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Showing posts from March, 2009

The dilemma that Varun as a stimuli is

The success of any brand that's extended lies in whether consumers respond by generalising or discriminating with the stimuli being used. Stimulus generalisation is a must for an extension to work. Instead if consumers discriminate, the extension goes kaput.

Varun Gandhi has had new-found notoriety overnight. The dilemma that BJP faces is akin to what brands face. Let me explain. Should voters generalise Varun as a stimuli they will tend to associate the BJP with what Varun stands for and that's hardline hindutva. This is good to get the hardline voters to cast their lot with the BJP. The problem is the neutral voters could be turned off by the radical association that Varun brings. Their votes may be lost. The converse to this scene playing out is, voters discriminating Varun as a stimuli and therefore not associating his hardline hindutva with the BJP. The fallout? Lose the radical voter, and maybe, get the neutral one.

This is quite a dilemma. Its still early time for us to s…

The Marketing taint

Considering what Abhijit Dasgupta states as 'consumer oriented copy', helps decipher why at times consumers don't want, what you think they want. Instead they want you to give them whatever it is you came up with. And that's without asking them what they wanted. It also goes to reveal why the latter's better.Take 'News' for example. News channels by choice can either churn out 'consumer oriented copy' or they can belt out analysis that's not 'diluted' by any marketing imperatives. The latter's bound to work in the long run because the latter's 'original', without 'taint'. The former is 'marketing-tainted', and so isn't original, and is also up for grabs when it comes to imitations. That is, along comes another channel that too provides consumer-oriented copy and so finds itself belting out 'news' that's uncannily similar to the earlier consumer-driven channel.But note, this doesn't mean…

Indian Election Expenses

Overall estimated expense on election 2009: Rs 10,000-16,000 crore. Doesn't include non-cash "gifts", about 25% is cash bribes. In a constituency with 4 candidates: Rs 1 crore approximate authorised expenditure. Rs 5-16 crore actual expenditure.Cash bribes from candidates spent on liquor, repaying loans, daily expenses and other essentials that cannot wait—usually unproductive expenditure.The average cash handout is expected to rise, according to a CMS survey, from Rs 100 per person in election 2004, to Rs 500 this year.Election expenses likely to be about 0.2% of the GDP in 2009; not significant by itself, except that the entire sum is spent over just one month.Source: Outlookindia

India Weekly Poll Meter

Courtesy: DNA (Click on graphic to enlarge)

Old is a destination

'You can discern the years between 16 and 20. You know a 21-year-old from a 28-year-old, but I bet you can’t mark a decade between 60 and 90. You can’t read the gradations and patinas. Not that old people hide them; you can’t tell because you don’t look. And you don’t look because you don’t care. Really, who cares how old the old are? Old is a destination. There is nothing after old. Just nothing.

Now, just one more thing: take another look at your old person and tell me, what was it that determined that they were old? What made you think they weren’t just young with a lived-in face and a hangover? If you can’t tell what age old is, how do you know when they’ve got there? Do you think they just wake up one morning to discover they’re past everything but care and caring? Old is not a number, it’s not a date. It’s simply the absence of youth, the absence of attraction, interest, new friends, society. The absence of conviviality, warmth, choice, or surprise, or life.'

- A A Gill,

What brands must talk about

Listening to L K Advanitalk about illegal stashes in off-shore safe haven bank accounts, I was struck by the realisation that most reporters covering the press conference were least interested in the subject. Instead, what they really wanted to know was what L K Advani thought about Varun's arrest and the events surrounding it. The BJP Prime ministerial candidate declined to elaborate on the Varun saga.Subsequent news reports on TV sidelined what Advani had talked about, focusing more on the fact that he had declined to comment in detail on Varun. Today's TOI story on the Press conference gets relegated to the the ninth page. Varun still features on front pages across newspapers in India.Brands must realise that many a times, what they try and communicate is not what their audience wants to hear. Especially when the brand's had a bad bout of publicity. Brands make a mistake using advertising to counter bad publicity, more so when the Ad-content doesn't make any mention…

Chalk Genius

Find the chalkguy here.

(In 1991, at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp, Ben met an elderly chalk artist by the name of Bill Leach who became his mentor and asked him to carry on his ministry, Living Art, when he became too ill to accept any more engagements. Bill passed away in 1994, leaving his legacy of dazzling chalk art and a heart for seeing lives transformed through Christ, to Ben. Fast-forward thirteen years.)

India aspires for two-wheelers?

I agree with Pawan Munjal when he writes, 'India is a nation of two wheelers'. I also agree when he states, 'I see two-wheelers permeating the remotest villages of India, I see women going to work on scooters, I see more satellite towns developing as people travel on their bikes for work, I see small business men and traders conducting their businesses using their bikes as the medium, and in all this I see the vision of a dynamic, mobile and a well-connected India.It is the two-wheeler industry that will pry open consumer aspirations and build a base for low-cost cars if at all; but not without the ever-burgeoning market that two-wheelers will always create and sustain. The story of the two-wheeler industry in India is not about market share is about market creation.'But then there is something in what he says that I need to elaborate on, and in a different way, and that is his quote on 'consumer aspirations'. A two wheeler for the mass consumer in Ind…

Who's watched on Cable News?

