Brand Modi and BJP: Which is Bigger?

I was invited to write by the Business Today to write how Modi became bigger brand than BJP.

I wrote the following:

It is not uncommon in the world of marketing for a brand to become not only bigger than its creator but also to revitalize and rejuvenate it back. What iMac and iPod did to Apple Inc is what Modi has done to the BJP.  


Prior to Modi, the BJP brand was on the brink of irrelevance for what it stood for. Its Hindutva identity resonated deeply with the partition generation but its effect had weakened for the successive generations. Demographically, India is one of the youngest nations with more than 65 per cent of people below 35 years. Modi’s ability to become bigger than the BJP lies in his ability to listen to murmurs and whispers of this India, tapping into their simmering anger and hopelessness.

FULL COVERAGE: Lok Sabha Elections 2014

Modi created an identity that resonated with far more people and deeper than that of the BJP. Like brands make sense at surface and deeper levels, Modi’s discourse on economic development and prosperity intersected at the surface level of consciousness. The Gujarat model threw in words like governance, roads, electricity, women’s safety, peace, industry and education, supported by statistics. This satisfied the questioning mind that hankers for reason.

But reason is often the alibi for non-reason. Modi’s ability to become taller than his party lies in his symbolism. He tapped into despair, hopelessness and sinking feelings and arrived on the scene taking on the symbolism of the outlaw and the ruler combined. He is perceived as an icon of disruption and rebellion against the way things are done. It is this counter cultural streak that appeals to youth who desire change. And his traits like being organised, proactive, and confident, and in command of things, subtly connect with the ruler archetype.

Modi’s becoming bigger than the BJP is also attributable to his subtle push from parliamentary to presidential-style campaigning. By directly engaging with the top Congress leadership he acted as a warrior who could take on the establishment head on. Modi’s direct confrontational approach made politics a game close to the WWF in which the camera focuses on the fighter, not the sponsors.


5 thoughts on “Brand Modi and BJP: Which is Bigger?

  1. Extremely well put on the brand modi. What was great about the entire NAMO campaign was the way BJP handled its media coverage and press stories. The line that divides a party from its leader where leader is also a party worker was maintained & blurred with utmost brilliance in a year long campaign.

    What BJP was also able to create was this great rub-off effect from Modi’s Gujarat model on the entire northern & central belt of the country. Seldom we’ve seen such a beautiful communication orchestra running across all forms of media for any national party.

    The presidential style campaigning has created a massive case study for the corporate brands that nothing is impossible if they really wish to shed their existing brand image which is not working and become something else.

  2. Interesting article. In context to Modi’s rise and his brand, one should read a speech by the great economist, Max Weber, called “Politics as a Vocation”. Copying from that speech, a particular para is of quite relevance to this article –

    “There is the authority of the extraordinary and personal giftof grace (charisma), the absolutely personal devotion andpersonal confidence in revelation, heroism, or other qualities ofindividual leadership. This is ‘charismatic’ domination, asexercised by the prophet or–in the field of politics–by theelected war lord, the plebiscitarian ruler, the great demagogue,or the political party leader.”

    He further goes on to say: “Devotion to the charisma of the prophet, or the leader in war,or to the great demagogue in the ecclesia or inparliament, means that the leader is personally recognized as theinnerly ‘called’ leader of men. Men do not obey him by virtue oftradition or statute, but because they believe in him. If he ismore than a narrow and vain upstart of the moment, the leaderlives for his cause and ‘strives for his work.’1 Thedevotion of his disciples, his followers, his personal partyfriends is oriented to his person and to its qualities.”.

    Each time, when I heard someone chant Modi’s name, I would be reminded of this speech that was said more than a century ago, but holds as much significance today as it did back then.

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