Campaign India Team
Oct 25, 2010

Double Standards: Does the chaos around the CWG harm the Nation Brand?

We break from the normal Q&A format to accommodate our experts on brands on their views of the impact of the CWG on brand India. We asked them the following questions, and they answer, not question by question, but in their own inimitable styles.

Double Standards: Does the chaos around the CWG harm the Nation Brand?

Do negative developments in events such as the CWG affect the nation-brand, in this case India? How?

Do you think the corruption/inefficiency related issues connected to the CWG have affected brand India? How?

Do you think there are any positives for brand India from the hosting of the CWG? What could they be?

If India is treated as a brand, do you think ‘brand India’ needs ‘promotions’ such as the CWG or the Olympic Games? Are such investments justified for such a ‘brand’?


Kiran Khalap, co-founder and MD, chlorophyll

Even before we plunge into the CWG and India debate, let’s quickly revisit Nation Brands as a concept.

The words brand and branding have been used in the public (as opposed to the specialist’s) domain to refer to mostly product (Eg: Lux soap) or service brands (Eg: Taj Hotel). 

People are comfortable understanding that branding will (some day, somehow) answer the question, “Why buy me?”

When it comes to corporate brands, the understanding becomes fuzzier: who is the target, and what is being sold?

This confusion is heightened when we discuss Nation Brands: Simon Anholt is credited with the introduction of this notion in 2005.

(For the record, as a brand analyst, I accept the idea of a Nation Brand; as opposed to, say, the idea of a Personal Branding, which is a sophisticated method of relieving insecure public figures of their ill-gotten gains.)

So is Nation Branding about the ‘Incredible India’ campaign? (“Arre, but that is a tourism campaign!”)

So is it about India’s Davos diplomacy? (“Arre, but that is about business development!”)

The confusion is further compounded by words like Public Diplomacy and Soft Power that form the intervening circles of the Venn Diagram on Nation Branding.

The second level of confusion is again at a definitional level: Simon Anholt’s Index measures six dimensions (Exports; Governance; Tourism; Culture; People; Immigration and Investment) while Interbrand suggests treating the nation brand as a sum total of the brands it owns and exports (do check out maps according to GDP at to see how over centuries India and China have changed as exporters of brands!)

The third level of confusion, for me at least, is between the civilisation and the nation: Indian civilisation is well-defined by unchanging ideas that drive it at a philosophical level (“Thou art that”) and cultural (“vasudhaiva kutumbakam” therefore inclusiveness in art, music, food, rituals) levels. 

But besides a precarious and surprisingly successful experiment in democracy, what idea drives the 1947-born nation?

In fact, the civilisation vs nation fracture appears irreconcilable today: the philosophical high-ground has been reduced to evangelical money-making by fake gurus and inclusion is substituted by divisions invented at every level.

So here’s my thesis: the CWG made no difference whatsoever to the timeless ideas of the civilisation, it does make a difference to the idea of India, the Nation Brand.

I believe as a young nation, and especially as a nation of argumentative navel gazers, we can only learn by doing; doing and executing things that are better than the world’s best is an art we lost and we must re-learn.

Till now, individual Indians have excelled, now India as a nation must. 

Isn’t it a waste of money when so many are below the poverty line? 

Well, so are cricket, and Hindi films, and Republic Day parades.India the nation must learn to excel in both: include the other India in its growth and reaffirm its identity as a modern nation, not just an ancient civilisation.

Did the inefficiency and corruption affect Brand India? 

100%. India’s score on Governance will drop further due to the corruption.

On the other hand, its scores for Culture and People might rise.

But remember that like in the case of product brands who lose brand valuation due to incorrect decisions or unplanned circumstances (Nokia lost because it did not back the clam-shell mode), Nation Brand scores also change year-on-year due to what happens inside the Nation and outside in the world. 

So the optimist in me says that the next time Brand India undertakes a task of this scale, it will do so with greater planning, greater accountability and greater inclusion.

Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, brand-comm 

Even a junior brand manager in a large, well-run corporation would have shown a greater understanding of the magnitude of the crisis. I daresay that this comes from the larger Indian malaise of “anything can be fixed”. Most things probably can, but not your image.  Even if your image may be fixed, it is going to take time, effort and hopefully some strategic direction. It is important for people in branding to gauge the mood of their target audiences and their consumers.

Every student of public relations must analyse the entire CWG fiasco in the context of the need for being honest and coming clean instead of attempting to brush the garbage under the carpet.  And clearly, there was a lot of muck that was floating around. When the shit was literally hitting the roof, what was one to make of the statements about “minor glitches” and “Indian standards of hygiene”? When all eyes were on the debacle and the media was out to magnify even minor issues, the blatant misreading of the mood of the nation smacks of either complete arrogance or blissful ignorance, take your pick

Perceptions of a brand are very much in the way we form impressions of people. When the “bad” exceeds the “good” by far then there is a problem. Thankfully in this case the negatives were overshadowed to a large extent by a world class opening and closing ceremonies and some top flight perormances by our athletes. Has the “good” outshone the “bad?’ I am not so sure. I think the point to be noted, is India is no longer “just another country”. A number of countries are waiting and watching and if I may add, hoping that it will fail. I think the organisers played into the hands of the India baiters.

Are investments like this necessary? I do think they are necessary, simply because an efficiently run event is sending out a signal to the rest of the world, much like the Beijing Olympics. Yes, we can find better uses for the money spent , given the poverty in the country. But there is a bigger picture and brands with global aspirations need to keep this in mind. Think big, think global and make an impact.

Campaign India