This article is inspired from the speech of Shashi Tharoor @ TED.
“As a marketer, it’s not a question of what comes to your mind, it’s a question of why.”
Soft Power Marketing (SFM) first came to my mind when an incident happened with my ex-roommate. My friend had found a new date from Romania. After two days of chatting, the Romanian girl drops a bomb when she says that her mother listens to old Hindi songs. She spans her camera and my friend is amazed to find an old rustic lady singing jingles of a popular old movie song. For this Romanian family in Bucharest, India is a land of sweet melodies and handsome actors.
So let’s talk about Soft Power Marketing. According to its creator Joseph S. Nye Jr, a Harvard Academic, Soft Power can be defined as a means generating a Foreign Public Opinion in line with the same outcome you desire through understanding and fine tuning your messages based on how the audience hears your messages and interprets it. As per my reading and understanding, Soft Power Marketing is a medium of attracting others through effective public diplomacy that involves not just age-old broadcasting, but by using an exchange basket of Intangibles assets like culture, political values and beliefs, well supplemented through physical trade of complimentary tangible assets.
To elaborate, let us consider India. As a nation, what does this mean for our country? For India, Soft Power has always remained its biggest strength. From Ayurveda, Yoga, Kamasutra and Tantric Yogis, today the Soft Power Marketing platform has shifted towards other mediums such as Bollywood, TV Serials, Spicy Curries and (not the least) Information Technology. Though well structured, the fact of the matter is that no Indian Government Policy Institute would have thought of SFM as a weapon. What the country has gained is through ignorance and pure luck.
Consider this, 3 Idiots has grossed over Rs 100 crores (or 1 Billion INR) in its first four days. The distributors had released about 2000 prints across 40 countries and in places like Australia; there are reports that the shows of 3 Idiots were increased after reducing the shows of Avatar. It shows how the Indian Soft Power is flexing its muscle.
So while my ex-roommate remains glued to his online date, my Chinese friend from Guangzhou province complains that his mother is neglecting household chores thanks to the Indian Saas Bahu serials that are telecast in Chinese.
Like any other marketing, the success of SFM remains at the mercy of the audience. What could be the implications? What are the right media? How much of culture should be exposed? These questions confound even the experts. With a lack of understanding, even the big would fall square.
So when the American Army invades and topples the ruling dictator of Iraq, and the western world expects a thankful Iraqi nation, the Foreign policy and values conveyed forcefully to the Iraqi citizens force them to think of America as a nation of Infidels who has destabilized their country into desolation. Even for a country like India, the soft power image was no match when the Indian Peace Keeping Force was sent to Sri Lanka which created an impression of an Intruder and Big Brother Foreign Policy that ultimately led to two warring factions to join hands and fight against the purported Peace Keepers.
To conclude, as a subject, we have enough history to understand why it’s high time to start emphasizing on Soft Power Marketing. And as Individuals and as nations, we have enough interests as our motives.
The writer is the Dubai correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz
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