CNN is now officially No. 3. Its ratings have slipped, getting it behind Fox that's the leader and MSNBC that takes spot No.2.

But CNN says its overall business is healthy and it is not straying from its 'straight news' path. It claims it is suffering more audience erosion than its rivals since the peak days of the presidential election, further proof that the opinionated prime-time shows on Fox and MSNBC have greater audience loyalty.

I find that hilarious. Opinionated news, and CNN washes it hands of the concept? When was CNN 'straight'? Bashing Bush and pushing the liberal agenda has always been the hallmark of cable news players like CNN and MSNBC. Their ratings have dropped not because of any lack of opinion, its because the liberals as usual make up their minds without considering any facts. Heresay is good enough. Conservatives on the other hand are riveted to the likes of Fox, due their opinionated yet logic driven analysis that they find compelling.

The liber…

When its about you, its called Marketing

Anita tells me about how most conversations she's in is about an endless ramble, centered around the others person's life. Its always about them and what they do. She admits to going nuts and she thinks this oft-repeated scenario could spawn an industry where all one's got to do is to cultivate the patience to listen to another, of course for a sum.The truth is, such industries exists. Its in fact every Business-to-Consumer industry. Every product and service that's a success story is because its an outcome to the act of marketing. And marketing is about the other person, the consumer. Its about responding to that person's ramble (read, desires centered around the self) in the form of products and services. The business of products and services is the business of fulfillment. Fulfillment of consumer needs, expressed as wants.At the heart of being centered around one-self lies the act of 'dependence'. As Scott Peck writes in his classic, 'The Road Less T…

Innovation 'a la McDonald's

'When he needed to use the restroom, I was surprised to find child-size fixtures alongside the adult ones. This might not seem like a big deal, but in all my years of going to vegetarian restaurants and natural foods markets, I never remember seeing a kid-friendly bathroom. Surely, the people who work at such places are more likely to know about Maria Montessori and her belief that children need exactly these kinds of accommodations in order to feel comfortable in the world. Yet, it appears to have been McDonald's that introduced this innovation, as well as the PlayPlaces, into the world of commercial eateries.

And so I have had to revise my opinion of companies I formerly viewed in an entirely negative light. And I expect I'll keep taking my son to Wendy's, McDonald's, and Burger King. Not that they'll make much money off us: We've yet to consume anything other than bottled water, juice, and milk. But if they're so – dare I say it? – enlightened about …

Akon in the ghetto? Ha ha!

Listening to Akon singing 'Ghetto' gets me laughing. Don't get me wrong. The song's pretty decently sung. Its the lyrics that make me guffaw. Akon talks about life in ghettos. Surely life out there's mean. But when Akon sings, 'So you end up self destructing; On the corner with the tuli on the waist tight just got outta the bing doin stay time; Teeth marks on my back from the canine; Dark Memories of when there was no sunshine', I can't help but laugh, now that I know Akon's past.
Note Smoking Gun, 'Akon's ad nauseum claims about his criminal career and resulting prison time have been, to an overwhelming extent, exaggerated, embellished, or wholly fabricated. Police, court, and corrections records reveal that the entertainer has created a fictionalized backstory that serves as the narrative anchor for his recorded tales of isolation, violence, woe, and regret. Akon has overdubbed his biography with the kind of grit and menace that he apparen…

Renunciation of Hope

'Suicide remains a baffling and frightening renunciation of hope. Self-preservation is, along with procreation, the strongest human instinct. Yet suicide occurs, to greater and lesser degrees, in every society, and is almost always regarded as a violation of nature and instinct. “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem,” reflected Albert Camus, “and that is suicide”...

Trying to pin down the causes of suicide is notoriously difficult, as rates vary so widely between and within populations, age groups and sexes. Mental illness is usually an underlying element in the equation, while alcohol is widely considered an exacerbating factor.

Durkheim believed that the roots of suicide also lay in social factors, a crisis of values caused by modern anomie, loneliness and soul-crushing urbanism. Stronger social control among Catholics, he argued, resulted in lower suicide rates than among Protestants. Lack of social integration and the decay of ordered belief systems left individ…

For the marketer, guilt's good

I get a mail from Deepali that features the 'Earth Hour 2009' campaign. The communique' asks me switch off my lights, 8.30 - 9.30 pm., coming 28th.

Tell you what, my lights will shine bright. That's because I don't believe in this Global Warming mumbo-jumbo. There's enough evidence out there to show that man cannot sway the elements. Now I am not saying one needn't worry about how one treats the eco-system. Surely we must care. But Global Warming? Hogwash!

