5 lessons new-age marketers can learn fromModiNarendra Modi is the undisputed focal point of the current political discour...
It is not about PR Vs Advertising, it is about playing smartModi’s critics repeatedly claim that he has spent crores on hi...
Mainstream Media through his 5 member PR team. However, he used to make it clear that hewould not appreciate any drilling ...
Compare this with what their previous generation looked for:Acceptable, Honest, Patient, Judicious, Consensus builder, Dip...
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5 lessons new age Marketers can learn from Narendra Modi


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From being one of the most hated politicians back in 2002, today Narendra Modi is India's most popular politician, how much of that translates into electoral success is a separate matter but few would argue that this would go down as one of the most incredible Image Makeovers in modern Indian history.

So what can Marketers learn from this experience? Well, quite a lot it seems.


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5 lessons new age Marketers can learn from Narendra Modi

  1. 1. 5 lessons new-age marketers can learn fromModiNarendra Modi is the undisputed focal point of the current political discourse. He is hailed asa Hero by many and tagged as Hitler by others. The real question is who would outnumberwhom in 2014. But the situation was very different in 2002, after the post-Godhra riots, asignificant electoral majority across the country was upset that he wasnt made to resign forhaving the riots escalate under his watch. When political pundits dissect the shocking loss ofthe NDA whom every exit poll predicted to sweep the 2003 parliamentary elections, they alsopoint the blame on the Modi’s handling of Gujarat riots for disillusioning the ‘secular’ voterabout BJP’s ability/willingness to protect the minority community.While Modi scored an emphatic win in the subsequent polls, most political analysts rejected itas a victory of communal polarization and even went to the extent of branding the whole ofGujarat as a ‘communal state’. But today, after a decade has gone past, Narendra Modicommands a much higher degree of popularity across the nation than he ever did, which isremarkable considering that we live in an age where disdain for politicians is very much part ofour popular culture. This change took a combination of factors at play along with a sustainedeffort and there are some key lessons to be learnt from what is perhaps the biggest ImageMakeover in recent times. Here’re a few of them:Good product + great pitch = SALEThe foremost reason for Modi’s rise is that his claimsarent completely hollow and are backed withsubstantial matter on the ground. Even the harshestcritics of Modi acknowledge that he has been able toprovide good governance; he exercised his politicalauthority, micromanaged when required, workedharder, removed obstacles and minimized corruptionat every level.But beyond this, Modi also ensured that each of his accomplishments are spoken about. Anumber of his projects are prefixed with India’s first, world’s biggest, asia’s largest etc. Clearlythere has been an attempt to not just have great ambitions but also have ambitions that arenewsworthy and gain attention from all corners.Interestingly, in recent times, Gujarat hasnt been the fastest growing state, it was Bihar in theprevious quarter and this time it was Madhya Pradesh, yet Gujarat has acclaimed a status ofbeing some kind of a wonderland in the Indian mind.
  2. 2. It is not about PR Vs Advertising, it is about playing smartModi’s critics repeatedly claim that he has spent crores on his PR machinery, anyone who haseven an iota of exposure to Public Relations, knows that irrespective of how aggressive your PRcampaign is, it doesnt cost crores.Ironically, Modi’s political opponents who make such allegations are the same people whosplurge hundreds of crores every year in advertising on birth anniversaries, deathanniversaries, inauguration of projects - ribbon cutting, foundation stone, you just name anoccasion and you would find king size print ads in any newspaper worth its salt with ashameless display of sycophancy at its nadir.Modi stayed away from conventional ‘Sarkari’ advertising. On the other hand, he decided totake the ‘Surrogate’ route by promoting Gujarat as a tourist destination and we saw some ofthe most well made tourism TVCs with professional print and innovative OOH adaptationsfeaturing arguably India’s most effective brand ambassador - Amitabh Bacchan. Gujaratremained top of the mind for most Indians but not in a way that would give Modi’s critics achance to assault him.In the 2012 assembly elections, Congress splurged crores on National TV advertising, whileModi advertised at the regional level and chose to create national news with his 3D avatar.Modi’s PR strategy largely focused on winning international acclaim rather than trying toengage with the Lutyen’s Delhi media (reasons in the next point). TIME, Economist, NYT, WSJ,almost every leading American publication covered him and lauded his governance in Gujarat.