Wednesday, August 29, 2018

When to say 'no'

Like consumers, products and services too choose their customers. In my many years in advertising, there often comes a moment during my discussions with a prospect when I realize - with sorrow, this prospect is not a match for our services.
This happens  somewhere during our conversation to the cue of a single sentence, "I'm looking for a low-cost option to build my brand quickly."
There are 3 ways these usually end:
1. After a lot of negotiations with different kinds of media, the client realizes (what we told him at the start) that the mediums that are effective and have reach will require a decent budget and the mediums that are 'cheap' have no measurement parameters besides the lofty claims of its owners. Back to leaflets- which is a slow and agonizing road to inevitable BRAND-DOOM
2. The clutter-breaking creative route. More than 'Creativity' from the agency, this requires delivery of product promise and courage from the client. Creativity gets watered down to the 'safe' option. These brands become 'ships that pass in the night' into BRAND-OBLIVION
3. The client, despite our pleading not to, picks what he always had in his mind. Auto-branding (or equivalent). Initial euphoria ending with BRAND-SUICIDE
Too much pain. Time for free advice & end meeting.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The #beautifulcause

In the run-up to the #FIFA World Cup, various posts, videos and articles are being written about the best teams that played in its history. Many teams are felicitated, but 3 teams stand out as the best.  Astonishingly none of the three won the won cup: The Hungarian team of '54, the Dutch team of '74 and the Brazilians of '82. How is it that losers have had such a great and lasting impact on the world's most popular sport? Aren't sports a celebration of victory? Common to the 3 is a single theme. None of them worried about victory, they played the game for the beauty of it, played it in the right spirit and went for the goal at every opportunity - irrespective of the scorecard - setting aside personal milestones, playing as a team, raising the bar & making the game richer with every match.  These three teams created & RECREATED the beautiful game: The free-flowing thrilling, artistry and athleticism that's football. Putting it above everything else, including victory.  So football won and they've became immortal. That's real victory.  That's inspiring victory. A wonderful thing to remember at work isn't it? To be a part of a team that pushes for an inspiring cause. It doesn't matter if you win or lose. But you'd have changed the world. For the better. #marketing #belief

Friday, May 18, 2018

#leadership lessons from the #IPL

The IPL has some wonderful lessons on leadership for us to mull over. Firstly, there's no one style of leadership that works. You can be a shrewd tactician like Dhoni who preys on the weaknesses of the opposition to win. OR be a mercurial talent house like Kohli, who pushes his teams to rise above the ordinary. Take a Rohit who inspires his fledgling players to shine like great suns and contrast him with the workman-like Dinesh Kartik who grinds his team to success. Sometimes situations find leaders like the fall of Warner discovered the diamond that's Williamson. On the other hand the same situation shows the limitations of Rahane as a leader. Leadership is also daunting. It can strangle talent like Shreyas Iyer and is also fickle as Ashwin is perhaps realizing. There's no formula for leadership. Just like there's none for #success

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Poetic Poor

One of the best part about being in the communications business is the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with people from different walks of lives, sometimes as part of consumer research, at other times during business briefing sessions and on some occasions, heart-to-heart chats with clients, colleagues, co-passengers, fellow travelers and total strangers.
I have come to realize that poorer the people, more lyrical and philosophical is their outlook to life. At the end of the dialogue, I have always returned, greatly moved by their stoicism and enriched by their language which is rich with poetry and metaphor, mostly original and always deeply touching.
At other times, they provide references of art and draw parallels from it to their lives. Where do they find access to such deep thought? Moreover, how are they able to interpret it so beautifully? To me, it's been a gentle reminder that formal education is neither a barrier not an advantage to developing an articulate and empathetic perspective.
On the other hand, the wealthier the individual, the more concise and to-the-point are the answers with zilch references to art. Almost as if referring to poetry, literature and art are a weakness. Any references given are 'practical' ones. It's as though success in life is dependent on how well one manages the giving and taking of stuff: Give less and take more, that's success! And emotions, poetry, words could well well become expense if they're begun to be valued. So listen to it, or watch it with disdain, then discard it as being worthless.
I suppose that's why the greatest art, poetry and literature in India happens among the lowest strata of society. Pain swirls all around their world and this pain finds an outlet through local art forms that resonates with the community. Strangely, a poor artist has a huge audience which is sympathetic and understanding towards his cause even if no money comes his way.
On the other hand, the rich have no value for art unless it has appreciation potential. It's not art, it's real-estate or stock!
Not to be quoted not for its words but for its worth.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Consumer insight and brands

During the IPL match ad break, my teenage son and I noticed three different motorcycle brands advertise one after the other all touting power, speed and racing. "Dad, why haven't they bothered to say something different from each other? Also as a potential audience, I find their proposition unappealing. Neither my friends nor I would want to do any of these stunts. This is pure recklessness!" His words reminded me of a famous motorcycle brand launch I had the privilege of working on. Like the team that had developed these racing ads, we too then believed that motorcycle buyers were closeted cowboys, dreaming of impressing the world with their reckless bravado. Consumer research however threw up a surprise! Potential motorcycle owners spoke of having to balance a demanding life of rising expenses and needs with an income that couldn't be taken for granted. Above all what shone out was their sense of righteousness that eschewed risk and embraced struggle. This inspired us to launch the brand on a contra position of being the unshakeable even through rough times.  I look at my son and countless other responsible, mature kids of this country and wonder why motorcycle brands can't see the obvious, continuing as they do, to harp on a redundant tune.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Even as we celebrate the great #dhoni so must we be inspired by #Dineshkartik. You can wait a lifetime in the shadows but never give up. You can live the best years of your life knowing that your talent is unutilized. You can take all the condescending, pitiful, sneering, joking words and still carry on... Because one day, one moment, one situation will come when you will hold the honor of a billion on your back. And you will do what you always believed you would do. Win the game and become the hero that you know you are. #redemption

Saturday, February 17, 2018

India beyond scams

The taxi driver asked these question, "How is it that a poor man like me is unable to get a few lakh rupees car loan from a bank but a rich man gets thousands of crores against no securities whatsoever? Why is it that I have to run from pillar to post and finally raise money at a huge interest from dubious finance companies while banks trip over each other to fund the rich man and renegotiate his interest even when he defaults? How is it that the rich man siphons off money for years without getting caught and I'm pulled up if I miss one installment on my car loan? Why it it that it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to simply manage my livelihood while the rich man multiplies his wealth many times over? Sir, WHY ARE THE RICH GETTING RICHER AND THE POOR GETTING POORER IN OUR DEMOCRATIC COUNTRY? It's because somewhere in the past we replaced our national role model.  We traded Mahatma Gandhi for a business icon known to twist and break the rules to become wealthy. That day, our nation lost its collective moral compass. We stopped seeing wrong as wrong. A wrong that managed to not get caught became accepted as right as long as it made one wealthy. We gave away righteousness to gain wealth. We have only ourselves to blame. Change will happen only by resetting our moral compass.