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Showing posts from August, 2011

Its a loss of face they're salvaging

As I had mentioned Om Puri's language was regrettable. An apology will surely set things right. But don't for a moment think the clamour to censure him is about maintaining parliamentary dignity. Its more about salvaging the collective esteem of parliamentarians who have taken a terrible bashing the past week. After all, who amongst us can take a hit when its comes to self esteem?

I am convinced the need for self-esteem far outstrips every other need, even basic physiological ones. Take taking to suicide for example. People don't mind killing themselves. Its the loss of face they can't put up with.

The need for esteem is good news to marketers. It allows them to offer consumers solutions that heighten their sense of self-esteem. Of course, it isn't good news to poor Om Puri who was ganged upon (on a TV show) just now by parliamentarians seeking to bring back from the brink some of their lost esteem. I am not sure the politicians salvaged anything judging from the m…

Empathy is never in plenty

Alphy can't stand the commercial (featured above). But she can't tell why. I can. As a mom of a baby girl, and a li'l boy, she's dying to catch a quiet moment. Yet she doesn't see herself as someone who'll take to a grimace if she's loses a hush moment she's trying to steal.

The Admen behind the commercial thought there were connecting to consumers with a witty and identifiable scene. Yet what they lacked is empathy. They didn't care to know what moms really feel about 'exasperating' baby cries.

One critical skill when you sell is empathy.

Of course, being a mom helps too. As for the Ad, frankly I don't get it and I am not surprised. It'll be a while before we get empathetic Adpeople who make sense.

Keynes v Hayek

Why Middle Class greed is good!

Why is Middle Class greed good?

Before I say why, note that this 'condemnable' greed is funded by their own hard earned money. I wonder why anyone should have a problem with that? Consider this. If the middle class are greedy that means they'll only care for themselves. Is that bad? What would they do when they care only for themselves? They'll try and make their lives better. How will they do that? By buying products and services that increase their comfort. What will that do? Put money into the hands of people that sell those products and services. What will that in turn do? Put money into the hands (read salaries) of those who participated in the process of making products and services.

The average man will have money in hand only if average others consume. That consumption is at the heart of a nation's prosperity.

Again, if the greedy middle class didn't spend their money, what would they be doing? Sleeping with the money beneath their pillows? Far from it,…

Socialist Idiocy

Even as the upper-crust hanker after second cars and bigger houses, their ‘Yeh dil maange more’ cries as insatiable as ever, they find their anxieties echoed by millions who earn less but are eager to gatecrash their party. In an ironic twist of fate, both middle-class achievers and aspirants—who together number about half a billion—feel threatened by renewed reforms. They have developed a set of vested interests in the status quo...

Second, the global financial meltdown of 2008 gave people a vivid picture of the horrors of a free market run amuck. Suddenly, Indians saw the ugly side of globalisation, a lack of which had insulated them from jobs and investments going poof overnight. Once the West’s Great Recession hit, India’s economy dipped to a growth rate of under 7 per cent in 2008-09, from over 9 per cent earlier, but bounced back soon after. India suffered no bankruptcies and few job losses. This was a relief. In a 2009 article, Ruddar Datt, an economist, wrote that ‘the lesson o…

Om's said what Brands say

The talking heads on TV don't get it because they've never been in my class. If they had, they'd known though regrettable, what Om Puri slurrily ranted about is exactly what every other citizen wants to say. Om Puri said it. Every other person in India has been saying this in silence for decades.

Okay, but what about being my class?

Being in my class would have taught you and the talking heads, consumers are dying to express who they are. But they can't mouth it from the rooftops. 'Cos no one would care to listen to who they are. So what they do is take to brands. Brands speak for them. The brands they wear is the language that articulates their identity. For instance, denims from Levis that rides the girl's long legs is what screams her diva status to everyone else.

Om Puri's rant, despite regrettable language, connects 'cos it spells out what everyone's been dying to say. Tell you what, listening to Laloo's performance on the floor about parli…

Do you believe?

'Evolution is the only subject that is discussed exclusively as a "Do you believe?" question with yes-or-no answers. How about conservative journalists start putting mikes in front of liberal candidates and demanding, "Do you believe in the Bible -- yes or no?" "Is an unborn baby human -- yes or no?" and "Do you believe teenagers should have sex -- yes or no?"

This is the flash mob method of scientific inquiry. Liberals quickly surround and humiliate anyone who disagrees with them. They are baffled when appeals to status (which would work on them) don't work on everyone else...

