A cautionary tale in branding humanitarian relief

In the recent devastating floods in Tamil Nadu, the ruling political party and its supremo, and TN Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha were expected to act swiftly, rescuing people and helping them with relief materials.

Instead, this happened:

Vehicles carrying relief materials are being stopped and stickers of Jayalaithaa are forcibly being pasted on them. If someone refuses, then that relief material is not allowed to pass.

In another location, son of former chief minister O Paneerselvam was seen serving food to flood victims in front of a mini cut-out of Jayalalithaa.

In Amma’s service

More here

Tales of sycophancy are entirely par for the course in Tamil Nadu. When Jayalalitha, popularly known as Amma (mother) was jailed on corruption charges and had to demit the CM’s office, her nominee, O Paneerselvam refused to occupy the official CM’s office and operated from his own. Virtually the entire government came to a standstill as all “senior” leaders spent their days camping outside the jail where Jayalalitha was housed in the neighbouring state, Karnataka.

But this is clearly a huge public relations disaster – and while Jayalalitha may not have issued any such orders to her party workers to do this, this is the result of the political culture she has cultivated over the years. So when the floods happened, Amma’s children saw this as a godsend to display their undying love and devotion.

So if you are interested in humanitarian relief, think beyond branding. If you cannot, don’t do it.


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