Design Thinking for Brands: Making a case for Analogous Inspiration

We are all well aware of the deficit surplus trade equation. In this over connected, hyper commoditised, always on world, we face a surplus of information, goods, services and a deficit on the other hand of time, resources, attention. Marketers and brand owners are in a constant state of beta to address this ever widening chasm.
When brand owners are defining new products and services across healthcare to hospitality, or shaping stories to draw tighter connections to relevant audiences, it would be worthwhile to tap into a network of inspiration to cultivate responses to a range of design challengesFrom a point of shared understanding of a design challenge, we begin to set the stage to design something that has impact.
Empathy, observation & openness are the pillars on which design thinking thrives and creates meaning and relevance for brands wanting to make people’s lives betterWhat’s critical therefore, as we are all aware, in designing amazing things is to start with people.
While each design challenge might require a different set of expertise, a healthy mix of backgrounds and perspectives helps us strike a better balance in designing what’s desirable, what’s feasible and what’s viable.
To spark new ways of thinking about a challenge, we also turn to what we call “analogous inspiration.” Which is all about identifying and observing experiences that are not directly related to the industry that is being designed for, yet have a relatable aspect. For example, a team designing for the operating room for a healthcare brand decided to observe a pit crew at a race track. High stress, quick judgment, and timely action characterise both situations, yet the “outside” context of car racing provided fresh insights that the team at healthcare would not have been exposed to had they only researched other healthcare moments. Such catalysing methods are less about getting a full-picture approach and more about getting inspired to design something that’s game-changing.

So, the next time you are developing or enhancing a product,it would be worthwhile to look beyond the ‘ walled garden ‘ that defines/chains your industry for some analogous inspiration. For that idea or product of yours to become truly beyond compare.


Emotions that have no speed limit when it comes to virality !

Rage seems to be in Rage when it comes to emotions traveling the farthest and fastest across Social Media networks.
The omnipresence of social media, the glut of messaging and content distribution platforms, the sophistication of social listening, combined with readily available news(breaking and broken) and events round the clock, the Damocles Sword hanging on people’s head called ‘ status anxiety ‘, the perennial quest for the next and best viral; all provide the perfect foil for brands and marketers to understand what kind of emotions travel the quickest on social networks and strategise what to ‘avoid‘ and what to ‘adopt‘.

If one were to go granular with the emotions’ basket, we would have the following and more in the bucket list:Happiness/Joy; Sadness/Depression; Rage/Anger; Pride/Prejudice; Disgust/Disillusionment; Wonder/Awe and so on and so forth.

Researchers at the Beihang University in China gauged various online emotions by tracking emoticons embedded in millions of messages posted on Sina Weibo, a popular Twitter-like microblogging platform. Their conclusion: Joy moves faster than sadness or disgust, but nothing is speedier than rage. The researchers found that users reacted most angrily—and quickly—to reports concerning “social problems and diplomatic issues”. It’s diabolical that a strong anti social emotion like rage gets the maximum social attention and currency!!!

In many cases, these ‘ social flare ups ‘ triggers a chain reaction of anger with multiple circles of the social community getting influenced and participating with equal or more venom.

In another study conducted by Jonah Berger and a colleague at Wharton based on 7000 articles covered by The New York Times, they discovered that if there was one emotion that overtook rage in billings, it was awe. The wonder and excitement of a new discovery of beauty or knowledge or a breakthrough in the fight against cancer; puts awe as an emotion in overdrive thus heaping bagfuls of viral.“Awe gets our hearts racing and our blood pumping,” Berger says. “This increases our desire for emotional connection and drives us to share.”

For all those who thought that sadness would emerge triumphant in the race to viral stardom, sorry to disappoint you. Sadness was considered to be a ‘ deactivating emotion ‘ where people pull down or withdraw leaving it with little torque to go the distance. If you feel a little melancholic about it, let that stay.

​So, the next time you see or experience road rage​, talk yourself into believing that it need not be infectious(or go viral).



If you are brand building, then reach for the EMOTE CONTROL!

If you are brand building, then reach for the EMOTE CONTROL!

A trend that is often overlooked in marketing is that everyones feels before they think and that the non rational emotional reaction comes before the more rational secondary one. One way to minimise branding risk is by looking into account what brain science tells us about the importance of creating an emotional connection with consumers.

Rene Descartes famously philosophised that ‘ I think, therefore I am ‘. Brands and businesses have religiously followed suit with a prejudice for the rational. In branding terms, this means that companies remain too product-focused, concentrating on functional, utilitarian benefits, which can be easily measured, monitored and understood. This is obstacle number 1. Continue reading “If you are brand building, then reach for the EMOTE CONTROL!”

