Words


From the time that human beings moved from sign language to speaking, words have become the most important form of expression. Communication has been the key to the process of human evolution. Sure there have been other factors that have also led to the evolution but communication has been the most important. Most of the inventions would have failed if there was not a communication channel to help reach out to masses.

When it is about communication, can the conversation about advertising be far behind? šŸ™‚

Advertising helped the masses in getting to know new products, new technologies, new ideas. Stuff that was relevant for them. Of course advertising moved from mere information dissemination to more evolved approach of plugging a need gap, creating a desire, making people buy something which had lot more attached to it than pure functionality.

But this post is not about advertising or communication. It is about words. Words that string together to form a sentence. A sentence that communicates what we feel, what we like, what we don’t life, express our point of view.

Long back when there was no internet, no social media, no communication apps, we relied on speaking face to face. For long distance, there was post – Inland letters for regular updates, written pages in an envelope about detailed stuff, love letters, fights, breakups. Everything had a ritual to it. Everything had anticipation. That waiting for the postman to arrive or checking the mailbox as soon as you got home. That first reading of the letter quickly. Then taking time to read it the second time. Pondering over words on the page. Trying to visualise what the person at the other end was feeling when writing. Lovers treasured the letters and visited them over and over. When a break up happened, a bonfire was made of the letters. The letters were burnt but memories remained.

Cut to 21st century. We still communicate. More rapidly than ever before. We type and hit send. And the fact that it is all instant (try this sometime. How long do you wait, how often do you go over what you have typed before pressing send), has meant that we don’t much bother about what the words can do. We don’t pay attention to the language or even to specific words. Words that may cause hurt, anger, love, misunderstanding. There is no crossing out once ‘send’ button has been pressed (of course apps are looking at building a recall feature – high time). The problem is that receiver too reads the messages instantly and reacts instantly. We say people have become more expressive today with all the fancy stuff they can do with emoticons and emojis. I say we have lost the art of communicating. Art of using the right words. Art of pondering over what we really want to communicate.

Back when we used to write, we would go over what we had written again and again. At times tear the sheet if we felt it sounded wrong. There was a clarity of thought. For the sender and for receiver. Not anymore.

Considering that we now ‘talk’ less and text more – love happens on text, proposing happens on text, sex happens on text, break up happens on text… we don’t think too much before typing and sending the message. We do not think of the impact words can have on the person who gets the message. Even when we read the message, we read the words. We do not try to read the intent behind the words. We do not visualise person’s state of mind when he/she was typing out the message.

It is a pity though. For someone who loves words, loves what they can do, it saddens me to see what we are doing to them. Not just in personal communication, but even in the profession I am in. The art of writing. The art of persuasive words has disappeared. It has disappeared because we don’t have the craft. The client doesn’t want too many words. The evolved consumer thinks in terms of number of characters rather than sentences. Thinks in terms of emojis. So we also need to communicate the same way.

We don’t read enough therefore we do not have the vocabulary to express well enough.

This though doesn’t matter so much. We get what we deserve. Of special concern is breakdown of communication between two individuals and that really is the sad part of being in the digital era.

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.

#saveinternet

#saveinternet

Here we go again! people have found a new cause to attach themselves to. In my post about Causvengers, this is precisely the kind of behavior I had talked about.

Neutrality of internet. People just want to vent themselves on the net. I call them keyboard Kingkongs. I have a keyboard and I have an opinion.

I want to ask all these people. If tomorrow, Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter charged you a fee to use, will you stop using any of these services? If you will.. why? After all, these companies started these businesses… they are in it for profit and if you want to use them, pay for them…if you wont then why bother with what telecom companies want to do.

People do not seem to realize that internet and all internet related activities are moving towards a monopoly.

Tim Wu has written a book called “The Master Switch”. Without getting into too many details of the book, will just key in the back page info here:

“The Internet Age: On the face of it, an era of unprecedented freedom in both communication and culture. Yet in the past, each major new medium, from the telephone to satellite television, has crested on a wave of similar idealistic optimism, before succumbing to the inevitable undertow of industrial consolidation. Every once-free and open technology has, in time, become centralized and closed, as corporate power has taken control of the ‘master switch’. Today a similar struggle looms over the Internet; as it increasingly supersedes all other media, the stakes have never been higher”.

Companies wait till the knifeĀ is deep in. You are addicted and then they twist the knife just a little to see how you react.. how addicted you are… Deep enough and strong enough, you start paying for your addiction…

And while I am not taking sides, let us look at telecom industry in our country. From 2003 onwards, we have one of the most cheapest call rates in the world. Same goes for data too. With mobile internet driving the internet consumption in the country (the government did nothing till then), it was but natural that a large population would shift from voice to data. Why pay for Ā a normal call when the same call costs fraction on Skype. So how do the telecom companies make big profits? they are not here for charity.. are they? And do we really believe that if some websites became chargeable, the telecom companies are going to pocket all the money? Have a look at the websites or apps that the telecom company wants to charge for. Obviously these sites, knowing how many people use them are aiming to monetize that.

