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Brand Modi: A challenger's strategy

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Brand Modi: A challenger's strategy

An unprecedented 360-degree campaign blitz in less than a year had definitely got the message across, even kids were chanting, “Ab kibaar...” Crisp messaging and omnipresent advertising were delivered with regional precision.

Did this seem possible a year ago? Probably not. I asked a seasoned marketer, “Is it possible to establish an idea, a brand or a product in less than a year”? He laughed, “Yes, provided there is a consumer need and I can get a large pot of money to spend.”

Can money buy you sale or conversion to your current brand? Yes, in a low involvement category with good messaging and high frequency advertising. But a Prime Ministerial candidate is not a soft drink, it’s an involved decision taken by a voter as his vote will affect his future.

The Unmet Need

The need was to alleviate the issues of humanitarian, ethical, social or economic degradation. But the core issues were: the youth needed jobs, the farmers better realisation, the trader and businesses needed growth and all of us needed a strong leader, a void which has existed for decades.

The Insight

There was a need for change. We wanted a better future; But why?

• The voter had lived too long in poverty. The stink of expensive onions in the last year, higher price of commodities, higher interest rates on loans and rising fuel cost – all this was breaking the back of the voter.
• In Bihar and UP the effect of poverty was the highest. Past political promises had not been delivered &government schemes hadn’t reached the voters.
• The gap between the rich and poor had widened, products/brands of desire are so blatantly being displayed by the rich that this gap became glaringly visible.
• The corruption in governance had risen and the guilty were roaming free.

The changing consumer

This election the country had added close to 150 million 1sttime voters. They were a strong 20 per cent of the 725million registered voters. The bulk of these voters were in the BIMARU states which had seen negligible development or job creation.

India was better educated but there were fewer jobs.

With the increased penetration of TV, mobile and internet, news now travelled instantly. The country’s real issues were no longer hidden from the common man even in villages.

Product/ Service

Even the best advertising pundits who have worked on this campaign could not have done much if the product/service offered was bad.

In this case NaMo was offering his service to every voter a promise of development. This man had delivered on the same for the last 10 years. While in competition were two political novices with no success record.

A young voter was not going to risk his vote to a novice with no experience to deliver on development.

NaMo offered hope to the voter that they will come out of out of their current financial misery through development. This idea touched the already suffering youth, the poor and every businessman.

Building support: Reason to believe

• The Gujarat story was trumpeted across the nation. Statistics and examples of success were shared with the voters. People who had been to Gujarat agreed and supported.
• Building growth with inclusiveness was the key to this success that clicked with the voters.


Modi spoke of development and inclusiveness and debunked the past theories of caste and religion.

He changed the erstwhile leadership team of the BJP. Candidates who had not lost an election earlier were fielded. 

Achieving execution excellence

So how did he get this thumping majority or product acceptability?


• The focus was on just one man, Modi. He was announced as a PM candidate way before the competition. The voter was selecting Modi at centre; a quasi-presidential system was taking root.
• Supporting local candidates at their rallies by his presence, while alsomaintaining the focus on himself.


• He connected with people, this connect was ideological on development and a hope for a better future.
• He physically made himself visible and heard either through rallies, speeches, 3d imaging.
• His speeches were market specific connecting with the issues faced by voters.
• Converting derogatory titles to an opportunity: chaiwala to Chai PeCharcha.
• He invoked the blessings of the Ganges, the lifeline of Varanasi for his support. 

Uniformity of message

Inclusiveness and Development was his promise.
A common message was integrated from his speeches at rallies, to social media, advertising, outdoor and PR.
AbkiBaarModiSarkar, the war cry was on every Indian’s lips including children.

The frequency of message

• The frequency was over driven to gain a share of voice higher than the required market share (51 per cent of share of seats in Lok Sabha). Any repositioned product requires a higher share of voice than its targeted market share to succeed.


• The critical path to success in India is distribution. He used technology to reach places where he physically couldn’t. He has physically covered an unprecedented 3 lakhkmwith 430+ rallies and close to 6000 events.
• The youth and elite were covered by social media & PR coverage in news.
• The local teams did the last mile and last minute bidding for NaMo.

Brands and marketers need to learn from this strategy. It is the execution of the strategy at the ground level through activation & distribution which build the consumer connect.

The best support any challenger can receive is a weak and cocky competition, who has misread the changing consumer need. That was sufficient to seal NaMo’s fate and crown him the Leader. 

The author is the CEO of Evolution Strategy Advisors.

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