BJP’s2014 election marketing campaign featured around Narendra Modi might be thebest example of how to successfully implement a marketing campaign featuredaround a single leader.’Abki baar Modi sarkaar’ became the mantra chanting which people across thecountry went in to vote in 2014. It’s not that this has been the first electionin India’s 65+ years of electoral history that featured a single leader with acheesy tagline. BJP had projected Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its prime ministerialcandidates in the past with Ab ki baari Atal Bihari slogan in 1996. TheCongress party too did a similar thing with ‘Indira lao desh bachao’ projectingIndira Gandhi as the country’s tallest in the 1970s. But the landslide victoryof Modi in 2014 not only changed the rules of the game but captured the popularimagination to such an extent that Brand Modi even trumped brand BJP.Asquoted by David Aaker “Every person has a brand that affects how the person isperceived and whether he or she is liked and respected.
This brand can beactively managed with discipline and consistency over time, or it can beallowed to drift.” Modi and his team of marketing professionals took this andput their own twist ever since there has been talks of Modi being the nextprime ministerial candidate.BJPleaders 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 wholecampaign. Advertising legends such as Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi and SamBalsara were consulted at various occasions in the campaign to come up withinnovative ideas to further propagate the campaign.
Advertising agency SohoSquare handled television, radio and print campaigns.Theteam faced a few major challenges at the start. Firstly, Modi was considered aregional right wing politician who has an aspiration to be the national leader.Secondly, a 60+ year old politician who sparingly spoke in English was tryingto connect to the 150+ million new voters along with urban middle class trendypopulation who was becoming politically active. And thirdly and mostimportantly he still carried the taint of 2002 Godhra riots even after 10+years giving him a pro Hindutva anti Muslim image.
Evenbefore being named the prime ministerial candidate Modi started harping aboutGujrat’s development model. Highlighting the fact that Gujrat as a state wasconsistently growing at a much higher rate compared to all the Congress ledstates. He started highlighting the need for a fast decision-making governmentand a need to develop skills in youths to fast track the nation’s economy. Thisstarted winning him many admirers among the youth population. Theimpact of such speeches was further heightened by the great oratory skills thatMr. Modi possessed. The slumping job market, low economic growth and increasingrate of inflation were featured prominently in his speeches. Congress wasblamed for creating these problems in rousing speeches which immediatelyconnected with the young voters.
Alongsidethis his marketing team bombarded voters with print, television and radioadvertisements with same messages to drive home the point. The voters receivedtext messages and audio messages with Modi’s voice asking for a change and thatonly can provide it. The rising popularity of Brand Modi was felt on socialmedia too as Mr. Modi’s personal twitter account having more than 2 millionfollowers. Facebook and YouTube ads were created to drive home the point of ‘Abki baar Modi sarkaar’ and ‘Achche Din Aayenge’ Theimpact of this relentless campaigning was further accentuated by creating theterm ‘NaMo’ meaning Narendra Modi. The moniker was created such that it alsotargets the BJP’s main vote bank of religious Hindus as it has religiousmeaning as ‘namo’ is uttered as a salutation.
This highlights the level ofplanning that went on to design every aspect of the campaign so much so thateven a short form of Narendra Modi must appeal to someone among the voters.Anotheraspect 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 workin developing Gujrat.
And rightfully so as for any crisis in any big businesseswas seen by Modi as an opportunity to further bring development in Gujrat. Thebest example is the Tata Nano factory debacle. After being booted from WestBengal by the farmer uprising led by Mamta Banerjee, Ratan Tata was in a bigfix to start his dream project of Tata Nano. And Narendra Modi saw this as abig opportunity to further bring jobs and other benefits that a setting up of afactory brings in and thus provided the required land to the Tata’s. This actof his in 2008 helped further fuel his connect with businessman for 2014election.Thishelped Narendra Modi to build a brand centered around development and economicgrowth, 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 withevery voter in India. Nowonly one issue remained. The 2002 Godhra riots whose ghosts have been chasingModi ever since the riots claimed more than 1000 lives. That riots helpedcement BJP in Gujrat for the years to come, but now that Modi had nationalaspirations that issue was bound to be dug up by the opposition. They startedby firstly trying to highlight the clean chits that courts had given to Modibut soon realized that this would only fuel the fires. Herethe team cited the examples of various brands that had earlier faced such ataint to the brand.
The classic example of Cadbury was used wherein they had tobattle the bad PR that occurred because of worms being found in the bars. Thebest thing that any brand can do is not talk about the issue, acknowledge thatthe issue happened and move on from that. The more one talk about it the morethe peoples’ memory is being refreshed. Modi did the same and stopped talkingabout the riots and started focusing on the issue of development and Modi’srecent past in developing Gujrat.
Everystory at this time of the campaign about Modi’s life constantly highlighted thedevelopment and growth agenda. And although there were questions about hisability to perform at the national level, his branding and marketing strategyfocused around his development of Gujrat worked wonders attracting even thosedisinterested in politics. Thiswas also accentuated by the party workers who worked on the field as well. Ashighlighted by Mr.
Piyush Pandey “Always remember, elections are won onthe ground – by the karya kartas (party workers). Ads are like an air cover;ads are goodwill creators, mood makers. Any agency that takes itself tooseriously, and credits itself for winning elections, is only kiddingitself.
” Themost important aspect of his success story, that Brand Modi is a huge phenomenonthat was successfully created to strike a chord with the audience who were fedup with the alternative. And the BJP support has just been that, a supportmechanism to drive brand Modi to success.