Randomness


Quite a few people have asked me why have I not written any post so I decided to write one. And thanks to those who missed my posts and mentioned it.

First up… wonder if snapdeal.com would mention the name of the sucker who paid 50K for a date with Gul Panang! seriously 50K?? On the other hand they might not mention the fact that nobody wanted to pay that kind of money… Gul might become the laughing-stock and go into serious depression that no one wanted a date with her!

Cricket World Cup starts this week and I thought I was the one who was missing the buzz but as read in the newspaper, it is pretty much a general feeling. The only people who are going hyper about it are the various brands who are exhorting team India to win and want consumer also to win. Don’t think consumer is seriously interested in all the shams that are peddled by way of price offs and contests and stuff.

The general viewer is either in a state of ennui when it comes to cricket or 1. has become comfortable with the thought of India winning the World Cup 2. is not setting his expectations high this time (after the fiasco in 2007).

And staying with cricket, I don’t know if I am the one who has noticed the mistake in ESPN-StarSports promotion or others have too. But the promo says that India will be getting into the battle for World Cup glory after 28 years! Sure they are harking about the 1983 World Cup but India has of course played in every Cup since then. It is  not as if that we had not played in the World Cup since 1983.

Scammed India – Ok so enough in the news about the 2G scam and all the skeletons are falling out of the cupboard. Nothing new over there. We all know that irrespective of which political party is in power, they all make money. Arun Shourie would now be a pariah and his political career is finished after claiming what he has on Karan Thapar show.

Truth is that for any business to prosper in this country, one needs a “well oiled” government machinery. Now if it was lubricant that was required, likes of Castrol would have India as their biggest market. But in this case it is the Swiss Banks which are laughing their way into their own vaults. We should just forget about it.  Nothing ever will come out by discussing it.

And life goes on in the country… rapes, murders, police inaction or misguided action, selective judiciary activism… corruption.. inflation etc.

About advertising – can somebody put a ban on Max Bupa and Future Generali advertising for their various policies and shit? The stuff is getting morbid now.

Signing off… can somebody put pressure on all the corporates and brands not to put intense pressure on the guys with this sham called Valentine’s day. It can’t be love if it is measured in the size of the gift or the price of the gift. All the stuff in newspapers, TV and radio about valentine’s day and various offers.. makes me sick and makes me want to throw up. Won’t even want to log on to Facebook to see the kind of messages that would be going back and forth and all the sugary status messages.

Enough of the random grumbling. Hope I have something nice to write about for the next post…

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

Convergence and Privacy(or isolation)


Two technology trends in three days are indicative of how technology is going to polarize how we are going to communicate or wish to communicate in the future. And a pat on my back for having predicted the trends a year and half back.

First of course is the big news about facebook and their intention to monopolize the mind of their users. If everything can be done through facebook… why login to any other website to email or connect. And not just connect on email but infiltrate every mode of communication. The facebook generation which spends endless hours over there… all the more reason to shift their entire life to facebook! Imagine the eyeballs and the money that can be made through advertising on facebook. But…

Am just wondering is it really such a good idea. To play a devil’s advocate… hack into a person’s account and you know every single detail about the person and everyone else who forms the eco system of that person. I think facebook is creating a monster which has the potential to invade a person’s privacy like no other. In my past posts on social media, I had commented how there is a darker side of internet which can take over a person’s life and identity theft would probably take an all new meaning. It is time Mr Jeffery Deavers penned another book. All the information about the person in one place so no need to even troll the net to get more. facebook has made things so easy for people with devious intent! I know one person for sure who is not going to put all his eggs in one basket for sure and that’s ME!

The other piece of news is tucked in the top right corner of page 21 of The Times of India today. Called John’s phone – its a mobile phone launched in UK which only makes calls… Thats it!… only calls and nothing else… not even a sms (now that I find a bit of extreme) but even more extreme is that the phone doesn’t even have a phone book (it’s  got a note-book and a pen tucked behind the phone). But importantly, this is part of the trend I had predicted in one of my post last years “Privacy would soon be a new luxury”. This phone would increasingly appeal to people who want to ‘unconnect’. The pressure of staying connected will soon start taking its toll.

