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How Modi Conquered The Nation: 13 Branding Lessons For Startups

How Modi Conquered The Nation: 13 Branding Lessons For Startups

Everybody remembers the 2002 Gujarat riots? From being one of the most hated politician 13 years back, what makes Prime Minister Narendra Modi India’s most popular politician today? During the Lok Sabha elections, even some of his BJP colleagues were not sure of his success plan. Winning and losing in elections is a separate matter but few would argue that this is no doubt one of the most incredible image makeovers and branding in Indian political history. And of course this would not have been possible without concrete planning, marketing strategy and a capable team.

NaMo is a brand that has been carefully built and painstakingly marketed. This change took a combination of factors that play along with a sustained effort. But the basic rule was:

Good product + Excellent pitch = SALE

There are a number of branding and strategic marketing lessons that startups can take from Modi’s successful journey.

Never Aim Low

When you are competing in the market, never aim low because it will lead you nowhere. If we talk about Modi’s aim during the election time perood, his campaign was the one which had a clear cut defined goal of attaining 272+ seats. He was very well aware about the problems of broken mandate (taking reference from previous UPA I & II government). So in order to make a difference, he pitched for majority to avoid an ally bargaining at the time of government formation. The “Mission 272” was launched well in advance to send a signal to the people as well partymen about the clarity of vision. No other party dared to spell it out while Modi made it his open agenda. It was the biggest mission statement that reflected and aroused confidence, focus, and belief.

Lesson for Startup: Running a startup is a tough business, but if you aim big than the sky is your limits. Remember Flipkart, Snapdeal, OlaCabs!!! So define your goal and start spreading it among team members, customers and to just about any one you can. Work only on one goal at a time and put in your 100% to make it happen.

You are the One!!!

Narendra Modi was already popular among the masses, though had a tainted image. He managed to repackage himself and sell to the masses in a brand new package which promised them better days ahead. Modi positioned himself as an outsider against the political elite and its vested interests in a powerful line, “I’m amidst you not as a Prime Minister, but as the First Servant.”

Lesson for Startups: Remember the phrase “Old wine in a new bottle”? That’s the right direction. Its time to sell your product in a new way, maybe with better packaging. Present yourself in a way so that you can attract a huge customer base.

Future Lies In Your Eyes

Unlike other politicians, Modi always discussed about the future prospectives. He is a visionary leader. Without changing stance on Hindutva, he has given a philosophy of “sab ka saath, sab ka vikas”. His vision for India which includes interlinking rivers, introducing bullet trains, modernising railways and building gas grids, optical fibre networks and a hundred smart cities is an example of his vision.

Lesson for Startups: Startups should always think about long term strategy. Short term planning may lead you to expected revenue but working on long term strategy and looking out for the future market scenario will definitely navigate you towards extraordinary success.

Let The Work Speak For Itself

Since his RSS days as a pracharak, or 15 years of chief ministership tenure of Gujarat, he always proved his mettle. Working for good governance and transparent system is always on top of his list.

Lesson for Startup: Let your work speak for you. Set a milestone in whatever industry you are dealing in. Create a quality that no one can beat. Once you become the master of this, now its time for them to chase your brand.

Team is important

Do you really think Modi’s huge success was the result of only his hard work? Would it have been possible without a competent team? NO!!! The BJP’s extraordinary success was the result of superb team work.

Senior BJP leaders like Piyush Goyal and Ajay Singh handled the overall media strategy, and a task force was constituted to handle Modi’s campaign in Varanasi. Prasoon Joshi, lyricist who wrote the BJP anthem, Advertising agency Soho Square, part of the WPP Group, handled television, radio and print campaigns with catchy slogans such as “Ab ki Baar Modi Sarkar”. Modi hired a team of experts to create one of the most successful media, marketing and branding campaigns in India’s electoral history.

Lesson For Startup: Take Everyone Along!!! In order to convert your all time dream into reality, you have to have a competent and hard working team. Without a disciplined team, it is always a tough job to build your brand.

