The Man, The Brand
The Indian political landscape is abuzz again. With all eyes glued to the 2014 Loksabha polls, all the players in the field have started warming up for the battle of the ballots. Although the election propagation is yet to reach its peak, all political parties have started making seemingly strategic declarations and decisions. In the meanwhile, Narendra Modi has steadily ascended the ranks in the BJP and has stayed in the news, for reasons right and wrong.
Be it the accolades for being the favorite CM of the corporate India, or being the central reason for the break-up of BJP-JD (U) alliance, the BJP strongman has been the focal point of all the talk surrounding politics. Regardless of all the controversies surrounding him, and riding on the positive wave of being the economic development man, brand Narendra Modi is at its peak. No other political figure, in the recent past, has managed to evoke such contradictory emotions in the run up to the elections as Modi has done.
He has not only managed to command excellent recall value among the consumers, in this case the voter of India, but has also garnered publicity out of the negative perceptions about him. Mr. Modi, as a brand, is fast turning into a political phenomenon. For him, any publicity is good publicity. Though India has had numerous person brands, but no political brand has exhibited the kind of impact and marketability that the BJP Campaign Committee Chairman has. As a result, as a budding marketer, it make sense to study the evolution of Modi as a brand.
A structured study would give interesting insights about the extent to which the theoretical models of the bulky marketing texts have been adhered to while developing the brand Modi. It would also be timely and worthwhile to unravel various aspects of brand Modi, given the proximity to the upcoming national elections. ENVIRONMENT Being out of the purview of how brands are perceived traditionally, determining the environment factor s for a person brand can be tricky.
However, based on the brand we have undertaken and considering the underlying scope of it, the following factors can be taken as the parameters that would constitute the environment for brand Modi. 1. The Political Landscape of India: With the regional parties coming to the fore in the past two decades, it has become very difficult for a particular party to achieve majority single-handedly. Coalition governments have their own pros and cons, but the general perception is that the efforts that should be ideally directed towards making policy decisions is spent on generating consensus among the participating members.
With Modi quickly emerging as the face of BJP, his ability of converting the popularity into votes is shaping up as the deciding factor of how BJP fares at the elections. Another important dimension worth consideration is the uprising of social activism in the past 2-3 years. Along with adding a political party to the already large mix of contenders, it has made considerable alterations to the way voters, especially the younger generation, evaluate candidates. Rather than just recognizing corruption as a vice, the voters might make their decisions based on the perceived stand of the candidate on corruption.
2. Perception of the Voters: Modi is the epitome of the Boom or Bust analogy. We hardly find people voicing equivocal views about him, as he has a fair number of ardent supporters and stringent criticizers. As the consumer is the king of the market, similar is the status Hof the voter in the elections. The voter perception is the premise on which we shall base our study. 3. The Prevailing Social Scenario: Howsoever the Modi camp tries to steer the boat away from the turbulent waters, the issue of Godhra and 2002 riots eventually finds its way to become the center-point of discussion.
Whether the points are relevant to the voters 12 years after the incident will determine Modi’s brand value. The potency of the secularism card could be the single biggest deterrent in Modi’s blueprint for 2014. 4. Economic Scenario: The economy is on a decline, the value of the currency is falling and the forecasts for the growth rate are dismal. That it was actually the government’s failure to tackle the situation is a point of debate for another day, but it would be interesting to see how much benefit Modi can garner out of this situation.
The general perception of Gujarat is of a state that is economically strong and has grown faster than the average national rate. How the economy shapes in the short run will have a telling impact on our protagonist’s fortunes in the elections. 5. Industries and Foreign Relations: The Vibrant Gujarat summit was not a run of the mill industrial summit primarily because of its scale and promotion. The who’s who of the corporate world kept coming to Gujarat every two years, and unequivocally praised Modi for his governance, leadership and vision.
This apparent certification went a long way in helping Modi build a positive image among the masses and continues to be a strong point in his portfolio even on the national stage. 6. Competitors/Threats: On his journey of climbing the political ladder, Modi has, unsurprisingly, faced adversaries both from inside and outside his party. It would be imprudent to consider just the leaders of the opposing parties as competitors as he has faced substantial opposition within his party as well. The leaders of Gujarat’s opposition parties, despite not having substantial impact in terms of votes, might have dented his image and popularity considerably.
Our primary objective of the study is to trace the evolution of the Modi brand in the past 15 years and to determine the factors that have taken the value of the brand to where it is. The various methodologies we plan to use to arrive at the conclusions are listed below. ? Segmentation: o Based on State: ? ? o People from Gujarat People from rest of the states Based on age: ? 18-22 years (first time voters) ? 23-40 years ? >40 years ? Collection of Opinions of Voters: o Primary Data Collection: One-to-one interaction with people on campus and city o Secondary Data Collection: Online Data and Surveys
Intention: o Identify the penetration of Modi as a brand o Identify the differences between people branding and product branding THE PRODUCT STRATEGY A majority of successful person-brands attribute their strong connect with the masses to the fact that they were able to merge their professional work seamlessly with activities primarily aimed at brand enhancement. The same holds true in the case of Narendra Modi as well. To study the brand strategy of Narendra Modi, one has to trace his evolution from being a strategist working behind the scenes to the face of a major national party.