(Although each of the stories carried on Modi till date also has a mention to 2002 without fail).This automatically forced national publications and media groups to put the spotlight on Modi,afterall Indians deeply suffer from the colonial mindset and any acknowledgement at a globalstage makes every Indian swell with pride.Choose your Media wisely…Till 2001, before taking the oath of Gujarat’s Chief Minister, Modi spent most of his life as a‘Pracharak’ – effectively handling the PR & Communication role of the RSS and BJP. In his earlydays, Modi used to individually respond to all the media and public queries that used to cometo the Gujarat wing of RSS. Till 2002, Modi was also known to share very close relations withmedia-persons and even when the first time he got a call from Vajpayee to take upon theresponsibility of CMship, he was attending the funeral ceremony of a Media photographer whohad lost his life in a deadly plane crash along with Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia. Butpost-2002 riots, Modi was at the receiving end of almost every newspaper and TV channelwhich led him to distance himself from the media completely.It was only after his second electoral win in 2007, that he decided to selectively engage with
  3. 3. Mainstream Media through his 5 member PR team. However, he used to make it clear that hewould not appreciate any drilling on the Riots issue citing that the matter is sub-judice in thecourts. On Oct 2007, because of the same reason, he walked out of an interview with KaranThapar in ‘Devil’s advocate’.In 2012, after getting a clean chit from Supreme Court on his alleged role in 2002 riots, Modimade an interesting choice. He decided to give an open interview to Shahid Siddiqui’s ‘NayiDuniya’ – One of the most popular Urdu weekly. This time around Modi decided to answer allhard questions regarding 2002, the intention being clear – to reach out to the communitywhich is perhaps the only roadblock in his journey from Gandhinagar to Race Course road.….better still, CREATE IT!Modi’s media strategy is significantly dependent upon Social Media & Youtube. Everyminor/major development of his government or himself is broadcasted on FB/Twitter andrealizing the popularity of these messages, the Lutyen’s Delhi media which snubbed him foryears also began to pick up these pegs however regional they may be. Youtube is full of videosof his impromptu speeches on various platforms ranging from Political rallies, Industry events,Management Workshops, University Sessions, Inauguration ceremonies and many otherpolitical/non political platforms. Modi is a fiery orator and his knack of citing statistics on-demand is extremely rare if not super-natural. For the last few months, we have seen themainstream media covering each of his speeches made at a national forum LIVE. He is also thefirst Indian politician to make an address on Google Hangout hereby setting a trend which isnow being followed by his adversaries at the center.His Social Media following tremendously helped in amplifying the coverage achieved by his PRteam and hence the impact was unprecedented. No other State Chief Minister has gained somuch popularity in the last few decades of Indian Democracy.Right Brand Values at the right timeVICTOR HUGO once remarked: “You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an ideawhose time has come.” Today Modi appears to be such an idea.Some would say that India wouldnt have ever considered Modi if it had a leader like AtalBehari Vajpayee or Indira Gandhi today. But does India really need a Vajpayee today? Modirepeatedly keeps citing a stat that 60% of the population of India comprises of youth and hemakes sure that he is reaching out to this constituency. Look around you and see whatqualities do the young look for in their leader?Decisive, Progressive, Headstrong, Tech savvy, Aggressive, Humorous, strong Communicationskills.
  4. 4. Compare this with what their previous generation looked for:Acceptable, Honest, Patient, Judicious, Consensus builder, Diplomatic, someone who coulddeliver stability in an unstable environment.The current generation is one that has seen the character of the Indian Cricket team transitionfrom being a punching bag in the 90s to raw aggression in 2013.Remember the word ‘Sledging’? Today there is no team in the world that could afford to usesledging as a strategy against India for even an inning, let alone a series. Indians all over havediscovered a newfound confidence and assertiveness and it reflects in the choices they make,be it MTV Roadies or Arnab Goswami’s Newshour, subtle intellectual innuendos don’t cut itanymore with Gen Y!The India of today doesn’t want a magnanimous leader or a leader who would keep adiplomatic face around the year , India today aspires for a strong leader who will talk to themand make some tough choices on burning issues like Corruption, Terrorism, Women Safety,Crime, International politics and the Economy. Many of his detractors also criticize Modi for hisself praise and somewhat shamelessness in claiming credit – a characteristic that has beentraditionally detested in the Indian value system.But present day India is a different one which sees through such hypocritical masks, Indianstoday are more upfront, more blunt and more forthright than any of their previous generationshave been. They don’t mind a leader who wants power, as long as they get good governance inreturn.Considering these assumptions are true, the values of Brand Modi as well in sync with theexpectations of his market.And the competition is nowhere to be seen, not at least at this point of time.The author could be reached on aman.raj2106@gmail.com