Our inspiration comes from life around us, the people we work with, the schools our children go to, the movies we see, the malls we shop at, the blogs we read and the friends we know. Then of course, there are books that provide a completely fresh point of view. Ideas are everywhere if you know where to look and more importantly, never stop looking.
We think the biggest asset is keeping an open mind and not being judgmental about anything. And across cultures, what drives people is ambition and deriving meaning for what they do. People don't just buy into products or services - they buy into extended dreams about their own existence

Do Opposites Attract? No!

opposites do not attract
Its 'accepted' wisdom, right? However, it does not stand up to close scrutiny, even though It is the chief selling proposition in the meetings, conventions and exhibitions industry which generates revenue of over $150 billion a year, The promise - meet with people from allied industries, make use of networking opportunities and develop contacts outside your areas of business.

Observed behavior is very different. People tend to mix with people they already know or are acquainted with and rarely with those outside or unrelated to their business. The researchers who conducted the study invited 100 industry heads across various businesses and hosted a party where the only agenda was to eat, drink and get to know others better. Each of the attendees wore a tag that traced their movement within the group.

Apparently, individuals at the 'mixer' were willing to encounter and engage with others of a different race than them but as individuals. If a certain group was composed of people from one particular race, no one from a different race joined in. When the groups were observed further, previous association or friendship was the strongest reason for engagement. People were more likely to meet a new person if they were introduced by an intermediary. They would rarely try and connect on their own.

This is familiar territory for all of us who have attended 'networking' events. Walk into a room full of strangers and the first move is to scan the crowd to look for familiar faces - then make a beeline for them. Wait for some of the other people in the group to facilitate introductions and if the conversations work out fine, great. Otherwise, just head for the bar, down a few quick ones, check out the buffet, wolf down something and then make a quiet exit. There are several singles, small tightly knit groups that never separate and if there is a celebrity, a crowd around them asks the usual questions or poses for photographs. The singles are the most tragic ones, floating and hovering around groups but never charging in. If they do, there is polite conversation, but a few sentences later, the strain begins to show on everyone and the single slinks away.

An article in Wired makes another interesting point. In a highly diverse social environment like a university where students from different nationalities study in the same class, the opportunity to mix and make friends is available to everyone. Yet, students choose to hang out with their own. The surprising finding - When people have a choice, they choose relationships with people who are similar to them. Now, that flies completely in the face of the wisdom we have been fed, both in the form of proverbs and social truths.

Husbands and wives emphasise how they are complete 'opposites'. With great relish they dish out stories of how they complement each other because they have diverse interests. One likes books, the other likes movies. One needs food to be spicy but the other likes it bland. One of them talks for hours on end but the other is like the sphinx. But the 'opposite' factor here is only in terms of traits, not social backgrounds. It would be interesting to know what you think

( 0 Votes )

Tags: opposites | party | social behaviour | traits


Should your advertising be memorable? Or persuasive?

persuading customers
Dumb question? After all, who tries to create boring advertising? Well, a lot of agencies try creating memorable advertising and end up with boring. Memorable is defined as what customers can remember. Something that will stay in the customer's overloaded mind. The effort is to think of words and visuals that will 'break through' the clutter and inject a series of memory triggers that will hopefully lead to purchase. The logical line of thinking is - First, customers need to remember your brand before they prefer it.

Can you see where this is going? We don't necessarily buy what we remember from ads. Colgate is known as a brand by 90% of the consuming public but it has a 10% market share (or thereabout). So, the rest don't really care or have not been persuaded to use the brand. I am using Colgate as an example merely because it has market potential of 100%, since all of us need to use toothpaste at least once a day. I am assuming that bad breath is as much as a problem today as it has been for centuries! But only 10% have been persuaded by the message that Colgate send out with all its expensive advertising. They have been reached, informed but they haven't bought into the promise of Colgate.

