As part of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, his image will soon be painted on Air India aircrafts. Many experts see this as a fitting tribute, truly appropriate as an amplification of his glorious role in our history. From the lens of Experiential Branding, however, such a move is grossly incorrect, even bordering on disrespectful, for a global icon.
Let me start, most simplistically, on why the Air India aircraft is an avoidable medium, from the filter of serving non-vegetarian food and alcohol. Whether we agree or not, the Great Man was an avowed vegan, meat and liquor definingly inconsistent with his revered worldview, on the foundation of ‘Ahimsa’. The airline business, in international sectors, cannot adhere to such principles for business imperatives, given category codes and basic customer expectations. It is well known that the Birla empire did not enter the hospitality or aviation business for this very reason, notwithstanding the many possibilities. As Marshall Mcluhan had stated many decades ago, the medium is indeed the message and however literal it may seem, the Dreamliner must deliver indulgences sharply disagreeable to the Mahatma’s values, thus making the two an experiential mismatch.
The second and more pragmatic reason why this is a very bad idea is the business stature of Air India, reeling in losses and surviving on sheer entitlement. Our greatest human brand cannot be riding on a disastrous corporate brand, a poor ambassador of New India in every possible dimension. In terms of operational efficiency and overall performance, not comparable to most competent global peers. Unlike say the IT majors as well as manufacturing or multi-dimensional stalwarts, where the story of India comes to life in a compelling and sustainable fashion, a deserving embodiment of the nation envisaged by the founding fathers. Thus, experientially once again, this is a poor fit, the greatest citizen of the land incompatible with a mediocre citizen of the air.
Instead of mere graphic imagery, what the great Mahatma’s legacy truly deserves is its intelligent dissemination across the world, in an actionable and scalable format, aided by the digital evolution. It is well and truly a no-brainer that the entire planet earnestly needs that dosage of calm, no more credible spokesperson of this approach than Gandhiji. This becomes a great opportunity for Brand India to enhance its ‘Soft Power’ on the world at large, an emotional influence that has an overwhelming influence in other geographies. Thus, creating a position in the global map, which can complement our impressive credentials as a ‘Hard Power’, 70 years after freedom.
What we need to do, uniting the best minds, is to launch the Global Gandhi Brand Project, with a view towards unleashing the latent Gandhi-ism in every citizen of the world. Aiming to be the number one app in the planet, enjoying the participation of every able-minded digital citizen, committed to a peaceful world. It will start by re-writing the history of mankind if peace was the foremost consideration, thus creating an unassailable entry barrier for evil in any form, from the ISIS to any other comparable force. It will enlist youth ambassadors from every land, building a seamless global bridge of peace, with a vow to never break it under any provocation. An entire battalion of audio-visual ammunition, from short films to testimonials by every global head-of-state will be enlisted. Think of it as Live Aid in the form of an endless capsule, endorsed by all powerful figures, not just politicians but sportspeople and showbiz personalities and professionals.
The digital partner in this can well be Apple or Microsoft or most appropriately Google, with a similar agenda of uniting the world through technology. Once this project is launched in 2020, India will rapidly gain stature as the Sustainability Hub of the universe, not as air quality alas, but certainly in terms of a scalable peace-provoking mindset. The Global Gandhi project will create peace ambassadors from every geography gathering in India for the Giant Summit, to launch a manifesto that will be zealously guarded for time to come. India will surpass the United Nations, in many ways, as the credible advocate of a sustainable future, filled with happy possibilities of constant unification.
To ensure that the values of Gandhiji deservedly fly, Gandhiji must not be allowed to fly on Air India, ill-advised tokenism at its fullest best. Instead, his ideals must be persuaded to soar, the Global Gandhi Brand Project just one way of creating meaningful universal impact.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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