Curiosity Skilled The Cat!

Curiosity is that strange human trait that got us out of the cave, across the globe, and onto the moon. A trait that has led to communication and collaboration.

It is why children ask: ” why?”

And as we get older and life becomes more complicated, many of us forget to keep asking that question.

Why?” requires work and critical thought. It requires the openness to learning answers that don’t fit into our existing world views. The brain is hardwired to be lazy. So default meets comfort zone where there is no room for ” why?”.

And sure, if we need to ask ” why?” every time we get a push notification on our phones, it will mercilessly take over our lives.

But ” why?” is also the most significant tool in combatting disinformation. And decoding the true intention of certain governments, organisations, brands.

Curiosity might help us better understand the others.

Their intentions.

Their feelings and fears.

Curiosity might help us understand ourselves.

Our intentions.

Our feelings and fears.

Certain meditation techniques encourage us to approach our emotions with curiosity. We cannot control when and how those emotions arise within us, but we can control how we react to them.

The ancient principle of Occam’s razor invites us to – when presented with competing hypothesis about the same problem– select the one that requires the fewest possible assumptions.

This might benefit us in our external and internal lives. The truth is we need to cultivate curiosity.

Curiosity will help us disregard ‘ human pollutants ‘ like opinion, agenda, power and greed. These pollutants are present at nearly every turn of capitalist transactions, sticking to us like grease from an oil spill.

We need more stories of compassion , and fewer stories of conflict. What’s extraordinary about our story is that it is never complete. It is never finished. It is being written and rewritten every moment in every corner of the world.

For example, it is up to us to confine conflict to our books and films. Because for THE GREAT STORY to succeed, we need to course-correct away from conflict toward compassion and cooperation.

We need to start shaping new stories for ourselves and future generations. And that narrative, in its most basic and simple form might be this..

Human(therefore)kind.

It seems pretty simple: We have to accept our insignificance. Which is significant.

Disinformation has always been part of the political and corporate playbook. However, algorithms, feedback loops, and political polarization have dusted off that book  and put it on the main display next to the gummy bears and ChapStick.

This is complex stuff, and only a few people in the world seem to truly comprehend the scientific underpinnings of the madness we’ve left ourselves be swallowed up in.

If the medium is the message and the medium is a giant tangled ball of fiber-optic cables, doesn’t that make the message, well, a giant tangled mess of messaging?

Now, ” why?” did I write this? Curiosity is getting the better of me. And I like it.

BEGINS

Doing by Undoing

What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?..echoed W H Davies in his seminal classic poem ‘ Leisure ‘. And he ends by stating,  A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.

The biggest lie we’ve been told is that ‘ productivity is all about doing ‘.

Working is Not Productivity. The message once(and even now) was loud and clear. Relentless self-optimisation was a way to cope, but is it really? Humans are NOT search engines !

There has been always something obscene about the cult of the hustle, the treadmill of alienated insecurity that tells you that the moment you stop running for even an instant, you will be flung flat on your face.

Productivity is not a synonym for health or safety or sanity. I will go onto add that frantic productivity is actually a fear response. It’s a fear response for 21st-century humans in general and millennial humans in particular.

Productivity, or the lack of it, has become the individual metric of choice for coping with the international econo-pathological clusterfuck of the Corona Crisis.

Have you taken the path not trodden, step into a void and, by design decide NOT to do anything? And then witness something strange happening? Ideas begin to flow, collide, offering solutions, relief, succour, insights, inspiration, closure..

Our best work will come from undoing—from slowing down and giving ourself time and space. The Japanese call this vacuum ma—an empty space that’s intentionally there. In Hebrew, the same concept is called selah. The word appears 74 times in the Hebrew Bible as a direction to stop reading, pause, and contemplate what just appeared in the text.

There is no preamble or drum roll when ideas arrive. There is no parade. If it’s big, it is not going to wield a megaphone and yell from the rooftop. At first glance, the big thing actually looks quite small. If there’s no void in your life—if your life is full of constant chatter—you won’t be able to hear the subtle whisper when it arrives.

Banish the FOMO that if you slow down, you will get left behind. What you would do is use less energy, you’ll go faster, and you’ll go deeper. The pedal-to-the metal mentality is the enemy of original thought. Creativity isn’t produced—it’s discovered. And it happens in moments of slack, not hard labor. Yes, counter to popular thinking, but true.

During those moments, it may appear like nothing is happening, but appearances mislead. Still waters run deep. As you stare out into the nothingness, your subconscious is hard at work, consolidating memories, making associations, and calibrating a new math while marrying the new with the old to create unexpected combinations.

So, don’t avoid the void.

Mute down the noise, just for a little bit, throughout the day. Give yourself permission to lounge in bed after waking up. Put yourself in airplane mode. Sit and stare at the ceiling. Wander aimlessly through a park.

Allow interior silence to oppose contemporary chaos.

