Oh..to be a ‘ misfit ‘, may not be in the fitness of things!


This probably might not be for those who miss fitting in. I am sorry if it is not for you. Perhaps I don’t fit in. That said, I am happy to be a misfit !


The famous rapper and singer Drake said, “I was born to make mistakes, not to fake perfection “.


If vulnerability is your strength, you might be a misfit..


If standing naked in your own truth is your go-to attire, you might be a misfit..


If your answers are questions, you might be a misfit..


If you are leading as a follower, you might be a misfit..


If you sit comfortably while standing inside your own failure, you might be a misfit..


If you don’t fall prey to the  ‘ wisdom of the crowds ‘, you might be a misfit..


If you are contrarian in your thinking, you might be a misfit..


If you don’t run the wanting to be an ‘ also ran race ‘, you might be a misfit..


If you are open about your ‘ imposter syndrome ‘, you might be a misfit..


If, as a personality, you don’t want to B Type A, you might be a misfit..


If you see shame in being the same, you might be a misfit..


If ‘ out of place ‘ is the place you seek, you might be a misfit..


If you don’t want to be all things to all people, you might be a misfit..



It must have come as a relief that a lot of us misfits so have so many places to go to, situations to be in and standards to be measured by. Perhaps because, institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs we outsiders as surplus people.


As Sarah Addison Allen put it out it so beautifully “ Misfits need a place to get away, too. All that trying to fit in is exhausting.



Can You Pull Off Modesty as a Social Strategy?

Modesty is showing restraint in the appreciation of oneself and of one’s qualities.
In literature, modesty is unpretentiousness in the expression of feelings.
Modesty is the color of virtue.
There are several explanations going around but the above is a reasonable summa summarum of what modesty is. We get the message.
Impressions matter in life. Whether it’s a client meeting, an office get together, a first date, a job interview, how others perceive us, can define or destroy our goals. That being said, in a team setting where cooperation and collaboration is the rote, display of luxury items be it watches, bags, shoes, cars or any such could actually be a party pooper. Especially if they are done with the intent to enhance and communicate social status.
Recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ( Deborah Small | Alixandra Barasch | Shalena Srna) says that when an individual uses luxury goods, the person is perceived as someone out to boost his|her own social value and hence selfish and a poor team player. As a result, they are less likely to inspire cooperation or be chosen by others for their teams. By contrast, in competitive situations, the same ostentatious person is often favored over more modest rivals.
Yes, The Devil indeed wears Prada. ‘ Conspicuous consumption ‘ was a term coined by Sociologist Thorstein Veblen in 1899 to describe people acquiring luxury goods and services not just for their superior quality but also as a visible sign of their wealth and status. 
Status is a potent weapon for determining and influencing consumer behavior and the pursuit of status is highly valued in cultures that are characterized by hierarchy and tradition. This is the consumer insight that is leveraged by brands like Louis Vuitton or Burberry and the insignia display of LV or the Plaid is used unabashedly. Ostentatious consumers tend to be seen as more arrogant, less warm, and even less moral. The Devil Wears Prada is fictional but the association between luxury spenders and emotional frostiness is very real.
Context has a big role to play here. Name dropping, fancy clothes etc would be helpful in winning negotiations but where teamwork and cooperation is the call of the hour, modesty is a better approach.

The same Sociologist Veblen also coined the term ” conspicuous compassion “. Status signalling is not just about overtly displaying wealth or career success. It can come in the form of green credentials, altruism, being a rebel or a contrarian, or being cool, depending on which circle you are seen in and want to influence. 

Being sincerely modest is not easy, because there is a great temptation to fall into falsehood. The playwright Prosper Jolyot de Crais-Billon (1707-1777) said: “Of all the virtues, the one which, in the world, always seemed to me to succeed least to the one who practices it, is modesty.” While the poet Pierre Reverdy (1889-1960) added: “The best thing about modesty is the intelligence that must be deployed to stick to it“.
There is a very close link between modesty and humility, but the line is a fine one. It would be tempting to see modesty only as a social convention, while humility would be truth in itself.
So, if status signaling is the intent, pay attention to contextModesty Blaise anyone?
Tempted to offer a link here to an old article from BrandKnew on The Braggart’s Dilemma: How to Promote Yourself Without Being a Jerk “.

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..


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.



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



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.


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.


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.


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