- Most marketing companies cannot go beyond a single hit. This is where you have the unparalleled product placement of Modi.
- Post becoming prime minister, Modi became ubiquitous. If you consider Indians as market segments, then he had a message for and covered every single segment of the population.
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, once got an international marketing award. His bhakts were ecstatic, rivals mocked.
His political rivals still don’t understand that while they laugh at Modi’s desperation to insert himself in any headline or photo opportunity, Modi is having the last laugh.
It all started with APCO worldwide, a transnational agency, which reinvented Modi as the development man, who birthed the famed “Gujarat model” as multiple term chief minister.
That image was used to the hilt in the 2014 elections.
Most marketing companies cannot go beyond a single hit. This is where you have the unparalleled product placement of Modi.
Post becoming prime minister, Modi became ubiquitous. If you consider Indians as market segments, then he had a message for and covered every single segment of the population.
You had former censor board chairman Pehlaj Nihalani make a tacky film, where Modi was shown as “Modi kaka” (uncle) a riff on the hated Jawaharlal Nehru and his fabled love for children, which got him the moniker “Nehru chacha” (uncle).
Not content with a mere film for brand reinforcement, Modi went to author a bestseller called “Exam Warriors” for children and young adults sitting for exams. Modi did not care at the sniggers about his own mystery degree from rivals. The book made the publishers laugh all the way to the bank, a rare occurrence these days.
Modi has now addressed his radio broadcast “Mann ki Baat” (Straight from the Heart) for six uninterrupted years. Loosely modelled on former US President Theodore Roosevelt’s fireside chats to the American people, Mann ki Baat is determinedly non-political from perhaps India’s most political prime minister ever.
It’s a long rambling discourse on environment, books -- anything that catches Modi’s fancy. Critics continue to carp that it is a one-way communication, a monologue from a prime minister who refuses to address a presser.
What they don’t understand is that it is precisely Modi’s goal. Modi is engaging on his own terms -- no pesky questions with a prepared speech. And while every radio channel has to play Mann ki Baat, Modi has moved beyond it. The radio address is now going global. It is being translated in to Russian, Chinese, German and French.
So from young people to all section of voters, Modi has found unique ways to stay engaged. It is entirely one-way communication where Modi is the message, but it has certainly changed the rules of political communication and engagement.
Modi’s political rivals have still not been able to gauge the impact of the looming Modi presence in the Indian consciousness.
Powder puff questions
Modi was derided for giving actor Akshay Kumar an interview where the most softball questions were asked just before the last general elections. Kumar got a heavy pay off and Modi was showcased with the action star’s glamour and powder puff questions such as how Modi ate mangoes.
Even Modi’s interview to a fan girl news agency editor made sure that all channels carried it rather than being an exclusive for one media house. Critics said it had been shot by another news channel -- Modi just ignored the chatter.
Modi’s interview with the Discovery channel’s Bear Grylls in Man versus Wild was similar. Rivals kept mocking that Modi spoke Hindi and it was an entirely made for TV script. That again was the whole point. Modi ensured that he spoke Hindi so the largest audience back home could understand.
Grylls claimed that he had an English to Hindi translation device. All the carping left Modi unmoved as he had delivered his message showcasing himself.
This is similar to the mega shows he does for Indians abroad. The latest one coming up is “Howdy Modi” in the US. Modi is packaged like a rock star to a devout audience. Before his address or a friendly harmless chat with someone such as lyricist Prasoon Joshi, who said he detected a “fakiri” (mendicant) in Modi in an interview, song and dance happens and a good time is had by all.
Modi has left no voter base uncovered. And is busy marketing his marquee product: Modi.
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On a day of voting in the last elections, Modi went off on a televised meditation in a cave. That became the big news point of the day. Modi in his mendicant’s robes.
The Opposition which had barely gotten out of bed had no chance with this unique showcase.
Modi’s marketing is a marvel. And will sooner or later be taught as a case study in MBA programmes.
Perhaps, by then, the Opposition could also try product placement.