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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Modi's Magical Brandobast

May 17 2014 : The Economic Times (Kolkata)
Modi's Magical Brandobast

CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR 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

Voters queued up at a polling booth in Maharashtra last month were taken aback when an elderly lady hunched over a voting machine and asked aloud, "What the hell! There is no Modi on this damn machine." A bout of laughter followed a moment of stunned silence. She was explained why her hero's mug was missing from the machine and she cast her vote and the line ambled on.

Sixty-year-old Amlaben had no idea of who the local BJP candidate was. She had walked a kilometre only to vote for Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.
She had watched him on TV , heard his speeches, attended one rally in a nearby village and was bombarded with TV and radio jingles featuring him. Thanks to this deluge of messaging, Amlaben didn't realise that she had to actually vote for the BJP's local candidate while she searched in vain for Modi's face on the EVM.

And Amlaben isn't alone. Millions of voters across the country have voted for Modi irrespective of who their local candidates were, a fact that is now proven by the scale of the BJP's victory on Friday .

"The marketing of brand Modi during this election has been quite remarkable--a never seen before effort in Indian history , not just in the realm of product marketing, but any form of marketing. It has been him, him and just him," says branding expert and social commentator Santosh Desai.

The effort was sweeping, sharp and smart. From traditional nukkad sabhas and street plays to well-planned branded rallies, high-tech 3D rallies to Bollywood-style anthems and jingles and not to speak of the lakhs of in-your-face illuminated hoardings and newspaper adver tisements, Team Modi left no stone unturned to reach out to every nook and corner of India. By the end of a six month campaign, the team had covered most of its six lakh villages, almost every urban and semi urban household, every TV set, radio and cellphone and even the Internet.

"The trick worked. They wanted to make Modi the centre-piece of the election. He was an effective alternative to an ineffective Manmohan Singh, he was a smarter alternative to Rahul Gandhi, a more reliable alternative to Arvind Kejriwal and a stronger alternative to his own colt leagues in the BJP . He was projected as Shiva, Durga... everything, leaving the voter no choice but him. The t voter had to decide whether to vote l for him and not. The others in the ( fray were irrelevant," saysAbraham Koshy , professor of marketing at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

The media bombardment was complemented by an equally effective direct marketing strategy aimed at rural areas. In the middle of March, as many 650 Raths built on one-tonne mini-trucks made 138,900 trips into the interior villages of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the two most populous and poor states of the country .
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 rising inflation, corruption and joblessness. Tales about Gujarat's so called economic miracle were told in local dialects. Sometimes, Modi emerged in 3D form.

"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 key member of the team that executed the plan conceived by Modi's key aide Amit Shah.

Around the same time, the doorto-door part of the campaign was led by the 'Loha Sangrah Abhiyan' (Iron Collection Campaign for the Sardar Patel statue being planned in Gujarat) and the '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 voters) with equal alacrity, devising different plans to reach out to them. 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 websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

"It was one of the most technologyaided campaigns in recent years.

It was more tech-savvy than tech brands themselves," says branding expert Harish Bijoor.

Twitter was abuzz with Modi supporters and trolls alike, and millions of voters received personalised direct messages from Modi's official handle. Nearly 11 million electionrelated tweets between January 1 and May 12, had a mention of Modi, says Raheel Khursh ee d, head of news, politics and government at Twitter India.

Modi stole the march over others because he started his campaign almost 18 months ago, even before

he was anointed the PM candidate by his party. Back then it had three motives—to showcase Modi as the 'super achiever' CM of Gujarat, to do internal branding within the BJP to become the party's consensus PM candidate and finally to be the PM candidate of choice among voters.

The Modi brand building effort started in February 2013 when he met students of the Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in Delhi and wooed them with his development talk. This was followed by a similar meeting with students of Pune's Fergusson College some four months later.

The campaign had three layers,

one controlled by Modi himself through his team of volunteers, the second by party leaders who organised meetings and interactions with small groups and the third by party workers and RSS pracharaks on the ground who were in-charge of lastmile messaging.

The decision to have Modi as the centre of the campaign was a conscious one, says one senior BJP official. At the end of last year, the publicity committee of BJP saw that different surveys done by media houses showed Modi's popularity, at 55%, was much higher than that of the party. "It made complete strategic sense," he says.

Using Twitter to Create a Buzz Millions of voters received personalised direct messages from Modi's official Twitter handle. Nearly 11 million election-related tweets between January 1 and May 12 had a mention of Modi

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