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.


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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.

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Thought Leader Brands and their After Thoughts? What are they thinking?

Thought Leader Brands and their After Thoughts? What are they thinking?

As a brand, you are already on a very high pedestal. You fall in the revered, ‘looked up to in awe’ (literally) category. You are the brand that sets industry trends, disrupts the category and expected to be the game changer. You lead while others invariably follow. You, the brand can do no wrong. Carrying the title Superbrands with aplomb. And then the drop of this bomb!

In recent weeks, we read the news about Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston being appointed as the brand ambassador of powerhouse iconic global airline brand Emirates. It’s certain, considering its pedigree, that the brand has thought long and hard about this strategy before becoming friends with the high flying Friends star. But, what stands to bemusement is that this comes just a few weeks after another major airline brand Etihad launched a multi media blitz with another Hollywood biggie Nicole Kidman as brand ambassador. Is there more to it than meets the eye or is it a case of birds of the same feather flocking together?  Amidst all this, lets not forget that the first salvo was fired by Emirates when it used football legend Pele as brand ambassador. What is the thought here? Who is following and who is leading? Definitely begs the question!


Would the strategy of using Hollywood celebrities as brand ambassadors get the Gulf based carriers more attention (and more passengers)? Time will tell. In the meanwhile, lets think who would be the next carrier to join the bandwagon!



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How Disruption created(and buried) some of the world’s biggest brands and concepts?

It was Rome of the First Century. An innovative glassmaker created vitrium flexile, flexible glass. Proud of his invention, he sought an audience with Emperor Tiberius. The emperor threw the drinking vessel down to the ground but it did not shatter. At the time all drinking vessels were made of gold and silver, which tainted wine with a metallic taste. Considering the glassmaker’s creation, Tiberius realized it would completely disrupt the Roman economy. If goblets were no longer made of gold and silver their value will diminish immediately. Tiberius asked the man if anyone knew this secret formula. When the man took a solemn oath and replied in the negative, the emperor had him beheaded.

Today it’s not so easy to thwart disruption.


Some years ago there was a website by the quirky name of Tune In Hook Up. It was designed by Chad Hurley, Steven Chen and Jawed Karim (all former PayPal employees) to disrupt the world of online dating. Most dating sites then featured still images of prospective partners but the trio thought that showcasing dating videos would be much better. While the dating site was a failure, Hurley, Chen and Karim all realized that people really enjoyed watching the uploaded videos. So abandoning the original dating site concept, the team pivoted and renamed the site YouTube which was eventually sold to Google for US$ 1.65 billion in stock(that when YouTube was yet to make any revenues).

Sir Richard Branson founded Virgin as a record store but very soon realized that the real value was in creating not just selling records. The most successful disruptor in history, he has created billion dollar companies in eight different industries.

Lowell ‘Bud ‘ Paxson deconstructed the value chain of his failing Florida Radio station. When no one would advertise on his station, he bought surplus goods and sold them on his station instead of running commercials. The idea was so successful that he transformed his local station into the billion dollar retailing empire now known as the Home Shopping Network.

More than a century ago, Joyce Clyde Hall was going broke selling penny post cards, until he killed his big idea of people wanting to write home to loved ones. His realization  that most people are not so good at writing made him fill out the postcard for them. With just one flourish of the pen he created Hallmark and the entire Greeting Card industry.

The 40 Billion US$ music industry was born of one invention- the gramophone– and comfortably relied on one business model for almost a century of profits. Then disruption came from another technology-the Internet. Disruptive digital services such as Napster, iTunes, Spotify killed the mighty album, created a market for single downloads, eviscerated the music label’s revenue model; and shot the industry dead. In the wake of digital distribution, EMI-the 100 year old company that invented electric recording, the company that signed Beatles, Caruso and thousands of mega artists-just ceased to exist.


In the twenty first century, billion dollar industries can be disrupted and waylaid virtually overnight-no sector of commerce or government is immune to that threat. A century ago, having a few thousand customers for your product made you a national household name. Now, over six billion potential customers are just one click away from becoming customers. Cloud computing, Internet of Things, 3-D Printing, wearable technology may be abstract concepts today but the kind of impact it will have on your career and fortune is inevitable. There are fortunes to be made by identifying and exploring the smallest aspects of these seismic shifts in technology and business organisations.

