7 Storytelling Secrets for CEOs from the CEO of India Inc, Mr Narendra Modi
I have read hundreds of articles and several books on success strategies and personal branding of India’s Prime Minister (and CEO) Mr Narendra Modi, yet I failed to find the most crucial lessons on brand storytelling, which were used by his team and campaign managers. Then I decided to meet people and journalist friends, who have been closely associated with Modi, officially and unofficially and find out the secrets from them.
Mr Modi who was earlier known as the CEO of Gujarat, is now getting rebranded as CEO of India Inc. Yet only time will prove whether the rebranding was correct and whether Gujarat model could be successfully replicated across India.
Brand Namo (short for Narendra Modi) has become so powerful that Ahmedabad based, Take India Beyond Merchandising has filed dozens of applications on various versions of the name in Hindi and English including Namo, Namo Lekh, Namo and a sketch of a lion with the tagline – The Lion of India, Namo Mantra – Taking India Beyond and Namo Mantra – The Turning Point.
Communicating our ideas and strategies in a memorable and catchy way is helpful and I appreciate the 3S model of Narendra Modi viz Skill, Scale and Speed, to put his Maximum Governance, Minimum Government into practice. Government of India under his leadership plans to revive Brand India too with a 5T approach viz. Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology.
Interestingly I realized that the seven secrets of storytelling used by Mr Narendra Modi can also be expressed as 7E model or 7 Es of Storytelling / Brand Storytelling, to make it memorable. Here is an explanation of the 7 Es and how they were powerfully and successfully used in his election strategy:-
1) Empathy-I always emphasize in my training and public talks, “Storytelling and Empathy are soulmates. Great Story creates empathy and empathy creates great story.” When the opposition highlighted that Mr Modi was a tea vendor, he created empathy for himself among millions of poor and turned the tables by saying that it was the greatness of the citizens of this country who wish to make a humble tea vendor as PM of the country.
‘Chai pe Charcha’ became a powerful program to further extend this empathetic storytelling and use it to form an emotional connect with voters.
2) Emotional connect-The campaign title “Ab Acche Din Aane Waalein Hain”, made a huge emotional connect with the citizens as they were getting tired of price rise and corruption. The campaign indirectly implied that though people were living and suffering the bad days yet they can be optimistic about good days in future. The campaign connected with the unemployed by promising them employment, with women by promising them safety and with poor by promising them welfare.
In fact, Mr Modi got the idea of ‘Achche Din‘ from Dr Manmohan Singh’s speech to NRIs about better days ahead. Like all great storytellers, Modi has the reputation of being a good listener and got the inspiration for his campaign from his competitor Dr Singh. Here is the related video.
3) Edutainment-Great storytelling is edutainment or education plus entertainment. The war of words between Mr Modi and Mr Rahul Gandhi about toffees and balloons was good edutainment for the Indian public. Rahul Gandhi had made a statement that land was given to few industrialists in Gujarat at throwaway prices like toffees. And therefore Gujarat model of development is toffee model and balloon model (as it was unsustainable)
Hitting back at Rahul Gandhi for dubbing Gujarat development model as a ‘toffee model’, Narendra Modi called Rahul Gandhi childish and said the word ‘toffee’ has caught his fancy and he was not discussing serious issues.
He further added, “On the other side, there is a player whose mind doesn’t move away from childishness. Such an important election about the country’s future but for ten days, a word that gripped him was ‘balloon’. For ten days he kept repeating it. However, children don’t stick to a toy for too long and now he has caught the word ‘toffee’. “Now you tell me what to do. I am not of an age where I can play with balloons, It was for the people to decide whether or not they wanted those who play with balloons and crave for toffees.”
He concluded in his speech that as a child who sold tea, he had not got toffees but had his sights set on trophies.
4) Evocation-A great story evokes feelings. A great story makes people laugh and cry. The campaign addressed the issues people were most touchy about; from women safety to price rise to corruption. Anna Hazare’s movement had already done a kind of groundwork for BJP’s anti-corruption plank. While some of the BJP state governments have also been accused of corruption, Modi’s government in Gujarat has been largely corruption free and development oriented, which gave credibility to the campaign.
5) Eloquence-Right choice of words and right amount of words creates an eloquent speaker. When Mr Modi spoke, “Mother Ganges (Holy river of Hindus) has called me” to start his speech at Varanasi, it was the most powerful expression to connect with the the Hindu voters of Banaras. (I am not discussing the ethical aspects here as they are a subject for debate in itself).
