Is the tide turning?


I don’t know how many of you have read about the Occupy Wall Street campaign that has been going on in US. Or for that matter even know about it… But it is happening… And what makes it very surprising is that it is happening in one of the so-called free economies of the world – The United States of America.

Gordon Gecko would have been lynched by the mob on the streets for even uttering the G of  “Greed is good“.

After the crash of 2008, while many would have made statements about recovery, the US economy probably had not recovered. Well economy might have on papers but the man on the street… when the entire life’s saving has disappeared… to recover, would need another lifetime.

The 1% that the protesters are talking about… they are the insulated lot. Insulated, because they have amassed wealth which would last for a few of their generations. But the common man… the common man who let these people get all this wealth by buying their products, spending money on conspicuous consumption because corporates and banks made it easy.

But finally I think there is an awakening. And people have taken to the streets. They are done with a very few making all the money while they suffer day in and day out. Of course, there would be many in the US who would term these protests as meaningless because they have not felt the pinch… yet. But they surely will.

I think this is a protest that needs to go global. The global economy is in doldrums and yet the Governments peddle out statistics (creativity at it’s best). The collapse of Greece would not have happened if everyone was aware of where the economy is truly headed.

And while I am not sure.. the protest in US is a mass movement. They do not have a politician or a person with an ax to grind heading it. It is akin to a flash mob… but flash mob with a purpose.

I think many of you would bring Anna Hazare into discussion. The perception being that he has also started the movement in India. But I think that movement has lost sight. The way they are going about in the current election in the constituency of Hissar… it seems like they are anti-congress. Whereas the movement has to be against the entire political elite. I am sure that none of the candidates in that election are corruption free.

People who had supposedly taken to the street (as I had said in one of the earlier posts too) were there because it was hip… not because they strongly believed in the cause of anti-corruption and would do anything to stop it.

More importantly… the Anna Hazare movement is barking up the wrong tree. Instead of chasing the bucket that gets filled up with the corrupt money.. shut off the taps from where the money flows. Protest in front of the corporates that have been involved in various scams. Stop that car guy who is paying money to the traffic cop. Put up protest tents in front of the the various govt agencies where all the wheeling and dealing is done by the power brokers. Make a website which lists such people.

True awakening will happen when every where you turn.. you see a sign that says “SAY NO TO CORRUPTION“. A sign that says “Is this all your life is worth? Is this only about money and all the stuff that it can buy?”

I am not a socialist… nor a communist… nor are the protesters of the Occupy Wall Street campaign. We are the “common man”

I think the time has come for people to break out of the Matrix that has been constructed by the 1% that actually rules the world and control the governments.

Sign Language from socially_awkwrd on Vimeo.

 

 

 

The Circus is Over…


Quite a few of my blog readers had asked me as to how come I was not writing about  Lokpal controversy and the fast by Anna Hazare. My answer to that was – It’s a waste of time… there is nothing to write about.

So why am I writing now? Because  circus is over. A circus where everyone was a clown… including the thousands who were holding protests across the country… on the streets, in their neighbourhood, at the Ramlila ground and everywhere else. I bet most didn’t know what they were protesting for.

They were there because it was cool to be associated with a movement. It was  cool to be seen there. It made for a whole lot of status updates on facebook and tweets by the twits.

And we are living in a delusion that something will come out of this whole fight against corruption. A bill that has waited to get passed for so many decades… we expect that it will get passed and Lokpal will come into existence?? Dream on people… The 500 hundred odd people who control the destiny of this country are steeped in corruption and they are surely not going to let anything happen to all the scams they run.. day in and day out. Political parties win elections on the basis of corruption… not by people’s will.

We are a country or scamsters… hustlers… everyone is out to make a quick buck or get things done to their satisfaction. Ever wondered how someone builds a billion dollar monstrosity for his residence and there is not one question raised about where did the money come from? The cream of Corporate India would soon be operating from the confines of Tihar Jail.. Not because suddenly we as a nation developed a conscience but because they did not either grease enough palms or did not use enough grease.

Hazare and his supporters think that they have won some kind of battle. What they don’t realise is that they have been outmaneuvered. The political class has pretended to give in and killed all the drama that was happening. And it will be business as usual very soon. The media will move on to newer stories… we will move on with our lives and money will keep getting transferred into the Swiss Bank accounts

Unlike the revolts, rebellions and uprisings in the Middle East and Africa, our country is different. We are not an oppressed lot or being ruled by a dictator. Under the constant opium spread into our blood stream by all the good things that are happening around us… Per Capita Income is rising… economy is growing faster than most economies in the world and blah blah blah.. we really have no strong reason to revolt. If there is corruption… it is there because we have encouraged it. We want our driving licences, we want to cut corners, we want our deal to go through, we want to sell our property by doing half cash half cheque deal…. I could go on… but we are responsible for the monster called corruption.. So we will not do anything to stop it because we still want all the aforesaid things.