It isn't global warming that I want to talk about. Its the aftermath to reading a message that exhorts you to switch your lights off, because that's the way you are supposed to show you care, about the environment. If the decision is not to switch off, in all probability there's going to be a lingering sense of guilt. Of not participating in this movement. It almost makes you feel like you are heartless. And that's a pretty potent feeling. The feeling of guilt.

Guilt's a strong emotion. S…

Ten things you need to Nano

Courtesy: Outlook, Graphic (Click to enlarge) by Tanmoy Chakraborty.

Courage, thy name's Ron Silver

'But for my younger readers, what courage traditionally meant was risking the disapprobation of people you know. It was about losing friends, losing work and losing status where you live -- not alienating people you will never meet. Insulting people in Kansas when you live in Los Angeles is not speaking truth to power; it's speaking anything to serve power.

One thing you cannot say about Ron's magnificent speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention is that he did it to go with the flow in Hollywood, to take the path of least resistance, to win easy applause. Ron did lose work, lose friends and lose his entire social apparatus. Ron didn't say what he said to get any kind of reaction, but because he believed it. He was an intellectual trapped in an actor's body.'

- Ann Coulter, 'Silver's Bravery Not an Act.'

Tata Nano's non-nano sized problems

I don't think there's any doubt on the TataNano being a social leveller, in that it will now allow the 'lower middle class' in India access to a car. Its about time this consumer set avail the benefits a car brings, especially since their previous rides had the whole family balancing precariously on a two wheeler.

Beyond the social implications, lie the business ones. As Prof. Sekharwas musing this morning, will the TataNano be financially sustainable in the long run, wafer thin margins and all? If volumes are the key does Tata have the capacity to build the kind of scale that can produce the volumes? Now, these aren't nano sized problems.

About the BusinessWeek article titled, 'What TataNano can teach Detroit', note what Jayadev has to day, 'Before we look at Detroit, shouldn't we first look at what can Tata'sNano teach Tata? The car is barely on the roads (and we don't even know yet if the car will fall apart in 3 years like the initial Indi…

The fatal consequences of 'Sexting'

Any thing that can be used, can be misused too. Take communication networks for example. As much as they help marketers take their messages to users, these very networks can sometimes prove fatal for a user.One victim of such misuse has been Jessica Logan. Now, Jessie's parents are attempting to launch a national campaign seeking laws to address "sexting", the practice of forwarding and posting sexually explicit cell-phone photos online. The Logans also want to warn teens of the harassment, humiliation and bullying that can occur when that photo gets forwarded.Laws that prevent such misuse is the need of the hour. Regulating technology networks will prove a gargantuan task. The least we can do is enact laws that ward people off from misuse. That would at least be a good start.

Cash back promised? Beware!

When SpiceJet tells you that you can have a cash back of 50% on your booked ticket, you got to beware. Because the Cash back is just on the base fare and so the maximum you can avail works this way: 'You are eligible for 50% cash back or Rs.400 on base fare on sectors below 750 kms. and Rs.800 on sectors above 750 kms. whichever is less. The offer is valid only if you BOOK between 24 March 2009 to 31 March 2009 and FLY before 15 April 2009. Offer valid only once per credit card.'Now all of this is not mentioned in their banner ad that screams, 'Fly SpiceJet before April 15, get instant 50% cash back'. Whilst bookig, SpiceJet gives you an option of a link that explains their cash back details, yet, in all probability there could be fliers who take the Ad headline at face value and book, only to realise later that the 50% wasn't on the total amount but just on the base fare.Now wonder, now, the DGCA has asked all airlines to publish fares as a single amount in their …

What can Tata's Nano teach Detroit?

Businessweek: 'Understanding your customer, or potential customers, is another. What do your customers need? What do they really want? What can they afford? The customer was ever-present in the development of the Nano. Tata didn't set the price of the Nano by calculating the cost of production and then adding a margin. Rather it set $2,500 as the price that it thought customers could pay and then worked back, with the help of partners willing to take on a challenge, to build a $2,500 car that would reward all involved with a small profit.

The Nano engineers and partners didn't simply strip features out of an existing car—the tack Renault took with its Dacia Logan, which sells in India for roughly $10,000. Instead, they looked at their target customers' lives for cost-cutting ideas. So, for instance, the Nano has a smaller engine than other cars because more horsepower would be wasted in India's jam-packed cities, where the average speed is 10 to 20 miles per hour.


Obama's Icarus paradox

The Teleprompter aided 'gift of the gab' that made Obama president, now seems to be his undoing. Of course, sans the teleprompter.

Its the Icarus paradox all over again. That which caused his rise to glory will bring him down. Off handed remarks including the reference to Special Olympics only brings to fore the real Obama. That's who he really is, remember, sans the teleprompter.

For all the airheads who thought President Bush was the idiot, what say now?

