A brand is a perceived reality. It stands for ‘meaning extracted’ from the symbols disseminated by the sender. Critical to the success of a brand is the clarity and relevance. Brand is a symbol created out of exercise of symbols and symbolism. At the heart of brand building lays ‘meaning transference’. Typically brand strategists employ a variety of messages and media to build a brand but what is crucial to successful brand building is convergence. All signals create a clear brand engram (associative network in the mind). Divergence of associations in the mind is brand killer. Brand name is a sign the meaning of which is created in prospects’ minds. Symbols are instruments in the creation of this sign.
Confusion fails a brand. Anna brand has managed to evoke a phenomenal response. It is a case in the use of symbols. Express verbal communication plays a part in brand building but the dialogue at the subliminal level is more powerful (‘Aankhon Hi Aankhon Mein Ishara ho gaya’;’ Isharon Isharon Mein Dil Lene Wale’). Words convey meaning but symbols do those more powerfully and the beauty is that here communication escapes the scrutiny of cognition. Consider the following symbols and their symbolism which went into building Anna Brand:

  • Anna as person: his frail body, cap, simplicity, earthiness, spectacles and his presence against the backdrop of a huge Gandhi banner draws ‘conditioned’ response.
  • Anna’s dress: he sports ‘white’ (spotless) as against ‘black’ (blemished). It is ‘clean’ against ‘unclean’. It is ‘day’ against ‘night’.
  • Fasting: the term ‘fast’ is positioned against ‘feasting’; ‘self harm’ against ‘harming others’; ‘sacrifice’ against ‘self aggrandizement’; eating is ‘common’ fasting is ‘uncommon’; clearly it positions the powerful in a different lowly light. Fast is the common thread that creates a subtle mental link between Gandhi and Anna.
  • Ramlila Ground: ‘ground’ is against ‘high rise’. ‘earthy’ against ‘heavenly’, ‘discomfort’ against ‘comfort’; ‘humble’ against ‘arrogance’.
  • Anna Bands: these are tied to biceps indicative of ‘power’, ‘muscle’, ‘courage’ against the aggressor
  • Waist Bands: ‘fasten seat belts’ it is difficult time ahead, symbolizes ‘readiness’ ‘preparedness’.
  • Tricolor: In Mahabharata the discourse is about under which flag ‘you want to stand’: the right or the wrong. People assembled for the ‘nation’ not for ‘any party or group’, signals ‘unity’ against ‘division’; ‘transcending boundaries’ against ‘created boundaries’; ‘one identity’ against ‘multiple identities’. The flag: ‘higher ideal’ ‘ambition and aspiration’. Flag  held by hands in protests indicates importance and closeness and importance of the ‘goal and ambition’ as against ‘not holding’ or ‘giving up’ or ‘detachment’ (flag erected on ground).
  • Anna Cap: cap is headgear; head is house of mind. It symbolizes ‘particular philosophy or thinking’. The cap signifies subscription to ‘Anna thinking’ as against ‘Non Anna thinking’. Why wear cap: because now is the time to clearly show whether one is ‘with Anna’ because government is ‘not with Anna’.
  • Candle March: is ‘light’ as against ‘darkness’; ‘day’ versus ‘night’; light is used to ‘scare the creatures of the night’; creatures of night in mythology are demons and evil. Why march- to scare these off. March is movement; it is ‘progression’ as against ‘stagnation’; ‘it is movement towards the goal’.
  • Voluntary contribution: to contribute means ‘to be a part of’; ‘efforts made’ ‘share’ as against ‘not be a part of’, ‘no efforts made’. Contribution is required when the task ahead is ‘difficult’ or the opponent is ‘strong and mighty’. It is symbolic of a fight between two unequal: ‘government or establishment’ powerful and mighty. It is an opportunity to be a part of something not within the realm of ‘individual achievement’.
  • Raised hands and closed fists: fist symbolizes ‘grit’ ‘determination’ ‘strength’ ‘readiness to fight’ against ‘hands down’, ‘lose’ and ‘open palms’. When the hands are raised in unison upon a chant ‘it is willingness to rise up to a challenge’; ‘team spirit and togetherness’. This raises adrenalin. Fist is to ‘muscle up’ , ‘to collect’. It is ‘to scare birds or crow’ from the field.
  • Songs: the music connects to ‘heart’ as against ‘mind’. You don’t ‘think’ music you ‘feel’ music’. Songs and slogans trigger emotions and create bonding. Emotions elicit better commitment than cognitions. Rhythm and rhyme is ‘flow’ ‘movement’.