Just like with the environment… after having abused it for ages, we are now talking green and eco friendly. A hundred years back or maybe 150 years back… we were green and ecofriendly and then under the garb of development and progression we created products that made our lives oh so easy to live and took the toll on the environment… Now that we are done screwing it, we want to bring the green back and make this planet habitable for the future generations.

Same way… we went ahead and embraced technology and used every possible mean of connecting and putting our lives on display but like the environment.. there is a price to pay and sooner than later we are going to realize it. Technology is a fad and has always been one… It is always the next big thing that seduces us and takes over our mind and our lives. I have been guilty of buying into it too…

But this launch of the phone priced at US$ 50 I think is indicative of a trend that is going to catch on. Not because it is cheap but for the ‘features it does not offer’… And the first ones to buy this phone are the people who would indulge in reverse snobbery… the same people who had made snobbery an art by buying the best in technology are the ones who would buy the most basic in technology… And while Sarthak on Hit 95FM said that this would be the phone for technologically challenged, I think this phone would be the one for people who have been there and done that and want to forget it all…

Wonder if the brands are going to catch on to these trends and perpetuate them or continue to exist in here and now because it is all about the bottom line in this financial year…

But seriously… what’s wrong with News Media???


The prices of all essential commodities are through the roof. Common man is suffering big time.

The current government is going to complete the so called 100 days (or has it already?) and what have they got to show?

The economic situation is bleak. People are still losing jobs or living in a state of disguised unemployment (working but not getting salary on time)

Corruption reigns everywhere

AND YET THIS IS SOMETHING THAT IS NOT GETTING COVERED OR BEING ANALYSED.

How can anyone be interested in a politicial party which is on death bed and waiting for the plug to be pulled?

Do the news channels seriously think that a billion plus population which is trying very hard to make a living is interested in what Brajesh Mishra said… or the book by Jaswant Singh… or the fact that he has been sacked from the party… or what Advani said or did during the Kandahar hijacking… or What Sardar Patel did or did not do in 1945????

Seriously… who cares. If anything, the only people who would really care is the current government. They must be happy that the spotlight is not on their failures to govern and deliver on the 100 days promise.

Let me give you an example of how news media has become completely blind to what is happening to the people. This example is apart from the tripe that we get to watch on TV or read in the paper.

Few days back on BBC (one of the most respected news channels), towards the end of news, a guy joins the two who were reading the news and discussing the current events. This guy gives the latest unemployment figures in England.. which by the way have gone up. A min of that… and while he is still talking about the figures… the woman anchor asks him… “So what is your favorite cocktail?”. The guy wants to complete what he is saying about the unemployment and he is again interrupted by the male anchor asking about the cocktails.. because they want to move to this competition that is happening in England somewhere about the best bar tender!!!! Wow… talk about dumbing down and being callous.

Somewhere in an effort for increased eyeballs, viewers and readers, news people have forgotten what their profession is all about… WAGs are not stories… Salman Khan interested in buying an IPL team is not a story… Harbhajan Singh in his humvee is not the story.

Get real… get accountable… make the government accountable… Terrorism is here to stay and we would never be able to combat it or control it because when dealing with fanatics is not easy… So get rid of those stories about who gets Interpol red flag or how the government was right about Hafeez or whoever… Tell me why are the prices rising and what government is doing to bring down the prices.. Tell me why my money is not enough today for even the basic essentials… question.. interrogate… grill the government.

Stop wasting your time on the inconsequentials.

Unless the news media is also part of the larger political strategy to keep the common man away from asking these pertinent questions and bombard him with trivia and make his mind numb!

Culture Engineering


Culture engineering as a concept has been practiced forever. In ancient times, it was the invaders who did that. In modern times it is the people who move from one geographical location to another, do that. Brands do it too. And engineering happens in very different ways for people than it does for brands.