The end of America?

'Helicopter Ben Bernanke’s Federal Reserve is dropping trillions of fresh paper dollars on the world economy, the President of the United States is cracking jokes on late night comedy shows, his energy minister is threatening a trade war over carbon emissions, his treasury secretary is dithering over a banking reform program amid rising concerns over his competence and a monumentally dysfunctional U.S. Congress is launching another public jihad against corporations and bankers.

As an aghast world — from China to Chicago and Chihuahua — watches, the circus-like U.S. political system seems to be declining into near chaos. Through it all, stock and financial markets are paralyzed. The more the policy regime does, the worse the outlook gets. The multi-ringed spectacle raises a disturbing question in many minds: Is this the end of America?'

- Terence Corcoran, 'Is this the end of America?'

Morality & the Ango-Saxon Business model

After RohiniNilekani, its now ArunMaira's turn to exhort the faithful to abandon what he terms the 'Anglo-Saxon' business model. Note: The tide has turned against the Anglo-Saxon model. In a recent poll in 20 countries for the World Economic Forum, over 60% of respondents said they want more government control over business activity.

Before I respond to the desire for 'governmental control', let me address the issue that Arun has with Business Schools. He states, 'The student asked whether business schools had caused the economic mess that America and the world was in. The student’s question forced the board to introspect on the fundamental ideas that business schools teach, and also on what they do not teach but should. They agreed that the concept of ‘responsibility’ underlying business management techniques taught in business schools is too self-centred. And also that business schools do very little, if anything, to help managers build their internal moral co…

Consumer prices rising

AP: U.S. consumer prices rose in February by the largest amount in seven months as gasoline prices surged again and clothing costs jumped the most in nearly two decades. But the increase appeared to ease many economists' concerns about dangerous price movements in either direction. The recession is expected to dampen any inflation pressures for at least the rest of this year, while the slight uptick in prices over the last two months also has made the possibility of deflation more remote.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday that consumer inflation rose 0.4 percent in February, the biggest one-month jump since a 0.7 percent rise in July. Two-thirds of last month's increase, which was slightly more than analysts expected, reflected a big jump in gasoline pump prices. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.2 percent in February, also slightly higher than the 0.1 percent rise economists expected.

People pay taxes, not corporations

Another tax question: If there's an imposition of a property tax on your land, who pays the tax? I guarantee you that land does not pay taxes; only people pay taxes. That means a tax on your land is a tax on you. You say, "Williams, that's pretty elementary, isn't it?" But what do you say to a politician or news media people who propose increasing corporate taxes as means to get rich corporations to pay their rightful share of government? They should be told that they speak nonsense because corporations, like land, do not pay taxes; only people pay taxes.

If a tax is levied on a corporation, and if it is to survive, it must raise the price of its product, or lower dividends or lay off workers. In each case, it is people, not some legal fiction called a corporation, who bear the burden of any tax levied on the corporation. An important subject area in economics called tax incidence says that the entity upon whom a tax is levied does not necessarily bear the burden …

When does customisation work?

Customising products and services works on the premise of 'personalisation' that would be welcomed by the consumer. APNews reports that 'Time Inc. is experimenting with a customized magazine that combines reader-selected sections from eight publications as it tries to mimic in printed form the personalized news feeds that have become popular on the Internet.

Readers can select five titles from eight published by subsidiaries of Time Warner Inc. and American Express Co., Time, Sports Illustrated, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Money, In Style, Golf, and Travel + Leisure. Editors will pre-select the stories that make it into every biweekly issue, and readers won't have the option of changing the picks from issue to issue.

My skepticism at Time Inc.'s initiative arises from my evaluation of the reader out there. I guess each of these publications has its own target reader segment. That's a valid assumption to make. The customisation drive will work only if that reade…

Cutting prices n' discounting ain't the same

'Cutting prices' is slightly different from offering promos on a full price. Why this distinction is important is due to the subsequent 'reference price' that consumers internalise. Price cuts drop the brand's internal reference price. That is, that brand will then be accepted only at the lowered (cut) price. This is unlike discounting. A discounted price may not drop the 'accepted price' in the minds of consumers.

I agree that discounts may drive the customer away from a purchase should the brand not offer one. But at least that's better than the customer dropping the price of brand in his mind, in addition demanding a discount on the lowered price.

When FT reports with a headline that reads, 'GM to cut prices to lure back US buyers', it assumes 'dropping prices' is the same as 'discounting', and that's a flaw. In fact GM intends to lure back buyers with promos. FT reports that, 'General Motors is preparing a fresh barrage…

Nostalgia kills Logical thinking

Nostalgia is the enemy to logical thinking. And nostalgia is what prompts and afflicts RohiniNilekani as she exhorts, the way she states it in her column, why the 'state must be brought back in'.

