making people healthy. It is later that the equity is transferred to Patanjali products.
Patanjali brand is a cultural phenomena and it different from the like of Dabur or Baidyanath. These brands operated in medicine domain taking position against allopathic formulations. Patanjali operates at an intersection of yoga, medicine, religion, political ideology and commence.


3 thoughts on “Brands, Patanjali, Baba Ramdev and Culture

  1. I guess “simple is difficult”….patanjali products successfully identified the “need” for natural yet healthy contemporary products…leveraging the image baba enjoys through authentic communication….

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