Modi was a key strategist for BJP during the Gujarat assembly elections in 1995 and 1998. However, like a typical strategist, he was not very well-known outside the political circles. It is debatable as to when Narendra Modi started projecting himself as a brand. However, the platform for the same was built during the 2002 Gujarat riots post the Godhra carnage. It was exactly the opposite of the kind of publicity a brand would ideally want to start with, but bad publicity is still publicity. Modi became a name well known across the nation, for reasons good and bad.
It was a disastrous start as far as the brand perspective is concerned. Narendra Modi used the underlying opportunity within the disaster instead, and fought the immediate Gujarat assembly elections in 2002 by focusing on the ‘Hinduism’ agenda to translate the emotional and religious sentiments prevailing in the state into a 2/3rd majority, something which he has been able to maintain till now. He did not shy away from using the endorsement of organizations such as VHP to maximize the impact. It is evident that Modi has consciously worked on a gradual image overhaul during his years at the helm of Gujarat.
This process was aimed at helping him grow from a regional leader to a national one. The fact that he never openly expressed his aspirations, unlike a few others, only helped his cause. On closer scrutiny, one can outline two objectives of this revamp: a) To project himself as a development man- a result-oriented, non-corrupt rational decisionmaker b) To do away with the hard-core anti-Muslim image and promote himself as a Hindu nationalist, with a conscious effort at showing that both traits are not contradictory.
One can cite various examples, which were a part of this process of building this self-image in the development aspect. The very fact that he has a string of results to show for his efforts makes a big statement in itself. He has been able to sustain a growth rate much higher than the national average in both the agricultural and industrial sectors in the state, which a very few have done. He has projected himself as a strong administrator, by taking a strong stand on corruption.
Modi’s effective use of the Vibrant Summits has played a huge role in establishing his CEO-like image. The numbers regarding investments worth hundreds of crores have been well publicized, and the continuous presence of the who’s who of Corporate India has added tremendous value and authenticity to his claims of engineering industrial development in the state. The frequent praise from revered business leaders like Mr. Ratan Tata, the Ambanis and others has made a strong impact in the masses- that Modi means business- both literally and figuratively.
His success in bringing Nano to Sanand from Singur in no time was a watershed in the history of political decision-making. Modi’s focus on development as an election agenda has been a POD for him. It is certainly not a unique feature, but not many have pulled it off successfully. In addition to that, the Gujarat results have earned him points on reliability, which enforced his claims. As a result, his extensive criticism of the actions/inactions of the Central Govt. creates a stronger impact than that of others.
The extensive media coverage that he receives only helps him. In line with the recent trends of the leaders trying to establish youth connect, Narendra Modi has also made a conscious attempt at looking youthful and vibrant. He has not only worked on his appearance, but also has appealed to the youths of today by maintaining one of the most followed facebook and twitter profiles. His projection of strong anti-terrorist, pro-national and anti-corruption image has only added to his appeal to the youth.
His efforts at doing away with the anti-Muslim image have not been as effective as the ones mentioned above, probably due to the fact that the post-Godhra riots have been in the news, for both the good and the bad reasons. He did indulge in Sadbhavana Yatras in the state, but the results have not translated to the national level. With the slogans like “Nayi Soch, Nayi Ummeed” (translated as new thoughts, new aspirations) and “Give me your co-operation, I would give you development”, brand Modi has aggressively targeted the voters of the nation by projecting itself as the agent of change the nation needs today.
The ploy seems to be working effectively as indicated by our consumer survey to study the consumer behavior for the brand Modi. OBJECTIVE: We designed a comprehensive online and field brand survey in order to understand the mindset of a typical political consumer. Our target consumers for the survey were youth and middle-aged educated voters in the age group 18-40. The results of the survey are in line with the widely held brand perception of Narendra Modi. Some key inferences from our survey, which seem to reinforce NaMo’s strong brand image are as follows.
1) Brand Perception: The respondents were asked to rate Narendra Modi on a scale of 15 for his brand perception with 1 signifying low brand perception. 65. 8% of them rated him in the range of 4-5. Hence we could gauge that Narendra Modi has established a position that fills the relevant needs of the consumers, has developed a believable promise of the brand experience, has branded himself in an engaging way and has consistently communicated all this at every touchpoint.
2) Recall Value: We had clubbed a few political heavyweights and asked our respondents to rank them as per their recall value. Narendra Modi has got an average rating of 1. 49, which is way ahead of the ratings received by other politicians. 76. 2% of our respondents ranked Narendra Modi first and 87. 3% ranked him in the range of 1-2. This implies that consumers can recover the brand Narendra Modi from the memory when given a clue or they can recall the brand when the product category, which in this case is a set of other National Leaders, is mentioned.
3) Impact of Publicity on Brand Image: We also wanted to take the feel of people’s perception about whether the ongoing media coverage has a positive or negative impact on Narendra Modi’s brand image. A significant 80. 1% of respondents believe that the extensive media coverage of Narendra Modi have a positive impact. This shows that Narendra Modi has effectively leveraged the media to build his brand image. 4) Brand Strength: As per our survey, 69. 9% of the respondents perceive Narendra Modi to be synonymous with BJP.
It points out that the NaMo brand encapsulates the BJP brand and in a way enhances the value of BJP, which is why BJP is trying to project NaMo as its prime ministerial candidate. 5) Brand Acceptance: 73% of our respondents accept Narendra Modi as a national leader whereas 68. 3% of them don’t agree to the fact that regional leaders make good national leaders. Hence, acceptance of Narendra Modi as a national leader is greater in comparison to his acceptance as a regional level player. This shows that a large proportion of political consumers have welcomed and accepted the brand NaMo.