Collectively these symbols negotiate meaning at a deeper level and create a brand engram to which people seem to be connecting.


Anna Direction and Youth Directionless

Power thrives on division. It feeds on disharmony. History is replete with examples how lines have been used strategically to get people into subordination. The powerful create façade of lines amongst themselves. And people are robbed of their power by imposition of lines in imagination that create divisions. Lines on the other hand are blurred in the corridor of power (how certain family and relations have presence in more than one political group). The crossing over does not carry legal or moral baggage (defections and collective support on certain matters of power dilution). It is a cartel at work- monopoly with a face of competition. But lines drawn are real in corridors of powerless. Here crossing over is tantamount to ‘conversion’. And conversion is abhorred. The lines so drawn are impermeable. Certainly a superior mind competes with minds rendered incompetent by division of faculty. The divisions are engrossing and life consuming. The subjects are individuals without a collective existence. There is constancy in people who enjoy power (how political baton is passed on to next generation) and perpetual fluidity on the other. A voice that seeks to obliterate the lines in imagination and create convergence in thinking is certainly dangerous.

The engrossing tactics that consume people in to the mundane and the worthless certainly create directionless-ness. The superficial can be engrossing but certainly not content giving. Beyond a point it is the nature of the ‘matter’ to rise up. The physics surrenders to metaphysics. The body surrenders to soul. Beyond the search of food the quest begins for meaning. Science gives way to faith. After all ‘to exist’ cannot be the purpose. The question is ‘what for’ to exist. Existence is instrumental to achieving something higher in life. Ascendance is inherent to human existence.

Critics argue that the youth today is directionless, consumerist and self centered. There are two issues here: is directionlessness an aspired state or is directionless ness absence of a well meaning cause? Is directionless ness a state of bliss or is it a source of discontentment? The youth is ‘energy contained’ which is waiting to flow but where is the cause? The ambiguity created by transition from traditional to modern to post modern existence is a terrible reality. The wrong signals are systematically revealed to exploit youth to the advantage of a few. But the hankering of the heart does not diminish. Where is the worthy cause ? The reality of modern day youth is that there is restlessness to transcend boundaries of achievement. The fulfillment is a much larger game. Consider how popular brands have harnessed this psychological reality: ‘Be More’ (Titan); ‘Be Yourself (Reebok); ‘Be Stupid’ (Diesel) and ‘Yeh Dil Mange More’ and ‘Yeh Pyaas Hai Badi’ (Pepsi), ‘Dar Ke Aage jeet Hai’ (Mountain Dew).

The icons that youth of today admires are not wealthy inheritors rather achievers who have crossed over classes, the people who have created empires out of their own efforts like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Youth is a lot more sensitive to humanity and environment. These are new type of social change agents who have redefined philanthropy. Society is becoming an integral part of business equation beyond revenue and profits. The paradigm is in a flux. Collaboration is the name of the game.

Why are so called directionless youth rallying behind Anna? Anna is certainly not a role model in the space of wealth generation like Ambani. Is Anna a product whose core value delivery is an opportunity to ‘be more’, or ‘be yourself’ or ‘the complete man’? Going by the surge of support that he has got from the youth of modern India it seems he certainly is a product/ brand worth chasing. After all is not today’s youth like Jimmy Porter of Osbone’s Look Back In Anger who angrily complained: ‘There are no good causes left to fight for’. Anna has given them that cause, that sense of mission that they must accomplish.

Skeptics and cynics would say ‘they don’t understand’ and ‘they are crazy’. This could be an easy conclusion to a complex reality. Dismissal is an easy response to a tough question.

