He is the undisputed salesman of the year. From a tainted local brand to one with global appeal, Narendra Modi repositioned and relaunched himself on the national platform through a meticulously crafted marketing strategy.
From the use of social media that saw more than 40,000 tweets and Facebook entries on an average day alongwith Modi’s own dedicated YouTube channel on which his public addresses were streamed live, to subliminial advertising (instead of the saffron and green lotus that is BJP’s logo, Modi was seen wearing a white lotus on his lapel during all his public appreances in the latter part of his campaign. The white lotus was the replica of the logo that appeared on electronic voting machines. The insight behind the move was that the constant exposure to the white lotus will help it seep into voters’ subconscious and they will instinctively go for it when they stand in front of the EVM on the voting day), to the use of analytics, primary and secondary market research, crowdsourcing, brand placement, content integration, consumer activation and hordes of on ground initiaves (such as ‘chai pe charcha’) along with traditional TV, radio, print and outdoor campaigns—Modi was present at every possible consumer touch point. His team also put new technology, such as 3D holograms, DTH services and conference calls through smart phones,to good use in reaching voters in far flung areas where Modi himself couldn’t go.
Using such a wide range of platforms is fraught with sending out disparate messages and confusing the audiences but team Modi had factored in the risk. Beginning with his speeches to the social media conversations, ground events and even advertising slogans, everything was tightly controlled by a central team operating out of New Delhi and the entire communication was in sync in every phase of the campaign.
“Modi succeeded in presenting himself as the leader that the country didn’t have. Myriad scams, callous government, slowing economy were other extraneous factors that helped him win over the electorate,” says a well known advertising veteran not wanting to be named.
No surprises that Modi single-handedly led the Bhartiya Janata Party to a sweeping victory in the elections. The last time that any political party had secured an outright majority in the Lok Sabha was in the year 1984.
One of the biggest lessons that marketers could learn from Modi’s election campaign was to hire competent and committed backroom managers. Indeed, Modi didn’t emerge a victor all by himself. He had a dedicated team working for him behind the scenes — a team
of unsung heroes which wasn’t eager to share the limelight or seek any credit in his victory.
Modi’s core team of strategists comprised Manoj Ladwa, a well-known UK based mergers and acquisitions lawyer; Prashant Kishore, a former UN Mission chief in Africa and a public policy expert and his personal staff from Gujarat, along with handpicked leaders from the RSS.
Ladwa led the communications team that had advertising veterans such as Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director, South Asia- Ogilvy & Mather and Prasoon Joshi, chief executive and chief creative officer of McCann Worldgroup India, while media buying was managed by Sam Balsara led Madison World.
Prof Arvind Sahay of IIM (A) says, “The product design, the packaging, the communication, the tapping of the emotional connect, use of different media in different places, the tailoring of the communication to the location, the interactive nature of the rallies, the quick feedback system, the project management and logistics of him doing more than 400 rallies in 180 days—it was an incomparable strategy. I have not seen anything like this in the Eastern hemisphere. And I am not exactly a fan,” he adds.