Brand Modi – Buy at your own risk

'Modi'fied republic

'Modi'fied republic

Some call him a salesman and some saviour. But after a long time India has seen a leader who cannot be ignored. I can say, Modi is one of the most controversial and also the most loved public figure of today’s politics since Indira Gandhi. From a right-winged politician to a decisive leader, he has not just created but transformed his public image to attain the Prime ‘Sevak’ position of the country. From the man held responsible for the 2002 Gujarat massacre by the polity to the man sweeping away the opposition with a ‘majority’ government in the age of coalitions; he has definitely carved a space for himself which no other politician has been able to do in recent past of the country.
But is it the first time that India has seen a strong figure like him? No. Is it the first time that an Indian leader successfully ignited passions in the polity of the country? No. Is it the first time that the country was facing such depressing sentiment which led to his rise? No, we have seen worse in the past. Then what is it that makes him different from the other successful leaders preceding him? What separates Modi from a Vajpayee or Indira or Rajiv Gandhi or any other respected leader? Even though these leaders were well respected, but their ideas did not last beyond their terms in office. Modi on the other hand may not be saying anything new (afterall we are not hearing the roti, kapda, makaan, safai, good governance and technological advancements for the first time); but is introducing new processes in the political and governing system of the country which is sticking on to the people. We have had enough laws, but we have not had the system implementing them. It is this process driven administration skill which has led him to be termed ‘special’.

Some people call his rise a deliberate manipulation; and some call it a well thought manoeuvring strategy. However, in both the cases, the man knows how to get heard, seen and generate reactions. You will hear him and if you don’t, he will arm-twist you to hear him. Introducing a corporate professionalism and rigidity into the political system, his methods are being seen as a much awaited relief from the red-tapism of the existing system. Becoming the face of arguably one of the most well planned and implemented campaigns, creation of Brand Modi is definitely a process to learn from.

Product Offering – A hard taskmaster belonging to a party claimed to have its routes in twice banned Hindu radical group. Image deeply tainted nationally and internationally by the 2002 Gujarat riots. Own party members rejecting him as a leader of the party at the national level. But at the same time, the man has been well appreciated for building up his state post the riots and the Bhuj earthquake. Also enjoys a strong support by the trading and business communities, which happen to be dominated by the Gujarati community as well.

Team Building –the first step to his image building was to collect the right set of brains and setting up the machinery to drive the process. The Modi campaign was driven by a team of some of the best minds of the advertising and PR fraternity. And understanding the weaknesses and strengths of their own product, they planned the process thoroughly/ accordingly. Apparently, in one of the interviews after the Gujarat riots when Narendra Modi was questioned about what he regrets most about the Gujarat riots, he is said ‘I regret not handling the media properly’. Carrying some very serious undertones, such a statement gives us a reference into why the 2014 Election Campaign was so brilliantly micro-managed. Now if the media loses its freedom of speech due to this, well, it was never really free earlier also isn’t it?

Segmentation, targeting and positioning – Post the riots, Modi was pushed out of the national political scene for almost 10 years. He had not answered any questions and had even walked out of some interviews giving out a very closed message to the public who inevidently held him responsible. On the other hand, the government was busy cleaning and hiding their scams and the youth was taking to the streets and mobilising the Anna movement against it. Hence the first thing that Modi’s team did for his election campaigning was open up a dialogue. As pointed by the man himself in various speeches, ‘Youth is the power of the country’. Team Modi started with targeting ‘the youth’ to slowly turn around his image. They targeted the educational institutes such as IIMs, IITs and SRCC in Delhi to kickstart the Modi campaign. Agenda – to wash dirty linen of the past and position the man as a thinker and a visionary.

A clear objective – The first thing that we as advertisers or marketers write in our briefs is ‘why is the brief here?’ – the primary objective. Every party wants to win, just like every company wants to increase sales. However that is as unclear a goal as me saying I want to be successful. For the first time a political party gave itself a target – coming into power with a majority by winning 272 seats.