Brand Anna (1): Lessons In Branding

People perceive Anna phenomenon within limits imposed by their perceptual realm. It is natural, for perception is subjective interpretation of objective reality. As a student of marketing, for me Anna is a case in creation of a real power brand offering many branding lessons:

The brand is defined as a sign, symbol, name or a combination thereof. So by this definition ‘Anna’, the name, becomes the brand. And for many others who mistake the brand with the product, here the physicality of the person who bears the name becomes the brand. But going by the so called modern culture neither the name (compare the names suggested in books on child naming) nor the person (compare Anna with well chiseled aspirational bodies of H Roshan or Salman) would make sense to youth population. But he does. Here lies the catch. Brand name or symbol or product is nothing more than the tip of the iceberg. These are nothing but outward manifestations of the brand. These are only signifiers, not signified. Anna as a person is signifier, amenable to catching by the eyes of both his followers and the condemners. But the brand actually lies hidden which finds a deeper soul connection with people who rally behind him. Brand is the idea which is singularly ‘owned’ or ‘appropriated’ by Anna in the minds of millions who rally behind him.

A brand draws its power from a resonating and differentiating value proposition. The essence of branding is finding a compelling value proposition. Great brands draw their power by forging an inelastic connection. What has this simple man who otherwise may fail to attract attention on the street appropriated? If Anna has caught the imagination of people, which is visible wherever he goes, what is it? Anna’s brilliance lies in his ability to sense the void (latent need- freedom from corruption) and respond to that by creating a product accordingly (Lokpal). Some needs are so obvious (patent but relegated to dormancy) that they escape attention. Anna has lent voice to a murmur which political establishment knowingly ignored. He converted that into a war cry. Anna brand stands for a ‘promise’ (India liberated from corruption) which connects people.

To many it is a baffling reality to see how modern youth clad in Levis jeans, Nike shoes, Benetton shirts, Rayban shades along with less endowed counter part have been rallying behind Anna. The divisive distinctions based on gender, age, geography etc seem to have collapsed (it is a mass brand?). The brand’s extraordinary appeal cuts through the divisions to create a big homogeneous mass. Although followers look different but the unifying factor here is their psychographics and motivation (psychographic segmentation). Anna is a brand with a big following but it is highly differentiated. What is brand’s DNA? While most of the leaders in the political space are hollow brands- promises not supported by performance Anna is differentiated in terms of promise backed by a tangible product (the bill). Most of the politicians used peripheral aspects to differentiate- white dress, party affiliations, security guards, caravan of SUVs, posters- Anna has focused on the ‘core’ of the product.

Anna is a great ‘pull’ brand. Its customers/followers ‘go out of way’ or are willing to bear extreme costs (withstand rain, hunger, crowd, sweat, and lathi charge) to patronize this brand. Brand Anna is certainly a brand to envy for many politicians. This kind of brand is every marketer’s dream when customers don’t take even a second to switch. Anna has burst commoditization in political space in a big way. He is probably every politician’s dream. It is not a hidden secret that political gatherings are often paid assemblies. Brands operate in different value spaces- some value spaces are more elastic than the others. Brand Anna operates on a very high layer of value orbit with near zero elasticity. The delivery of Anna is not on the mundane level. Why do people perform service (the lower the job the higher the service) at religious places? It is because of the spiritual connect. Anna brand draws it power from a higher order connection.

Brands need communication push but branding is not about communication. Advertising’s instrumentality in brand creation can not be denied but you can’t create a brand only out of advertising. This is highly true for brand Anna. The communication is largely ‘community’ owned. It is brand followers who are so deeply influenced by the brand that they themselves have become disseminators, no expenditure involved. The social media is not controlled, it is rather user created. On the other hand traditional media coverage is of course governed by rating points but rating points are not in the control of news channels. It these were then none of brands or the programs backed by money power would fail. People are watching Anna because they want to. Our capacity to process information is limited and it is selectively spent. What it is spent on is governed by satisfaction. Watching news on Anna is a rational and conscious choice which people make. Anna survives filtration and screening out which is every marketer’s major head ache- how to make customers look at my ad?).

