Two brands managed to get the President and the Prime Minister of India as quasi brand endorsers, something that had never happened
Delhi | September 5, 2016
August-September 2016 will be remembered as a landmark year for brands in India. Two brands in a space of less than 10 days managed to get the President and the Prime Minister of India as quasi brand endorsers. Something that had never happened in India, something that the brands may have debated but never dared to pull it off.
On August 23, 2016, Bandhan Bank released an ad, along with the picture of President of India, claiming that “The First Citizen of India will celebrate our first anniversary”. For the newest bank of India, this seemed like a terrific way to get into limelight. The President of India did address the first-year anniversary celebrations of India’s newest bank in Kolkata.
Was the bank correct in using the photograph of President? For the core audience of Bandhan Bank, it could almost mean that they see it as a ‘sarkari’ bank.
Then on September 1, 2016, Reliance Jio launched its nationwide 4G services with the picture of the Prime Minister of India splashed across all the major newspapers of India. In a poorly crafted ad, with copy error, the country welcomed not only a new telecom service, but also possibly a new brand endorser. The PM was cleverly dressed in the same colours as the brand logo.
Now that two brands have found a way, are more coming?
The use of the President and the Prime Minister for commercial purposes is generally not allowed. The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950 has specific guidelines that makes it almost impossible for private citizens and brands to use the two names for commercial purposes. However, if the two brands have found a way of using them for commercial purposes, are more brands queuing up to use them? A builder in Mumbai did use the PM’s picture to launch a housing scheme quoting the PM’s Jan Awas Yojna, but had to pull the ad down as he hadn’t taken permission from the PMO. While it doesn't look like free for all, there are chances that we may see more brands using the PM as brand endorser.
Is Government underplaying its own companies?
Both Bandhan and Jio are not owned by the Government of India. GOI owns multiple banks and BSNL is India’s premier telephone company. By endorsing the private sector companies, GOI may be putting its own companies in a hard place. BSNL did respond to the launch of Jio swiftly, and what would have happened if the BSNL ads too had the picture of PM, or the Minister of Telecommunications?
Communication is a lot about symbols and the prime positions of the Government offices are extremely important symbols. By letting the competitors to use the symbols of governance, the Government is weakening its own self.
Despite all the weakness that comes from being Government owned, there are two strengths that come from being ‘sarkari’: trust and honesty. These are two very difficult traits to build for a new brand. Has the Government made it easy for the two brands to build the two traits?
Why it’s bad for us, we the people
We, the citizens of India, elect our representatives to be our voice in Parliament and do the right thing for us. By becoming endorsers of brands and business, the elected representatives are breaking the bond between them and their voters. Tomorrow, will the ordinary citizen of India believe that he/she is the king and the brand will listen to them and resolve the issue?
Will the poor performance of the brand not affect the standing of the endorser? Will a PM weakened by the brand he endorsed be a good thing for the nation?
These are new territories
I had never thought that there will be a day when a private sector company will use the PM or President as the endorser. I always believed that the Government-run brands are hampered by their desire to use the picture of ruling class.
The tables have turned. The private sector brands are seeking the ruling class; the ‘sarkari’ brands are carving their way without the benefit of using the PM’s pictures.
There is no telling how the new reality will be. One thing though is sure, a lot many more brands will line up at the PMO, seeking permission.
Hope the PMO is working towards launching an App for this. Get automatic approval and launch the campaign.