Lets take the obvious example of email. Email was able to disrupt the distribution link in the value chain of postal mail by enabling people to send and receive messages instantly and directly, rendering the postal service redundant in all matters of daily communication.

To thrive in the era of disruption, you don’t have to invent anything new. There is no need to discover anything the world has not seen before. Rather, there are riches to be found simply by capturing the value released through other people’s disruptive breakthroughs. There has never been a moment in time when upward mobility has been so equitably disbursed.

 So, what are you waiting for? What are you going to disrupt?


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Buzzwords: What’s the fuss about?

Buzzwords: What’s the fuss about?

It’s an over communicated world. And the time for easy to understand, lucid communication seems to be over. RIP. Hearing some of the jargon, you feel as if you are staring down the barrel of a gun (where unlike present day communication, the threat is clear, present and danger). Whatever happened to using simple language to state what you actually mean.


I am certain most of us would have come across (and still coming to terms with) these buzzwords that keep sprouting like popcorn from the machine. In case you have not, let us do a bilateral to understand what these mean. Oops, by bilateral I meant a face to face, one on one meeting. And, all along I thought these kind of bilaterals were reserved for Heads of State, Diplomats etc. Nothing official about it, I dare say.

The other day I was quite tempted to reach out to my friends who love snorkeling (I am not the underwater type though my boat has been rocked many a times) to understand what it means when people say deep dive. In the good old world, it very definitely would have had to do with water, exploring for marine life, pearls, the quarrel for coral etc. Not any more. For the uninitiated deep dive means going in depth into understanding a subject and getting set for the next round of buzzwords…meetings or should I say bilaterals?

Now, being laid off or asked to leave is not exactly a very pleasant situation to be in and given that state of mind, how would you react if someone came and told you that you are being reorganised …what if the person responds by saying that she is very organised? Sorry, won’t help. Reorganised here means you are asked to leave or let go. Period. Won’t seem to be such a gracious exit.

Do you have bandwidth was a common question posed when it came to mobile, telecom or radio equipment. The dictionary meaning of bandwidth is ‘ the range of frequencies with a given band, in particular that is used for transmitting a signal ‘. In the present context, if a colleague asks you if you have bandwidth, it purely means do you have time to help out with a project. It might be sending out the wrong signals but well that is the reality.

buzzwords 1

Narrative is another flavour of the season. Once upon a time, we would equate this with screenwriting, story telling, essay writing etc. But ever since President Obama fell in love with this word, it has taken off exponentially but in a completely different context. Why has “narrative,” an ancient word, moved suddenly to center stage in today’s politics? I think it has something to do with the growing sophistication of the political spin industry and growing competition between media outlets for increasingly fragmented and polarized audiences. In other words, today’s audiences are no longer satisfied with choosing their own news outlets. They also want to choose their own versions of the reality that news covers. Whether they realize it or not, they’re shopping for their own “narrative.”

There is lots and lots more and you sometimes wonder what’s the fuss or should it be buzz about. Strategic Fit, Quality Vector, Knowledge Management, Drill Down, Smartsise, Rightshoring…the list is abuzz and goes on and on.

New words are added to the Dictionary every year. Last year, selfie and hashtag became part of Merriam Webster’s Dictionary in recognition of their popular usage. And new words and slangs reflecting the increasing use of technology are also added to the Oxford Dictionary every year. Looks as if the buzz is not going to stop. So, time to mind your language might as well come out with all guns buzzing!


Image Source: Sterling PR and Edelman

Visitors are from Earth.Unique Visitors are from some other Planet!

Visitors are from Earth. Unique Visitors are from some other Planet!

The numbers make incredibly heady reading. The NFL sport has a huge fan following and a team like the Washington Redskins takes fan following to an absolutely exponential level.

Going by a recent Washington Post article, the Redskins which moved its training camp to Richmond a couple of seasons back, undoubtedly prompted more NFL fans to know and read about the city of Richmond than it would have normally happened.