Past couple of weeks… people on the streets and all the celebrities jumping up and down… it was all about few mins of fame for being associated with a cause. Most didn’t really know what the cause was…

Nothing is ever gonna happen…

Is this Automobile advertising?


Wonder how many have seen the Toyota Liva communication and scratched their head to figure if the communication is for a mobile phone or an automobile!

I am sure the strategy planning team had come up with this great idea that the youth today are buying premium segment hatchback and we should connect with the youth. Now connecting with the youth obviously means the entire gamut of social networking (seriously is that all there is to youth today?) So here we have a commercial which has all the logos floating and the guy constantly connected on the mobile phone. Where is the Car?? This commercial actually reminds me of an international commercial I had seen for Samsung Smart TV. Pretty much the same approach but lot more relevant because it was talking about a TV which lets you do lot more apart from viewing your favorite channels.

Then there is this series of commercials for Maruti A Star. Can’t remember the tagline. But there is one commercial of woman dropping a guy off at his home (wow that is an insight! and a complete flip on guys dropping girls home). It doesn’t end there…. she blows the guy a kiss and opens the boot and another guy comes out… hmm any clues on what it means? Has the agency sold this film idea to the client about women emancipation?

There is another in the series about guy giving the woman a lift and she is checking out the car (subtle freudian look of the woman at the automatic gear and the guys hand on the gear knob) and this whole experience probably turns her on so much that she invites him into her home for a cup of coffee (and all of us who have seen this movie “Pyar Ke Side Effects” know what invitation for coffee means! So what is the TVC promoting… give a lift to a girl and the girl will invite the guy into her home??

I completely understand that the consumers for a lot of product categories are getting younger and brands need to connect with them. But are these the connection points? There are enough young people around me and yes social networking and mobile phones are a big part of their lives but you should here them talking about their future and their ambitions. Would be quite a revelation.

Obviously the strategy for both the brands has been done by foggy old strategy planners (someone like me) and have they got their deep-seated desires into the communication.

Oh while on this… there is a Hyundai Verna commercial which is about the guy driving through the streets to hand over a bracelet to his girl friend. Absolutely banal communication. The teasers had raised expectation for a great automobile communication but alas…

Automobiles are about passion and a highly involved buy and it is insulting a consumer’s intelligence to create such tripe.

 

The Maruti Mentality


Long back I had seen a Maruti 800 with the Merc 3 pointed star on the hood. Back then when 800 was still ruling the roost and people were still into buying a small hatchback, it stood for aspiration. When the D segment cars were still very premium and Mitsubishi Lancer made one drool, it made sense to talk about value and stuff.

Gradually the market changed. There were newer brands and the entry point into automobiles changed from 800 to premium compacts. It split the market into two kinds of consumers and mindsets.

First mindset – the Maruti mindset – People who were graduating within the Maruti fold from 800 to Zen or Swift… for them the ease of after sales service, mileage and low maintenance cost mattered a lot. There was an assurance and comfort in buying a Maruti (even a roadside mechanic can repair the car).

Second mindset – First car was not a Maruti or the quick upgrade from the first Maruti was not into Maruti Franchise. For them, the brand and what it delivered in terms of form factor and technology mattered. The mindset believed that all cars are good and low maintenance in the given segment. Speedy zippier cars obviously meant that fuel economy was not a primary concern.

But then a large population has been brought up on Maruti and believe in the benefits of Maruti so when Maruti did the communication about “Whats the mileage?” it really was talking to this large population.

But when over the weekend I saw communication about value and supposedly very high-profile people doing acts of saving on things, it made me wonder. I believe Maruti can see tough times ahead and is trying hard to retain its francise.

The profile of compact cars is changing and in metros it has changed already. The proliferation of i20s, the launch of Volkwagen Polo and entry of Honda and Toyota in the compacts is a sign of things to come. Sooner or later people are going to stop associating compact with everything Maruti stood for and there move from compact to bigger car will not be driven by mileage consideration etc. And that is where Maruti is going to hit a roadblock. Seriously, why would anyone want to buy a Kizashi when there is a Cruze or a Skoda or an Altis or a Civic are available. Brands that have strong equity in premium segment and have worked on building the segment while Maruti was working on Compacts. Schizophrenia is hitting the brand when it shows so-called premium people and the end frame of communication is a range of small cars. What gives?

