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The limits to a Regional Identity

There's a marked difference between regional brands and niche ones. Before I get to what sets them apart, let me state what makes them similar. Its just one count. Both attract a limited audience.

Regional brands play into geographic variables and appeal to consumers of a particular region. That's what limits their appeal. Their choice of geography as a variable. Not so for niche brands. What limits them isn't geography. Instead its income, lifestyle and other such socio-economic variables. This in effect ensures their appeal cuts across geographies. Let me illustrate. A Rolex or a Ferrari may not command a wide audience, yet in a way they do, across countries and regions. The rich and powerful desire it, buy into it. Doesn't matter where the rich reside, its a Rolex they sport, its a Ferrari they drive.

Contrast that with a Kerala based soap brand like Manjal. It takes its name after turmeric, that's good for our skin. Yet its identity limits its appeal beyond the southern peninsula in India. For Manjal to make it big, it must adopt an identity that's beyond southern geography.

Regional political parties in India too remind me of the concept of 'limited' regional brands. Born out of a regional opportunity, regional political parties in India can't and don't have pan-Indian visions. And even if they do, they don't have the wherewithal to craft a national identity. Their petty leaders can't break their local mindsets to free the party from its regional shackles. A classic case in point is Shiv Sena based in Maharashtra. No matter, what transformations it has in mind for the future, it can't break out of its 'local' thinking. The party supremo's comment on Sachin Tendulkar is a clear demonstration of its 'caught between the Devil and deep Sea' existence. MNS's rise forced the supremo's hand. Therefore the anti- Sachin statement. The fallout? Neither here, surely not there. When I say 'here' I mean Maharashtra. I can't think of Marathis being happy at what Bal Thackeray wrote. What about Indians across various states ( the 'nor there')? I bet, they too are fuming at him having taken on someone who's closest to an Indian National Icon. In fact, I can't think of any personality that commands the kind of immense respect across India than Sachin Tendulkar. A gifted cricketer, he's been exemplary both in his professional and personal life. Taking on him is akin to taking the road to doomsday.

Regional Brands, to turn Pan-Geographic brands, have to undergo a comprehensive change in identity. And for that, the paradigmic shift called for has more to do with mindset than marketing.

My guess is, its a long shot for local players.

As they say, You can take the man out of the method.

The method out of the man?

That'll be the day!


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