RedskinsNow brace yourself for these sledgehammer blow numbers. To understand the impact of the Redskins team move to Richmond, a third party media monitoring analysis report was conducted by Meltwater and TVEyes. Now here is the prognosis: That report determined, among other things, that there were “7,845,460,401 unique visitors of print/online coverage of the 2014 Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Camp from July 24-Aug. 12.

RedskinsIf you are numb with shock, here could be the reason!! The Unique Visitors that the report cite is far higher than the actual population on Planet Earth (a total of 7.26 billion as estimated by the Census Bureau), of which only 40% have real internet connectivity. It’s quite possible that a lot of (hue)mankind  from Pluto, Mars, Jupiter and where have you were very interested in the Redskins.

Its quite apparent that this joke of a report has not gone down very well with a lot of people(many of whom not being thick skinned are seeing Red, do pardon the pun). Highly tempting as it may be, I am not appointing any of these ‘experts’ to monitor our ISD Global site’s ( statistics and unique visitors and the reason is very simple. We are looking for unique visitors of the human kind that walk the earth. If any(thing) from nether world were to browse and visit us, we wouldn’t know how to deal with it. At we populate our site with content, but if we were asked to use content to populate population, we would come a cropper!! We are neither that Unique nor Rich(mond) you see…


Why we are looking at an integrated future where fashion and technology brands combine?

Why we are looking at an integrated future where fashion and technology brands combine?

First let’s crunch some numbers.US $15.4 Billion. That was Google’s Net Profit for the first quarter of 2014. LVMH, the world’s leading fashion house, gets nowhere close even with a full two years revenue combined. Google’s foray into fashion may not have been spectacular (now with Google Glass defunct) but it certainly set the tone for technology brands to walk the fashion ramp, with panache.

Earlier this year in April when Apple launched the much touted and awaited Apple Watch, with a price tag going upto US$10000 for the Gold edition (the Sport edition started from US$349), the brand made it’s first serious foray into the luxury fashion space which it has been in relentless pursuit of. Wearable technology (with a price tag of course)!

Amazon, the always on go to destination e commerce brand, steam rolls ahead as it strives to become a US$200 billion business and fashion is at the forefront of its e-commerce store front. Not only does it E-Tail fashion vide its Amazon Fashion site but it has also acquired fashion retailing sites like Zappos and Shopbop to augment its sales. Added to that, it is now the official sponsor brand for the New York Men’s Wear Fashion week and has also roped in former Vogue Editor Caroline Palmer to help with its editorial output. In between all of these, it also opened a 40000 square feet photography studio in Brooklyn.

Yahoo, the ubiquitous, multinational content internet corporation very recently launched Yahoo Style, which by its own admission is positioned as a “ fresh take on fashion for everyone, from enthusiasts to those who love it from the sidelines”. With more than 800 million global users, no fashion site can match the reach and enormity of Yahoo, which is precisely what the brand is planning to do. It has poached American Elle Creative Director Joe Zee who is very clear on embracing the new levels (and possibilities) of communication and technology to create an utterly new brand positioning for the internet giant.

Fashion & Tech brands

Technology brands like Google, Yahoo, Amazon etc are very well placed to understand consumer insights, behavior and purchase patterns on a real time basis. They are an integral part of people’s conversations and engagements and in the process have a wealth of data acquired over several years to play with which is not usually the preserve of conventional brands. How that data is used to integrate fashion into the mix is therefore quite an easy game for these technology brands.

Its very difficult to speculate on how technology’s relationship with fashion brands will evolve and grow as advancements in both industries happen much faster than anyone can predict, but what can be assured is that what moves units at brick and mortar stores, what happens within your favorite magazines and what soars on social media after fashion week will provide a pretty strong indicator.

On the flip side fashion brands, the early adopters like Ralph Lauren and Burberry have used technology to drive equity, recall, enigma and sales but it has not been all pervasive across the sector. There are still a lot of brands just dipping their toes in the water even though fashion has the resources, time and money to control the industry. Having said that, I reckon the first steps towards an integrated future of fashion and tech has been taken.