She starts her column by stating, 'Whenever the family travelled together, while most of us would admire the greenery, my father-in-law would sigh ecstatically over the beauty of the giant pylons striding across the fields. To him, they represented the engineering talent and achievements of the public sector, munificently straddling the commanding heights of the economy'.

Surely the picture she paints sounds and seems endearing, but what jarrs it, is what happens almost the same time elsewhere. I guess I was a kid then and I guess I was standing at this snaking line, trying to buy a packet of milk from a booth run by this co-operative union, adept at denying a kid like me the packet I needed, by the time I reached my turn at the counter. So I guess, I went back home, empty-hand…

The Rise of the Underground

WSJ: Economists have long thought the underground economy -- the vast, unregulated market encompassing everything from street vendors to unlicensed cab drivers -- was bad news for the world economy. Now it's taking on a new role as one of the last safe havens in a darkening financial climate, forcing analysts to rethink their views.

At the Manek Chowk market, in this Indian city's congested center, vendors peddle everything from beans to brass pots from a row of derelict stalls as monkeys scramble overhead. One man sharpens nails using a spinning blade attached to a moving bicycle wheel. Their wages are pitiful by Western standards. But there are no layoffs at the Manek market. All anyone has to do to work there is show up and start hawking -- something more and more people are doing these days.

Appeasement denies Freedom

I thank God that I live in a democracy. Growing up, the socialist propaganda that we pandered to, saw my economic freedom at its lowest. Thank God, we've changed and I love the new freedom I enjoy. The freedom to consume products and services from around the world.The worst life is one that's bonded. Politically, economically, culturally. Not standing up to such enslavement, and pandering to movements that support it, is called appeasement. The last great hope against such appeasement was called George W Bush. The latest name to appeasement is Barack Obama. It worries me no end when I take in Obama's foreign policies that are aimed at tolerating if not supporting tyrannical regimes around the world that prevent their citizenry from what must be their birthright, Freedom.Micheal Leeden warns us of Obama Appeasement policies when he says, Winston Churchill: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”They like to call themselves “realists,” but t…

The Green Goblin strikes!

In times of recession where consumer sentiment is at its lowest, the last thing governments must do is to raise business costs. Beacause the 'raised costs' will then be passed on by the business concern to to the consumer as higher prices. That makes it even worse for the already beleaguered consumer.The Obama administration doesn't get this simple concept. The 'green-mania' that it suffers from will see a tax being imposed on 'evil-big-businesses' for their 'carbon footprints'. Who really suffers in the end? Its the consumer, stupid!The Obama administration is catastrophe personified. Note Kevin McCullough: 'One of the great lies that President Obama continues to try to perpetuate is to say that "going green" would jump start economic growth. At the same time, he restated in his address to Congress what he had said on the campaign trail: that no family earning less than $250,000 would see an increase in taxes. Yet every family in Amer…

Gimmickry & brands; caution!

Gimmickry is good for attention. But if the consumer can make a dichotomous judgement post consumption, that is, love it or hate it, the brand's in trouble if the consumer concludes the latter.
Take 'Obama fingers', for example. Great, the name gets the brand on Drudge and therefore garners top-notch awareness. The consumer driven by curiosity may quickly move on to a purchase action. Once consumption happens and by any chance if the 'fingers' taste awful, the brand's as good as dead. Never mind its called Obama or Warren Buffet. It don't matter.

Brands that can't have the consumer make a dichotomous judgement are better off with gimmickry. Because the consumer can't for himself decide what he must feel. In fact the brand communiques are the ones that help him judge. And if those communiques have been crafted well, you may even have the consumer eating out of your hands.

Coming back to Obama fingers, about the racist undertones to the product. Awww...c…

Did you know, Fast food's a lifesaver

Jaden and Alphy are in Dubai, holidaying. They will be gone a month. That leaves me on my own, which means I face the gravest threat to my very existence, something that every person on his own, in India faces. The prospect of having to eat out. Eating out in India means your insides are going to be turned inside out.

I don't care what Eric Schlosser says in his book, 'Fast Food Nation', I am praying we can someday have the kind of fast food outlet spread in India the way its in the US. I don't care about calories and the other 'nuclear proliferation' kind of threat fast food brings. All I want is affordable, yet more importantly, clean hygienic food. That's next to impossible to come by in India. Eating out here means you are at the mercy of cooking techniques that redefine molecular structures of food products. Take for example Oil, you can never tell how old and how used the oil is in any cooking process at any fast food outlet in India. Oh, you telling m…

Its not the food

'The food at both Koshy’s and MTR is a matter of taste. Some call it middling; others can’t do without it. Being vegetarian, I find little to tempt me at Koshy’s and little to titilliate me at MTR. The food, however, is not the point. Both Koshy’s and MTR are as much about routine and habit as they are about what’s on the menu (MTRdoesn’t even have a menu). They are a pleasing afterthought to a morning walk and a convenient spot to meet old friends.'

- ShobaNarayan, 'The egalitarian cult of café communities'.

