'Narendra Modi Is Bigger Than The BJP': Suhel Seth On Buzz By The Bay (VIDEO)

'Narendra Modi Is Bigger Than The BJP': Suhel Seth On Buzz By The Bay (VIDEO)

"Why do you think Modi started wearing an outsized lotus in his speeches – For brand recall. They are looking at all the critical points of branding – whether it’s brand recognition, positioning or brand promise. One thing that people have failed to realize in India is that politics is always driven by great leadership," said Seth.

Anushka JagtianiUpdated: Saturday, May 18, 2024, 12:17 AM IST
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Buzz by the Bay Episode: Anushka Jagtiani in conversation with Suhel Seth | FPJ

On this episode of Buzz by the Bay, Anushka Jagtiani is in conversation with Mr Suhel Seth, founder and managing partner of strategic brand marketing consultancy firm, Counselage India. He is a marketing guru and brand expert who is also a bestselling author, columnist, actor and TV personality. Suhel is a very well known face on national television specially now during election season. In this episode he talks about branding from the political perspective and Modi ji’s marketing skills  and about the importance of creating strong individual brands in politics.

Q1. You have some very high profile clients. Do you do branding for corporates as well as political parties ? 

Ans: Yes I worked on the brand exercise for Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s prime ministerial campaign in the 1999. That’s how I got to know Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley. They were my briefing clients. 


2. Why is branding so important in political campaigns?


Ans: Branding is an integral part to everything in our lives. For example – Anushka Jagtiani is different from Sushama Puri, not only because of Nomenclature but because Anushka Jagtiani brings something to the party. Sushama Puri also brngs something to the party but we don’t know what. Everyone is selling something in this world – either you’re selling a dream, spinning a yarn, asking for votes. The bible famously says, only when you ask shall you receive, and we are constantly asking for something in this country. So when you are asking someone for their vote, you have to make yourself attractive to that person, in terms of what you have to offer. 

You need a brand that would give you sahanbhuti – or solace. Consumers don’t like brands they hate. When was the last time you bought something you hated? You won’t buy something that impacts your social order. How does a Narendra Modi tell 800 million people to vote for him? 


Q3: What are the main factors you have to keep in mind when doing political branding, specially in India? 

Ans: Is Narendra Modi bigger than the BJP – yes ofcourse. Mahatma Gandhi was bigger than the Indian National Congress, SO was Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. Mamta Banerjee is bigger than the TMC. Why do you think in India we regard symbols as so valuable? Look at the fight between Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar – It’s over a symbol. Because literacy levels are so low, they can associate with symbols. Why do you think Modi started wearing an outsized lotus in his speeches – For brand recall. They are looking at all the critical points of branding – whether it’s brand recognition, positioning or brand promise. One thing that people have failed to realize in India is that politics is always driven by great leadership. The advent of brand marketing in politics began with Margaret Thatcher. There’s a beautiful poster, which got millions of awards. It showed a long like of people in Britain and the line was Labour isn’t working, because all those people were standing outside an employment bureau. 


Q4: Can you tell us about some of the lines you used for the political campaigns you worked on?

The line I used for Atal ji was – ‘Hum ABhi Atal Hai’. Then I did Sheila Dixit’s campaign where I used the word Bhagyadaari, which got her the UN role model award. The reason is I look at Advertising or branding from a consumer’s perspective and then see how can I make a Narendra modi or Rahul Gandhi relevant, rewarding and a brand that people would like to invest in or vote for. 


Q5. A lot has changed with political branding since the advent of social media – how is it different now? 

Ans: What has happened is that the messaging has been dumbed down to a terrible low. The media is always changing – I’ve often said in lectures in the past that the world’s first brilliant social marketing campaign was led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. No papers, No TV, No radio and everyone got the message. Why? They didn’t forward it by Whatsapp – they forwarded it by whisper. So it was Whisper marketing that lead to such a movement – whether it was 1942 – or Chauri Chara. 

Q6: What’s your view on brand Modi?


All the noise that you hear, Modi this and Modi that… but Modi has one job. As a politician it is to win an election. His other job is when he becomes PM he has to govern the country. The question you need to ask is has he done both. The answer is yes. He has won two general elections. He has been 3 term CM in Gujarat. So he hasn’t sneaked into the back door. He’s not a Rahul Gandhi, he’s not an Akhilesh Yadav or Mayawati. He’s not been given it. It’s not an inheritance. As a PM what all has he done? did you ever imagine that a prime minister of India would ever be seized with toilets and with  brooms but he is right? Digital transformation of india has happened. Today I don’t even have to carry money for a Wada Pav – I can just use UPI. Who has he helped? You and me. The 80 million people who get free ration. I am not supporting either the BJP or Congress. But compare track record to track record, compare commitment to commitment and compare performance to performance.  Today is India fearful of the government – yes! Should they change that? 100 percent. Should India change the way the agencies are being perceived? 100 percent. The agencies are being perceived as tools of vendetta. But they were tools of vendetta back then also. 

Watch the full interview on Buzz by the Bay on the FPJ YouTube Channel Here.

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