Sink into the rhythm of no rhythm.

Step into the void—where all things that never existed are created.

Relentless self-optimisation is NOT a way to cope. Humans are NOT search engines !

Charles Richards on productivity: “Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One person gets only a week’s value out of a year while another gets a full year’s value out of a week.”

You’ll find that taking your foot off the pedal can be the best way to accelerate.

Ends.

BEYOND ADVERTISING-3

This is the last part of the ” Beyond Advertising ” trilogy. The previous two can be accessed @

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business-technology-review/beyond-advertising

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business-technology-review/beyond-advertising-2

A Compelling Picture: Our Intended Audience of The Present | Future

As Alicia prepares for bed, she surveys her apartment. She is very conscious of what she buys and why. She buys things with meaning. While she sees less traditional advertising than she used to, she is more engaged with the ads she views. She can connect her purchases to strong creative content created by brands or co-created by brand fans. Though she is exposed to a lot of targeted ads, she feels she is in control of what content she sees. She accepts new brands warily and rarely with a direct entreaty from the advertiser. Instead, she relies on peers and trusted sources for her introductions. She wants brands to challenge her, understand her, inspire her through their content. She seeks stories that move her, excite her, delight her.

Given this scenario, all brands should be asking ” How can we engage Alicia and others like her today?”. When consumers have endless choices of content and screens, plus endless access to information and insights, why should they stop to listen to your message? For every technology designed to interrupt a media experience or a search for information, people will find a way to block, skip or ignore it. And if the interruption is egregious, be prepared to hear it from empowered customers.

Geography is History

I believe that great brands are ” business strategy brought to life “, and deliver a seamless experience across product and service, physical spaces and places, internal culture and communications. Brands like Apple have already set customer expectations and it doesn’t matter if you are a bank, a business consultancy, a retailer or a hotel chain, the message is simple: join up!

A continued focus on a narrow notion of what is currently within the purview of advertising and marketing will threaten the life of a brand and the organisation. Brands are expected to provide the seamless experience that people are taught to expect by each day’s new technology-enabled and insight inspired pace setters. Even the notion of ‘ omnichannel ‘, which is currently limited more to the realm of retail, will work within a larger ecosystem as retail and advertising undergo a fusion.

Divergence to Convergence

In order to reach, serve and stay connected with people in comprehensive, effective ways, advertising’s scope must go beyond its traditional reach to encompass the entire firm. The boundaries between external and internal touchpoints are blurring and will continue to do so. In a convergent world, no person or no touchpoint exists in isolation. Everything is interconnected and interdependent.

Consider the many different ways we now encounter brands on a daily basis- tv, radio, print, online searches, mobile apps, websites, billboards, DOOH ads, branded social media posts, offline and online conversations, personal interactions, web browsing, store design and displays, package design and packaging, conversations with salespeople, in-store promotions. All this is just the ‘ before purchase ‘ exposure followed by interactions with customer service, online help features, surveys, loyalty programs, etc. ‘ post purchase ‘. It is less common for people to encounter advertising head-on. Conversations have become the pathways by which people encounter advertising. 

Something to RAVE(S) about

Most people today think of advertising as an interruption, a distraction, a nuisance, a waste of time. If we could skip or ignore it all, we would. And the lack of creativity is certainly not helping. Advertising as an interruptive act should be gone. Period. As I have been advocating, ” beyond advertising ” could and should be a narrative content that is entertaining, informative, actionable, valuable, value generating and provides an exceptional experience, being a shareworthy story delivered through all touchpoints. It could and should be something to RAVE(S)about:

R: Relevant and Respectful (to Individuals and of Individuals)

A: Actionable (Intuitive & Frictionless)

V: Valuable & Value Generating (Wanted, Needed, Effective)

E: Exceptional Experience (Delight & Inspire)

S: Shareworthy Story (Authentic & Authoritative)

Knock, Knock, the Digital Door

Beyond advertising could and should be something people want and seek out because it provides value. The trouble is nobody opens their digital door to receive an ad. They will, however, invite information across their threshold, if it promises to be of value to them. In the near and not so distant future, the successful advertisers would be those who have stopped treating consumers as many targets, marks, and stats. In an online universe, populated by consumers armed with the desire, the regulatory support, and the technology to be aggressively selective in the choices they make, advertisers will be obliged to treat consumers as decision makers.

Open the Vent: To Relevant

Forrester Research has termed the next few years as ” The Great Race for Relevancy “. New social data with clearer content marking will be interrogated with powerful new algorithms. The movement is from link-based to answers that are algorithmically based, where search engines are computing the right answer. We are already at a point where Google can give direct and accurate answers to questions like: What time is Guess Guess Guess on? Who plays in goal for Manchester City? Who is the favorite to win the next US Presidential election?  What black suits are on sale at Zara?…

Google’s algorithm has improved to the point where it can answer questions that are nuanced, and geo- and time-based. Is the stimulus package working for the economy? Which is Arijit Singh’s best song now? When should I leave to reach Ritz Carlton DIFC by 8 pm?

