MUMBAI: Ayear ago, nothing could go wrong for 73-year-old Anna Hazare. The antigraft crusader's campaign attracted a groundswell from a disillusioned populace tired of corruption as a way of life.
The movement succeeded in building Anna into a brand that millions of Indian consumers — most of them young and social media-savvy — bought into. A year down the line, that brand is frayed at the seams.
The erosion of Brand Anna began sometime in December last year, when the roaring crowds seen on Ramlila Maidan in August had thinned to a bunch of diehards and hangers-on during the latest hunger strike.
From a time his movement had triggered a Woodstock like anti-establishment mood, the brand's dazzle had significantly faded. Infighting, unclear goals and an inability to show its audience concrete achievements have all but killed the aura of this brand."Brand Anna got diluted by all the holy men and politicians who joined him for a free ride," says KV 'Pops' Sridhar, national creative director at Leo Burnett.
He reckons that India's youth backed Hazare the man and nor his extended coterie. "The moment his coterie became stronger and more visible, the brand deteriorated," says Sridhar.The cornerstone of building Brand Anna Hazare lay in the septuagenarian's ability to attract hordes of youngsters to his anti-corruption public meetings, not just in Delhi's Jantar Mantar and Mumbai's Azad Maidan but across the hinterland too.
The movement gained steam in smaller cities driven by a flood of messages across social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the best way to reach out to a constantly connected youth. But social media is no quick fix."Social media is not a one-time initiative; it is a constant effort and clearly Hazare's team has struggled to keep up," says Rohan Chandrashekhar, CEO of BuzzValve, a social business consultancy."Given the nature of social media, even the slightest missteps get magnified." Given this stumble and constantly shifting messaging, social media users have either become disenchanted with the movement or, worse, shifted sides.
"Social media is not a self-fulfilling prophecy," says Chandrashekhar. "You have to keep the effort going and the messaging consistent."Instead, the movement has gone from being proactive and hopeful to angry and reactive, pushing many youth away and hindering rather than helping the brand's position.
Santosh Desai, MD and CEO Future Brands, says that when the movement was launched, Anna Hazare represented a seemingly uncontaminated figure, which bore little resemblance to the political class that people struggle to identify with."He seemed to represent a return to simpler and more idealistic times," adds Desai.However, over the last few months, that illusion has been broken somewhat as the middle class — perhaps the biggest drivers of this movement — have gotten to know him better and actually dislike several things he represents.For this brand at least, too many cooks are clearly spoiling the broth. Quarrelling core team members are clearly doing more harm than good, agrees Desai."The sense of a difference or a counterpoint has got blurred," says Desai. "A concerted campaign by the government and their own internal strife has led to a muddling of purpose and sullying of the brand that Anna Hazare originally stood for."
"They are loquacious and endlessly verbose ... the movement has become tedious and clarity has been lost