Automobile advertising at first level is not about everything that happens after the car has been bought. It is about a desire to possess symbols of moving up in life. It is about showcasing “I can now afford luxury” and surely this mindset would not want connotations of fuel economy or maintenance. If I buy a car in excess of 10 lacs (approx US$ 20,000), am I going to worry about the mileage being 12 km/l or 20 km/l? Will I worry if changing the rearview mirror costs 10,ooo? Ok maybe a little concern but it wont be something that would involve changing my buying preference.

Yes Santosh Desai talks about the dhaniya mirchi to be thrown in (coriander and chilli) when buying vegetables but even Santosh will agree that the outlook is changing… specially when all these large retail stores are opening up and people have moved to shopping over there. so even the dhaniya mirchi mindset is changing too…

Here is to a new India where value is about what I get by way of quality stuff for the money I pay and not about Lx or Lxi or Vxi or Zxi. Let every purchase be fully loaded. We have caught up with the world where Airbag is standard fitment and ABS is a given and not comes only in top end. In fact let there be only top end and no bottom end. And there is no bottom end actually. Nano sales that are dropping are not so much the safety concerns but the fact that even a guy who is switching from a two-wheeler to car does not want to associate with a cheap car.

Whose country is it?


I feel like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show but with a difference. In the movie he has a perfect life… perfectly choreographed life where everything and everyone is happy and shiny and perfect.

Cut to my life (not me as an individual but every Indian who does not belong to any categories listed below) as the country has entered another decade.

Every New Year’s eve leads to hype about the year gone by and bright future awaiting us in the next year. This year of course has an extra edge to it…beginning of  the new decade. A quick google search would take you through various trend predictions for this decade. And as predictions go, they will fall by the way side as the decade moves on because the environment changes so quickly today that any trend prediction has a life span of perhaps days and not a year or a decade. That by the way is my trend prediction! That trends would last for only few days 😛

So here I am… not living in perfect world like Jim Carrey but living in an imperfect world perfectly choreographed by a lot of people around me:

Politicians – JPC or PAC… do I really give a shit?? Either ways truth will never come out as it never did in Bofors. But what this controversy does is to keep people’s minds away from rising onion prices, rising lending rates, rising unrest across many states in the form of insurgency. And no I have no sympathy for the maoists and various other groups… they can’t achieve anything and even if they do, it is all politics to grab all the available money which they can’t lay their hands on for the moment. Nor do I have sympathy for the government which is supposedly fighting battles on many fronts – most of them of their own making. But let me not rant further on this. All political parties are the same.

Corporates and Banks – Seriously… are we supposed to believe that Citi had no clue that fraud of this magnitude was being carried out right from the bank premises? And all these corporates who had ‘invested’ money? Money laundering I say… in connivance with the banks. Of course now Citi would now lean on its small fry – the credit card defaulters… and various loan customers who have probably missed couple of payments (bank needs to cover up the losses in the financial fuck ups done somewhere else) Actually you can replace Citi with any other bank and this probably would be happening… it is just that even as I am writing this post, there would be a witch hunt on for 1. the person who led to this coming out into the open or 2. the PR person who should have been aware of the likelihood of this shit hitting the fan.

Teenagers and Youth – Busy in their own virtual world of social networks and mobile phones and whiling away time at the various malls till they get into race for making obscene amount of money by applying for CAT and various firang universities. we talk about youth being the future of the country given the high % of them but seriously… take a good look around at the youth and you are left wondering if the future should be left to the Frankenstein monsters that we are creating or the monsters we have already created – the politicians. Now I got nothing against the teenagers and the young… they have a great life now as compared to the earlier generation or couple of previous generations. We are the ones who have made them what they are by providing them everything we could never have.

The Protectors – CBI or a local thanedar… it doesn’t matter.. they can’t find the clues even if they were shoved up their nose. It is always easy to blame the nearest person you can get hold of for the crime and close the case or keep the case hanging to see how much money can be made. Harry Bosch.. we need you in this real world. And while you are here.. can we clone you into a few million?

Media – The less said about media the better. Typical editorial meeting at any of the channels or even newspapers would revolve around which story has the possibility of being news and how long can it be juiced till the next story… nothing transformational.. Hell.. news is not about transforming.. it is about building personalities and like a business.. making money… One  Radia is gone so what… there are 10 others around and it would be business as usual…

Cricket and Movies – Am sure both are funded by the government to keep our minds away from stupid little things like increasing expenses and dwindling balances and such other stuff.