And very soon, the internet will become an intelligence that will make its current guise seem incredibly dumb and disorganised. We don’t know how we lived without it.

The goal of relevance is to reach specific individuals. General demographics and television time slots no longer cut it when trying to communicate with people who juggle multiple screens and identities (family, work, social roles). Advertisers must get to the basics: Who are you? What are you doing? Where are you? What time is it? Why are you doing it? And how?

Messages relevant to time, location and preferences can be very effective, but they are not sufficient for optimal effectiveness: mood and state of mind must also be taken into consideration, just like the human interaction ” Is this a good time to talk to you about…?”.

Digital media drove a shift in marketers’ budget to ‘ always-on ‘, such as search, display and social. The marketing on-demand world of now and the near future has evolved to be ‘ always relevant ‘. For brands and their agencies, that will require a much more sophisticated and targeted approach to address the ubiquity of touch points so that they can be there at a consumer’s point of need-no matter where or when it is. Massive analytical capabilities invested will help support a brand’s stewardship of their customers information. In short, ads need to answer questions, any time, all the time. 

Don’t find Customers for your Products; Find Products for your Customers

The only asset that gets built online is permission. Permission to talk to people who want to be talked to, delivering, and anticipating personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them and connecting them to one another. That’s all we can build and what we should measure. Not how many people thumbed up some video we made, but instead how many people want to hear from us.

Brands that want to thrive in this space must earn their welcome through the continually refreshed offer of social currency: ideas that people want to share with others.

Next STEPPS

Wharton Professor Jonah Berger in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, suggests six principles for developing contagious or shareable, ideas based on his research findings using the acronym STEPPS:

S: Social Currency (make it cool to talk about)

T: Triggers (make it top of mind)

E: Emotion (make them feel something)

P: Public (make it visible)

P: Practical Value (make it useful)

S: Stories (make it tell-able)

The worlds of logic and emotions must be married with all the senses and the muses from music to scents, visuals to touch, virtual to reality. Monetary value motivates consumers to purchase, but it won’t necessarily be enough to motivate them to repeat that purchase, or to recommend an object or service to peers.

Questions

What would happen if authentic and creative stories opened channels of communication with people?

How would people feel about brands and advertising?

What financial and social benefits would be afforded employees and shareholders?

How could advertising be ‘ re-defined ‘?

What if advertisers were named POY (Person of the Year) by TIME Magazine for these transformations?

What if we question the intentionality of our choices, the depth of our kindness and our very belonging as a species on this planet?

Creating RAVES advertising through every touchpoint has the potential for achieving this transformation.

Most positively, we are headed inexorably towards a new era of truth. Truth in what products do, truth in how and by who they are made, truth in the opportunity cost of their manufacturer, truth in performance and yes, truth in advertising.

ENDS

Suresh Dinakaran is the Chief Storyteller at branding agency ISD Global, Managing Editor of BrandKnew and Founder, Weeklileaks. Feedback welcome at suresh@groupisd.com

Beyond Advertising: Part 2

(Continued from Part 1 @ https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business-technology-review/beyond-advertising )

 

Headlines from January 1, 2027, The New York Times

 

Global Warming Ended.

 Ice Caps Return.

AIDS and Cancer Cure Share Nobel Prize.

War? What’s That?

 

Sounds too good to be true. Okay, here are two more from the industry trade magazine Advertising Age:

 

CMO OF GOLDMAN SACHS RECEIVES MORE BONUS THAN BANKERS. CMO WINS NOBEL PRIZE.

 

Well, here is my view of the future and what I believe it will hold. Not only do I think that this represents a realistic view of where our industry could be in a few years from now and I think that our being there today could have a bearing on the world headlines I’ve put up.

 

If I were to look ahead to the future, the hope is that advertising would be focused more on authentic trust building engagement through human insight rather than relentless stalking through data mining.

 

For that, words really matter and it’s time to look at a new advertising vocabulary (Infographic 1.0) and for advertising to challenge entrenched mental models that we have been all prey to (Infographic 2.0).

Infographic 1.0

Infographic 2.0

 

Remember the office desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. Even digital needs a human touch for it to be soulful. Soulful advertising comes from those who interrogate their souls and that of the people they serve to be able to tell the truth in a way that affirms, alters, enhances people’s lives while making money or profit.

 

Advertisers will have to realise that brands will not be the centre of any conversations. Instead, brands will have to deliver opportunities for people to have the kind of conversations they want- with other people. The imperative for advertisers will be to avoid butting into conversations and instead to facilitate the kind of interpersonal conversations people want to have.