In a situation like this when a powerful brand emerges, how does the competitor react? The government reaction has been the opposite of what strategy would command. Would it be a good idea to start a smear campaign against New Swift because it has attracted a great response? First, it must be understood that if commitment is emotional- inelastic connection to a brand (not based on reason), it is impossible to prove your superiority (I like blue and you can’t convince me that red is better). Emotion can’t be contested with reason. People buy Rolex not for time keeping, there may be better time keeping devices available at lower price yet customers show extraordinary commitment to the brand. Second, the harsher the criticism lesser is the openness to entertain (self concept threatening stimuli activate defense mechanism). Anything contrary to the commitment is either filtered to make the original stand harder (criticism falls in the zone of contrast). All the governmental (jail, criticism on media) response therefore has made brand Anna stronger.

Whether Anna is subverting democracy or democracy is systemically already subverted is a matter of perception. People in power see Anna as a threat. It is true that Toyota Etios and Liva are a threat to Maruti Dzire and Swift. But a brand can not be dismissed in discussion and meaningless retaliation. Brands do become obsolete. May be governance in its present form has lost its relevance. Change is not a threat, it is an opportunity. Only time would tell who would ‘read’ it correctly and seize it. The idea is knocking on the doors of political class. It is perfect opportunity for political brands to get rejuvenated. 

Products Just Function Brand Needs Purpose

A product is an objective reality. But brand is an entity of the subjective realm. A brand is a product translated. A well defended product inside the marketer’s space can be a defenseless pariah in the crowded world of so called brands. Brands apparently are entities of the physical world but don’t mistake these are only concrete shadows of intangible realties of consumer’s mind. Brand requires concrete investments in creating something abstract and incomprehensible to many but perfectly apprehensible for its target.

It is quite interesting to observe how people shop sports shoes. A shoe meant for sporting activity is a performance enhancing device. It must provide traction, flexibility, cushion, bounce, air, stability and a whole lot of other performance enhancing feature. If this assumption is correct then sport shoe retailing cannot follow the same model followed in leather formal shoe retail. But major companies like Adidas, Nike and Reebok, and Puma adopt almost similar retail format for most of their stores. ‘Performance’ is probably diametrically opposite of ‘looks’. Therefore instead of mirrors the store ideally should have mini courts. But people instead of taking mini trials look into mirrors. How about aesthetic elements the colors, lacing pattern and upper design? Observe people only to find a lot of attention is focused on the ‘looks’ of the shoe. Then conversation between the sales person and potential customer is rarely focused on performance. Is it that a sport shoe ceases to lose its manufacturing logic just as it begins its justification in consumer space?

Often brand building is misconstrued as an exercise in imprinting customer’s mind with images. There is no denying that a brand is indeed imprinted image but imprinting image is no branding. Brands are ‘commissioned’ by customer for some purpose and the product must perform within the constrained imposed by the purpose. It is impossible to think of a product without functionality. Functionality is inherent to a product but often it loses it centrality in its quest for relevance from customer’s perspective. Sometimes even the functionality needs to be adapted or created depending upon what a customer commissions it for. Observe again the customer in a sport shoe store. There is no unanimity customer about what they want these shoes brands to do for them. Sports shoe brands derive their pull from being on the body of top sports achievers but customer commission these for not the same purpose as a player would do. Learning what target customers would like to commission a brand for it key to brand building.

Observe again what customers in the showroom do? They all look, try and buy shoes. Observe again what is happening in their inner world. Customer may want sports shoe because he commissions shoe to protect his joints. Another customer commissions his shoe to help him look cool. One may pick sports shoe to last long. For others it may be the comfort of wear. Sport shoe may also be commissioned to work as formal shoe for certain ‘worker’ jobs. And then there is one who commissions his shoes to help him perform better in court. The differences mentioned above are not to throw light on inter- segment variations rather to focus on intra segment differences in what customers may want a brand to do for them. Brands are launched by the marketers but they are actually created when they become missions in sync with customer vision.

