Modi’s Magical Brandobast
From traditional nukkad sabhas and street plays to well-planned branded rallies, high-tech 3D rallies to Bollywood-style anthems and jingles, Team Modi left no stone unturned to reach out to every nook and corner of India
ternative to Kejriwal and a stronger alternative to his own colleagues,” says Abraham Koshy, professor of marketing at the Indian Institute of Management,Ahmedabad. “The voter had to decide whether tovoteforhimandnot.Theothersin thefraywereirrelevant.” The media bombardment was complemented by an equally effective direct marketing strategy. In the middle of March, as many as 650 rathsbuiltonone-tonnemini-trucks made 138,900 trips into the villages of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the two most populous states. Every village chaupal and nukkad was targeted with a 32-minute message, tailored for a specific audience. While in urban areas, the projection was that of a pro-growth reformist leader, in the hinterland Modi was projected as the antidote to inflation, corruption and joblessness. Tales about Gujarat’s so-called economic miracle were told in local dialects. Sometimes, Modi emerged in3Dform. “The last mile contact, the doorto-door campaigning, the leg work and social connect worked,” says Dharmendra Pradhan, BJP’s campaign manager in Bihar and a member of the team that executed the plan conceived by Modi’s key aide Amit Shah. The door-to-door part of the campaign was led by ‘Loha Sangrah Abhiyan’ (Iron Collection Campaign for a Sardar Patel statue in Gujarat) and ‘Ek Note, Kamal Par Vote’campaign. The 360-degree marketing effort for brand Modi targeted the hinterland and some 12 crore first-time voters (of the total 82 crore) with equal alacrity. The young and urban voters were spoken to in a language they understood best and by young, digitally savvy volunteers who leveraged the world of TV, radio and social media. “Itwasoneof themosttechnologyaided campaigns in recent years. It was more tech-savvy than tech brands themselves,” says branding expertHarishBijoor. Twitter was abuzz with Modi supportersandtrollsalike,andmillions of voters received personalised direct messages from Modi’s official handle. Nearly 11 million tweets between January 1 and May 12 had a mention of Modi, says Raheel Khursheed, head of news, politics and government at Twitter India. The Modi brand-building effort started in February 2013 when he metstudentsof ShriRamCollegeof CommerceinDelhiandwooedthem with his development talk. This was followed by a similar meeting with students of Pune’s Fergusson Collegesomefourmonthslater.
The campaign had three layers — one controlled by Modi himself through his team of volunteers, second by party leaders who organised meetings and interactions with small groups, and the third by party workers and RSS pracharaks on the grounddoinglast-milemessaging. Among Modi’s close aides in Gandhinagar who kept control over his core strategy was Prashant Kishor, a 36-year-old lanky, bespectacled, public health specialist who left his job with the United Nations in Africa to work with Modi in 2011. Kishorwasthebrainbehindthenow admired Citizens for Accountable Governance, or CAG, India’s first US-style political action committee (PAC) outfit that had several young professionals who quit their jobs to workforModi.
This not-for-profit group was at the centre of some very innovative workinModi’scampaign,including interaction with college students, 3D holographics rallies and Chai Pe Charchaevents.Inall,Modicovered 437 physical rallies, travelled over 3 lakh km, and took part in 5,500 video conferences, Chai Pe Charcha and 3D events, an unprecedented outreach effort. The beauty of this campaign, says Bijoor, was that Modi was the focus. “Inanybrandingexercise,thebrand mustbeasingleentity.Sohere,ithad tobeeitherBJPorModi,”hesays. Thepartyreportedlyspentaround Rs 400 crore on the campaign designed by agencies Soho Square, TAGandMadison.
A flurry of biographies and comics on Modi over the last few months set
the foundation for branding of the Gujarat’s
CM and building a connect with masses