Make versus Buy?

'Make versus Buy' used to be food for thought. Now its 'make'. No buy.

At least that's true when it comes to eating out for consumers. Either its value meals out, or its value meals in, cooked, of course.

In Mumbai, Nelson Wang, restaurateur says that the frequency of big bills in the Rs5,000-15,000 range have halved at his chain of restaurants in Mumbai and New Delhi. He adds, “I can see the bills shrinking. From south Bombay to the suburbs, it’s happening at all establishments. Nowadays most people go out to eat only on special occasions and usually drink at home first".

During times of cut-back by consumers 'leisure and entertainment' takes a back seat. And of course, 'make' turns the flavour of the season.

Household wealth going down

Reuters: U.S. households suffered a record 9 percent drop in wealth and pared debt in the fourth quarter as a deepening recession battered confidence and finances, Federal Reserve data showed on Thursday.

Household net worth dropped by $5.1 trillion from the prior quarter to $51.5 trillion. For the full year, net worth dropped by $11.2 trillion, reflecting steep declines in the housing and stock markets.

Capitalism's future

What, then, is capitalism’s future? Our current, damaged system is not, despite Marx’s hopes, to be replaced by a totally egalitarian, communist society (such arrangements might be there in life after death). Our future political economy will probably not be one in which Smith or his present-day disciples could find much comfort: there will be a higher-than-welcome degree of government interference in “the market”, somewhat larger taxes and heavy public disapprobation of the profit principle in general.

Schumpeter and Keynes, one suspects, will feel rather more at home with our new post-excess neocapitalist political economy. It will be a system where the animal spirits of the market will be closely watched (and tamed) by a variety of national and international zookeepers – a taming of which the great bulk of the spectators will heartily approve – but there will be no ritual murder of the free-enterprise principle, even if we have to plunge further into depression for the next years. …

Brands bestow Identity

'Like the battered child, the battered woman gets a powerful feeling of overwhelming relief when an incident ends. She becomes addicted to that feeling. The abuser is the only person who can deliver moments of peace, by being his better self for a while. Thus the abuser holds the key to the abused person's feeling of well being. The abuser delivers the high highs that delivers the low lows, and the worse the bad times get, the better the good times are in contrast. All of this is in addition to the fact that the a battered woman is shell shocked enough to believe that each horrible incident may be the last.'

That's Gavin De Becker writing about why women choose to be in abusive relationships in his must-read book, 'The Gift of Fear'. A little of what I quoted would help people understand why Rihanna chose to stay with Chris Brown and why they are now even rumored to have tied the knot.
Much of what we know about abuse can help us draw some parallels when it comes…

Understanding People

One philosopher to another: "I don't really understand people. Tell them that you can go around the world in half and hour, or that a boy was born with a snake's body, and they'll believe it. But put a sign on a bench saying 'WET PAINT' and everybody will touch it to see if its true."- Chistes de tutifruti (Selector, Mexico City)

Rush, rush!

Attacking brands that have sealed their fan base's loyalty may not be a good idea. In fact such attacks only strengthen the resolve of that brand's followers to stay put, stay loyal. Take Rush Limbaugh for example. Rush's fan base is deeply loyal to him. This loyalty has been earned over the years by Rush, by being an original and not caving to any establishment's overtures. Fans like that. They like the fact that he can't be 'bought', that he would speak his mind and not bother about consequences. Barack Obama and his acolytes didn't get that and so they lunged at him only to have disastrous consequences.Note Camille Paglia: 'Yes, I cringe when Rush plays his "Barack the Magic Negro" satire or when he gratuitously racializes the debate over Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is a constant subject of withering scrutiny for quite different reasons on sports shows here in Philadelphia. On the other hand, I totally agree with…

'Ragging' is about Cowardice

Ragging (Hazing) is an act of cowardice. At the heart of it lies a diabolical desire to prey on the helpless who can't fight back because of their 'junior' status. Bullies who 'rag' exist in classrooms across India. Their machinations are not restricted to their juniors. It is at times unleashed even on teaching faculty, especially the mild mannered ones.

Aman's death is more than tragic. To be done to death in a place of learning is shocking. But what makes it gruesome is the fact that it happened at the hands of his senior students. Students who should have taken on the responsibility of guiding and mentoring the likes of Aman.

Its time ragging is stopped in its entirety. Doesn't matter what form it takes. 'Initiation', 'Introduction', whatever, no student must be asked to do anything he doesn't want to. And the ones who try and do the 'ragging' bit, must be put behind bars. Because that's where they belong.

Social Networks beat E-mail

USA Today: According to a report from The Nielsen Company, social networks and blogs have moved ahead of personal e-mail among the most popular online activities, and are fourth most popular overall. Time spent on these sites is growing three times faster than the overall Internet rate, the report says. More than two-thirds of the world's online population now visits social networking and blogging sites, with such "member communities" growing twice as fast as the other leading online sectors (search, portals, PC software, e-mail). In all, one in every online 11 minutes is spent in one of these sites.

