How BJP sold brand Narendra Modi
New Delhi: Going by the poll results on Friday, if a research agency was to measure the Irresistibility Quotient (IQ) of brand Modi, it would have probably arrived at a perfect score of 100. The Narendra Modi -led Bharatiya Janata Party had won or led in 282 seats in the Lok Sabha polls of 2014 and, along with its allies, the tally was 325. BJP’s sweeping victory could, perhaps, be ascribed to the Modi’s Irresistibility Quotient—although the measure is used to evaluate consumer brands and is owned by TNS Global, a part of Kantar Group, the data management division of WPP Plc.
TNS judges IQ, based on how well a brand meets the needs of its target consumers. Recently, it studied the “irresistibility” factor of 1,000 brands globally against criteria such as functional and social identity, emotive and symbolic perceptions, among others. It found Indian brands lagging behind their global counterparts in engaging with consumers. Nitin Nishandar, managing director, brand and communications, at TNS Asia Pacific, said that in India, brands are not consistent with their communication.
Perhaps that is where brand Modi scored, thanks to the giant team of experts he hired to create one of the most successful media, marketing and branding campaigns in India’s electoral history. It could not be faulted for inconsistency in communication that was high-decibel, relentless, unfaltering and expensive.
The Congress has, more than once, alleged that the BJP spent between Rs.5,000-10,000 crore on its campaign. In fact, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that the BJP out-funded the Congress in media spends. On Friday, Ajay Maken, who was in charge of devising Congress’s communication strategy, admitted that BJP outshone their campaign. It’s not easy to confirm BJP’s exact advertising budgets even though the party claims they were modest. However, it is not tough to figure out that they outsmarted the Congress in theme, content and extent of communication.
To be sure, BJP ran a 360 degree, full-fledged campaign that included mass media such as print, television, radio and outdoor, new media such as online and social media, and events and on-ground activities, traditionally categorized as below-the-line. These included rallies and other appearances, consumer touch points at tea stalls and much else.
For mass media, BJP engaged the best brains in advertising—Prasoon Joshi, lyricist and president, South Asia, at advertising agency McCann, who wrote the BJP anthem and Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director, South Asia, at Ogilvy and Mather, whose agency Soho Square created the lead campaign with the tagline Ab ki baar Modi sarkar. Clearly, the communication was sharply focused on Modi and the tenor of the campaign was determined with the help of BJP party members Piyush Goyal and Ajay Singh.
Modi’s image was ubiquitous in this campaign. He stared out of full, front page ads in newspapers across languages, commercials across television channels and hoardings across cities, especially Delhi. Commercial time was bought big time on radio networks to reach out to the smallest cities.
The success of Modi’s digital media strategy story has been well documented by the Indian and international press. For a start, Modi made inroads into the microblogging site Twitter and amassed a following of four million. India has 13.31 million active users on Twitter who are above 15 years and access Twitter via PCs and laptops, according to research agency IMRB International.
Modi’s media managers made the best use of technology to reach out to people in media dark areas. Vehicles equipped with the required paraphernalia, including his pre-recorded video messages were sent into remote villages to scale up the campaign footprint.
Even the gimmicky concept of chai pe charcha or ‘discussion over tea’ seems to have clicked. People flocked to tea stalls where they could see or talk to Modi over a webcast and sip tea from paper cups with his picture on them.
A Financial Times blog reported that Modi was present simultaneously at 150 locations, thanks to the 3D hologram images created for his public meetings. In the last few months, he is said to have addressed over 400 major rallies.
The outcome of any campaign depends on how good you are and how bad the opponent is. Advertising professional Swapan Seth thinks that Modi had a firm-footed strategy and nimble-footed tactics. The marketing campaign was brilliant and the tactical responses were cutting-edge. “Modi did not let go of any opportunity to retaliate or to respond to his political rivals. It was almost like brand Amul. They made a billboard out of every issue,” he said.
If BJP’s marketing was brisk and interactive and the tone of its media campaign was decisive, the Congress campaign, with the tagline Har haath shakti, har haath tarakki, failed to impress. Since Congress was low on confidence, its campaign failed to land a punch.
Referring to the consumer brands surveyed by TNS, Nitin Nishandar said: “Achieving this irresistibility is not easy, but the benefits are great in terms of rendering the competition irrelevant in the minds of their consumers.”
It’s over to Modi now to deliver on his brand promise and deliver long-term value.