Time for Brand Modi to strategically act and regain shine

26 May,2021

 

By Sanjeev Kotnala

 

Sanjeev KotnalaBrand Modi, in its upgraded National Avatar, completes seven years as Prime Minister of India. It is an accepted fact that Brand Modi (Narendra Modi) came into the spotlight as a powerful star brand for the BJP, the Indian Government, and the international community. However, today, the brand’s capabilities, impressions, perception, utility, and functionality are questioned by the majority stakeholder; the country’s citizens and more specifically the voters.

 

It does raise the possibility of Brand Modi resurgence, rejuvenation, or weakening before burning out. All is possible, as the stakeholders are known for a short memory. Brand Modi knows that regionalism, religionism, and patriotism-coloured emotions easily arouse the stakeholders and the last two years of politics can help him to power in 2024. It can.

 

Brand Modi is about centralised decision-making and venturing where others don’t dare to think. It been communicative and connecting with the masses and the global leaders, but has lost the link with recent silence. It forgets: the nation wants a leader that leads from the front. Brand Modi, built on hyper-expectation, lacks effective delivery. It is lost in the future vision for a country that thrives on instant gratification.

 

The recent debacle in  Bengal Election, the election rallies, and Kumbh during the pandemic has raised doubts on Brand Modi’s extendibility.

 

In spite of short memory, the recent cries for help and exposure of the lack of infrastructure in the fight against Covid may have a long-term impact. Covid-19 deaths are no longer numbers- they are names, as everyone has in one way or another experienced the loss of someone close. The lethargic flip-flop on the vaccine and the resultant crisis has further eroded the brand.

 

The audience questions Brand Modi on secularism, industrialist lobby, funds utilisation, farmers reform, GST, Rallies, vaccination, freedom of speech, Kashmir, China, Shaheen Bagh, etc. The list is too long. Now action and inaction, both further polarise the people who love or hate him.

 

Brand Modi may still win the centre in 2024. But, it is losing ground connect and support, which has rejuvenated competition. Comparatively, today, the Brand Modi looks robust, bankable, and sustainable only because of the weak opposition.  However, in the absence of a strong candidate of force, the battles can still be won on a regional basis, if not on a religious basis. Brand Modi needs to understand that the pride of enhanced international image is of no use in these games.

 

Mastermind Sunil Verghese from Chennai feels there are not too many wrongs by Brand Modi to decisively impact the perception. The Gujarati coterie has been running the country with a commercial outlook, which is excellent in good times and great for the industry. But when it comes to a crisis, you need insurance of some sort. So far, Modi has been upfront and communicative. He has taken the burden of unpopular decisions of the government. However, after the second wave, Modi has been silent. He needs to reassure the country. He needs to have a good set of professionals and experts around him. These are the only wrongs. Nothing serious. But there are a lot of rights. He has taken on corruption, cut out middle man, direct benefit transfer, world quality roads. He has the guts to take every coterie head-on. The threat is china; his hands are tied more by china than by Rahul or other opposition or hostile media.

The brand is finally a perception adulterated with reality.

Brand Modi’s silence or lack of well-coordinated strategic communication in the recent past is surprising and it is negatively impacting the brand. The audience makes their mind based on the available information. Unfortunately, the brand calling for transparency is clouded under veils of misinformation. Hopefully, BJP understands the power of communication and that milestones have no meaning- for the masses, till they don’t understand how they impact their lives. Nothing else matters.

 

A small dipstick and individual discussion suggests that the masses believe Brand Modi has taken the mandate and support granted. It underestimates the opposition. The patriotic feeling and hype are seen as hygiene for the BJP, and today carries no weight. The Ram Mandir issue is resolved! Kashi- Mathura are minor political diversions.

 

In past, Brand Modi like the magician Houdini has emerged shining after major politically hard decisions. The image took a beating earlier too. But the pandemic is a different case altogether.

 

During the Covid-19 second wave and vaccination drive, the masses have parked most of the blame at the doors of central Government, which equates to Brand Modi. When empathy was required, Modi was seen leading towards chaos. Where social distancing and masking were desired, Modi was seen as undisciplined rallies. The emotional scars and the perceptual imagery of an unprepared government that could not (or did not) act or come to rescue will not be easily erased.