 

With so many changes going on within the industry, now is a great time to stop at the crossroads and look in a new direction. To look at the outcomes, – to create work that is as clever and creative as the best entertainment- in fact, so good, we could charge people to watch them. Today’s ads now compete not just with other ads but millions of moments of entertainment from professionally made work to home videos.

 

A dash of the familiar makes something palatable, a hint of the strange makes it interesting.

 

It takes Two to Tango

 

Like the perceived binary of analytics and creative, the short and long term are often in tension- should a brand aim to increase sales now by focusing on the quick sell, or should a brand play the long game, patiently waiting for the numbers to climb?

 

We have two clear takeaways. While Big Data is a revolutionary force, short-term metrics- to which it leans- do not predict long term effects. And emotional, creative campaigns, – which focus on the long term- will benefit a brand far more than a quick spike in sales. The two must work together: investment in brand and trust building combined with short term ‘brand activations ‘to reap the sales benefits of those investments.

 

In the future, analytics and creatives will be a match made in heaven. Designers and operational experts will work hand in glove. Ok, admitted, that is a fair bit of idealism, but then that is the whole point. What if the new collaboration yields an even more compelling and unifying brand purpose that goes beyond ‘the big idea ‘of the traditional ad campaign to create something more lasting, more connected to the aligned objectives that draws heavily on all these disciplines? Something that articulates what all those in the service of and serviced by the brand can relate to, as it is how the brand betters their lives.

 

Fewture Forward

Part of really embracing the future is putting few of your resources on the cutting edge because the cutting edge becomes mainstream so fast. You might look back and realise that you are missing the whole opportunity.

 

Far too often we get narcissistic about the brand (people must be interested in what we make) rather than be humble, empathetic, and interested in their lives. Great brand communication ideas act as a bridge. A bridge between what people are interested in and what you make/sell. A bridge between your world and theirs; real life / culture and commerce.

 

Multiple bets and the Velcro analogy

Brands now and in the future need to do lots of things, not just one big thing. Tying into the point of placing little bets and to be about managing portfolios rather than playing roulette. Google is a great example of this type of prodigious brand- Search to Google 411 to Chrome to Maps … (the list goes on). Creating brands built around a coherent stream of small ideas makes them stickier (the Velcro analogy of little hooks that Russell Davies has used is an incredibly powerful metaphor)- being the brand of new news and seen as having momentum and energy is the best leading indicator of future preference and usage. It also means you are more likely to thrive in a world where 95% of things die.

 

Actions speak louder than words. We need to make communication products, not just communicate a product. Create actions and things, not ads.

 

Curiosity Skilled the Cat

 

The future of how to thrive in the changed advertising landscape is curiosity. Without an inherent sense of cultural and technological curiosity embedded into advertising’s DNA then our industry is doomed to irrelevance. We don’t have to have all the answers, but we need to be asking all the questions because our future will be built by the curious.

 

Getting ready for the future of advertising means innovating products that foster creativity, support flawless brand experiences, and vitally keep up with the ever-changing consumer behavior. Exceptional marketers will leverage the unpredictable, moving the brand into the spotlight in real time.

 

Yours Personally

 

We may not personally know everyone we communicate with, but they are as informed, conscientious, and astute as our nearest and dearest. It’s time to treat them as such. Indeed “they” are “we “.

 

The Compass points towards Trust

 

Every three hundred thousand years or so, the north pole and the south pole switch places. The magnetic fields of the Earth flip.

In our culture, it happens more often than not.

And in the world of culture change, it just happened. The true north, the method that works best has flipped. Instead of selfish mass, effective advertising would need to rely on empathy and trust.

 

To be continued..

Suresh Dinakaran is the Chief Storyteller at branding agency ISD Global, Managing Editor of BrandKnew and Founder, Weeklileaks. Feedback welcome at suresh@groupisd.com

 

 

BEYOND Advertising!

Vignettes from A Day In Your Not-So-Future Life

As I walked into the bathroom, the body scanning sensors could tell I had a rough night. Sure enough, looking into the mirror, it displayed an ad for Panadol(extra strength) which was dynamically inserted as sponsor of my morning sports video highlights. In addition, a coupon offer from Nabo coffee was presented along with my daily agenda, which I dropped into my mobile watch.

 

My automated home system had already connected with my Google self drive and ordered me a car. Since I had earned over 1000 points last month based on my social sharing activity, I received an offer to try 3 breakfast items from a sponsor, Tim Hortons, with the caveat to ‘ please share your thoughts on the breakfast with your social network. I devoured the greasy delight while sitting in the backseat of my selfie-car while it drove into the city.

 

The ads that rose from the ether as I looked out of the windows were personalised and behaviorally driven with time and place considered.

 

When I selected quiet, contemplative music for the drive, I wasn’t surprised when the ‘ brought to you by ‘ included a yoga studio and a spa; both offering same week specials if booked within an hour and a voice link to testimonials from ” friends ” within my social network.