So coming back to the question in the title… probably the country belongs to all of them and they have come together to create this perfectly imperfect world and just like Jim Carrey I don’t realise that I am just the lead in a reality show who is being manipulated in every scene to respond in a certain way. Of course his life is so perfect that it sucks…

Am waiting for that sail boat from the climax of the movie which can take me across the seas to that perfect world and meet Jim on the way and tell him to turn around and to tell him that his world is better than mine…

Enough of this depressing shit… belated but still… A HAPPY NEW YEAR… no… actually A HAPPY DECADE… make the most of it…

Reclaim your life


Since yesterday I been switching on the tv at 5.30 am in the morning to watch The Ashes (for the cricketically challenged population, it’s the series between Australia & England) and caught the Tata Safari Dicor commercial. It’s not a new one but one done year and half back… “what would you remember when you look back on your life”… Enough probably has been written about the campaign right from the first commercial in 2005. But this commercial linked with the conversation I was having with a friend yesterday. It was about the fact that when we grow old and we look back on our lives… what would we remember? would it be the many deals that made us a success in our professional life… would it be about how much money we made? would it be about how we manipulated at work to rise the corporate ladder? would it be about how many lives we trampled on to reach the top? We both agreed that nope we wont remember any of this… what we would remember would be the moments of joy which were not about professional success and would almost always be centered around the people in our lives… our family… our mother… our father… our wives… our children… our friends (that one friend who made a difference and not 589 people on facebook)… So then why do we chase everything that will not be remembered?

We chase them because we are driven. Driven by what society marks as success symbols. A degree… a job… a car… a house (make that the ‘right address’)… club membership… frequent flyer miles… business class… We are smothered by communication that tells us that if we don’t have any of this, we have not made it. Communication creates the pressure right from the time children become aware and follow what is going on around them. THE PRESSURE TO BELONG. But the point is… belong to what? the environment which promotes spend spend spend…. acquire acquire acquire…

Getting ahead is not about being a better human being. Getting ahead is about how much you got as compared to people around you. You must have the next big thing. The 3D LED TV… iPhone… connected lifestyle… how many followers do you have on twitter… Statistics about how many people would read this blog… Success is not a measure of what difference you have made to lives of people but what all you have…

Brands of today have a larger role to play. In the world of product parity, discounts and freebies, the product would always sell but empathy for the brand and thereby the ability of the brand to step out of the discounts and freebies and be bought for what it stands for would go further and stay lot longer in the consumer’s mind.

The brand should be bought for its beliefs and not the capriciousness it promotes. Of course in some cases… like Tata Safari… it has not been bought because users were reclaiming their lives but it was big and controlled the road.

“Reclaim your life” is a powerful statement and it should be continued because we are moving towards times when we would be craving to reclaim the innocence that has been lost… craving to reclaim the inner beliefs and values which we have let go.

There have been stray thoughts in the past and some new ones which are indicative of the changing Brand view…

AirTel back in 2002/03 about communicate… Asian Paints – “har ghar kuch kehta hai”… powerful communication. They evoked emotions which were not about “buy me now” but went deep into our sub conscious.

Idea Cellular with its continuing communication specially about language not being a barrier, is sending out a message… but is anybody listening in the flood of all the apps that can be used and the handsets peddling out ‘facebook key’?

Tata Tea with its Jago Re raised the consciousness to vote and while it probably did not make a difference in the current Bihar election but the return of Nitish Kumar is a sign that people are fed up of goonda raj…

Any brand which says that it is about pure technology edge or functionality has a very myopic view. Sure they will sell and will keep adding to the top line and bottom line but wont last because the world 5 years from now is going to look for reclaiming the life and it surely wont look at the brands which perpetuated all the reasons why the life was lost in the first place…

Brand evangelism is not a term which sounds good in advertising strategy presentation… it is what every brand needs to aim for. And evangelism is not rooted in the functionality of the product but a bond between the consumer and the brand. Would suggest reading ‘The Primal Brand” by Pat Hanlon.

And a coincidence… while watching cricket, I switched to VH1 classics and The Cranberries song – Zombies was on… and in the context of this blog sounded so apt. It’s just  that the battlefield has shifted…

Another head hangs lowly,
Child is slowly taken.
And the violence caused such silence,
Who are we mistaken?

But you see, it’s not me, it’s not my family.
In your head, in your head they are fighting,
With their tanks and their bombs,
And their bombs and their guns.
In your head, in your head, they are crying…

The first link is worth a watch again

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pMIkREluMQ&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6Q1CHMH3iI&feature=related