Why brands could do with a bit of hypothesis?Beyond (S)lip Service on Corporate Social Responsibility!

Why brands could do with a bit of hypothesis? Go Beyond (S)lip Service on Corporate Social Responsibility!

Corporate social responsibility for brands and organisations is no longer an obligation. Its a compelling strategy. It’s a no brainer. Over the years and especially in the recent past, brands that have known to be doing good to society and its constituents have consistently done well and build a larger and more loyal following of customers.  And that, in this era of price loyalty being > brand loyalty, is certainly a big take away for smart brands.

So, given the positive rub offs that compassionate capitalism brings to the table, lets imagine a few scenarios where brands of the day(especially the ones that are in a definite position to do so) indulge in some serious introspection(soul searching if you will) and decide to disrupt their existing mold. Readers please note that this is purely hypothesis and we are taking the liberty of conceiving a ‘ what if ‘ scenario. We are talking brands and corporates picking up the threads on social responsibility, sharing and caring.


I will begin with one of my favorite subjects: credit cards. I do not claim to be an expert on the BFSI (Banking, Financial Services, Insurance) space but here is my two cents worth. Lets imagine a situation whereby the likes of a Mastercard or Visa, two of the biggest global brands in the credit card industry decide to recalibrate their line and approach of communication. Just go in with the honest intention of meaning, doing well and being social caring and responsible. (We are aware that the credit card industry is driven and conditioned by their partner/issuing banks to drive more numbers, more interest charges, late payment fees, interest upon interest etc etc all seemingly communicated in the ‘ Welcome Kit ‘ folder in an unfriendly barely readable 6.5 font size). In the light of such an eco system, what if MasterCard or Visa initiate a communication strategy that says ‘ Do Not Use Credit Cards ‘( I am aware that some of you might already be thinking that I have gone senile but do hear me out!). The objective from the brands’ perspective is to communicate that credit cards are not be used in the manner that a large majority of customers use them leading to debt traps. The communication can be consistently put across by either Visa or Mastercard educating and encouraging people to use credit cards the right way. Will it lead to loss of revenues for the issuers? Am not so certain but it will definitely bring in a huge amount of goodwill to the brands. Not just that, this honest, transparent socially responsible approach could also broaden the universe of users and bring in more customers who were hitherto wary of using credit cards.  The end could very well justify the means.

Lets take up another potential situation with the darling of the technology brand space: Apple, arguably the most valuable company in the world. Here again, we are aware of Apple’s skirmishes with questionable labour practices at the companies it outsources it’s hardware manufacturing to (FoxConn), the use of certain minerals and more pertinently its insistence on using proprietary technology (in an era of open source and easy standardization) to keep its profit margins really high. Not to mention its very cheap design for their power chords(certainly less power to them!). Now, lets turn the tables and look at a scenario where the world’s biggest and most profitable technology company decides to use its resources to deliver a consistent, satisfactory experience to its customer base, end to end. Become also the number one global brand to walk the walk on corporate social responsibility. Can you fathom the huge surge in goodwill equity that the Apple brand will reap from millions of its loyal customers the world over? There is a great opportunity for the brand to become the apple of every stakeholder’s eye!

Carrying on in the same vein, could we expect more humanity and compassion from airline brands especially when they have to repatriate dead bodies. Based on load and carrying capacity, could the near and dear ones of the deceased expect a really preferential rate and treatment in their hour of grief and get treated as humans and not ‘ premium perishable cargo ‘ that can be milked for all that its worth. The airline brands can give a respectable send off to the departed soul and in the process their brand reputation and goodwill can go sky high. Being a socially responsible and caring brand can only augment market share, customer engagement and loyalty. CSR can also mean Corporate Social Return for brands if done the right, sincere way.

More and more brands are seeing and reaping the benefits of by design genuine benevolence as customers recognize and respect their social efforts and reward them with more loyalty and positive WOM(Word Of Mouth). That being the case, what are you waiting for? Social Responsibility and Corporates: The Twain Has to Meet!