Often marketers improve their products in ways that are irrelevant from customers’ perspective. Hence brands which seek to help customer do irrelevant things better do not help. Christensen, Cook and Hall propose customers hire product to get a specific job done. Therefore the job not the customer should be fundamental unit of analysis. The focus should be on the job that they try to accomplish. Brand’s instrumentality must be established in a job’s context. Consider how Arm & Hammer baking soda was ‘hired’ by customers to do different jobs: to deodorize refrigerator, to whiten teeth, to augment laundry detergent and freeing carpet of smells. A brand must find a purpose for which it will be commissioned by potential customer. It is job that justifies the brand.

What purpose do you commission your sports shoe for? Is it sports or something else? Does the marketer know that?

Brands Burst Boundaries: Some Do It Better

I often have to justify the unjustifiable on Sundays. It is a day when ordinary things hidden in nooks and cranny get attention and face threat of ouster. That is the reason why kabariwalas do brisk business on Sundays. A small box in my home is a refuge to a lot of discarded objects which also houses a single piece of cuff link. Preserving a single cuff link does not make sense. It is neither likely to be used nor gifted to someone ever. Hence it does not make any sense to keep it especially in times of space crunch in urban dwellings. Tremendous pressures are mounted on me to throw it but I don’t. And at the end I am called an idiot when it say, ‘throw everything out but not this link’.

My stickiness with the cufflink is beyond the comprehension of reason. For the others the cufflink is just an object devoid of any use value or sale value. And there are other cufflinks which score very high both on use value and monetary value but hold little importance to me. To a reason oriented mind this phenomenon is nothing more than an absurdity. But here lies an important branding lesson. Some brands manage to create this kind of stickiness that their customers ‘go at great lengths’ and ‘pay absurd prices’ to buy them, own them and preserve them. Consider a Rolex or an Apple customer. The important question here: is Rolex a watch or Apple a smart phone? I have heard many people say that ‘this guy is absolutely crazy to spend ten lacs on a watch’.

There is a merit in the above observation. A brand can only succeed in a highly competitive and product parity environment through this ‘craziness’. What do strong brands thrive on? It is the strength of their bond with their target customers which borders ‘madness’ That is they work their way up to creating an inelastic demand. The slope of demand is curve is altered so much that it runs parallel to the Y-axis. The customer just does not want to consider any substitute. In fact in their mind there is a given brand or nothing else. Strong brands push their competitors out of customer’s consideration. But if brand is a product then there are hundreds others. These are all commodities in a way. Then how does one create a blind discrimination in favor?

The cufflink to me is much more than merely a device which holds the cuffs together. A Rolex is much more than a device that keeps time accurately. An Armani is much more than a finely cut and stitched piece of cloth. There was a time when the product element allowed a viable route to brand building. Swiss watch makers did this initially with exceptional watch making skills and Japanese did it with excellence in electronics and automobiles. But now a high degree of commonness running across marketplaces pushes the brands to the zone of ‘indifference’. The superior utility or functionality embedded in the product element of the brand which use to be a discriminator has now cease of an effective brand building mechanism in the modern time. It is just an entry ticket to brand building, nothing more.

Brands therefore have to find escape routes from pervasive commoditization. The boundaries imposed by the product should be transcended to create a value add which pushes the brand in ‘no questions asked’ zone. Great brand move up the value ladder and operate on high value orbit. Considerable elasticity differences exist at different levels of value orbit. A brand can escape the wrath of competition by a careful selection of the game that it wants to play in customer’s life. Consider a brand like Airtel which initially focused on signifying the network related proposition and then moved on from ‘communication network’ (coverage, congestion free, voice clarity) to ‘expression’ (‘express yourself’) and further higher on to ‘breaking boundaries’(how communication can break boundaries between countries and make the planet a better place). Similar elevation of value is visible in Dairy Milk. The brand which initially was sold on the basis as milk equivalent (see the brand sign two glasses of milk being poured into the chocolate). In the recent past the brand has transcended the chocolate element to embrace ‘celebration of life’ and now the brand is promoted on the platform of ‘kuch meethas ho jaye’. That is to create some moment of happiness (sweet not chocolate but moments) in someone’s life. A brand like Tata Tea has reinterpreted the role of tea in modern time. The role of tea is to ‘wake up’ but the business that the brand Tata Tea has assumed is to ‘awaken’ the people.