And how come government is picking up cudgels on behalf of net neutrality?? We all know that at a hint of a controversy, they want to ban sites or apps or certain stuff (AIB roast a case in point)

And contrary to some tweets I have seen, internet is not free.. is it? Sure we have the freedom to voice our opinions on the net (that is free) but you pay for the internet cost to voice your opinion!

And coming back to causvengers, look at all the people who are tweeting about or writing about saving the internet.. their few seconds of fame!

This post flies against everything that is being said but hey people.. welcome to the real corporate world. They are all about making profits else why will you invest in their shares. Plus the fact that if more people need to get on the bandwagon, infrastructure is required and infrastructure costs money. You scream against these companies for asking money… how come you are not up in arms when governments levy surcharge and cess for various losing ventures??

Nothing is free or neutral in this world. it is just false sense of freedom you are living in… so wake up…

Age Compression


It is interesting how the real life and reel life always collide. I mean we all know that cinema or a lot of serials (not the saans bahu crap) are a reflection of the popular culture and they show the trends or in many cases suss out the trend in its infancy and push it forward.

So why am I talking about this? Couple of days back there was an episode of Boston Legal (have become a big fan of the serial) about this very sexually overt doll for 6 year olds and it described this whole age compression theory of how toy manufacturers propagate the kids to look at toys which really are not meant for their age. It did make me wonder about how right that theory is. When NFS (Need For Speed) mentions 12+ or 15+ or 18+ on the jacket, it, in a very subliminal way, is provoking the kids. Now Boston Legal episodes are obviously a rerun since this particular episode is from 2007 season… so whats the connection.

It is what happened at Modern School in New Delhi last week. The kind of language that was used by 6th graders during the bullying. Extremely sexual and violent…

So where do 11-year-old kids learn this from… Environment and access brought about by the digital connect. As parents, we like to believe that we are monitoring our kids to make sure that they are brought up in the right way. Sure we are… but somewhere some parents are not doing it right and those kids become a big influence on others around them. Ever seen a guy jumping the red light with his kids in the car? Ever seen a guy making his young child sit with him in the driver’s seat and manage the steering wheel? That really is the beginning of the end actually..

Digital connect has also led to the end of innocence. There will be millions who will turn around and tell me that internet has also led to a lot of awareness and how the kids of today are so well-informed and how they check what the kids do on the net… Really? do you??

We are so clueless today about what is happening with our kids. We live in a state of denial and yet when you look around, you see kids doing stuff which we as kids didn’t even know. Sure some of it is good and has led to kids being geniuses but like all things in life, it’s the taboo that titillateĀ and tempts and makes the kids want to experience and catches their attention…

That episode of Boston Legal in 2007 was reflecting what was happening in US back then. And it resonates with what is happening in this country now and where we are headed.

I don’t know if there is a solution to this or will we also go through the cycle of degradation before getting back on our feet…

Only time will tell if the foundation of our culture is strong enough to withstand the onslaught of the western decadence that led to moral corruption of the west.. I think the foundation will collapse. For the simple reason that what we project as a strong value foundation is so hollow.. tolerance and value system that has not been followed by people of this country ever.. these are just nice sounding words…

Age compression is here to stay and we in our busy lives do not have the time or we even know how to manage this turbulence…

What’s up Mr. Kejriwal??


Delusions of grandeur is it?

The darbar reminded me of all the books I have read on history of India and how the Mughal Emperors used to hold darbar for the common man. Did it feel that you were an Emperor talking down to the aam admi when you you had to speak from the pulpit?

There is an old adage that power corrupts and while I was all your party in the lead up to the Delhi elections, I am not so sure you and your party would stay aam for very long.

Power is an aphrodisiac.. isn’t it? and more importantly when it lets you do whatever you want…

I always used to think that you would be lot more progressive and forward-looking as a person and as a government but the talks of Swaraj and subsidies… seems like you want India to go back into the dark ages. And subsidies reeks of playing to the popular sentiments which all parties have done in the past! Where will the money come from for the subsidies?

And can we be done with the sham of not having fancy houses and one rupee as a token salary?? Let’s get real. And also tell your cronies to get real too. Imagine.. asking the judges to report in front of the minister like they are they lackeys of the government!

Maybe a crash course (the like we used to have back in school in Civics to understand the role of each function).

Keep in mind that you got 28 seats because it is the urban, social media driven people who voted for you and not those who you were looking down at in your august darbar.

Keep your national aspirations aside for the moment and focus on doing something for delhi that will make people believe that they did the right thing by voting for you.

But of course.. why would what I say matter to you. I am not an aam admi and nor do I live in Delhi…

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.