 

At the office I entered the Google collaboration holodeck with five others; we connected to the global team(another 12 members) and used voice, text, touch screen tech to share, move, grab, iterate on ideas, designs, models(which we 3D printed) for the proposed E Sports stadium for the Brisbane Olympic Games in 2032.

 

On the way home later I received several invitations to stop or order dinner for home delivery, al, based on known preferences, what I ate yesterday, my bio read for today, with ratings from within my social sphere.I decided on delivery(noodles) and decided, once home, I needed a good laugh, so asked my virtual video concierge for all Academy Award winning comedies of the past decade, along with ratings my friends had given and also asked to see if anyone wanted to co view and connect this evening.

 

While watching the comedy film, I was on Twitter and received sponsored Twitter amplified comedy shorts; both were outtakes from the movie I was watching and ” best of ” clips from the actor’s other work.

 

I ended the day in bed with my e-book reading a few pages to me, along with sharing tomorrow’s weather(brought to you by Carrier) and any key meetings on my agenda( a reminder from Timex).

Bruce Neve, Former CEO, StarcomMediavest Group 

 

What we find compelling about this above extract from Bruce(projected in 2013) is that the vast majority of what he describes is not only possible today, but is being practiced, tested and evaluated for new levels of effectiveness related to traditional approaches by marketers across categories.

 

Going Back In Time

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Genesis 3:1–5

 

If we assumed this biblical account were literally and historically accurate, we might argue that the serpent was the first advertiser, and this was the very first instance of deceptive advertising. Setting aside that some people would challenge this description’s historical accuracy, others likely would argue that it isn’t advertising—it’s direct selling! Or perhaps it’s public relations. Does that really make a difference? Of course, if the serpent was the first adman, that makes all of us in the industry a professional descendant of the serpent.

 

If we are to look at the future of something, then it is important to correspondingly understand its historical, cultural and anthropological origins. Therein lies some telltale signs and the crystal ball.

 

It is said that the future arrives gradually and then all of a sudden.
We’ve been hearing about the pending “death of advertising” for years, with ever-increasing ads having less and less influence on actual consumer decisions. Today, the up to 10,000 ads we see every day makes each of them less impactful. It turns out that hitting people in the face with a fire hose is actually a bad way to convince them they should take a drink.
The consumer is hard to impress( we could call them ‘ infidels ‘ in some way) and the next decade of advertising relies completely on them buying into our largely tech-driven, utopian vision of making every single advertising message relevant to the receiver. If you consider yourself able to predict the future within any reasonable degree of accuracy, you’ll know that a solid human understanding is absolutely essential.
Over the next 10 years, advertising will move further away from communicating to predicting, and emoting, based on human needs. According to a study by neuroeconomist Paul Zak, three out of eight people now love brands more than their spouses, because thinking of brands releases more oxytocin – the same reaction generated when being hugged. 

Without a doubt, we’re going to witness(or already witnessing) a shift from obsessing over what advertising looks like, to what advertising feels like. As we call it at ISD Global – Unique Feelings Proposition(UFP) is far more significant than the by now passe Unique Selling Proposition(USP).

And for that to happen, advertisers talking will get replaced by advertisers listening. Hearing what the customer is saying will be more important than trying to devise a break-through creative idea. Answering customers’ questions. Right now. Not tomorrow.The individual is the shaper of her own identity and its own online & offline presentation. She is no longer the consumer of the media. She is the medium– the most trusted and personal channel through which content is created, flows, finds shape, and gets presented to the world.

 

The hyper-personalization of advertising will indeed further empower the consumer but it may also save advertising from its oft predicted doom. 

 

In order to develop a future for advertising brands, there could come into existence a Need Bar. The Need Bar would be personalised for every consumer, so as to give her the ability to look for anything she needs at any time.This would result in a brand not only being present in the life of a consumer, but also catering to her every need, from any brand. Inevitably, the future of advertising will incorporate more consumer knowledge derived from the hard sciences such as biology, chemistry and physics, to complement that acquired from the softer sciences of psychology and sociology.

 

The needle is moving. Most advertisers in the very near future(if not already) would have completed their natural evolution from adjacency(stand next to the stuff people want!) to interruption( stand in the way of the stuff people want!) to content marketing (be the stuff that people want!). Enter a new era where brands that do business using a Consumer Era ” marketing as manipulation ” mindset will become irrelevant and superseded by companies that demonstrate a Relationship Era mindset. And, as forces at play lead the Relationship Era to the tipping point of wide acceptance, I believe that marketers will not be known as the scoundrels who spin but rather people with the greatest expertise in crafting authentic relationships– and adding most value to their brands and businesses.

 

What if?

– What if marketers and brands saw their marketing and advertising as an investment and a value creation engine rather than as an expense to be squeezed?

– What if the brands were seen as bringing in not only advertising dollars but also valued content to the media properties and channels they use?