Hit Hard At The Right Time

Modi began his campaign at a time when the common man was feeling low, as if nothing could be done in India. There was no hope. Unemployment, inflation, corruption were the biggest concerns in the minds of people. He had hit the very same chord by promising to provide millions of jobs, good governance and easy life to all. For this he gave the example of Gujarat’s economic transformation.

Lesson for Startup: Wait for the right time and act. Always watch the market and then make the move!

Know The Audience & Choose your Weapons

When on stage, we should always know our audience and act accordingly. That’s what Modi did very well. He repeatedly keeps citing a stat that 60% of the population of India comprises of youth and he makes sure that he is reaching out to them. He knows that the youth wants their leader to be decisive, progressive, tech savvy, aggressive, humorous with strong communication skills (who can deliver his Independence Day speech without reading from papers written by some officer!!!). He knew that the population that was going to vote for him is more active on Twitter and Facebook rather than popular news channels on TV. Therefore he made sure his social media strategy had a personal touch. He used video messages, tweeted in all Indian languages, conducted 3D rallies online, hashtag wars with competitors, tweeting his selfies etc.

Lesson for Startup: Startups must know their target market (customers) and do everything possible to engage with them. Once you are clear about your customer base, you must find better ways to connect with them as per their ease. It is very important to connect and know the in and outs of your customers before serving them.

Keep A Watch On Your Rivals

It is very important to watch your rivals. You need to monitor every single step of your competitors’ to get hold on it. Modi had teams dedicated to watch over his competition. Every single tweet, every hashtag, every Facebook status update or any link that mentioned Narendra Modi was keenly assessed and dealt with. Nothing was left to chance.

Lesson for Startups: Always remember, your success lies in your competitor’s inability. Watch your competitor closely and make your strategies. The problems rooted in market will give you new scope.

Wording Matters

As part of their branding narratives, certain interesting phrases were dropped in the media to emphasise on his strong and decisive personality, such as, ’56-inches chest’, and ‘the Lion of Gujarat’ and Modi Ji Aane Wale Hain. At the same time he also held onto and often referred to his humble beginnings as a ”Chaiwalah’.

Lesson for Startups: Look around and point out your strong qualities. Try to pitch them with some eye catching slogans like Snapdeal’s Bachatey Raho! and Magicbricks’s Property Sahi Milegi Yahin.

Sometimes it’s Good to be Slow and Steady

In a bid to achieve extraordinary success, Modi campaign was launched 12-18 months before the general elections. It’s a common knowledge for any SEO or a digital marketing pro that marketing campaigns, especially online-based, must be run for a longer period of time with consistency. Do you know what it takes to be PM today? More Than 400 Rallies, 5827 Events, 3 Lakh Kilometres!!! Yes…Modi did it!!! And he is the PM today 🙂

Lesson for Startups: Perseverance Pays!!! Never leave in between. Just think about your target and find out how to achieve it.

Choose Your Communication Channels Smartly

In order to connect with the mass population i.e “YOUNGISTAAN”, which spends a good portion of their day on apps, Modi used social media presence to the fullest. Today, BJP has the biggest charisma on social media. They started using the social media platform three years before the 2014 elections. He knew where to connect and with whom.

Lesson for Startup: Technology plays an important role today. Social media marketing is on the minds of every single brand. Youth is spending more time on their smartphones, so there is no better place than social media platform to attract them.

No Reward Without Risk

Despite knowing the fact that Indian political sentiments varies place to place, religion to religion, Modi did not discard his Hindu hardliner image completely. He wore his saffron colours with pride but did not let it rule his conversation. That was a big risk after all, however he played very well and came out with flying colours.

Lesson for Startups: In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. Well said Zuckerberg! So always remember one thing – never be afraid of taking risks. After all the biggest risk of all time is starting a startup 🙂

Listen To Your Customers

Transforming obstacles into opportunity. Sheer commitment in whatever he does successfully created an impression of being a sincere, credible and committed leader. Modi had created a communication strategy by which everyone felt connected. He said, “Prime Minister nahi, janta ka sevak banne aaya hun!!!

Lesson for Startups: Let your target audience feel connected when you are communicating with them. Source a two way communication process and listen to the needs of your customers. Let them tell what they expect from you so that you can serve them better.