The eloquent expression has to balance the personal brand with organisation brand, which was successfully done by BJP and Soho Square agency in several ways. All election campaigns had Modi as a face and BJP logo ‘Lotus’ highlighted along with the message of vote for BJP. Of course the campaign did not ask to vote for Modi, it asked to vote for BJP because BJP had the strong and capable administrator Modi as its chief.
“The people at BJP are extremely focused and astute. None of the work we did would have been possible without their spot-on brief and research done by the BJP”. says Anuraag Kandelwal, Executive Creative Director and Creative Head, Soho Square (part of parent company Ogilvy). Ogilvy captain Piyush Pandey wrote ‘Abki Baar Modi Sarkar’ and Anuraag Kandelwal & Nilesh Jain wrote ‘Achche Din Aane Wale Hai’.
6) Energizing-The publicity material to back Modi’s campaign was highly energizing. Look at this video.
The video talks about all issues from water and electricity to welfare of the poor. In fact the video starts with sad faces and the impact of price rise on the life of the poor. The video then tries to shift the mood by promising good days by bringing Modi at the helm. The despondent mood then turns into joyful as the video moves on to promise that the country will be rewarded and all promises will be kept.
7) Engaging on multiple platforms-Different people have different learning styles. Some prefer audio, some visuals and some audio visuals. Hence a campaign must use trans media storytelling to reach out to all sections. From rallies to Youtube videos, from TV interviews to ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ (Talk over tea), from newspaper to online ads the campaign engaged with people in different ways, across different platforms, thus making it holistic and appealing to all sections of society. To engage with the target segments, Mr Modi especially highlighted that his government would focus on the youth, women and the poor.
Catchiness of the slogans help in involving people initially and the involvement can be retained by making the campaign engaging and participative at every level. “Abki Baar, Modi Sarkaar” (This time Modi government) was a powerful punchline from that point of view.
(Excited to learn professional storytelling, download free eBook “I too want to be a storyteller” here)
Soho Square did sufficient background research, necessary for a good advertising and storytelling campaign. They realized in the assembly polls of 2013 when BJP won 31 seats in Delhi and swept Rajasthan, MP, Chattisgarh, the country was serious about a change. Research had also indicated that Narendra Modi’s recall was higher than that of BJP. Hence the ad campaign naturally focused on the personal brand and integrated it with the organisation brand.
A wake up call for Indian CEOs and promoters, some important lessons here. With the advent of Digital Storytelling, you don’t need thousands of crores to build a personal brand.
From Sangh worker to Brand NaMo -A good example of visual storytelling by Yahoo
Embracing the next story, the next general elections
Probably BJP has started working for the next general elections already. Political analysts say that thepopularization of Brand Namo is part of Modi’s well-oiled PR machinery to strengthen his base for the next general elections. Till then we need to wait and watch, and CEOs and promoters need to reflect and learn some lessons from Modi. The punchlines of BJP have surely become memorable for many many years to come.
And if you can become memorable and stay on the top of hearts and minds, you can win and live happily thereafter.
Three of the most popular books on Narendra Modi include “The Man of the Moment : Narendra Modi” byKalindi Randeri, M. V. Kamath. The book talksabout the man himself, his style of governance and consecutive victories in the elections. The second book,Narendra Modi : The Man. The Times by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay reveals hitherto unknown aspects of Narendra Modi’s psyche: as a six year old boy selling tea to help out his father, abandoning his family and wife in search of his definition of truth, initiation into the RSS as a fledgling who ran errands for his seniors, his idea of Gujarati pride and Indian-ness, and finally, his meteoric rise which gave him a distinct identity post the 2002 Godhra riots.
The third book, (in Hindi) by seasoned journalist Prakash Hindustani was actually the first book on strategies behind Modi’s victory (released on 25th May, after Modi’s victory) has been getting great reviews.
Dr Amit Nagpal is Chief Inspirational Storyteller at AL Services. He is a Social Media Influencer, Author, Speaker/Trainer and Coach. He tweets at @DrAmitInspires.
His special interest and expertise lies in inspirational storytelling, anecdotes and visual storytelling. AL Services offers content development/story writing, consulting, training and other services in the area of brand storytelling.