– What if the creative, analytic and strategic genius that lies within the sum total of the world’s media, advertising, digital, creative etc agencies, research firms, ad tech companies, sponsorship, brand placement, – and all other players who ‘ feed off advertising ‘- were given a more inspired briefIncrease sales and leave the world a better place. Come in on budget and be proud to tell your family about what you helped create. Help us, all of us, be in thought, word and deed, create something truly exceptional!

– What if the community were to be expanded to all those whose actions imparted the brand and how it actually came to life for its audience? Not only the traditional stakeholders, but also others who could potentially describe the broader value of the brand and the brand experience in even more creative and impactful ways.

– What if all the ways that brands were brought to life with their potential and current customers were thought of holistically, and resources were allocated accordingly?

– What if every bit of the US$ 780 billion plus paid, earned and owned advertising expenditure around the globe not only resulted in sales and profit, but also resulted in net positive impact on society and culture? What if, in addition, it made a positive impact on the lives of those who were involved in it and influenced| inspired by it?

WHY NOT?

As Albert Einstein famously asserted ” Without changing our pattern of thought, we will not be able to solve the problems we created with our current patterns of thought “.

 

Amid all the changes, “the fundamental things apply as time goes by,” to quote the famous song from the classic movie Casablanca. A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is still a sigh, and human nature doesn’t change over time. Our obsessive drives to survive, to succeed, to belong and to be loved, to take care of our own—those passions have been heightened by the pandemic, and advertisers and their agencies who are sensitive to those basic needs will create brands to meet them, an act that will always require advertising.

 

Creativity will remain the most powerful force in business, and instead of changing campaigns with every change of a CMO, advertisers will rediscover the importance of consistently projecting a clear sense of purpose and doing so with a distinctive brand voice. Along the way, we’ll learn the difference between an algorithm and a true insight into human nature and the important difference between big data and a big idea.

 

Advertising has been both cause and consequence of social change.Never was it more obvious than since the start of the twentieth century. That, of course, is both a positive and a negative. It is a powerful tool of change, and like any tool, it can be misused. And at times it has been.I have no doubt that advertising will rise to meet that challenge.

ENDS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘FIED ‘ and Tested

‘FIED ‘ and Tested
If judging others constitutes full time employment, then most of the world is a very well employed space.
As beautifully articulated by Stanford professor Mark Gerzon, “The world today has an advocacy surplus and an inquiry deficit “.
‘ FIED ‘ can fall into three buckets:
QualiFIED means that you have done the work, earned the trust and have been invited to join us. You get a seat at the table. More than ever, the current technology and the lack of gatekeepers mean that your body of work could earn you the benefit of the doubt and give you a chance to speak up.
DisqualiFIED is what happens when you over promise and under deliver or you expose intent that’s not in alignment with what the rest of us expect or need.
UnqualiFIED is rare. It’s at a premium. Like in “ you have our unqualified support “. Getting the benefit of the doubt long after most people would have lost our trust is a hard won privilege. It’s very hard to earn unqualified support, so if you earn it, be careful to not waste it.
The worrying trend though is far too often even well before we begin looking at skill, we are judging people for other reasons. It is definitely not done and highly wasteful.
Being confused about what makes one qualiFIED or not, perpetuates injustice.
It is a rapid race to the bottom.
And if your quest is for the True North, then south is not the direction to head in.

One Picasso A Day?

If one were to ask what is the most loyal thing in the world, it would be the ‘ bodyclock‘. Time after time, day after day, it never lets you down in waking us up. I guess, that too, is a creature of habit.
 
Being an old schooler, waking up and writing down the ‘ to do task list ‘ of the day is de rigueur. And on the rare occasion, the list falls shy of occupying a full A4 page, disappointment gets writ large. After all, ‘ Men are from Mars ‘. And Machiavellian abilities for Herculean tasks are expected to go hand in hand. How remiss!!
We have been hardwired to think that working is productivity. But, is productivity working? After all, the map is not the territory. Nor is noise, the signal.
 
Distraction is the only constant “. How things have changedIn an on-demand, 24/7 society, where distractions cost millions of people relationships, health , peace, productivity and profitability, it’s time to pay attention to what matters most.
We are living through a crisis of distraction. Plans get sidetracked, family and friends are ignored, work never seems to get done. And that in the wake of first love and passion being firmly put long ago on the back burner, be it music or sport, travel or discovery, reading or writing..not worth it.
To create extraordinary lives, we can (re)learn to “unplug” from the constant barrage of disruptions and “plug in” to the tools, strategies, and mindsets that will allow us to harness our attention to reach our highest potential. 
You sit down at your desk to work on an important project, but a notification on your phone interrupts your morning. At home, screens get in the way of quality time with your family. Another day goes by, and once again, your most important personal and professional goals are put on hold. Story of our distraction fueled, notification driven lives.
 