It is a mathematical impossibility, for example, that all 30 to 40 parts of the cell's flagellum -- forget the 200 parts of the cilium! -- could all arise at once by random mutation. According to most scientists, such an occurrence is considered even less likely than John Edwards​ marrying Rielle Hunter​, the "ground zero" of the impossible.

Nor woul…

For the umpteenth time, its REGULATION, stupid!

'The entire gamut of intellectual discussion has been focused on a top down approach to the given issue. The issue is to have a competent authority at the top and hope he runs the show. While the top end of the spectrum is required, what one needs to realize is that the focus should be equally on the bottoms up approach. The focus should be equally on how we can break open the issues at the bottom end of the entire chain, at the fundamental and mundane level. People need to be empowered with education and the audacity to confront the bribe giver head on. At the bottom end of the chain, the systems need to be refined at the point of delivery. Why should a cop bribe? Because he is not paid enough and he is not punished for violating his code of conduct. Why is my friend forced to give a bribe to the cop? That is because we neither have the patience to not break the law nor do we have the means to go through the trouble. This is where the system needs to be equally more refined so as…

Conversing isn't Engaging

Every once a while India Inc. come up with a dose of corporate varnish that sure looks slick, but dig deeper and you see its all a gooey mess inside. Take the latest one on how CEOs are engaging and sniffing out talent from within their flock. And the techniques they are using include going up the flock at a canteen table and striking conversations so they can a get a picture of their flock's office lives, or sitting through and participating in a selection process that decides who amongst their flock will be sponsored for a study program abroad.

I gotta ask, is this for real? Do the CEOs really think this is the way to engage? Do they realise conversing isn't engaging? Do they know conversations only result in perceptions? Do they realise to get to reality, they have to go beyond mere conversations? Plus I guess the bigger question is, do they really wanna engage to gauge what's real? Or is this mere lip-service?

Its the same classic mistake marketers make. Marketers thin…

What lets Institutions stay

Its classic Catch-22 for the Congress Party. Whatever it does, it'll mess up. Its either succumbing to persuasion and subversion of Parliamentary procedure by taking up the Bill, or the risk of being booted out of power come next election should Anna's health deteriorate.

What should the Government do?

Find a middle ground. Pronto. Don't bother too much procedures. After all, democracy is about the people, and the latter currently don't seem to come across as a lynch mob, though the risk is they may degenerate into one. Also loose any remnants of belligerence and negotiate with the Anna team in earnest.

In the world of business too its consumers who matter. Not procedures, not policies. Procedures and policies matter only if they aid in the creation and delivery of superior value to consumers. If they don't, yank them out and consign them to the bin. Businesses stay and thrive only if they matter to consumers.

In nations, institutions stay if they serve the people.…

Perish the thought of local wisdom

We're back to familiar territory. B School surveys for the year tumbling out, accompanied by local management wisdom. What's familiar? The nonsense. The clamour for Indian management thought to break away from 'western models', for Indian management to tap into spiritual wisdom, the list is nonsensically endless.

Pray, what is western thought? Take for example the concept of CRM which proposes consumer engagements not be treated as transactions, rather as opportunities to build relationships for a lifetime so as tap into what's termed 'life time value'. Now why would such a 'western' concept be irrelevant in India? Take another. What about the Motivational hierarchy from Abraham Maslow? Are Indians motivated any differently?

The call to 'indianising' management thought is a big bunkum. All management concepts, whether western, eastern, northern, or southern are generic and so can be applied universally. It really doesn't matter where you…

Gendered violence: Beyond her body politic

'By conservative estimates, there are 1,500 'half widows' in Kashmir, says the APDP report. These are women whose husbands have 'disappeared' during the conflict, but have not been confirmed as deceased. These women live a life of perpetual limbo, which is cemented by failed legal mechanisms, and results in economic squalor, social isolation, and psychological trauma. Since the law does not deem them 'widowed,' these women are ineligible for administrative relief, and instead are solely dependent on their individual resilience, which may include begging in burquas (covering out of shame, rather than religion), menial labour, prostitution, or seeking aid from family members. Their children grow up vulnerable to exploitation (even child labour or abuse in orphanages) and impoverishment; face lack of education; and suffer psychological damage...

Beyond spending time on photo-ops to assess whether a woman minister is simply a prop or something to be taken serio…

Barefoot Blue Jean Night

We follows I

Jaden's art on the wall isn't always welcome. At home we're trying to find a balance between permission and denial to his scrawls on the walls. For now, we aren't getting anywhere. His creative instincts seem to be on a gallop. But what's interesting is they seem to reveal much.