Happy Diwali: Two Words That Resound, Resonate,Reverberate!

It Takes Two to Tango


When, its the crack of dawn and you wake up with a cracker of an idea…

When, heavy metal(not the music variety) takes centre stage, as a billion go after the bullion…and its Dhanteras…

When, its the time to visit ageing parents (and friends on anti ageing creams as well)…

When, Bhaiyya will go really Dhoor to meet his Behna as its Bhaiyaa Dhooj... Continue reading “Happy Diwali: Two Words That Resound, Resonate,Reverberate!”

All in the family: An ORACLEous effort!

All in the family

A meeting at Oracle HQ started a series of multi-billion dollar events. Now it’s come full circle.

The Oracles

Day before yesterday, tech behemoth Oracle agreed to buy fellow cloud software company, Netsuite, for $9.3B, the company’s largest acquisition since it acquired PeopleSoft in 2004.

But this isn’t your typical takeover. Silicon Valley, despite its global reach and constant innovation, still remains a tiny place full of friendships, family, and rivalries.

Back in the late 1990s…

A meeting was held at Oracle HQ in Oakland, California between the company’s CEO, Larry Ellison and 3 key employees: Evan Goldberg, Zach Nelson, and Marc Benioff.

During that meeting, Goldberg, a developer, came up with the idea of software as a service (SaaS), painting Ellison a picture of building an internet version of Siebel, the biggest CRM software maker at the time.

Ellison liked the idea but told Goldberg he’d first need to build finance software, then build the customer software around it. So that’s exactly what Goldberg  did and Ellison personally funded it.

Anyone care to guess what the company was called? Yep, Netsuite.

That means Larry Ellison just bought a company he helped launch and, more importantly, a business where he’s a 40% stakeholder. Carry the 2… that means he just netted $3.5B in cash.

As for the other two guys in the meeting…

They play a role in this, too — Zach Nelson is the current CEO of Netsuite, a position he’s held since 2002.

And as for Marc Benioff… let’s just say he left that meeting with a few ideas of his own. As Nelson tells it, “Benioff called back two weeks later and said ‘I’m going to do that Siebel online thing,’ and that became”

Salesforce and Oracle began competing for business shortly after that and the companies remain rivals to this day. In fact, Ellison is dead set on making $10B in revenue from cloud computing before Salesforce does.

So Ellison wants to beat Benioff, and Netsuite helps him do that?

Pretty much, yeah. The move makes plain business sense.

In order to continue growing its cloud market, Oracle had to start playing in Netsuite’s world, selling to small and midsize companies. And, prior to yesterday, there were two possible ways to play the game: Oracle snuffs out the little guy or the little guy defends its turf.

Larry the Cloud Guy decided to go rogue and whipped out the checkbook to create outcome #3: buy the little guy and win the whole f’n thing.


Source Credit: The Hustle



It’s only me!

Loneliness is the ultimate poverty “- Abigail Van Buren, advice columnist

Across the world the family unit is changing. The nuclear family is disappearing. In it’s place, we are seeing various family blends emerge. Indeed, the traditional family unit is becoming less traditional. However, the key trend isn’t families at all, but people living by themselves.

Living Alone

In a supermarket, nobody can hear you scream: ‘ I’m all alone ‘. Indeed, for now, the world is still largely prepackaged for couples and families. Steaks and burger patties come in packs of two and four, restaurant tables are meant for two, four, six or eight and cars are made for two, three, four, five or more.Of course, there are some advantages to living alone. The dustbins don’t fill up that fast and there is enough water for a bath. But is living alone healthy for the planet? In the future, people who live alone might have to pay higher taxes, because doing so means more housing, household appliances and cars. Or, in an increasingly ‘ Uberised ‘ world, will they find new ways of sharing resources through collaborative consumption?

Some notable examples that is defining this trend, in a timeline:

2016: Walmart discontinues ‘ family packs ‘ in the USA

2017: Banks offer 100 year cross generational mortgages

2018: 60% of 30 year olds still living at home

2019: Social networks start to establish physical communities

2024: Social robots in 30% of single-person households

2026: People living alone own 90% of all pets in China

For many, singledom is the preferred state. But, what does it say about a society when we can’t be bothered to engage meaningfully with another person? Is it a sign of narcissism, laziness, perfectionism, individualism or simply people do not have the time to invest in a career and a relationship? Perhaps digitilization and virtualization have removed the need for physical presence.

Is it only me who is thinking like this or do I have company?



Out for the Count: Brands and their Salebrity Status!

Out for the Count: Brands and their Salebrity Status!