If we can prepare ourselves to be as indistractable as possible, zero in on distilling the vital few from the trivial many, and be prepared to look in the ugly mirror, we can stop running on the treadmill of mediocrity. Not just that. With high focus, extreme prioritization and unflappable emotional labour, we can all get to producing our ‘ one Picasso for the day .’ What do you uniquely do that matters the most? After all, you can only do one thing really well at a time. SIP by SIP. Engage in some Mutual Fun!
Most big, deeply satisfying accomplishments in life take at least a few years to achieve. This can include cultivating a loving relationship, writing a book, getting in the best shape of your life, raising a family, building a business, and more. A few years is a long time. It is much slower than most of us would like. If you accept the reality of slow progress, you have every reason to take action today. If you resist the reality of slow progress, five years from now you’ll simply be five years older and still looking for a shortcut.
 
Where’s your paint brush? The canvas and the easel awaits. And your version of the Guernica.
So, time to offer a serenade to life, in all its terrifying and transcendent uncertainty, sung in ink, watercolor, and wonder.

Demographics is dead. Long live demographics!!

Historically, brands and marketers have sworn its allegiance to demographics. Like the proverbial Tweddle Dee and Tweddle Dum. But there just might be a twist in the tale. As quoted by Trend Watching: “You’re not the only one who’s confused by consumer behavior. Consumers themselves aren’t behaving as they should “.

 

In a post demographic era of consumerism, is it time to throw out the traditional (and tried, tired, trusted and rusted) demographic models of consumer behavior?

 

Let’s look at some really interesting snippets that break all molds of convention:

 

In the US, women now account for 41% of the universe of video game players-STATISTA

 

Asilo Padre Cacique, a retirement home in Porto Alegre, Brazil, hosted an activity day for its elderly residents a few years ago, featuring a skateboard exhibition and graffiti artists. Yes, you read right: skateboard exhibition and graffiti artists.

 

“If you look at the list of the 1,000 favorite artists for 60-year-olds and the 1,000 favorite artists for 13-year-olds, there is a 40% overlap.”-GEORGE ERGATOUDIS (HEAD OF MUSIC, BBC RADIO 1)

 

All the above may seem disconnected but it does give us a peep into where consumerism is headed. And it is not at the happy intersection of demographic centered models which brands have comfortably honed over the past several decades. This is a new path to tread. Consumption patterns are no longer defined by ‘traditional’ demographic segments such as age, gender, location, income, family status and more. In this era of post demographic consumerism, brands are realizing that people across all age groups, across multiple markets are constructing their own identities and that too more freely than ever before.

 

Yes, we still do have our usual suspects: the early adopters of products and services that brands love: Young, affluent, influential, loves experimenting and burdened with lesser commitments. This (as is empirically proven) the ideal scenario.

But as more and more brands and marketers wake up to the new reality: that any and all revolutionary – or simply just compelling – innovations will be rapidly adopted by, and/or almost instantly reshape the expectations of, any and all demographics. Without bias or prejudice. One size need not fit all or it just could!!

The always on Society is now too fluid, ideas now too easily available, the market now too efficient, the risk and cost of trying new things now too low (led by the digital world, but increasingly the case for physical products too) for this not to be the case. Let us understand why.

 

Today’s consumers – of all demographics and in all markets – increasingly buy, source and use products and services from the same mega-brands: Apple, Facebook, Amazon (the technology sector is especially universal), IKEA, McDonald’s, Uniqlo, Nike and more.

 

The ubiquity and collective familiarity with these global mega-brands, when combined with the global reach of consumer information, has also created if not a shared consciousness then certainly a new level of POST-DEMOGRAPHIC shared experience for consumers, from 16 to 60 and beyond and from Boston to Beijing, Capetown to Melbourne, Mumbai to Miami.

 

So what should executives and brand marketers look at doing to come to speed with this new reality. Well, there are a few innovation opportunities waiting to be grasped:

 

-Fall in love with the new normal (which is not normal): Embrace and celebrate new racial, social, cultural and sexual norms.

 

-Let heritage not be a baggage: Be prepared to re-examine and even overturn your brand heritage.

 

-Inorganic demographic pollination: Go beyond your comfort demographic zones. Explore foreign demographics hitherto not tapped into for ideas and inspiration.

 

-Borrow from the Long Tail effect: Explore smaller niches of interest. There is serious potential resident there.

As we move into the future, successful products, services and brands will transcend and move beyond their initial demographics almost instantaneously. Brand executives who continue to attempt to navigate using demographic maps, with borders defined by age, gender, location, income will be under-prepared for the speed, magnitude, and direction of change.

 

There is no doubt that understanding consumers’ needs and wants remains critical (Consumer Insight & Market Research companies will go out of business otherwise, isn’t it?). However, it will be those that take a broad view and learn from innovations that are delighting consumers in seemingly dissimilar or even opposing demographics that will succeed, regardless of which ‘traditional’ demographic(s) they serve.

CAVEAT EMPTOR: There is a Great Demographic Reversal: Through Ageing Societies, Waning Inequality, and an Inflation Revival, post the pandemic.

Demographics(as we knew it) is dead. Long live demographics!!

 

The Creative Apocalypse: Preparing your Client

The Creative Apocalypse: Preparing your Client!

There is great, there is good and there is average (ok).

Superlative. Comparative. Relative. Most of us want  (at least there is good enough intent!) to do good work and over a period of time how that transmits to average and below remains an unsolved mystery. Have we ever started out saying; ” Let’s do some Great Work “? No one came into the profession thinking ‘I really want to produce work that’s a bit meh, a bit vanilla, that makes no impact on the world and sinks without a trace.’ So how come we don’t see brave creative work that often? The occasional breakthrough shines like a lighthouse across a lacklustre sea of work that is often undeniably boring, weirdly familiar or just more than a little disappointing.

 

So how is the end game playing out? It’s a whole new world out there. Recession or no recession- there is a perennial pressure on budgets and jobs. The ‘always on shifting media landscape and the move from broadcasting messages to managing conversations. The balancing of brand, ROI and an increasing reliance on data and metrics. There is safety in numbers (metrics reloaded!). Data is the new oil. And that too is now old hat. And how! All of these things have stitched together a sinister conspiracy in the last 10 years or so and made it more difficult for creatively brave work to ever see the light today(with some exceptions of course).  It takes real balls for a client, or an agency, to take a leap of faith in this climate. Till then, it’s a lip of fate! And sealed at that. ‘ Faith accompli ‘ anyone?

Where does the skull drudgery end? What can be done? Selling creatively brave ideas requires an ability to promote the safety of risky situations (don’t miss the contradiction here), psychological management skills and a client that can hold their nerve (while letting go of her purse strings!). Sometimes you have to help hold it for them.

This situation provides both agency and the client an absolutely perfect platform to do creative tango. So here is the brief(in vest in it!): Depart from norm(it’s the mandatory new normal, so no big deal), break free from convention whilst remaining true to creating lasting campaign impact and brand recall. Surprise, delight, coerce, intimidate, purposefully provoke, question and come back to do more of the same. The brain remembers only what it least expects. So, deliver the unexpected. Don’t just hand hold the client, hold her heart and get to your customers’ soul in the process. That soul stirring exercise should be your sole purpose.

 

USP(Unique Selling Proposition) is passe, dead and buried. The time is about creating UFP( Unique Feeling Proposition). 

 

WANTED: Creative Bravehearts. On both sides. Ready to take the leap?

B(r)AGging Rights!

Had some waiting to do upon landing at the airport, so decided( after the usual polite skirmish with sweat, suede and swear words) to be an inno scent bystander next to the baggage carousel as it aimlessly(and somewhat harmlessly) went around in circles. So here’s the 360 Degree on it, motivated, well, by bags of time!
– The absolute nonchalance with each and every piece of baggage gets treated once it finds its (p)ride of place on the carousel has convinced me that the carousel is the only place in the world that is completely agnostic to brands. Tumi, Louis Vuitton, Delsey, Tommy Hilfiger, Samsonite, American Tourister, VIP, BOSS, Echolac, Safari…all came (and went) alike. The message was loud and clear. Rest in Piece…till such time your owner gets a handle on you!
– Nowhere will you see a better study in contrast. The bags taking its own sweet time to get to where it ought to, unabashedly relaxed, clinically unrepentant, approaching arrogance ( I am the BOSS here, you better give me the VIP treatment), do not intrude on my hammockstyle existence..On the other side, the owners: anxious, impatient, irritated, worried, chaos personified.

– The bags I tell you love drama (and some gymnastics as well). Every now and then they bring you to the edge as they salsa, spin and swirl but manage to stay on top of the carousel. That in the process they knock off a few socks from ankles and uncles is a different story. Really edge of the seat stuff! 
– The area surrounding the baggage belt is actually a medical practitioner’s delight. The ideal place to easily diagnose the following including but not restricted to: Slip disc, Parkinsons, Blood Pressure, Hypertension, Colour blindness…is it blue or green? And the real owner sees red in the bargain. If you don’t mind, could you please help me offload the bag – I travelled light this time-it’s just 87 kgs( any more and she would have had to hire a cargo plane).

– Do you think the carousel is an ideal candidate for acute nausea? Imagine going around in circles, hour after hour, day after day- where does it begin? And where does it end? Flight or fight? Methinks its happy to be a spin doctor!
– So the next time you travel, carry XS baggage. Xtra Small. Give the carousel a break…unless of course you want to see some Delsey, all at sea! Boss, it makes no sense Tumi! Wait- I will ask Tommy– maybe HILFIGER it out!

“Life truly is a journey, and the less baggage we carry the easier the ride.” ~ Wally Amos

ENDS