Sailing away

The day has come. As it comes pretty much in every household in this country.

From the time the child is born, all our energies get focused on the child. The world starts to revolve around her. And if the child happens to be a daughter, she connects with us like nobody else can.

From the time my daughter was born, the first time I held her in my arms, the first time she smiled at me, I knew that she is the centre of my universe.

She had the capability to turn me into a jelly. I could never say no to her for anything. Her smile every morning used to brighten up my day.

Watching her grow, and yet be the same little girl is an experience I will never trade for anything.

Last one year (12th!), was extremely stressful for her and for me. The choices she made in terms of what she wants to do with her life, I stood by her. Through all the stress of Boards and all the entrance exams, she never lost that smile. She was the sunshine of the house.

I would sit till late in the night while she studied. I went with her for every entrance exam. I held her while she cried with disappointment when she didn’t make it through couple of entrance exams. I heard her crying with joy over phone, when she did make it through one of the colleges she want to be at.

All the preparation, all the fights (yes we fought too but they never lasted very long), all the dreams, all the hopes, all the insecurities, I tried to be her pillar of strength. I kept my emotions in check so that she could let them all out.

And then it all boils down to this day. From today, she joins her college in a different city.

She will be lifting the anchor and be ready to set sail.

She will create a void in my life that will be very hard to fill.

There will be no morning smile or a hug anymore.

The only contact (while she is away), will be the calls.

Life will be tough. Waking up in the morning and getting ready, without the cheerful smile is going to be so tough.

She will get a group of friends and perhaps even the guy who will become her new anchor.

I hate Indian culture. It makes us so closely knit. Makes us believe that the reason of our existence is to bring lives into this world, nurture them and then watch as they move on with their lives. Why are meant to create such strong bonds?

I will be at her orientation today. And tomorrow I will leave. This perhaps will be the real cutting of the umbilical cord.

I only hope that in times to come, through all her life, she will always turn to me when she is most happy and most stressed in her life. I hope I have taught her well enough how to handle all that life throws at her.

For granted

Yep we take most things and people for granted.

After all, we are the chosen one. If things happen to us, we deserve them. If people are at our beck and call, hell they better be!

That’s how we go through our lives. Especially with people. The ones who are constantly around, doing things for us, ready for anything, they are the ignored lot. A boss, a subordinate, a friend, a partner… we know they will be around unfailingly so they become invisible. The invisible cosmic machinery that keeps working in the background. Making things happen for us. We talk to them or message them or connect with them when we have some free time. After all why bother. They have chosen to make us the centre of their universe.

But Karma, that unfailing symbol of payback (good or bad), does come visiting.

We become so ignorant of those who have been around all the time, that over a period of time, we drive them away. And then bam! Suddenly the life spins out of control and we look for the ones who used to be there and are not.

Even then, we don’t realise that it is our fault that we drove them away. All we do is blame them for not being there. For doing things that were expected of them. We realise the void that has been left but we do not want to acknowledge it. Because to acknowledge is to accept that we were wrong.


One moment you are relevant and the next moment you are not. Moment over here is just to symbolise time. The period between relevant and irrelevant can be longer.

What happens in the intervening period? Why do things and people become irrelevant? It’s not just about relationships, whether it is between two individuals, organisation and employees or two business entities, it happens with our possessions, it happens with technology.

The best example of technology that comes to my mind is how pagers became irrelevant so quickly in our country! We were just about getting used to the pagers and then they were gone. Cellular technology wiped them out. But then with technology, that is always the danger. Someone somewhere is always working on making the technology better.

But what goes wrong in relationships? Why does one individual become irrelevant? Why does an employee become irrelevant? Why does an organisation become irrelevant?

In marketing of course, a brand has to constantly stay relevant for the consumer. More so in this day and age where the consumers are evolving way faster than they used to. They are constantly in a state of flux when it comes to not just brands but even product categories. We, as part of the profession, are always finding ways to keep the brand relevant.

So what goes wrong in relationships? Why are we not able to keep ourselves relevant for our partner, for our organisation, for our employees and for our business partners? After all, these relationships are also being constantly battered by the changing environment. Why don’t we invest time (it’s all about time always) in relationships the way we do in our work?

What goes wrong? Why don’t we work on staying relevant? We are not a product or a technology that gets bettered by another product or technology. We don’t have to go through hours of consumer research to understand what’s going wrong, what is changing. It is happening to us. We can feel it. We can sense it. But we just let it happen.