Nielsen Online examined nine global markets. Among these, penetration for social networks and blogs was highest in Brazil where 80% of the online audience visited such sites. That compares to 75% for runner-up Spain and 67% for the USA. As the most popular social network globally, Facebook is visited monthly by three in 10 people across the markets in the report.

Tough Love and Faith

'But I wondered when I worshiped in my middle-class Catholic parishes, as I wonder in my mostly middle-class Orthodox parish today: What do we have to offer the rough, uneducated, poor man who might walk in our door one Sunday, in need of spiritual sustenance? Would he find both repentance and mercy preached, and preached in a way he finds inwardly compelling? Or would he more likely encounter bourgeois self-help nostrums, with or without smells and bells? Would he leave wanting to change his life, or would he depart in boredom or self-satisfaction?

If the latter, then that's not the kind of cheap-grace therapeutic religion the poor can afford. Many of them know that, which is why they seek out the fundamentalist and charismatic churches, which aren't afraid to stand on the old-time religion. In downtown Dallas last Friday, I passed an old black man, modestly dressed and holding up a well-worn Bible like a torch. "Obama can't save you!" he said, nearly shoutin…

Why Barbie's turned fifty

It isn't surprising that Barbie's turned fifty. After all no other toy has helped li'l girls live their desires the way Barbie has.
Barbie's turned iconic as she helps li'l girls live their desire to call something their own, the desire to possess. Barbie turns into a 'person' they can keep. And it isn't just 'owning', its owning something that's aspirational. Barbie is what they wanna be. Beautiful, sophisticated and elegant.Iconic brands are always prized possessions. They are aspirational buys. it doesn't matter who the target segment is. It could a li'l girl or a rebellious teenager. A brand that wants to turn into an icon in their eyes must lure them with a promise of possession of a fantasy. A fantasy that Barbie has embodied. Now, for fifty years!

The Religious and Brand Loyalists

Brands need to worry about 'satisfied' consumers. Because 'satisfaction' is in no way a guarantee to continued patronage. In fact satisfied consumers are ones willing to switch to another brand should they perceive greater value in a competing one. Its consumers who connect psychologically with a brand that turn loyal, to the extent they don't switch. Its them that that brands don't need to worry about. They will faithfully remain within the fold.

Its the same with religion too. People who don't connect psychologically with a denomination are the ones likely to drift out of the fold. Not so for the ones who are deeply into religious practices of the denomination they follow. That's what the latest wide-ranging study on American religious life reveals. It finds that the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined and more people say they have no religion at all. Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percen…

Why dissenting brand information is helpful

Brands at times design two sided messages that include mentions of 'weaknesses' to project a more credible image to their target consumers. After all, there cannot be brand out there without any blemishes. The more infallible, the less believable.
Quelling dissenting information is not a smart idea. Citizens don't like that. Ditto for consumers. Wikipedia scrubbing clean, information on Barack Obama may keep negative publicity away from a web page, but it can't quell renewed interest about that very same information in the minds of the average citizenry. Try and wipe a slate clean and you have more people curious about what was scribbled on, in the first place. WND reports that Wikipedia, the online "free encyclopedia" mega-site written and edited entirely by its users, has been deleting within minutes any mention of eligibility issues surrounding Barack Obama's presidency, with administrators kicking off anyone who writes about the subject, WND has learne…

Cyberspace Actvism

Outlookindia: Social networking sites, once the preserve of lonely hearts, networkers and job-hunters, are now flexing their muscles in aid of larger causes, from introducing sex education in schools to freeing Dr Binayak Sen. In recent weeks, the Consortium of Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women, a Facebook group launched to protest the Sri Rama Sene's moral policing in Mangalore, has already managed to get together a 40,000 member-list and is growing. The Pink Chaddi campaign, another response to the Rama Sene, swiftly grew from a quiet online ripple into a wave...

But one fact internet crusaders omit to mention is that campaigns like these owe a great deal of their success to other, older media—Internet penetration in India is limited to 5-8 per cent of the population, and it is the extensive coverage that newspapers and TV channels give these Net initiatives that has vastly multiplied their visibility and audience outreach.

Follywood Awards

Channel hopping the other day got me to an Ajay Devgan movie. Now he is supposed to be one of the better actors in Bollywood. Watching him trying to act like a mentally challenged person almost caused me a seizure. What made it worse for me was the fact that he was trying to do a Sean Penn, a la'I am Sam'; a movie I thought was almost near perfect when it came to portrayals. I always wonder how people can get through Bollywood fare without having a breakdown.

Outlook's annual Follywood awards picks the worst among the worse in Bollywood. Read about the 'winners' who made the cut, here.

Obama deception Ahoy! Beware!

