Gandhi’s Brand? Montblanc Misses The Point

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Storied European pen-maker Montblanc wanted to raise its brand profile in India. Not a bad idea, India’s population is 1 billion. So, long on imagination but short on branding basics (or common sense), Montblanc released a limited-edition pen, made of 18-carat solid gold with a rhodium-plated nib and a saffron-colored mandarin garnet, called the “Ma-hatma Gandhi.” It costs Rs1.1 million (about $24,000). The brand released the special pens on Gandhi’s birthday, a national holiday in India.

Compounding the ridiculousness, the handmade pens will be sold in a limited edition of 241, intended to honor the number of miles Gandhi walked during his salt tax protest. Each pen will come with an eight-meter gold thread representing the cotton loom on which Gandhi made his own humble garments.[more]

A larger edition of 3000 finds a different numeric rationale, according to the Montblanc site:

The design pays tribute to his life and achievements. The top of the cap and cone are inspired by the spindle which Gandhi used to spin cotton – one of the symbols of Indian independence. The colour white is a reference to truth and peace, while the Mandarin garnet represents the orange colour that is part of the Indian flag. The nib shows the image of Mahatma Gandhi, walking with a stick. In addition, the limitation of the Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition 3000 is symbolic for the masses of people who followed him during his fight for independence.

The reception in India was predictable. Gandhi lived as a minimalist, eschewing material riches in favor of spiritual wealth. (He also favored purchase of India-made goods.) Montblanc chief executive Lutz Bethge seemed genuinely surprised, telling the BBC, “I certainly have to say, I wouldn’t have thought that people would have reacted negatively.”

What’s next, a Karl Marx Mutual Fund? A Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Garden Hose? A George Orwell Commemorative Home DNA Test Kit?

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