There are enough books about how to keep things going but hell! We don’t read any of them. Books about personal relationships. Books about employee engagements. Books about perfect relationships. But do they work even if we read them. We tend to give up all too easily on another individual, employee or an organisation. Either we become irrelevant for them or they become irrelevant for us.

I don’t know if there is an answer to this conundrum but according to my very cynical view, it is all about money. Money is perhaps a loose term for all things materialistic.

We have become extremely materialistic and money minded. In our head, everything is about ROI. And time of course. Maybe it is also about the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. Or maybe it is about flatlining. We believe that the time required is not going to justify the returns. The relationship has either flatlined or is on a downward curve now. Our time and effort is better invested in something that we feel is more relevant. So One becomes relevant and the other irrelevant.

We have become selfish. Everything is about us. Our view of who is relevant and who is not. But look around, observe, pay close attention to what is happening around you. Try to invest time in understanding people. People you have started thinking as irrelevant. They make look so right now but will the situation change? When suddenly they will matter. Will there come a time when you will become irrelevant.

Why have we stopped being empathetic?

There is a fabulous serial called Person of Interest. Watch it. In fact binge watch it. In a machine world where the machine and people running those machines decide who is relevant and who is not, there is a group of people who believe in human values. They make it their task to help those identified as irrelevant by the machine. Put faith in human values and emotions. Look beyond the spoken or typed words.

(Image courtesy wikia and fandom)


Let me start with a quote from Mad Men.

“What you call Love was invented by guys like me… to sell nylons”

Desire. That’s what the quote is about. Creating a desire. Addressing the deep seated emotions. Within us. For us. For everything that makes us happy.

“Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay”

Happiness and desire have gone missing in the Advertising today. Having been in this profession for over 20 years, I have seen the change. I have been part of the change.

Somewhere in last 20 years, we have let go of the art of seduction. I know a lot of you will say that Advertising is not supposed to be that. It is supposed to inform the consumer about the product and benefits. It is supposed to work for the brand and therefore we need to understand the consumer and create that perfect communication.

Somewhere in our effort to create perfect communication, we lost out. We started believing everything the consumer says in a focus group or when she fills a questionnaire. We started “fine tuning” our advertising to address what she wanted us to say. Something that will sound very relevant and rational. Question – when were we ever rational?

I will go out on a limb and make a huge statement here. No buying is ever rational. The only time rational part kicks in is when it comes to price. That’s when the consumer shops around for a better price. The irrational part of the consumer has already decided on the product she wants to buy.

But coming back to the post, we have become too numbers driven. We have stopped looking deeper into the consumer psyche. We have stopped looking at what makes them happy, what makes them crave for something.

When did the consumer tell us that we have to do extensive need gap analysis to reach out to her. When did she tell us that there has to be a list of benefits in the advertising? When did she say that unless certain criteria in terms of features are not met, she won’t buy?

It is us who put these people into conference rooms and made them think, analyse and overanalyse. Once we started doing that, there was no turning back. After all, the Agency and the client could always use the 169 slides research deck to prove they have taken the right creative path.

We have become formula and code driven. Humour is a formula. Showing an automobile in a certain way is a code. Tapping into the various boxes we have put the consumer in (gen x, gen y, millennials, gen z) and then creating communication that taps into the popular culture of the specific box, is how we look at communication now.

The art of subtle persuasion is long lost. No one has the time to build a deeper consumer connect. Building a brand is now about market share. Not an emotional bond with the consumer.

To quote Vance Packard – “The difference between a top-flight creative man and the hack is his ability to express powerful meanings indirectly”

We are all now a bunch of hacks. Power is now all about shouting the loudest. Or now with digital medium, creating something that will go viral and have a million likes on social media. Whether it is taking up a social cause, creating controversy or just get people talking. We forget though that digital medium is in a constant state of flux. When we pander to the short attention span of the consumer in the digital space, we are never going to build a lifelong bond.

Getting attention and conversations going is not building a connect. Advertising has now become like a teenager or even an infant. They do stuff to seek attention.

Marketers are also going down the same path. Link test score is what matters. Nothing else. Films get crafted to ensure a good score. All brands are getting uniliverised (couldn’t coin a word with P&G).