Let’s begin with the fundamentals. A brand is an amalgamated image of a multitude of assets built in the customers’ mind over a period of time including but not restricted to name, tradition, packaging, advertising, promotion posture, pricing, trade acceptance, sales force discipline, customer satisfaction, repurchase patterns, etc. Clearly some brand assets are more important to product marketers than to service marketers, and vice versa. Some competitive environments put more of a premium on certain assets as well. A brand is a promise, as perceived by prospective purchasers. Enough said.

Now let’s look at a scenario which is very commonly applied by brands including (sadly) category pioneers and market leaders which puts pricing at the fulcrum of everything. Effectively, what is communicated to customers and prospects is an unabashed submission by the brand that it will be brought if and only if it is discounted, not otherwise. Unfortunate! As they say, the guilty are afraid. A relentless tirade of communication(most often very badly created and looking very similar to other category players- you see we are birds of the same feather), shouting from the rooftops(and from every nook & corner of the city and all possible media platforms both offline and online) claiming Year End Sale, Beginning of Season Sale, End of Season Sale, Warehouse Sale, Everything Must Go Sale, Festival Sale, Birthday Celebrations Sale, Sale for the Sake of a Sale, Store Opening Sale, Just Felt like offering a Sale, Other Brands are on Sale so Why should we not be on Sale blah blah blah; offers a sorry commentary to what conventionally used to be an occasional indulgence for brands, carefully thought out and more the exception than the rule.

deep-discountingQuality is a belief, often difficult to articulate, held by the collective mind of users and prospects. It is a judgment made within the context of the consumer’s experiences and predispositions. The range of commitment ranges from unshakable to firm to flimsy. Central to brand image is its value versus competition. Value is, of course, the relationship between quality and price. Unfortunately for the brand, price is more easily tampered with than quality. Price, on the other hand, is rock hard. It is not an impression built up over time. It is a number printed right there for the world to see.

So for product managers, prices are temptingly easy to change, especially compared to perceptions of quality or product formulations. Virtually no lead times. No costs for retooling or new packaging. And what the hell, it’s only going to be for a short time so we can make our numbers for the quarter. No one will notice. And then we will re invent the wheel the next time around, spend as much, if not more money on advertising and promotions, remain steadfast in our  obstinacy to let history repeat itself, only to realize continued erosion of market share, brand equity, margins, loyalty and goodwill. So, get ready to write yet another chapter in the Brand Loyalty v/s Price Loyalty saga.

So whether it’s the herd following the leader or the leader following the herd, it does not matter. As purists, you may have never heard anything of this nature, but then, who cares?

Good luck to brands and their omnipresent salebrity status! I, for one is already out for the count.


Image Courtesy:




Yes, we are the people formerly known as the audience!!

Yes, we are the people formerly known as the audience!!

The caption of this blog is borrowed from Jay Rosen‘s great essay. Rosen’s essay ( more about it at served as a manifesto for the marketing, media and advertising industries, serving as an eye opener to the world of democratised influence and how to recognise and embrace the opportunity it represents.

Don’t mean to preach but taking the liberty to put this note across as we all remain committed to building a better/stronger personal and professional brand. I know a lot of you would be already on this b(r)andwagon but sharing this nevertheless. Thank you for your engagement. Continue reading “Yes, we are the people formerly known as the audience!!”

Departing from convention: If research had it’s way….

Departing from convention: If marketing research had it’s way….

Analysis paralysis is a reality. There is a famous saying by Akio Morita, the founder of Sony – “ The greatest assistance I had in building my company was the total failure of nerve on the parts of Western businessmen to move without research”. Sony went on to become one of the most iconic brands achieving global dominance.

Another legendary business Richard Branson has a similar attitude. He says at Virgin they continue to explore a lot of things. And if something excites them, they go ahead and try it. Understandably, a lot of them are failures. But about 20% of what they try out is a massive success. And obviously they had no clue before they ventured into doing it, which amongst the things was going to be the super successful one. So, they try them all. Because if they tried to avoid having the failures,they wouldn’t have the successes.

And probably the Big Daddy of them all Steve Jobs, had a similar view. He didn’t believe in research. He said, ‘ It’s not the public’s job to know what they are going to want. It’s my job to know what they are going to want’. This approach helped Apple become the apple of millions of consumer eyes.


It’s not about the logical West or the superstitious East. Business and brand success can be attributed to ‘ predatory thinking ‘ where myths are busted, convention is disrupted and logic is questioned’. In the process competition is outwitted. If you want to be a game changer, don’t look elsewhere,begin by trying to be the game itself! There are enough examples(some of them shared above), that can and should inspire us.

Image Courtsey: