Technology and Wisdom: In marketing, the twain can’t seem to meet!

Technology and Wisdom: In marketing, the twain can’t seem to meet!

To say that we are at the very forefront of cutting edge technology would be an understatement. Considering all the spectacular advances we see today in space travel, driverless cars, artificial intelligence, IOT, robotics, digital health, augmented reality, laser guided missiles etc, technology surely has motored along at more than a furious clip. Technology is ubiquitous, omni present, in the face and as they say, ‘ always on ‘.

Wisdom on the other hand is very much under the radar not because it cannot be droned up into the spotlight but there seems to be a tangible scarcity of it around. Most definitely in marketing.

In marketingtechnology and wisdom are at two opposite ends of the spectrum. And, unlike magnetic forces, these opposites don’t attract. On the contrary, they repel. Technology is always moving in linear progression. Wisdom, on the other hand, with all the associated ammunition of insights, experience, maturity, just does not. Cannot.

Not all technology is the domain of the young and not all wisdom comes with age. But, as a general rule, tech is the territory of youth, wisdom the territory of maturity. Though there is strong perception that technology equates wisdom, nothing that we see today in the world of marketing or advertising at least backs the argument even remotely. We are in an era of ‘ technology overload ‘ that causes ad frauds(US$16 Billion), intrusion of customer privacy, manipulation of public opinion, colossal wastage etc etc. And there is no wisdom in that.

We seem to have moved on from what the very wise advertising greats of the past including William Bernbach, Howard Gossage etc preached and practiced. With a great degree of success. Without any technology at their disposal.

Technology digs into collective bias. What is called for is a balance of technology with the scaffolding of wisdom, without which, sauce for the goose is not exactly sauce for the gander!

As T.S Eliot said ‘ Where is the wisdom we have lost in all the knowledge? Where is the knowledge that we have lost in all the information? And where is the life that we have lost in living? ”


Image: ISD Global

Our core shouldn’t be about being mediocre!

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left,  and could say, “I used everything you gave me.”
Erma Louise Bombeck

Todd Henry’s brilliant book ‘ Die Empty ‘ is a wake up call surely. A guide to reclaiming your passion, finding your voice and unleashing your brilliance every day. We always seem to find solace in the fact there will always be tomorrow. But sooner or later all of our tomorrows will run out. That is time which is limited inventory. Each day that you postpone the hard work and succumb to the clutter that chokes creativity, discipline, and innovation will result in a net deficit to the world, to your company, and equally importantly to yourself. Ready to introspect?

I understand average might be both the old and new normal but a honest hand over your heart would have you admit that you were not meant to be average, nor am I. Average might be normal – I get that. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s not for me and it shouldn’t certainly be for you!

When you day dream, do you see yourself as the average Jane or average Joe or as being grander than life? I suspect the latter. Way to go! Being mediocre maybe a safe place at first and you are in this trap of thinking that things can’t get any worse. But, we have to know that the flip side is that things won’t get any better either.

“Most humans, in varying degrees, are already dead. In one way or another they have lost their dreams, their ambitions, their desire for a better life. They have surrendered their fight for self-esteem and they have compromised their great potential. They have settled for a life of mediocrity, days of despair and nights of tears. They are no more than living deaths confined to cemeteries of their choice. Yet they need not remain in that state. They can be resurrected from their sorry condition. They can each perform the greatest miracle in the world. They can each come back from the dead…”
― Og MandinoThe Greatest Miracle in World

It’s time to start an intelligent and provocative conversation with yourself. Be content in being discontent. Set yourself lofty goals without letting them intimidate you or scare you away. The very nature of our brain is such that it cleaves to the familiar. But the brain also remembers what it least expects. So, deliver the unexpected. Let familiarity breed contempt.

When the preferable is not available, the available becomes preferable. Beware of that. And all of it’s always been done that way syndrome.

So what does this mean for creative and marketing professionals. We understand that top lines and bottom lines are necessary compulsions in our corporate life. Stakeholder greed is de rigueur. Marketers will understand that the absolute worst place for a brand is to be “middle of the road, in no man’s land.” Average, adequate, middling are all meaningless. If you are in marketing and find yourself even remotely close to any of these trio, get away, fast. There is far more life beyond ” 25 to 70% off ‘ that you have been running as campaigns religiously for over the last 7 years. You are far better than that. Stop belittling your talent and capability. Especially with all the resources(financial & human) and standing that you have in the market as a brand. And above all, your individual ability, that is far far above the mediocre.

Time to raise the bar.




The CMO’s wish list for 2018: An evolving list…

A lot of us are now on the drawing board mapping out ways to get better in 2018. The fundamentals are not going to change- reach, connect,engage, influence, transact and all of that- but what could we do to better stimulate the landscape as we get set to welcome and take on the New Year. Here’s a partial(and ever evolving list):-

a) A new BHAG of tricks: Nothing brings together a team like a BHAG — a Big Hairy Aggressive Goal —without enough time to deliver it. Backs to the wall brings out the best in us!

b) Am not alluding to the fact of disrespecting the organisation chart but don’t obsess over it on paper.Instead, get the right people, the right goals and vitally, the right trust in place.

c) And for all the HeRoines and HeRoes in HR, recruit with an immersion, not just an interview. Align passion with goals.Basic, yes! Hire marketing leaders with general management skills to ensure results exceed individual contribution.

d) When things are working well, that is the best time to deconstruct your strategy and try new things.

e) If you are in a new category where your customers need a lot of education and support, your organisation needs to be built around education first and products second.

f) Extend your approach to marketing beyond “getting a message out there”; focus on building trust.

g) Don’t overcomplicate marketing. At the end of the day, it’s still marketing: Market Research, Content, Sales enablement, Awareness, Demand generation, Partnerships, Customer retention.Customer advocacy.

h) When you’re the underdog in your industry, hire people with the DNA to creatively leapfrog the competition, not follow the industry norms. You need to have your Purple Cow(fantastic book by Seth Godin).

i) Own marketing across the organisation. Don’t be afraid to integrate marketers into other parts of the organisation, but always have at least a dotted line back to marketing.

j) Don’t be afraid of data and machine learning. The time is now to put all that data to use to solve the problems humans simply can’t and further the industry. The key is to leverage them as part of your team, not external resources. Data is the (K)new oil as they say! The transition even amongst large enterprises hitherto involved ion B 2 B marketing is happening towards a B to I space(Business to Individual).

k) The best marketing combines data and storytelling. It gives you a way to appeal to the emotional side of people. The Unique Feelings Proposition is what brands need to go after!

l) The future of marketing is in the CeX(Customer Experience). Success comes from knowing your consumers’ passions, being innovative in the way you engage them and having a team that collaborates across all aspects of the customer experience delivery. For consumers, the thrill and purpose of experience has replaced the earlier compulsion for ownership. So ride the opportunity.

m) Marketers will know that The Future of Advertising will be a thing of the past. So, re invent, re engineer, re boot and re calibrate! There is a new customer segment: the Customer Segment of 1. Get ready to reach out to them. Address mindsets, not demographics!

n) As we are all agreeing these days, digital is just as much marketing as marketing is digital. So the two roles have combined, and how! It’s a tell, tell, tell, digitell world.

o) Brands and marketers will recognise the immense power of Transparency and how consumers warm up to brands who are not afraid to stand in their own truth. In a Post Truth world, The Future is Transparency!

Marketing has the power, and responsibility, to inspire the whole company, not just customers. Marketing also has the power to be so much more than the “make it pretty” department.It has the imperative to inspire everyone in the company, not just the people who touch the product.So, let us know our rockets from our launch pads.

For inspiring quotes and actionable intelligence from brand owners and marketing champions, please check this link


Image Courtsey: Search Engine Journal

Affluenza, Stuffocation and being Worldly Vice!

Let’s begin with what the Business Dictionary has to say about Affluenza(not to be mixed up with Influenza though the contagious capabilities are common to both):

1. A social condition that affects a society because of the elevated number of individuals striving to be wealthy. People within the society feel that the only measure of success is determined by how much money and prestige a person has.
2. A social theory claiming that individuals with very privileged and wealthy backgrounds sometimes struggle to determine the difference between right and wrong due to the nature of their upbringing. Also known as sudden-wealth syndrome.

Having done that, Stuffocation is defined by Macmillan’s Crowdsourced Open Dictionary as:

– a feeling of being oppressed by the amount of stuff you own. The problem in question is an anxiety christened stuffocation – a feeling of being oppressed by one’s ungovernable heap of belongings, acquisitions.