Brand building is about creating a ‘meaning’ which resonates by hitting at an inelastic inner space. The acid test of brand success is when its customer cannot articulate the reason why he or she is committed to a brand. Brands must discover to develop a subliminal connection otherwise they tread on a slippery road.

‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give it a damn’ and brand is damned!

Last Saturday in an evening party with couple of close friends I discovered marketing is something you can’t escape. A couple of drinks down, two of my friends’ wives shared a common grouse that their husbands don’t have anything to share when they come back. They lock themselves into a kind of cocoon. And then they shared how these guys were different when they had got married. I was reminded of an old Hindi song ‘Unko Yeh Shikayat Hai Ke Hum, Kuch Nahin Kehte (उनको ये शिकायत हैं के हम कुछ नही कहते) Apni To Ye Aadat Hai Ke Hum, Kuch Nahin Kehte” sung by Lata Mangeshkar. But unlike the song here women are troubled by their husbands’ indifference. It could be the other way round also.

Brands also pass through this kind of ups downs in their lives. The initial pre-launch period is a kind of ‘love is in the air’ full of anticipation and positivisms. This is very palpable when a company like Apple announces a launch. Although not on the same scale people do share excitement about any new launch. Consider the recent cases of Etios by Toyota and Reebok True Tone. At somewhat lesser level this romantic anticipation is also felt in not so important product categories like a new detergent powder or a shampoo. This romantic anticipation is followed by consummation. It is said that the ‘proof of the pudding is in the eating’. The initial ‘aha’ begins to undergo a subtle change. The transformation of love into matrimony unleashes a new set of challenges for the brand managers. Matrimony in a social system imposes some kind of barriers to exit from a relationship but this kind of security is not available to a brand. In the marketing context consumers are free to divorce their existing brand partners. It is not only the freedom to quit easily that makes the job of the brand managers difficult but also the ease with the options to flirt can be accessed. Consider how fiercely Samsung Galaxy is trying to woo Apple fans to flirt and enjoy a better experience (‘the greatest smart phone ever’).

Every relationship as someone very philosophically observed is ‘end begun’. To this effect economists’ have their own version of law of diminishing marginal utility. Idiomatic expression ‘familiarly breeds contempt’ has for long warned people of how too much of familiarity with something or somebody sows seeds of dislike. Here brands have a dilemma. A more technical explanation is given by ‘GIAL’ theory which proposes that over familiarity leads to diminished stimulation level throwing the prospect into the zone of boredom. A brand cannot afford to be just an object of desire. The hankering of consumer must be actualized by making him buy and use the brand. This is where sales revenue comes from. In this context a brand is usually positioned at the center of a force field where two opposite forces of familiarity and unfamiliarity create opposite pull. The route to revenue generation passes though familiarity (consumption) but getting stuck on this end leads to cessation of stimulation. But pulling the brand to unfamiliarity can create ‘creeping disconnect’. What sets the long sustaining brands apart from others is precisely this art and science of intelligent negotiation between these mutually conflicting forces.

What did Rhett Butler say to Scarlett O Hara in ‘Gone with the Wind’? The following dialogues between the two capture the essence of consumer reality in modern day marketing:
Scarlett: Rhett… if you go, where shall I go, what shall I do?
Rhett Butler: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. [Rhett walks off into the fog]
The competition is contributing to increasing customer indifference (‘don’t give a damn’) because of increasing commonness amongst brands. The absence of hooks between the brands is pushing them on to the depths of involvement. The abundance and similarity are two brand killers. Consumers on the other hand psychologically may be turning inward to escape from the high assault environment and thereby becoming less open to new information. This state of low perceived attachment to brand de-generates the market into a commodity game.