I just watched a news report on BBC that showed how Obama saved the jobs of a new batch of graduating police officers. 'Saved' their jobs? What's that supposed to mean? That the taxpayers will now be asked to pay the salaries of those police officers? Every time there's a report on an Obama miracle, let this be known. Its in reality propaganda that burdens the citizen. Its another thing that the citizen can't get it.

Note Charles Krauthammer, who calls the Obama plan deceptive. He states;

'All presidents do that. But few undertake the kind of brazen deception at the heart of Obama's radically transformative economic plan, a rhetorical sleight of hand so smoothly offered that few noticed...

Things. Now we know what they are. The markets' recent precipitous decline is a reaction not just to the absence of any plausible bank rescue plan, but also to the suspicion that Obama sees the continuing financial crisis as usefully creating the psychological conditions…

The Image is the Man

The funny thing with most people is that they can't get it right when it comes to judging people. Take all the idiots who thought George Bush was a villain. The truth is, he was one of the most easy going presidents who took to people quickly. He saw most things as black and white, and he said it the way he saw it.

Contrast Barack with that. He can't go anywhere without his teleprompter. His long winding philosophical bag of air, passed of as wisdom, is in reality, pompous rhetoric that defines who he really is. But the idiots can't get it. They still think he is the messiah.

Barack is a deeply insecure man who looks down on people in general. Ditto for Michelle. Yet the marketing machinery around Obama have crafted perceptions that have sealed a certain image for him. The image of a Saviour. Some day that's gonna come tumbling down. To me, it seems that will happen sooner than expected.

Financial confidence ebbing

WSJ: Americans have welcomed the Obama era in the same spirit of hope the President campaigned on. But after five weeks in office, it's become clear that Mr. Obama's policies are slowing, if not stopping, what would otherwise be the normal process of economic recovery. From punishing business to squandering scarce national public resources, Team Obama is creating more uncertainty and less confidence -- and thus a longer period of recession or subpar growth.

The power of Brands is the power of Faith

We are in Cochin. Last night, enroute, Alphy insisted we call Amma and ask her to buy a bottle of Junior Horlicks for Jaden so we can get him his drink, when we're home in Cochin. I wondered what's it with Junior Horlicks? After all wouldn't any other brand of drink do? Like for example, Bournvita or a similar one? I was sure there would be some such brand home in Cochin. No. Alphy insisted it had to be Junior Horlicks. That's when I asked her if she knew what the ingredients were, in it, that made it perfect for Jaden. She didn't know. Then, why the faith, I asked?She had no rational reasons. Her faith was solely based on what the brand had communicated to her. Like the name, the commercials on TV and so on. Brings me to what I want to say. The power of brands is the power of faith they can conjure up, among consumers. Brands make it easier for consumers to engage in purchase decisions. The faith that they build is what allays consumer fears when they buy. Now, th…

Art sells when life imitates art

When life imitates art, sales peak for that art. This is best demonstrated by the rise in sales for Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged'.

Whenever governments intervene in the market, in short, readers rush to buy Rand’s book. Why? The reason is explained by the name of a recently formed group on Facebook, the world’s biggest social-networking site: “Read the news today? It’s like ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is happening in real life”. The group, and an expanding chorus of fretful bloggers, reckon that life is imitating art.

Can Brand Obama sustain equity?

Brand Obama's built on language jugglery. Of course, the liberal media choose to play blind and the leftists can't get it. Really, they can't.Note Ralph Peter's take on Obama's 'promised' Iraq pullout. 'Forcefully delivered, his speech to the Marines served up more waffles than the International House of Pancakes. Consider his big sound bite: "Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end." What does that mean? Will the 50,000 troops he intends to leave in Iraq, the trainers and maintainers, be forbidden to defend themselves? Are they just going to hang out? If terrorists or the Iranians skunk us, are we just going to ask for more? The enemy gets a say, too. The situation on the ground will determine when combat operations end. Obama's just going to call them something else. In the immortal phrasing of Ol' Bill, it depends on what the meaning of "is" is. To me the most interestin…

Psychological connects are hard to sever

Pepsi's been the one that's piggy-backed on the Obama symbolism by plastering the sides of buses and bus stops in Washington DC. with slogans like "Yes You Can," "Optimismmmm" and "Hope." In each poster, the letter O is inscribed with the redesigned Pepsi logo, a red, white and blue sphere that echoes the rising-sun image used by the Obama campaign.

But it seems at the White house its Coke that rules the roost. Several senior Administration officials are committed cola drinkers, and without fail they spend their days sipping from a can of Diet Coke, a product of Pepsi's chief competitor, Coca-Cola.

Should that be a problem for Pepsi? No, unless I guess, people read the Time Magazine article. But then, even if they did, I don't think Pepsi needs to bat an eyelid, because the connect to a cola is downright psychological. Such connects are hard to sever! More so if the segment in question is GenX. After all didn't they vote Obama? My bet is…