was Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan or Obama in USA or Rajiv Gandhi in 1984, when they sought the people’s mandate for the first time they had a clear and emotional narrative. ‘A working middle-class hero’ is a narrative, so is ‘a slain hero’s widow’ and so is ‘mercurial rebel taking on a system’. Once created, these narratives become seeded in the campaigns, get romanticized by the media and eventually influence mass actions.
By the virtue of belonging to India’s first family which has made sacrifices for the nation, of being young, of being someone who ‘not really hankered for power’, of being the outsider in politics, there are many narratives that can be built for Brand Rahul to represent. Hence the choice needs to be carefully made so that the chosen narrative appeals more emotionally and to a larger set of voters. The narrative will then have to be built and brought alive over the next few months through his actions, speeches, his trademark styles/ manners, perhaps, a rallying slogan.
A similar task awaits Brand Modi (if BJP decides to) as well. The difference is that the narrative for Modi is already defined more sharply and the media seems to be already building it on its own. Hence the challenge will be how to evolve it from there to appeal to a national electorate.
The countdown has begun ... May the best brand win.
The author is executive vice president (planning) at McCann Erickson. The views expressed here are his personal views. He has worked on national political campaigns in 2004 and 2009.