The first scrawls that started a while back put his name on the wall. Over and over. Then they started getting more inclusive. Currently, Brooklyn, Alphy, and I feature on the walls. Isn't that interesting? At first, for Jaden its a sense of self that's exhibited. A certain comfort achieved in that category and his circle gets bigger. His immediate social setting that's us as family get included.

As people and as consumers we fixate on ourselves. Meaning we're absorbed by our own needs. From a behavioural perspective, this is the recognition of need stage in what could turn into a consumer decision making act. After the recogniton's done we loosen our grip and let the so…

Care's rare

Now I don't think food's a big deal. Ditto with cooking. But then when its me cooking dinner at home, it means much. Because knowing I am doing something that's for family brings in a certain sense of warmth. Its a good feeling, and its based on something real.

Its like in the case of love. Hearing love's different from experiencing it. On the flipside saying love's different from doing love. Saying's cheap. Doing's everything. And at times, doing is cooking. The way I did.

Saying you care about consumers is cheap. That's what your ads do. Consumers take such ad-talk with a pinch of salt. Caring's about doing. If you care for your consumers you need to prove it in your actions. Real care is caring post purchase. Though the money's in your pocket you respond to a plea and rush in to plug a problem the consumer's having. As I said that's real care.

Which by the way is rare. In life, as elsewhere.

The Marketing story in Anna

What is the marketing story in Anna Hazare?

Simple. Its a story of a need and a promise of fulfillment. What's the need? Pretty simple again. The need of a better life. And who's out there with a promise of fulfillment? Anna Hazare, of course.

Its mind boggling to think that for the last sixty years no one's (read governments in power) been able to give the common man in India a shot at a better life. But then again should you be surprised? Where in the world has government been the cause to a better life for the citizenry? In fact its always minimal government and minimal regulation that frees the ingenuity of people, which in turn translates into the unleashing of entrepreneurship that's at the heart of a nation's prosperity.

But I guess that realisation is going to take donkey's years in India. After all shaking off an entrenched socialist past first requires a paradigmic psychological shift in mindset. Then it requires fundamental structural changes in poli…

The making of the Anna nightmare

Could there be a worse PR disaster ever for the UPA government, more so the Congress Party? Nah. Don't think so. Anna while rising by the minute, is taking the UPA image down into the gutter. Its a pity there aren't any smart spin doctors around to bail the Congress Party, and the UPA out of this nightmare.

First, what the did the government do wrong?

One, they got the THEME wrong. The government put out rational arguments to confront the emotional blitzkrieg Anna had unleashed. Its common knowledge to marketers, consumer won't rationalise when their right brains dictate their behaviour. Wish the government knew that. No amount of constitutional lectures are going to work when a crowd's in frenzy.

Two, they got the MESSENGERS wrong. Suave, sophisticated cats don't work when the opponent is earthy and simple. The likes of Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Singhvi, and Salman Khurseed work if the audience is the English news watching kind. If the audience is the swooning kind, y…

Celebrating Freedom

Happy Independence Day!

How Civilizations Die

We're beginning to see the final result of that idea in Britain. The welfare state creates a society of beasts. Meanwhile, nonjudgmental elites don't dare condemn the animals their programs have created.

Rioters in England are burning century-old family businesses to the ground, stealing from injured children lying on the sidewalks and forcing Britons to strip to their underwear on the street.

I keep reading that it's because they don't have jobs -- which they're obviously anxious to hold. Or someone called them a "kaffir." Or their social services have been reduced. Or their Blackberries made them do it. Or they disapprove of a referee's call in a Manchester United game.

A few well-placed rifle rounds, and the rioting would end in an instant. A more sustained attack on the rampaging mob might save England from itself, finally removing shaved-head, drunken parasites from the benefits rolls that Britain can't find the will to abolish on moral or ut…

What rises, What sinks

Corporate branding means zilch to consumers till a company's products deliver. I mean Mahindra can cry hoarse with its 'rise campaign'. So can Hero Motors, proclaiming it will rise post the Honda exit. To consumers all of this doesn't matter one bit. They'll take nothing for granted. In fact, they will wait for these companies to unveil their products, and then they'll judge making comparisons to MNC products. If Mahindra or/and Hero deliver, they'll 'rise'!

Corporate branding surely gives a company's products a 'consideration' edge. I mean consumers may put them higher up in their list because of greater recognition and recall. But tell you what, these considerations won't come because of any communication campaigns. They will materialise because the company's delivered in the past with products. Take Mahindra for example. Their SUV product Scorpio's done more for their corporate brand than all the advertising dollars they&#…

Ennamo Etho

For whom the bells must toll

'If you live a normal life of absolute futility, which we can assume most of this week’s rioters do, excitement of any kind is welcome. The people who wrecked swathes of property, burned vehicles and terrorised communities have no moral compass to make them susceptible to guilt or shame.

