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.

 

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 Ā 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 šŸ˜›

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 Ā 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 justĀ Ā 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’sĀ Ā 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…