Brand Modi or ‘NaMo’ as he is titled was built over time. A ‘chaiwala’ from a humble background was positioned as a mass brand and enjoyed credibility among people because of his work in Gujarat. On the other side is Brand ‘RaGa,’ who has a family legacy and is definitely not a ‘mass’ brand. He is more recognised for his parentage rather than capability. From a brand perspective, which has a greater salience- Brand NaMo or Brand RaGa? What made ‘NaMo’ a strong brand which was so well accepted by the people of India?
There is a fundamental truth that in today’s fragmented, proliferated and diverse society, no product can succeed without marketing; if one wants to sell a product with no marketing, it will either die or remain niche and boutique. This conforms to Drucker’s view: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.” And this statement clearly comes alive as we study Modi’s successful campaign in 2014 that made him the Prime Minister.
A good product is the backbone of a great brand
A good branding and communication plan is one of the greatest contributors to Modi’s success story, not taking away the credit of a good product and years of experience and developmental output behind him. Modi ensured that each of his accomplishments is spoken about. Many of his projects are known as India’s first, world’s biggest, Asia’s largest etc. Modi has attempted to have attention from media through his noteworthy contributions.
Lesson 1: Good product + Continuous and Consistent Communication = MARKET SHARE
Core Brand Essence
The core brand value of BJP has an element of Hindutva. This posed a danger of being perceived as communal. However, rather than running away from the core of the brand, Modi accepted it gracefully but as ‘developmental Hindutva’. The Hindutva imagery was delivered subliminally through backdrops or references to local temples and deities; it adhered to attire, speeches, actions and behaviours but was never part of the main storytelling.
Lesson 2: Accept your core brand value and make it your strength rather than weakness as people can’t isolate brands from their core essence.
One of the prime reasons for BJP’s victory is personification of its brand image. Eight out of 10 brands fail not because of a bad product but because they do not have a clearly defined personality. BJP personified the party image by declaring Modi as their candidate for Prime Minister. This helped people visualise the face of the party. On the other hand, the Congress kept the country guessing. There was no ‘one’ face/imagery for the party. Though Rahul Gandhi seemed to be leading the campaign, he was not officially declared as the PM candidate. Such ambiguity led people to make guesses and define their own imagery for the Congress, adding to the confusion.
Lesson 3: Give the brand a clearly defined personality rather than leaving this task to customers. It’s good to have one single identity rather than multiple imagery perceptions for the brand as human beings interact and build relationship with people and not non-living entities.
Modi repeatedly kept saying that 60% of the Indian population comprises youth and he made sure that he is reaching out to this segment. His target was the educated and aspirational middle class Indian. BJP understood the pulse of this young India. They knew that their intended segment wants a magnanimous and strong leader who will talk to them and make some tough choices on critical issues. They prefer a leader who may not be ‘humble’ but can deliver good governance. The BJP campaign reached out to the young generation of this nation who is frustrated with the current Indian political scenario and is looking for a change. They are hardworking and hopeful and Modi appealed and touched this ‘hope’ residing in young India.
Also, the BJP understood that most young people are not loyalists of a party. They are neutral and would prefer someone who could take the country on a growth journey. The current political environment dissuaded this group to vote as they couldn’t find any difference among political parties/ candidates. The BJP therefore latched on the opportunity to convert these neutrals to positive. Their campaign ‘Achhe din aane vale hain’ and ‘Abki baar, Modi sarkaar’ reflected hope and change. However, this also meant that Modi had to persuade these people to ‘vote’ and not be mere spectators.
Lesson 4: Build your brand and communication strategy ‘outside-in’ and not ‘inside-out’. Understand what your customers want, what are their concerns and not what you want them to accept and use.
Single minded proposition
For a brand to succeed, it has to stand for single minded proposition/ promise. Modi is clearly positioned as a synonym for development. This brand promise was reinforced by the Gujarat case study and vociferous support from industry veterans. Whereas brand RaGa could not find a clear and differentiated positioning for himself, apart from the feel of reassurance and pedigree as a scion of the Nehru dynasty. But was Modi’s positioning communicated effectively? Experts believe that Brand Modi was clearly positioned and communicated well, whereas the same was not true for Brand RaGa. A single minded focused proposition helps a brand establish itself strongly with the consumer.
Lesson 5: Positioning is the most important and critical brand asset. It is important to identify the ‘node’ you wish to occupy in the consumer’s mind. Do not try to be too many things for your consumer as you may end up being none.
Weave emotion into your brand story
Modi through his speeches appealed to the deepest sentiments of his audience. He began with positive reinforcement and reminded people of their strengths and achievement. He then moved on to talk about local problems and contrasting their condition with the position in Gujarat. Modi also used comparative appeal by highlighting the ineffectiveness of Congress governments over 60 years and the promise of a grand future with BJP. Such a storytelling approach connected him with people as it was built on their current concerns and goals.
Lesson 6: Brands are built on emotions and a strong consistent emotion can find you a special place in the consumer’s mind.
Brand Reinforcement through brand design and symbols
The lotus on Modi’s shirt was difficult to miss. The brand reinforced its image by incorporating a clearly identifiable logo (lotus) at every touch point. The moment one thinks of NaMo, the colour saffron comes to mind. All brand communication property extensively used the brand colour to break the clutter and stand out tall. The other associations created through brand symbols included achievement orientation, forward looking and a change agent. Modi extensively used brand colour and symbol in his campaign backdrops thus reinforcing brand recall. RaGa on the other brand had no clear and strong association with secularism or white colour except for the ‘hand’ as its election symbol. Also, saffron is a stronger colour and sits in the consumer’s mind helping to create greater recognition and differentiation.