Brands thrive when consumers give them a ‘damn’. The essence of competition is commoditization. The challenge of branding is to reverse this process by devising ways to break away from boundaries imposed by commonness. Get the customer to be serious with the brand by challenging his or her notions of stereo typicality. Consider how Dove opened consumers’ eyes to ‘PH’ tests during the time their bar launch. Onida created a big hype by posing a potential air conditioner buyer a question whether he looked at the weight of machine before buying. Colgate posed a direction question ‘does your toothpaste have salt?’ to wake the consumer up out of slumber. Tanishq challenged consumer indifference by introducing karat meters in their showrooms inviting custoemrs to check out the exact caratage of the jewelry bought from family jewelers.

Even James Bond has not remained insulated from growing ‘indifference’. How particular Bond had been to his drink when he always wanted his drink a cocktail of Vodka Martini to be ‘shaken not stirred’. Starting with Sean Connery to Pierce Brosnan in ‘World is Not Enough’. But in the latest flick ‘Casino Royale’ upon being asked by the bar tender whether he would like the drink to be shaken or stirred, Bond replies in an unexpected, ‘Do I look like I give a damn?’

The high pressure environment is making consumer a ‘shut’ system. Open him or her up!

Business as coalition and compulsions of coalition

A firm is an organization for business purpose. Organization in management literature means a unit created made of parts or component by act of bringing them together. It is an act of crating something. What are the parts that typically make a business organization? The parts of an organization are structurally called departments. These include sales, finance, human resources, production, R&D, and procurement. This essentially means organization is a coalition of different groups. Consider the following:
• Mr Human joins the business and he is very clear about the fact that he joins the business for compensation and progression.
• Mr Operations has technical guy who joins the business for making sure that operations run smoothly for longer runs and nothing upsets the production process.
• Mr Finance has had grounding in capital budgeting and cost of capital. He sees success in risk and uncertainty minimization.
• Mr Research has all along been known for his ability to invent. For him the organization is a new laboratory to experiment and create breakthroughs that make headlines.
• Mr Procurement knows it is easier to buy a few things from a small base of friendly suppliers. More suppliers and more number of purchase units upset their lives.
• Mr Engineering brings their design skills and knowhow to create new products and processes but with an eye only for the technical strength.
• Mr Manufacturing wants his production lines run as smoothly as possible. Frequent changes and modifications complicate their system.
• Mr Sales is always keen to convert whatever is given to him in cash by hook or the crook.
On the whole these coalitions making an organization bring different notions of effectiveness. Consequently it is natural for business firm to experience politics of coalition. Each of the coalition partners attempt to pull the entire decision making in the direction that deems fit (see the figure) . The localized effectiveness is pursued at the cost of global effectiveness.

This political way of functioning of business organization undermines the very purpose for which it comes into existence- the business. Business means actualization of a potential exchange with the prospect i.e. the customer. And in a competitive scenario the only way to succeed is to get the customers to say ‘yes’ to what a firm condenses in a product or service. The value offered by a firm is sigma of decisions made by different coalition members. The issue then is what is the probability that target customer would say yes to what firm has done? It is very low because typically none of the coalition groups represent customers. And when the customer pronounces ‘no’ to a firm’s offering the entire system loses because the revenue stream is cut. How can a business survive without its customers responding favorably to what it does? Business survives and prospers when customers open up their wallets for a product or service. Without this a product is an unrecovered cost.
It is in this context the top management is expected to perform a harmonizing role. A coalition is compulsorily likely to have conflicts arising out individualized or localized concepts of effectiveness. Consequently the system would get pulled in different direction readying it for failure. It is akin to making safe cabins in Titanic. People must go out of their cabins and make the Titanic safe. The concept of global ‘right’ or ‘effectiveness’ must be appreciated. A business does right when its products or services win target customers. It must be understood that a firm is an organization of coalition partners for the purpose of business. And business is about actualizing exchange with potential customers which happens organization creates satisfied customer. Therefore converge of goals and roles are essential to survive in a competitive market.

Managing coalition is a challenging task. All the companies which consistently perform well manage to do so by creating goal convergence amidst confusion and chaos. This is reason why only a few managers rise up to the top.