“A brand that fails the customer, fails its dharm,” says the shehanshah of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan. He was addressing an enthusiastic crowd consisting of businessmen, advertisers, marketers, media and students at the 44th edition of the International Advertising Association (IAA) World Congress. He kicked off the congress by unveiling the theme ‘Brand Dharma, what’s coming next?’
However, Big B seemed to have a different opinion regarding the actual interpretation of Dharma. According to him, the exact word that describes the vision of IAA is dharm, a Sanskrit word that stands for righteousness, duty, responsibility, virtue and goodness. Citing the example of Thiruvananthapuram, which had an intricate meaning, but was changed to Trivandrum that had no proper meaning, Amitabh says that some of the desi words are well explained only when they are used as they are. He elaborates, “Let us not be victims of dishonesty in the meanings of words, as dishonest words will only give dishonest results. The moment you pronounce dharm in its English avatar Dharma, instead of its actual pronunciation, is making its perception, its concept, its consideration, its view point all change.”
Displaying great sense of statesmanship and maturity, Amitabh went on to say that what actually matters is Brand ka Dharm, which decides the objectives of a brand or what exactly a brand’s responsibility is, towards the costumers and in turn contributing towards the progress of the nation, and not Dharm ka Brand, which promotes the beliefs of a brand and considers customers as prospects only. “Brands can only become ‘brands’ if they manage to achieve a customer’s trust. A nation that does not value the citizen’s money can never be on the path of success. On the other hand, the people too should whole-heartedly approve the brands that contribute towards the revenue of the country at large. Competition does matter, but does competition decide the dharm of a brand? What is the accountability of the brand towards the consumers?” he added.
Delving into the present digital system that has made the customers more vigilant about the happenings around them, Amitabh added that any brand, no matter how popular it is, that destroys the habitat of people cannot be successful as the customers are increasingly inquiring whether a manufacturer is an equal opportunity employer. “They also demand to know whether the raw materials are sourced locally, finished goods are manufactured in decent environment and whether the production is endangering our atmosphere and water.”
Citing the example of famous ad campaigns like that of Cadburys and polio eradication, Amitabh said that the brands are very wisely using the popularity of celebrities in order to increase the reach of such campaigns. He also highlighted the fact that the customers are very much enthusiastic to know if the celebrities walk the talk and actually promote items that stand true to their claims. “Not doing ads that promote alcohol is my dharm. I consider it as my responsibility towards the society, however, my dharm is not yours and your Dharm is not anyone else’s. Neither can we impose anything on anyone in today’s era. It is simple that as a brand each one should have independent visions and should stay true to them. This will automatically ensure its sustainability in the market and the popularity among customers.”
Big B also opined that every person is a brand and has a dharm, which should only focus on nation building and not on developing and prospering individually. He quoted his father Harivansh Rai Srivastav in this regard, who opted to change his surname for the sake of not being limited to a particular caste. “Taking on the surname Bachchan was my father’s way to fight casteism — to reject stereotypes. I am proud that we are continuing his legacy. Bachchan is therefore a brand that propagates a particular thought, which can contribute towards the betterment of the society,” he concludes.