Choose the right media – Today’s marketing swears by the rule of 360 degree campaigns to optimise a message, however very few actually end up applying it. When the other parties were busy giving speeches and entertaining the public on the new channels, Modi wagon took onto Twitter and Facebook. After BJP won the first by-elections in 4 state, the bigger task in front of this team was to keep the momentum going for the next 6 months before the national Loksabha Elections could commence. This required major improvisation in their SEO and digital marketing plans without diverging from the core idea which ultimately provided consistency to the entire campaign. He used video messages, participated in google group chats, and posted selfies on social media sites. He was suddenly representing the modern and more youthful thought process as opposed to the typical old, slow and irresponsible politician. To encash the much bigger mobile market of the country, Watsapp became another major war-turf apart from social media where the war was not just reaching the masses but also involving them directly.

Watch the competition – Apple vs Samsung; Pepsi vs Coke; 7Up vs Sprite, and many other such direct rivals have tried their hands at Ambush Advertising and have burnt hands. However election is a turf where you can’t play safe. There will be mud-slinging and nobody can help it. Hence it is extremely important to keep a track of what your competitors are saying or doing to act on time. Modi had put up focussed teams to track every move of the competitors, guard themselves and collect artillery to hit back. And the moment the campaign picked up pace, the war was very smartly changed into war between individuals, rather than party ideologies. The 2014 election was not between BJP, Congress, AAP and Third Front. It was between Modi, Rahul, Arvind Kejriwal and rest didn’t matter. This provided a much clearer choice to the people than understanding ideologies. Just like it is easier for people choose between a Bingo and a Lays instead of understanding and comparing the quality given by ITC and Pepsico.

Convince and reiterate – The speeches and rallies on the ground; and the aggressive advertising and PR campaigns in the digital media did the job of convincing the masses that Modi can indeed be considered for becoming the next Prime Minister of the country. However the elections were a bit far and the competition was diverse. BJP had to hold the ground not just against Congress but also AAP and the Third Front. And this could not be possible without consistently reiterating the message. And this is where the creativity of messaging pitched in. The campaign line ‘Abki baar Modi Sarkar’ and ‘Acche din aane waale hain’ came in handy to provide a base beat to the orchestra that the Modi team was building. Phrases like ‘56 inch ka seena’, ‘lion of Gujarat’ and ‘chaiwallah’ were touched upon as few interesting notes. Depicting the man as a strong leader with humble beginnings, BJP cracked open the heart of the much annoyed Indian society.

Not everyone may like his way of working or be convinced with the ideas he and his party stand for, but what this man is doing is bring in processes and professionalism into the political working. This has not just led him to victory but made him outgrow his own party as well. A majority of his supporters back Modi as an individual while the competitors are busy opposing the Modi of BJP.

However there are certain aspects of this phenomenon that we as educated public should be vary of. As per the current functioning of the government, Modi is definitely helping the common man in the fighting the basic inefficacy of the government machinery and other lifestyle issues such as cleanliness and corruption. But at the same time, I am not sure how much is he takes into account the public view on bigger, long term issues such as environmental problems, displacement of tribals by private companies and so on. We cannot forget the fierceness of the government in dealing with the tribals and villagers in the Narmada Andolan and other such.
Also, the ideas propagated by Brand Modi somewhere have their roots in a much bigger party idealogy which in turn follows radical Hinduism. Modi may be helping in removing red-tapism from the government machinery but the party in power is also promoting fanatic notions of Hinduism such as love jihad, religious sanitization and moral policing. Hence, we as the consumers of Brand Modi also have to take into account the side effects of the product as well. And considering Modi in his own words believes himself to be a party worker before a national leader, it may not be easy for him to even oppose certain ideologies of his party which even he may not believe in. After all, no matter what brand you buy, the holding company will have a major effect on its quality.

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