Desire is not a rational emotion. Craving is also not a rational emotion. If you don’t want something desperately enough, you won’t buy it. iPhone can sell without advertising (ok maybe not for long). Why? Because it has created an intense craving in the consumer which must be satisfied at all cost.

How many brands are doing that? How many brands are looking to build a deeper emotional connect. Connect that is not built on discounts, after sales, fake lifestyle, some obscure technobabble but a strong emotion.

I have been lucky to have worked on brands that addressed deeper emotions. I have worked on brands that were ingrained in the consumer’s mind. But it has been a long while now.

Will I get to work on something similar again? I doubt that. Our minds are fragmented by mediums and driven by numbers. We are now communicating with a mind that is way too cluttered and the way we look at it, the safest possible way to get the sales number and continue to retain the business.

Tommy Walker wrote on that the divide between marketing and sales will disappear. Well it has. And hence the death of advertising as we knew it.

Long back there used to be theme communication and scheme communication. Now it is all scheme. There is no theme anymore.

And why is that? It is because we are no more addressing the mind of the consumer (and they have a very sharp mind) but her wallet. We want a share of every rupee that she spends on buying a long list of products (yes the list has become way longer than it used to be two decades back). We want to grab that rupee before it is spent on something else! But pause. Pause for a moment. Think about it. The list has become longer. Which means that the desire and craving for more stuff has increased. Is it possible to address these emotions? Be relevant in the context of making her happy. And not be relevant as she tells you across different focus groups?

(Disclaimer – she is not meant to address only females. It just addresses consumers)

Swimming pool is closed

Back in the days when we lived in a world which was clean and unpolluted, its the change in the fragrance that symbolised change of weather.

These fragrances, hard to describe, heralded the onset of a season. The subtle shifts in temperature when we moved from winter into spring and then into summer or when we moved into winter.

The shifts, subtle yet so sensorial, we loved them.

Spring cleaning and warm clothes being given lot of airing before being packed or being put in the sun to remove the smell of nephthaline balls as preparation for winters.

All the cues of the change were out there for us to smell and to see and feel.

The symbols have changed. “Swimming pool is closed” notice on the society notice board tells us we are moving into winter. Or in March “swimming will open from…” tells us that it’s time for summer.

The clearing sales by various brands are another signal of a change. The conditioned air in offices and people complaining that it’s either too hot or too cold are signals of change.

There are no fragrances in the air or the perceptible shift in the temperature anymore. More than that, we don’t have time to feel any of that.

The day we made one screen our window to the world, is the day everything changed. Now our world is just size of the screen. The weather app tells us the weather. Posts and tweets tell us of the changes. Detailed weather charts tell us of the summer or winter or the monsoon.

Pollution has played havoc (we are to be blamed of course. Let’s not try to shift the blame anywhere else) and made the fragrances disappear. The temperatures don’t change much. Winter is just about two weeks of intense cold. Summer just doesn’t go away.

I am not going to get into the role food plays with the changes in season because that will make this post never ending, given the foodie I am 🙂

So here is to the onset of winter – swimming pool is closed.

Battered car

I have always been fascinated by life pretty much being as an automobile. Everybody knows that the car we buy symbolises the shift in our life stage.

I believe a car or any vehicle for that matter are far more connected with life in terms of how it all pans out. Especially in relationships and professional life.

The car is new, everyone is so excited, the smell of the new car is quite something. We all want to go take the ride, feel the engine hum softly, the speed thrills and so does the entire interior and all the different things one can do with technology. Then over a period of time, from being exciting new experience, it shifts into a mundanity of driving from point A to point B. Neglect comes into play. From getting the car serviced on time every time, we move into as and when we have time. The charm is gone. At some point we decide that the car has done whatever it could and we change it and the romance starts all over again.

Isn’t that what happens with our relationships and in work environment? Once the newness wears off, the romance dies, it’s a mundane day every day. Of course in the case of a relationship, we can’t just let go of the current one and get into a new one.

But workplace, either we change the job or the other part believes that we as a car have done enough and it’s time to change. So we are consigned to the junkyard called fired and jobless. For the organisation, they get a spanking new person and new romance begins.

In relationships and in our life journey, it is not easy to just get rid of old. You can’t get a new body for yourself just because this one is getting old. So either you spruce up (akin to denting and painting) or you keep yourself fit, the way you would ensure your car is fit with regular workshop visits.