Most have no jobs to go to or exams they might pass. They know no family role models, for most live in homes in which the father is unemployed, or from which he has decamped.

They are illiterate and innumerate, beyond maybe some dexterity with computer games and BlackBerries.

They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong. '

They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others.

Their behaviour on the streets resembled that of the polar bear w…

Insults, Stupid Arguments, and Lies

'As the 9/11 massacre underscored the failure of the left’s multicultural worldview, so the current debt crisis highlights the failure of leftist redistributionism.

In fact, leftism has failed utterly. It has failed everywhere and it has never done anything else but fail. From the murderous, leftist tyrannies of the Soviet Union and China to the soft but nonetheless oppressive and stagnant socialism of a moribund Europe, the relativist, wealth-crushing, overweening state has revealed itself to be an engine of misery and collapse.

This is a disappointment to many. To those who feel they are entitled to the fruits of other people’s labor, to those who feel their good intentions can be brought to fruition by the government, and to those, most of all, who fancy themselves elite, who fancy themselves better able to make moral and economic decisions on your behalf from on high than you, the citizen, can do on your own — to all of these, the failure of leftism is a trauma so great it has…

The reason to the Louts of London

The louts of London were long coming. What else will you breed if you plant and nurture a welfare state? Of course louts who feed for free off the sweat of those who work for a living. Europe is populated by liberal socialist soft states that have for long rewarded lazy louts by dipping into the working man's coffers. In doing so they've near perfected the immoral welfare state. Now the very same louts bred by state have paid back in kind with arson and looting when bankrupt European states announce and enact welfare cuts.

Be warned. Barack's doing what Europe's done for years, in the US. Creating the immoral welfare state. What London's witnessing will one day dawn across the Atlantic. Its only fit Barack and everyone else knows that a society's glory lies in the promotion and sustenance of acts of industrial value creation. Great societies are those where people toil so products and services can be crafted. And in participating in the industrial act these har…

Its Me, stupid!

If people tell you they love the company they work for, or the cafe they frequent, or the car they drive, they are stating what is an honest lie. They don't love their company, or the cafe, or even the car. Its them they love. All those branded products don't really mean a thing. Well, you may ask, what about the cars, the cafes, and companies?

You see, its what brands do to us that matters. The brands themselves are meaningless, its the personas they construct that have us going ga-ga. The company I work for may allow for greater self expression and articulation. Meaning, it has an informal culture which allows me to sport casual clothes at work, or has me calling my bosses by first names. The Cafe on its part gives me space to 'chill' out. The car elevates me to a status of 'cool'. You see, its me!

They make me! In return I love them. Which is why brands carry personifications that I imbibe (via purchase and use) to make me, me. And I love the made up me. Me …

Lean on Me

The Evil of Benevelonce

'Despite the widely held view that philanthropy is desirable as a way to mitigate the influence of poverty, there is another, often disregarded, side to social beneficence. Some would argue – I am among them – that the welfare state, with all of its well-meaning rhetoric, actually creates more poverty and dependence than it was designed to abolish.

For the recipient of charity there is the intoxicating impression that this transfer payment is necessary and desirable. Hence the behavior that results in poverty is often reinforced, rather than reproved. For the charitable giver there is very often smug righteousness, a belief that one is saving the world through personal acts of benevolence. This is analogous to the good intentions that lead to debilitating effects...

David Stove, an Australian philosopher, agreed: “Benevolence is the heroin of the Enlightened.”

Alas, this is most poignant observation. The benevolent consider themselves superior because they are doing so much by arguin…

Your money is in your men

One of my students has two job offers on hand. Which is a problem. She agreed to joining the first one who made the offer. Then she got a call from the second. She now wants to join the latter, but doesn't know how to decline the first offer she accepted. She feels bad going to first company and telling them she can't join.

I am not surprised. I am not surprised she's hesitant to talk to the first company. I am also not surprised there's a certain contrast when it comes to employee-enterprise engagement. Employees on their part find it hard to decline an offer, once accepted. Companies on the other hand have lesser qualms in asking on-the-roll employees to leave. I mean companies aren't hesitant when it comes to what they want, as compared to people. People tend to feel bad. Business firms don't. Though firms are ultimately people, the entity called the 'firm' allows for exhibition of impersonal attitudes. Firing's easier because the decision maker …