 

Modi was seen as the capable PM ready to take hard decisions for the long-term benefit of the country. The followers defended every action. The situation has changed. No one knows what all and how to defend what seems ill-informed autocratic decisions, that too against the expert recommendations.

 

The masks come off in time. Seven years have shown chinks in the armour of brand Modi. The magician Modi and maverick Amit Shah, along with Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, need to act now to ensure the Brand Modi shine again.  

 

Someone in advertising and unwilling to be identified commented. Brand Modi is like a snail. Slow with a hard shell. It goes into the shell when a crisis hits. A brand built on the expectation of results and supported by the best in advertising, cannot survive on past laurels.

 

Just because Modi seems to be the only viable alternative should not lead it to complacency and silence. It must act strategically to revitalize, rejuvenate, re-connect or it will be branded defaulted. It is time to seek a second opinion and a call for a Pitch.

 

N.K Gontia, a Professor in Gujarat feels, Brand Modi has apparently gone down during the pandemic; however, people will realise its abilities and development works done at the end of the pandemic, and it will rise to become the real leader and BM will shine. The opposition lacks constructive ideas for people. They only criticise every step of the government, which may not be going to damage the net perception of brand Modi.

 

Brand Modi, even today, owns few positive adjectives like Integrity, Target-oriented, Tough Taskmaster, Down to Earth, and Patriotic. This contrasts with the adjectives associated early in 2014- Tough Taskmaster, People-Centric, Political Solution, and Untainted.

 

People strongly believe in Brand Modi and its ‘Nation First’ approach. They see him build a country of future and expect that the results and benefits will take time to accrue. But, is that relevant in the political scenario- the Brand Modi marketplace.

 

Unfortunately, Brand Modi is strongly associated with regionalism and religionism. He is seen as Hindu dominant and has not done much to negate it. It is the strength and the weakness of Brand Modi. The Kesariya and the Ram Lala cards are past expiry dates.

 

BJP under Brand Modi came to power as a well-crafted alternative to congress and other dynastic-oriented state parties. But this strength is diluted. Many don’t see BJP much different from its political foes. But seeing as the lesser of the two evils and more capable- voters may be forced to still bank on Brand Modi.

 

Mohan Singh, a professor from Jabalpur, believes if the citizens displace their faith from brand Modi, it will be a disservice to the country. Modi and his team are working very nicely on all fronts to construct and develop India towards a better tomorrow for the safety comfort and convenience of all the citizens. They are working hard to change the image of India and Indians in the world and also bringing honour and confidence to the citizens of the country. His foreign policy is best since independence. Team Modi is going very nicely and they deserve a comeback in 2024..

 

People still believe Brand Modi can deliver, but their confidence is shaken. Everyone has a lot to say about what Modi must do. However, all believe that it is time for the brand to act. The Brand Modi has a dent and it is no longer ‘shagun ka dent’ – it is a visible dent that needs repair.

 

I think the Swarajya Magazine has got it right on what Brand Modi must do. Similar thoughts were voiced in discussions. Three years is a lot of time for damage control

 

Decentralise. Give people the freedom to act. Use experts in the field. Create – nurture a strong level two in the party. Present and implement transparently with vigor the policies and programs to revive the economy.

 

This government and Brand Modi have been known for being decisive. Stop vacillating and prostration. Go full out on what is best for the country. Somehow do things to remove the Adani-Ambani-Patanjali camp image.

Though many will want Brand Modi to be finished, the brand has excellent support and possibilities to resurge, revitalise and revamp.

 

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I am no political analyst, but a Brand & Marketing Consultant. The above is the summation of perceptions tracked in discussion on social media, individual conversations, and small dipstick. Some references are Free Press Journal – Amid rising Covid-19 cases, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat blames Modi-govt and the public for ‘complacency’.  Economic Times- Covid wave 2, leadership pitfalls, and the Stockdale Paradox.  The Economist – India’s national government looks increasingly hapless. Swarajya https://swarajyamag.com/politics/if-modi-wants-to-win-2024-heres-what-he-must-do?s=08

 

Sanjeev Kotnala is a senior business strategist and educator. An alumnus of IIM-Ahmedabad, he has worked across organisations including a few leading ones in advertising and media. He writes on MxMindia every Wednesday. His views here are personal.

 

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