Inception – Plant an Idea


So I will not talk much about the movie. Those who have seen Inception would know that the movie cannot be captured in words… it needs to be felt and needs to be internalized. Those who have not see it yet…  you know what to do.

With every movie that Christopher Nolan makes, he will be raising the bar and in times to come would be known as probably the best director Hollywood ever had. Mr Nolan take a bow. I hope you sweep away all the possible Oscars. Absolutely loved The Dark Knight and have to lay my hands on Prestige and Memento.

But this blog is not about Inception the movie or Christopher Nolan.

This blog is about planting an idea in our brains as consumers.

In 1957, Mr Vance Packard wrote a seminal book “The Hidden Persuaders”. To quote Wikipedia –  Packard explores the use of consumer motivational research and other psychological techniques, including depth psychology and subliminal tactics, by advertisers to manipulate expectations and induce desire for products. It also explores the manipulative techniques of promoting politicians to the electorate. The book questions the morality of using these techniques.

Sounds familiar? It probably is the foundation of Inception. Of course Inception is about dreams but Mr Packard talked about planting ideas deep in the sub conscious of people who are wide awake.

Look around and you would realize that every piece of advertising is attempting to do that. Of course nowadays the subtlety is out of the window. Backed by huge media spends, the brands want to drum an idea into our heads. Case in point is the new Saif Ali Khan commercial for Airtel Digital TV. The day it was launched and couple of days after that… I must have seen that commercial at least 50 times in couple of days. It got to a point where I felt like throwing up everytime the commercial came on air. Media Planners wake up!

Anyways, the point is that what we buy today… what we consume and what we recommend, very little is actually what we believe ourselves. Everything is what the brand has taught us to say. Quick.. tell me why do you use Colgate… or Pepsodent or Close Up?? Or to move away from mundane… why Gucci, Prada, Tommy Hilfiger? Why an iPhone, iPad, Nokia… Why facebook? Why wordpress?

There are many people who would sit up and say “but Samir it is about the experienential aspect of the brand!” Right! Did you ever stop to think that the experience that you seeked and the experience that the brand fulfilled… were driven by the brand!

Politicians do it all the time. Media does it all the time. Read this morning that there are 89,000 vacancies to be filled up in Indian Railways. Media prompted by politicians is highlighting this fact as if it is Mamta Banerjee’s fault that the vacancies are not filled up. 89,000 vacancies!!! Surely there were other Ministers before her who could have ensured that they were filled up. Now I am no fan of Mamta Banerjee but give me a break!

Wonder how many of you would have seen this movie “New Delhi Times” starring Shashi Kapoor as the editor of the newspaper and how he gets manipulated by Manohar Singh as the politician. Same premise… the world would believe when they read it in newspaper (why also all the B2B businesses believe that PR is the way to go for building a brand).

In Swordfish – John Travolta tells Hugh Jackman that we believe what our eyes see and then towards the climax of the movie, he manipulates what Hugh Jackman sees. That’s another must watch movie by the way.

Brands over a period of time have learnt the art of manipulating us by constantly working on our herd mentality. I have always wondered about what is the difference in the detergent for top loading washing machine vs front loading!! But everytime I faithfully buy top loading detergent because I have a top loading washing machine. Now when I am writing this blog.. I am ready to burst out with laughter for getting conned like this.

Then of course there are subliminal ways to entice. Wonder how many of you would have noticed that when you walk into a movie hall… its only when there is a fair crowd waiting, the pop corn machine is started and the fragrance of pop corn permeates through the lobby and attacks our senses. And the urge to buy pop corn grows.

53 years down the line (after The Hidden Persuaders) Mr Nolan has again planted an idea in our brain and I am just wondering how many marketeers are thinking of ways to make the brand stronger by using such techniques. Fret not.. you would have read the book in college and thrown it away. If you still got it in your collection, dust the cover and start reading it again. Or go buy it.

As for me… It is Inception time again… have to watch it few times more….

A Tribute to Mr Feroz Khan


People who are as old as I am, would remember all the movies that I mention and the young generation who wonders what am I talking about… watch these movies!

My first experience of Feroz Khan was me holding on to the head rest of the seat in front and watching the F1 unfold on a large screen in Apradh.

Dharmatma which I watched before Godfather.  While Premnath was no Marlon Brando, he was good!

Qurbani which opened my eyes to the female form (ehem!) and I got to see the foreign locales like never before.

I watched Khote Sikke much before I saw Clint Eastwood and all the other westerns or read any Louis L’Amour

The seduction of Jaanbaaz… let me not say anything about that lest this blog gets censored

And his last(?)movie Welcome… Loved him as the eccentric Don. Not many would agree, but every scene that had him in it… was a treat.

Mr Khan was a man way ahead of his times. Having watched his movies when I was very young (some of his movies, I should not have even be allowed into the theatre), when I look back, I realise that those movies were an icon for a generation of young Indians who used to enjoy absolute thrills and the spills (not tea spilling out but lots more). The action used to be breathtaking. The number of times I almost hit the person in front sit with my dishum dishum!

Surprisingly from that period, the only other movies I remember are Zanjeer, Deewar and Sholay.

Reading about Mr Khan in today’s paper brought back the memories of those days and all his movies.

He had a certain style and production values. Afghanistan looked lot more beautiful than in the movie with John Abraham and Arshad Warsi (can’t remember the name of the film)

He always had certain panache about him and while all heroes during that time were soft and soppy, he brought about the macho appeal.

Looking back, I believe Mr Khan was the epitome of what Nike advertising is… Just do it. While the so called art films tried hard to be different from mainstream cinema, Mr Khan stayed within the framework and yet was different. Different in everything. Storyline, the way films were shot, the music… (All movies had hit soundtracks). His movies used to fill up the screen with breathtaking visuals and the sound stayed with you long after the movie was gone…

Thank you Mr Khan, you sure had made the little boy have a good time at the movies.