Why the Gandhi family brand values ultimately failed Rahul Gandhi

The news is just in. As expected the Congress Working Committee (CWC) refused to accept the resignations of party president Sonia Gandhi and party vice president Rahul Gandhi. While the Congress may not have any options and are clinging to the safe and familiar – the message being communicated by this fresh action is exactly why the voters rejected the party. Nothing new to offer and no plan to save itself, let alone the nation.

In the last few years, many iconic tech brands have bitten the dust. Nokia – once the phone to swear by in India is struggling, as is Blackberry worldwide. The reason for this was, of course, hard competition and better phone options, the old brand benefits no longer delight the customer. While Nokia and Blackberry get instant feedback from the sales figures – the Gandhi family and Rahul Gandhi have been so wrapped up in their own product values that they failed to notice that the consumer - albeit one that comes up once every five years – no longer wants to buy 'product Gandhi' . And Modi, who sold his brand better, emerged as the market leader.

Here are 4 reasons why Rahul Gandhi’s brand image failed with the voter:

  • Rahul Gandhi was trapped by his own product values

Every brand communicates a certain value. If Fastrack is edgy, sexy and ever so risqué, Tata Steel is reliable, stable and long lasting. Rahul Gandhi’s main product value was his family name. Unfortunately for him, an aspirational India with people on the make, did not find that attractive. It did not help that Gandhi’s expression of his chief brand value, the family name, came with the baggage of feudal behaviour. So random attempts such as a night spent at a Dalit hut, repeated assertions of womens empowerment without any real plan all added up to poor communication impact . Plus there was never any follow up after high profile visits to bewildered villagers. A touch of the Lord of the Manor there.

  • Rahul could not communicate during a crisis

As every PR manager worth their salt knows, actually being present and available during a crisis is crucial for a leader. At crucial points, whether it was during the Nirbhaya molestation case or being present at Manmohan Singh’s farewell dinner, Rahul was just not available - adding to the perception that Modi was the better man to deal with a perpetually crisis ridden country. And then he did it again by disappearing just before the results were announced.

  • Rahul acted like he didn’t want the job

In January this year, while taking over as Vice President of the Congress (effectively becoming the most important person in the UPA government after Sonia Gandhi) Rahul Gandhi declared that his mother cried just before he was due to take over as Vice President. Rahul said his mother understood that power was poison. Not the best thing to say publicly just before you are expected to lead a major election effort.
Many believe that this is one point when voters turned away from him.

  • Rahul had no plan to offer and talked in generalities

If you want people who are bored by your message to turn back to you, offer them a new, clear and focused message. In fact, offer them a message they can relate to. As the now infamous Times Now interview proved, Rahul Gandhi had nothing new to say, no clear plan on how to lead India and no understanding of what the voters wanted. Banalities about women, farmers and people empowerment failed to impress.

Unless Rahul Gandhi figures out a way to revive the party, he may just be looking at the end of his own dynasty based brand and he would be the one to have ended it.

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