Take the case of people who move to another country. Culture engineering happens in two ways – Either they engineer themselves to fit in with the environment… or they have such a huge influence on the environment that the environment changes…

If Deepak Chopra had decided to remain in India… would he have been as successful as he is? He has gained success because he moved to a society which was looking for salvation and he engineered their thought process with his philosophy. Of course moving on from there, the world followed what is successful in US and he became a Guru even in India. Steven Covey does that too… so does a Paul Coello or a Robin Sharma. Engineering people’s thoughts towards their philosophy… The reverse is of course the immigrant population. You move to another country and make changes so that you can belong… adapt to the existing culture. Or probably transform themselves. The difference is adapting means you dont let go of your culture but imbibe the values of the environment. Transformation leads to shunning of everything that you were… Somewhere its the need to belong that leads to the engineering.

For brands too it is the need to belong in newer markets (and also at a very subtle level the countries attached to the brand too propogate this culture engineering)

Second World War and then subsequent interventions by US in Asian trouble spots carried the symbols of american culture to these spots and at a very subliminal level led to a cultural imperialism. And of course dollar being the universal currency meant that the american domination was complete.

Communism tried very hard too but failed in the face of glitz and glamor of all the ‘virtues’ of american culture.

But in Modern times, war is not a positive reinforcement of a culture so brands and marketing have taken over. Nobody wants a war but people are happy to accept brands and letting the brands evolve and transform their cultures…

Let us take the Indian example.

In the 70’s all foreign brands were asked to leave the country because they stood for the so called decadent West. Under the garb of protecting our economy we asked brands to leave.

In the 90’s when a global economy became a reality one cannot avoid, the markets were opened and the brands were back with a vengence… Huge population of India had most brands drooling and wanting the share of a huge market… And given the shifts in political scenario, American brands entered in droves.

Satellite TV was the first to invade our homes with images that were so american and yet welcome because we were hungry… hungry to catch up with the world and to mention the cliche – what is banned is always lot more desirable and exciting… The Bold and the Beautiful became staple diet for many (soap operas that were prime time in India!)

And all these shows were also advertisements for brands…

Coke was back and Pepsi too.. so were Macdonalds and KFC and Pizza Hut and Dominoes… and Nike and Adidas and Levi’s… The list can go on across product categories… from apparels to automobiles to banking to everything that was open…

But what is important here while most brands expected that we would accept the lifestyles too attached with the brand… it did not happen… at least not on a large scale as was expected… The large middle class wanted these brands… but on their own terms… we bought into the philosophy but not the cultural cues… And it was a very strong sentiment… And brands that were in for long haul figured it out… MJ and Bobby Brown gave way to Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan and cricketers for Pepsi…

Macdonald had veg offerings… Pizza Hut had veg pizzas and very Indian recipes… Automobiles tranformed their communication to be in tune with Indian Culture… Samsung and LG had strategies that connected with Indian sentiments… And more importantly it was like double culture engineering strategy… The brands adapted to the Indian culture and propogated the values of their own cultures… without being overt about it…

Indians used to eat healthy but now they binge on american junk food and obesity (just like in US) is on the rise. Credit culture which used to be a complete taboo for us is the prevalent practice now…

And the thing is that not all influences are bad… Engineering has a way of bringing in negatives as well as positives… We are lot more professional in our working environment.. as compared to maybe couple of decades back… We have forced our governments to give us infrastructure that is on par with the world (it is a slow process but it is happening)

We are moving from our initial years of vice of the internet to the virtues and using technology in a constructive manner… And of course we have used IT as our own way to extend our culture to the other parts of the world… There are more Indians travelling abroad and the popular hot spots are ensuring that they cater to the travelling Indian population. Bollywood has also done it’s bit… cases of Indian movies topping the top 10 charts are very frequent…

In a world where boundaries are disappearing (physical ones remains and cause constant grief) every culture is now in a very subtle war to take over… Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Indians…. the hegemony of US and West is on the decline and who wins the war would not be decided by arms and ammunition but by brands… Brands which handle the culture engineering the best are the brands that will win the war for their countries…

How much do you want something?


And how much are you willing to sacrifice to get that something?

More often that not, what we want is dictated by circumstances and the environment.

