Is Modi the Greatest Marketing success story of our times?


In January this year, Modi won the Philip Kotler Marketing Award. It later came to light that it was actually conferred by a shady Aligarh based organisation and the BJP website had to pull down the mention of the award after the controversy.

But the fact remains that Modi is the first politician Brand we know who has truly harnessed the power of Marketing. He has in fact, made the competition (read opposition) look like a deer fawn caught in front of headlights.

Let’s see how:

  1. Effective positioning:

In the run-up to the 2014 elections, he tapped into the widespread disaffection with the corruption and listless administration of the previous congress government. He positioned his government as a clean, responsive and development oriented alternative which catapulted him to power.

After 5 years of rule now, he has some notable successes to his credit (RERA, Digitalisation of government services, Electrification of Villages, Building of Toilets under Swachh Bharat Yojana to name some).
But there have been some failures too.
1. Start-up India has been a non-starter.
2. Smart Cities have also not been able to get off the ground.
3. The Make In India Initiative has been bogged down by the slower pace of Industrial growth compared to earlier years.
4. Clean Ganga has had little or no effect on the pollution levels of the river.
5. Corruption is far from over as demonstrated by the Rafaele controversy.
6. The return of black money from Swiss Banks still remains a pipe dream.
7. Perhaps his biggest failure has been Demonetisation which didn’t achieve a single objective he himself laid out when he announced it. To make matters worse, according to reports, it resulted in untold misery for farmers, small traders and economically marginalised people which they are yet to fully recover from.
So what does a brand do in such a situation? It repositions itself on a new platform. Modi is not mentioning any of his pet schemes and projects in his speeches. He is not even focussing on development this time around. He has instead reverted to the core legacy of his brand – Nationalism and Hindutva. And peppered it with a liberal dose of competition bashing.

2. Use of Social Media: In 2014, Modi didn’t just seize Social Media, he owned it. It helped that the other political parties in India were too laid back and set in their ways. Besides, FB and Twitter had not yet fully woken up to the potential for misuse of their platforms. For the first time perhaps, Indians came face to face with “bots”, “fake news” and “trolls”. Be that as it may, Modi did show his savvy to harness the social media platforms.
This time around, both platforms have been more vigilant against misuse. And the opposition, especially the Congress has a more professional approach to Social Media. All said and done, BJP still retains the pole position on the digital platform (Pro BJP pages accounted for 70% of the political adspend as per the latest data)

3. PR: Appointing the US based APCO as the PR firm was a wise move on the part of Modi. APCO has a wide experience in setting and changing narratives in elections and project the right image of presidential candidates. The campaign’s recent success was changing the narrative of “chowkidar chor hai” to “main bhi chowkidar”.

4. Use of Marketing Technology: Some of his innovations have created a lot of buzz – Selfie with Namo where you could take selfie with an image of Modi and the Hologram Trucks which roamed the countryside in 2014 projecting Modi’s 3D video of election speech. Add to that the Modi Biopic which is soon to be released, a modi web series by Eros Now and of course the Namo TV (the first TV dedicated to a single leader anywhere in the world).

5. Branding: His biggest masterstroke was to carefully brand himself as tea seller to gain empathy. He then went on to neatly turn individual units of his campaign into brands – Chai pe charcha, Main bhi Chowkidar, Namo Again,

6. Exploiting emotions, not facts: A mistake most marketers make is to focus solely on facts, completely forgetting that humans do not make decisions basis facts. Modi has turned appealing to emotions into a fine art. Look at some of the slogans of his campaign: Ab ki baar Modi Sarkar, Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas, Modi hai to mumkin hai, Har Har Modi Ghar Ghar Modi, Saaf niyat Sahi Vikas, Congress Mukt Bharat and the most famous of them all – achhe din aane wale hain

His decision to never take a press conference or unscripted interview is also a part of that grand strategy.

7. Use of merchandise: There was a time when we as kids used to mill around a stray congress vehicle to get our hands on a free badge. Well, badges are passe now. It’s branded mugs, t shirts, hoodies, key chains, fridge magnets, pens and exam warrior notebooks! Sold through merchandise vans and also online.

There are a lot of tips that marketers can take away from Modi and his marketing and PR team on how to manage a mega brand. If Modi comes back with majority again, it will be a further stamp on the effectiveness of his marketing initiatives.

(Please do leave a comment on the blogpost to give your feedback)

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