Relationships though are even tougher. You can’t sell one and buy another. No matter how bruised or battered, you carry on. Flirting along the way is like taking a cab instead of driving. Your indulgence. But you always drive the old car.

A DISCLAIMER HERE – there is no gender discussion here. Irrespective of the gender, this car and life hold true.

So why this post. I was looking at my battered and beaten up Xylo (my son says it looks as if I had participated in Demolition Derby) and realised the age of the car and how it continues to carry on even after 100,000 kms is quite similar to how I feel. The ageing of the body and mind is inevitable as the odometer keeps clicking. How I am doing things to stay agile in the mind and physically to make myself go that much more further. Why am I doing that? So that I can beat the redundancy and not be pushed into the scrapyard. After all there is still a whole lot of commuting to do and miles to go (won’t say before I sleep)…

Yes at some point in time, when my next life stage is going to be defined, I will change the xylo. As with Stephen King books (where you pick up a book when it is time), I don’t think there has been a signal yet that there is a change in my life.

Also at an emotional level, I am way too attached to my car (a monstrosity even when it was new). The idea of selling it doesn’t sit well.

And also, we get along very well. We both look battered and bruised. We look good together. I haven’t done much to improve the battered look of the car, nor have I changed my look in anyway. The car and me, are not for the shallow people who only want new and shining all the time 🙂

As an aside, do read or watch Christine by Stephen King.

Mind Manipulation Maneuver

Every indulged in it? Or been a victim of it? It happens often enough and on a regular basis.

Whether it is in corporate world, brands manipulating the consumers, politicians or even in personal relationships.

The essence of the maneuver is perception management. Create and manage a perception so well that it becomes real.

The best exponents of course are the politicians. I don’t know how many would have watched the movie “Wag the Dog” but it pretty much exemplifies how politicians play with perceptions. Think about it. Once the Cold Wad threat was over, what did the western world (specifically US) have to keep calling themselves saviours of the free world? Nothing! So bring on the battles with the oil rich belts. Even in our country, political parties have created this illusion of non Hindus and allegedly backward classes being exploited that everyone or at least the “intellectual” majority believes that is the case.

In the corporate world, there are always those individuals who create an aura around them that makes them seem like MVP in the set up. The organisations they work for, do their best to retain them and also others want to hire them. You can do average work but build a great self PR around it and people will believe. They would want to quote your quotes. You become an expert on leadership and corporate culture and pretty much everything.

When it comes to brands, Apple mastered this maneuver. Yes it’s good technology (I use it) but the hysteria that surrounds every launch, does it deserve that? Perhaps not. But it tapped into our desire to be different from the masses and rest is of course evident for everyone. Look at me, even I am quoting the brand to make a point!

Perception is something that has driven most of the communication that brands have with communication. Obscure research data to prove why brand X is better over brand Y that consumers lap up and buy. When competing on those terms become tough, indulge in social causes to sound ‘oh so holy’. Works very well when you pick a cause close to consumer’s heart.

Awards are another way of creating a perception of being superior. Works rather well in automobile category. Car of the year is a great thing to talk about.

Talking about ‘talking about’, it always helps when you get some influential writers to say nice things about you or start a negative conversation about competition or a trend that is detrimental to your cause.

Social media has become a great platform for such endeavours. Creating a reputation or destroying one, has become easy. Stayzilla is a case in point. Who really knows the truth? Truth is what you get people to perceive.

Perception either creates a reality or helps you hide the facts. You can hide your incompetence by questioning competence of someone else (great tool in organisational politics).

When we get into a relationship, we spend a lot of time to build perceptions about us. We indulge in social engineering to an extent that the other person accepts all of it and falls for you. Keep working on it long enough and it becomes reality. Most relationships, of course, turn sour when the mask slips.

We tend to spend hell of a lot of time on these manipulating maneuvers. I think as a society we have reached a point that it is very hard for us to differentiate perception from reality. More importantly we don’t want to spend time in making that differentiation. And you know why? Because that will take away time from us building a certain predisposition towards ourselves. Plus the fact that perceptions help us in keeping our sanity. Help us rationalise the choices we make.

We are living in an era where our lives are led virtually and it has made things all so easy when it comes to manipulation. But we opted for it. For our selfish gains. So we can’t blame others when we get manipulated. Someone out there was a more adept manipulator that you.