Affluenza( or Selfish Capitalism as author Oliver James would have called it in his book by the same name) has not just changed the world, it has also changed the way we see the world. The happy embrace of ‘ convenience ‘ and our reconciling to not being able to plan ahead is an entirely new way of thinking and over the past few decades we have built an economic system to accommodate it. A vast majority of humans(yes, us included, thankfully) would find the idea of using our scarce resources to produce things that are designed to be thrown away absolutely mad.
Consumerism(the love of buying things) can, by definition only provide a transient sense of satisfaction, the ‘ thrill of the chase ‘ or the ‘ after glow ‘ like walking down high street with your branded take away. The benefits of consumerism, as one can imagine is short lived as they are linked to the process of the purchase and not to the use of the product. Materialism(is the love of things themselves) is about owning and therefore there is a clear distinction from consumerism. Taken literally, they are polar opposites, though they are often used interchangeably.
We love things not for their material function but for the symbolic act of acquiring and possessing them.
Stuffocation (a term brilliantly coined by trend forecaster and author James Wallman who wrote a book on the subject) is to have more stuff than we could ever need – clothes we don’t wear, kit we don’t use and toys we don’t play with. How it’s cluttering up our homes,making us feel stuffocated and stressed and potentially killing us. Not to mention, how damaging it is for the planet. Our obsession with stuff can be traced back to the origin of the Mad Men who compellingly created desire through advertising (Remember Vance Packard’s famous book on advertising, The Hidden Persuaders).There is a clutter crisis and rampant materialism is being strongly linked to declining well being. The manifesto for change that the Stuffocation book articulates is to replace materialism with experientialism– instead of a new watch or a new car, maybe a holiday with friends and time with family. It advocates being healthier, happier and to do more with less.
To put it simply, if we want to reduce the impact on the natural environment of all the stuff we buy( and mind you we are almost 7.5 billion of all humanity, so that’s a whole lot of stuff and so much of it unneeded), we damn well hold onto them for far more longer. Maintain it, repair it, get more satisfaction from the things we already own, more satisfaction from leisure time and definitely less satisfaction from buying things. Affluenza is curable and has to be cured. So is materialism. The culture has to change. Let’s move on from worldly vice to worldly wise.
Less is indeed a lot more!

Is the 30-second ad dying?

The death of an advertising stalwart!

Well it surely appears so. And Silicon Valley is killing it.The rise of social media has made the elaborate plot lines of old-school spots seem archaic. And the Mad Men are, well, mad.Or, so was the fad!

Trapeze back to the days of the 30 second long format ads(long by today’s standards) where marketers, brand owners, agency heads, creative directors, art directors and film makers peddled a basketful of promise, creative thought and motivation to influence the seemingly reachable TG in their quest to change behaviours, cultures and consumption patterns. There was a certain trance in that romance to create.

So what is prompting the change? In an always on land of uncertainty, are we losing the plot(and losing the audience) or has the landscape itself changed?

6 is the new 30

They say 20 is the new 40 when it comes to audience maturity and demographics. Platforms like YouTube have increasingly challenged agencies to tell their stories in a 6-second slot — the average attention span of today’s mobile user. That mobile user, who again by conventional paradigm, is on a perennial instant fatigue. So 30 seconds is a long journey to risk with them!  6 has indeed become the new 30. And numbers don’t lie!

It makes sense. You might be willing to sit through a 3-minute trailer before a movie, or a 30-second “Whassup” ad before an episode of Jimmy Fallon.That may come across as non intrusive or no skin of your backBut amidst the native content of notoriously short-form channels like Instagram or Snapchat, these types of ads are disproportionately long. So much so, that they may pre qualify to be spam! Just kidding.

And for all those who are number crunchers: if we had a nickel for every 60-second YouTube video we gave up on because of an unskippable 30-second ad, we’d be at least $1.25 richer. What will you do for a few dollars more?

“Creativity is dead.” — Old School Advertisers

That almost seems like an Old Jungle saying(remember Phantom is rough with roughnecks!!!).

Ad execs counter that cutting time means sacrificing emotional stakes and story arc for the sake of speed, effectively prioritizing watchability over effectiveness.

Another, not-so-secret motive: it’s harder to get paid proportionally for the production of super-short ads, which still require actors and equipment.The CFO and CMO lines have been blurring and the motive should not surprise us.

Hey, we love Ogilvy as much as the next ad geek. But as the father of mass mediaMarshall McLuhan, put it back in the ‘60s: “The medium is the message.” Yes, we now surely get the message.

And today’s medium is 6-second Snap Stories. And it has to be over in a snap. Otherwise today’s audience will snap out of it.So the mean median for a message is all coming down to 6 in the City(and beyond).

So, Lights, Camera….do we have the time to say Action?


Image: Digitalvidya