A kid would throw big time tantrums for getting that candy and most likely he has not even tasted the candy but has seen it on TV, has seen it with a friend and a strong desire is formed to get it and so the tantrums follow.

As he gets a little older, wants to be an engineer, wants to be a doctor, wants to do MBA… In this case too the desire is driven by parents, peer pressure and that whole ultimate goal…. good career and money (or good career = money)

Moving further, its time for materialistic things… of course somewhere along the line, there is also the hunt for the right partner and the rest of the stuff… snazzed car, phone, the best of what the products and brands have to offer.

All these decisions are driven by the surround… by what everyone has.. by what is the politically correct behaviour in the society… by what he is told is the thing to do…

The process of evaluating choices is simple and risk averse or even if the risks are there.. mitigation plans are in place before taking the risk. And more importantly, in case of failure… enough excuses are in place for the failure.

But do all these things really make a difference? Would the absence or something similar and not exactly the same would really leave us feeling incomplete? The derived satisfaction.. is it because we have managed to build a nest with all the ‘required’ things leading to enhanced self worth? Did we make sacrifices or let go of something which was dear to us to get what we really wanted? Were we “Driven” enough?

Mahatma Gandhi was driven… He let go of many things.. including his relationships for the larger task he had assigned for himself.

Even if misguided in a big way… Adolf Hitler was driven… single minded..

Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King… they all were single minded and not so much for themselves but they wanted transformation…

Some gave their lives… some took lives but they all wanted to impact the environment much larger than their own proximity…

Somewhere deep down…buried under all the needs, wants and desires, we all have a powerful need.. a need to make a difference… We need a trigger or a flash point to bring it to surface and since we are risk averse at an individual level, we need a rallying point… contributing to or being part of a community…

Can the brands tap into this need? And I do not mean at a shallow level or lip service.

In the new economy, where the materialism led to collapse of economies… can the business rebuild with a different persepective…

Not buying fur, or peddling eco-friendly technologies or hybrid cars or CFC free etc are just very tiny steps. But the world needs something big… and it will not come from one brand or one business… it needs to be a collective consciousness…

I am not for a moment saying that we should not lead a materialistic life… its a process of evolution. But in this day and age when boundaries collapse and the world is just one click away for us.. do we need to really travel up Maslow’s heirarchy gradually? Why cant it all become just top of the pyramid…. Where everything that we buy or do, it leads to satisfaction or acquiring wordly goods but also self actualization.

Can we all as one be driven enough to tranform this world?

Pfizer teaches how to be a responsible Corporate!


“Pfizer Will Give Away Lipitor, Viagra, Other Drugs to Jobless

Tennessean
Linda A. Johnson and Matthew Perrone

May 15, 200″

Just read the above article!

Ok so it might have started as a corporate gimmick (PR would go to town with this one) but the fact is that gesture itself speaks volumes for someone in Pfizer who thought about it and managed to persuade the organization to implement it!

How many organizations have come forward with such an initiative in US? (there might be but we in the world have not heard about them and we sure need to). A great initiative which sends a message out that the organization cares. And these are the consumers who will become loyal to the the corporate brand. They would become the evangelists which every brand aspires for.

It is the organizations themselves who can help the economic turnaround. Raising the level of optimism in a larger social set up would have a positive effect on the environment. Essentially you need to show you care.

Slap on the face of those though who made the people jobless! When company lays off people.. a month or two months salary is given and the person is erased from the organization. What happens to that person… how will he survive… how will his dependents survive.. is absolutely no concern. And by the way I have heard of such things happening in organizations which have won awards for best HR practices! But if only they sat and analysed and figured that only if they let go of profits for a while.. if only they let go of the prices for their stock… if only they took a decision which would help people… Imagine the goodwill and loyality they would generate!! and of course tonnes of PR which would get that stock price rocking again anyways…

The move by Pfizer sure is not purely altruistic one. The mileage would be immense but hey.. if it helps the common man in the long run… I am all for it

Now how many organizations in India can do the same?  I bet none! most would be busy padding up their reserves.