2014 election marketing campaign featured around Narendra Modi might be the
best example of how to successfully implement a marketing campaign featured
around a single leader.
ki baar Modi sarkaar’ became the mantra chanting which people across the
country went in to vote in 2014. It’s not that this has been the first election
in India’s 65+ years of electoral history that featured a single leader with a
cheesy tagline. BJP had projected Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its prime ministerial
candidates in the past with Ab ki baari Atal Bihari slogan in 1996. The
Congress party too did a similar thing with ‘Indira lao desh bachao’ projecting
Indira Gandhi as the country’s tallest in the 1970s. But the landslide victory
of Modi in 2014 not only changed the rules of the game but captured the popular
imagination to such an extent that Brand Modi even trumped brand BJP.
quoted by David Aaker “Every person has a brand that affects how the person is
perceived and whether he or she is liked and respected. This brand can be
actively managed with discipline and consistency over time, or it can be
allowed to drift.” Modi and his team of marketing professionals took this and
put their own twist ever since there has been talks of Modi being the next
prime ministerial candidate.
leaders Piyush Goyal and Ajay Singh were put incharge of the media strategy,
and a team of young marketing enthusiast was formed to take up the whole
campaign. Advertising legends such as Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi and Sam
Balsara were consulted at various occasions in the campaign to come up with
innovative ideas to further propagate the campaign. Advertising agency Soho
Square handled television, radio and print campaigns.
team faced a few major challenges at the start. Firstly, Modi was considered a
regional right wing politician who has an aspiration to be the national leader.
Secondly, a 60+ year old politician who sparingly spoke in English was trying
to connect to the 150+ million new voters along with urban middle class trendy
population who was becoming politically active. And thirdly and most
importantly he still carried the taint of 2002 Godhra riots even after 10+
years giving him a pro Hindutva anti Muslim image.
before being named the prime ministerial candidate Modi started harping about
Gujrat’s development model. Highlighting the fact that Gujrat as a state was
consistently growing at a much higher rate compared to all the Congress led
states. He started highlighting the need for a fast decision-making government
and a need to develop skills in youths to fast track the nation’s economy. This
started winning him many admirers among the youth population.
impact of such speeches was further heightened by the great oratory skills that
Mr. Modi possessed. The slumping job market, low economic growth and increasing
rate of inflation were featured prominently in his speeches. Congress was
blamed for creating these problems in rousing speeches which immediately
connected with the young voters.
this his marketing team bombarded voters with print, television and radio
advertisements with same messages to drive home the point. The voters received
text messages and audio messages with Modi’s voice asking for a change and that
only can provide it. The rising popularity of Brand Modi was felt on social
media too as Mr. Modi’s personal twitter account having more than 2 million
followers. Facebook and YouTube ads were created to drive home the point of ‘Ab
ki baar Modi sarkaar’ and ‘Achche Din Aayenge’
impact of this relentless campaigning was further accentuated by creating the
term ‘NaMo’ meaning Narendra Modi. The moniker was created such that it also
targets the BJP’s main vote bank of religious Hindus as it has religious
meaning as ‘namo’ is uttered as a salutation. This highlights the level of
planning that went on to design every aspect of the campaign so much so that
even a short form of Narendra Modi must appeal to someone among the voters.
aspect that helped Modi to target the youth was his pro businesses persona.
Every businessman from Ratan Tata to Mukesh Ambani had prised him for his work
in developing Gujrat. And rightfully so as for any crisis in any big businesses
was seen by Modi as an opportunity to further bring development in Gujrat. The
best example is the Tata Nano factory debacle. After being booted from West
Bengal by the farmer uprising led by Mamta Banerjee, Ratan Tata was in a big
fix to start his dream project of Tata Nano. And Narendra Modi saw this as a
big opportunity to further bring jobs and other benefits that a setting up of a
factory brings in and thus provided the required land to the Tata’s. This act
of his in 2008 helped further fuel his connect with businessman for 2014
helped Narendra Modi to build a brand centered around development and economic
growth, a single biggest factor that can unite the Indians of every caste,
creed and religion. And perhaps the biggest victory point that brand Modi had.
No other campaign issue could they have taken which could’ve connected with
every voter in India.
only one issue remained. The 2002 Godhra riots whose ghosts have been chasing
Modi ever since the riots claimed more than 1000 lives. That riots helped
cement BJP in Gujrat for the years to come, but now that Modi had national
aspirations that issue was bound to be dug up by the opposition. They started
by firstly trying to highlight the clean chits that courts had given to Modi
but soon realized that this would only fuel the fires.
the team cited the examples of various brands that had earlier faced such a
taint to the brand. The classic example of Cadbury was used wherein they had to
battle the bad PR that occurred because of worms being found in the bars. The
best thing that any brand can do is not talk about the issue, acknowledge that
the issue happened and move on from that. The more one talk about it the more
the peoples’ memory is being refreshed. Modi did the same and stopped talking
about the riots and started focusing on the issue of development and Modi’s
recent past in developing Gujrat.
story at this time of the campaign about Modi’s life constantly highlighted the
development and growth agenda. And although there were questions about his
ability to perform at the national level, his branding and marketing strategy
focused around his development of Gujrat worked wonders attracting even those
disinterested in politics.
was also accentuated by the party workers who worked on the field as well. As
highlighted by Mr. Piyush Pandey “Always remember, elections are won on
the ground – by the karya kartas (party workers). Ads are like an air cover;
ads are goodwill creators, mood makers. Any agency that takes itself too
seriously, and credits itself for winning elections, is only kidding
most important aspect of his success story, that Brand Modi is a huge phenomenon
that was successfully created to strike a chord with the audience who were fed
up with the alternative. And the BJP support has just been that, a support
mechanism to drive brand Modi to success.