The party was the first to recognise and adapt to the fundamental shift in the composition and aspirations of the Indian voters. It seized the opportunity to project a new and clean face to address voters' aspirations across the country. Thus was born brand Modi.
A humble origin, extraordinary achievements through sheer hard work and dedication, and a corruption-free image made Modi an apt mascot to challenge the status quo. The branding of Modi and a presidential-style election campaign was a brilliant response to redefine Indian politics.
It is a common misconception that Modi is a phenomenon in isolation within the wider Sangh pariwar. The branding of Modi was a well-crafted strategy of the RSS and the BJP. Supported by an army of highly educated volunteers, the campaign attracted many newcomers to Indian politics. It was the first election campaign in India to use social media and information technology heavily, and the first to listen to the voters and respond in real time. The bottom-up campaign engaged common voters and earned their loyalty.
Brands create sustainable competitive advantage. They require huge investment to build, and continuous nurturing to sustain value. Not only can brand Modi sustain the BJP in power for a long time, it can also help the RSS reposition itself. However, before that can happen, the promise of brand Modi - good governance and economic development - must be realised. Further, many new voters of Modi are uncomfortable with the communal agenda of some of his supporters. Modi has to show what true secularism is and why it is different from pseudo-secularism. If he succeeds in these three areas, he would change Indian politics forever and make the BJP the natural party to govern - the main objective for building brand Modi.
Finally, the known close association of Modi with the RSS has the potential to change the perceptions about the RSS as well. So far, the strategy of the RSS to shun publicity has resulted in others branding it. The performance of the Modi government would allow an opportunity to the RSS to proactively brand itself as a positive force in Indian society. The branding of Modi could be a game changer in Indian social and political spheres. Its full potential is yet to realise.
(The author is Associate Professor of Marketing and Director of the Fellow Programme in Management, Indian School of Business. He can be reached at Siddharth_singh@isb.edu. Views expressed here are personal.)