At first sight the two couldn’t seem further apart. The US Republican Presidential candidate bellowing ‘Make America Great Again’ being compared with an Indian Ayurvedic FMCG proposition that exemplifies the ‘Made in India’ mantra. But looking deeper, there’s a lot of parallels to draw on the business side of things between the two. They’re both huge brands in their respective countries, but the way they value their brand campaigns has everything to do with the personalities behind the product; Donald Trump and Baba Ramdev.
The Man Behind Patanjali
You must have read the ‘news’ about Acharya Balkrishna, the MD and 94% shareholder in Patanjali Ayurved, now being one of the richest men in India. It’s truly spectacular when someone from such a different, perhaps not entirely business oriented corporate background is able to take a set of FMCG products mainstream. A few years ago no one would have predicted that one of the largest market disrupters in the FMCG space came from a man who wrote a book on Ayurvedic medicine. While other FMCG companies were trying to trim down their product line, Balkrishna went all-in with Patanjali, launching over 400 SKUs across the country.
The company, formed in 2006, went through a period of moderate growth before its meteoric rise in popularity. Entering a post-Narendra Modi election market by riding the wave of national pride, they were able to position their products as ‘chemical free’ in a time when the awareness on this subject is at an all-time high.
Donald Trump has very different beginnings from Acharya Balkrishna. He graduated from Wharton with a BA in Economics while working under his father, Fred Trump’s real estate business. Three years later, he took over, rebranded it “The Trump Organization” and built projects across Manhattan while attaining recognition due to his buildings’ architecture and his personal lifestyle. If you avoid any news released after his Presidential candidacy announcement, you’ll find that Trump was a very successful businessman. In Real estate. His escapades into different avenues such as Trump Steaks and Trump water left much to be desired.
Patanjali Sells Patanjali
Patanjali does one thing that’s very trendy these days, and even though they’re selling products with names that are thousands of years old, their marketing strategy is right out of Steve Jobs’s playbook. What they do is called Single-Brand Marketing. Everything in one basket, all under one roof. There’s only one Patanjali brand. The soap they sell? Patanjali soap. Toothpaste? Patanjali Toothpaste. Compare this with Unilever or P&G or Nestle, who have hundreds of brands under their umbrella, with some competing with each other.
Apple does the same thing. It’s the Apple iPhone. Apple iMac. Apple Watch. They have their name, and the subcategory tells you exactly what it is. Sony releases the Sony Xperia M Dual Purple 4GB, Apple releases the iPhone 7. The naming conventions are simple, and builds on a single brand. Same with Patanjali, and same with Trump. They both have just one brand, and that brand carries all the weight it needs to sell the product.
Trump Sells Trump
Trump Casino & Resorts, Trump Financial, Trump Shuttle, Trump University, Trump Books, Trump Mortgage, Trump Steaks, Donald Trump: The Game. These are just some of the ventures Donald Trump has plastered his name, and therefore his brand over. It follows the same rule of ‘Brand name – Simple subcategory name’.
Trump, Patanjali and tech companies aren’t the only one to do this. Richard Branson has been doing this for a long time; slapping the Virgin brand onto everything from aeroplanes to mobile services.
They both sell a story
The second thing they have in common is a story-teller. In Trump’s case there’s no one better than Trump himself. He took real estate, wrapped it in the 80s glamour of a booming Manhattan economy and sold his lifestyle to the media. Three divorces, numerous scandals and an award winning TV show ensured he kept turning up on screens across America. The media in turn turned him and his brand into a household name, and he kept his media appearances up for decades. His pitch is basically: “I started with this much, now I have more. I’m famous and successful, and if these products have my name on it, they must be great too.” Donald Trump became a household name long before the Presidential race.
This is similar to Baba Ramdev, the story-teller in Patanjali’s case, who built his own brand through yoga and Ayurveda. He and his aides built numerous Ayurveda centres across the country, and even a TV Channel ‘Aastha’ that broadcast spiritual discourse, yoga and Ayurveda. He gained a huge following across India through many of his political and spiritual campaigns.
It takes time to build a brand
When people talk about Patanjali being a disruptive FMCG company with insane growth in the last year or so, what they fail to take into consideration is the decades that Baba Ramdev, the principle story-teller for Patanjali products, took to build his brand and following as a yoga guru. With that huge following and his sway among the average Indian consumer, all it took was a Modi-tier political leader to campaign about products being made in India and Making India Great Again for Patanjali to be able to ride the wave and advertise themselves with ‘free from harmful chemicals’ and ‘Made in India for the growth of the country’.
Trump did the exact same thing with his fame and recognition, except instead of selling FMCG products (he did have Trump Steak and Trump water, but those were more brand campaigns than actual commodities), he ran for the highest office in America. And so far it’s working out for him. His fame and recognition played a part in securing the Republican Nomination, and perhaps even the presidency. The time he invested into getting his brand spread across the country now pays dividends in an entirely unrelated field, because he sells his story, and the story is him.
So that’s the power of brand recognition. Five years ago you wouldn’t have guessed you’d be buying noodles from Baba Ramdev over Maggi, and you certainly wouldn’t have expected seeing Donald Trump in the White House.