Assembly election 2017: Why Brand Modi may continue to trump rivals whether he delivers or not
Some of his policies have presented challenges to the public but the public persona of him as a man who rose from poverty to become the PM has remained strong so far
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party have swept the elections in states that were considered challenging. What Modi has achieved is largely through his own persona and rhetoric which has no bearing on the party he represents. Brand Modi and the BJP are two distinctly different entities with the prime minister dominating the image in the minds of the people. His is the voice that the people hear and respond to, say brand specialists.
What Modi has adopted for winning the elections is carefully use marketing techniques that any successful organisation does to make its mark in the crowded marketplace. Unfortunately in the Indian political arena, Modi the man stands tall and firm on one side and the rest of the political parties on the other without being able to match him on major spheres -- policies, persona or promises.
There are two brands that Brand Modi is positing: one for the masses and the other for the classes. He talks of jobs creation, Startup India, etc and the masses are happy while the classes are happy when the stock market index hits 30,000, says Harish Bijoor, chief executive officer of brand and business strategy firm, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. "He has a different avatar in both these terrains and is able to straddle them well," feels Bijoor.
For a long time in India, politics has been distinct from business. But what made Modi win the current elections was a strategy he borrowed from business that has worked well for successful organisations. The STP -- segmenting, targeting, positioning -- strategy has been tactfully used by Modi. Elaborating on the strategy, Siddharth Shekar Singh, associate professor - marketing, Indian School of Business (ISB), says Modi has carefully segmented his marketplace or constituency.
For instance, when a company offers a product to the market, it knows its competitors can undercut and eat into its share. So what the company does is keep similar markets in one group. And then make targeted offerings to more closely match the needs of each segment thus addressing the heterogeneity among the consumers efficiently, says Singh.
With regard to politics in India, there have been broad constitutencies. As Mayawati is known as the leader of the dalits, the BJP is largely considered to be the champion of the upper caste Hindus while the Samajwadi Party is seen to favour backward groups and the Muslims. However, each of these groups are different and cannot be seen as one big constituency.
When one considers such a broad constituency as a single major group, the dominant members in the group reap the political benefits while the majority continues to be left on the fringes resulting in disgruntlement.
In this election, Modi has focused on smaller groups within the large constituencies. For example, each caste group like Kurmis, Rajbhars, Mauryas, etc. were carved out by Modi from the larger OBC group and treated as a different segment. He then encouraged their leaders to emerge from the shadows and play a leadership role to address their grievances. This strategy was adopted earlier when the BJP in UP was led by Kalyan Singh. However, the execution was not as extensive or effective as Modi’s.
Modi’s marketing team has operated like a good business organization. For example, when Tatas bought Land Rover, they kept the brand name as Jaguar Land Rover and not Tata Jaguar Land Rover, and created a distinct value proposition for the targeted segment of customers seeking a luxury automobile. Singh says, what you can learn from Modi is his similar careful understanding of his consumers and their needs.
Modi differentiated himself by speaking to the people on issues that he felt were important to them. This happened due to his careful understanding of the voters at the local level. He leveraged his position as someone who has risen from a disadvantaged background due to his abilities and thus was distinct from other politicians and his performance so far, to strengthen his position as someone who can be trusted to deliver. And he was heard.
Another element in Modi’s favour is that he turns a negative into positive to his and the party’s advantage. So Akhilesh’s ‘donkeys of Gujarat’ remark – made with regard to cine star Amitabh Bachchan’s endorsing of Gujarat for tourism, was turned into a positive remark by the prime minister. Note that his responses resulted in further strengthening his position as a hard worker who cared for the problems of the common people, points out Singh.
Modi’s win is because he has no real opposition in the political arena with matching personality or magnetism. Though the BJP is seen as the right of the centre, PM Modi is preferred as he is seen by the new chunks of voters, the middle class as someone who can fulfill their aspirations and desires, say brand specialists. Though the voters know that there are fringe elements in the party the PM represents, the large majority knows he can deliver and that is all that matters. Policy versus position of PM Modi is different. Some of his policies have presented challenges to the public but the public persona of him as a man who rose from poverty to become the PM has remained strong, so far.
Brand Modi has caught the pulse of the nation, says Alpana Parida, managing director, DY Works, a Mumbai-based brand strategy and brand design firm. There are two things that the prime minister has been consistenly promising – technology and progress. These are inter-linked and so are the his initiatives. Think Digital India, smart cities project, Startup India, and the like, says Parida. He has been delivering on his promises and continues to launch projects in keeping with the promises – 100 smart cities, job creation opportunities, the Skill India project, technology upgradation – these are planks that no other political party in the company has held or spoken about. The Indian voters are hungry to be part of a global world and build a future for themselves. In that scenario, Modi has caught the aspiration of the public. So, says Parida, comments that are communal or use words that have a communal flavour are seen as just rhetoric that is par for the course during elections.
The prime minister will continue to win the masses even when there are few misses like demonetisation or strident remarks from the party. "Even though the PM has brought in bold initiatives like demonetisation, the country has viewed them as initiatives the country lacked to be able to make radical change," says Parida.
The 2019 elections will not likely be the acid test for the PM, feel analysts, though some say that he will be booted out if he does not deliver on his promises. However, Bijoor feels that PM Modi has a long stay as the PM simply because he has no Opposition. He feels that the electorate has given a 10-year shot to the PM.
"The party (BJP) is a sub-sect of Brand Modi. Even when the BJP falters, the PM is seen as the person who can reign in the miscreants. He is the leader of the masses who believe in him as he continues to deliver," says Bijoor.
Modi cited the government's success in privatising loss-making public airline Air India to assert that this shows its commitment and seriousness.
Modi tweeted, "I pray for the good health and speedy recovery of Dr. Manmohan Singh Ji."
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