That's a good thing because it means the small guys have a chance. So, if you don't have the media bazooka that Colgate can unleash, but a little water gun you can aim at a much smaller segment, then you first have to decide who you are talking to. And craft a message that persuades them. This is the part that every little company stumbles on. They hate limiting the market they are aiming for. After all, a larger market segment does mean higher potential, right? Wrong, 100 percent of the time

What has all this got to do with persuasion? Everything. Once you have defined who you are aiming for, the messaging becomes a lot simpler. And the people it is meant to reach get it, every time. Even in the middle of a 100 commercials on prime time or on the crowded pages of a newspaper, your ad speaks to them in a tone and manner that they relate to. It may be invisible to 95% of the other viewers and readers, but they file it away, even without their really being aware of it. And the moment they visit a store where your product is available, boom. From the shelf, straight into the shopping cart.

Do you remember thinking 'I must try this product sometime' when you see an ad? Those are the persuasive ones. They don't look very different from all the other ads in the category, but for you it has a special significance. Or take the case of students in a class. When you scanned the sea of faces for the first time, did a few look interesting? And when someone cracked a joke or made an insightful comment, did you make a mental note - I must get to know this person better? That's the difference between memorable and persuasive. The kid who picked his nose in class is memorable. But the one you like being with is persuasive.


( 0 Votes )

Tags: advertising | branding | Colgate | communication | memorable | persuasive


The funny thing about change

Funny thing about change
We change our clothes twice a day. We change more channels than we watch. We change our mind about what to order on the menu in a restaurant about 10 times in a minute. We change our hairstyle and we expect the whole world has noticed. Or is about to. We change the ring tones on our phone and the wallpaper on our computers. We change our opinions about our cricket team depending on whether they are winning or losing. And our politicians if there are potholes on the road and power cuts in the middle of the day.

The surprising thing is how little we change on several other counts. We watch our televisions from the same chairs in the same room. Eating the same snacks day after day. Driving to work along the same route every single time. Ordering the same dishes time after time after going to the same old restaurants. Waking up at the same time every day. Reading the same newspaper. Meeting the same people. Saying the same things in the same gatherings. Going to the same parties. Watching the same kind of movies depending on whether we like comedies or action or drama.

There's a metronomic rhythm about life that we like. We want surprises only on our birthday or our anniversary - the same kind of surprises. We don't want a sudden change of plan or routine that upsets the schedule unless it is all planned and paid for. Like vacations where we have arranged everything even before we take our first step out of the house. From home to the airport. From the airport into a strange city with strange signs. Then into a room with all its familiar trappings. Its the scenery that changes. But we even want the same food that we have back home. We now think that trying food that we have never eaten before is an adventure. Adventure tourism has reduced the risks to zero. Its only the momentary loss of control that we enjoy. But we want to be back where we belong if the trip drags on a little more than we are comfortable with.

Even when we go to conferences, we look for a place to sit only the first time. Then, we hold on to that place right through the sessions. Resenting it if someone occupies 'our' chairs after a tea or lunch break. We pretend to be comfortable with change, but its hard to deal with. Only a few of us like meeting new people everyday. Or trying out a whole new profession after complaining about the one we've been in for decades.

We don't change our brand of soap easily. Or our brand of cigarettes if we smoke. We stay with the same shop, if we can help it. Its only a few among us who try out new things and then tell friends how good or how bad it was. And we take their word for it. We like having our mind made up for us rather than having to do it on our own. That's why is it so phenomenally difficult to launch a new product. Or change a point of view. Its much easier to stay with the status quo.   NBBMDFYGZFH3

( 0 Votes )

Tags: advertising | brands | change | launch | minds | opinions


Creating Brands Vs. Phenomenons

Coke is a brand. Justin Bieber is a phenomenon. Nike is a brand. Mystery Guitar Man is a phenomenon. Do you see a difference? It is a pretty big one. A brand is built deliberately over several years and a huge amount of thought and money is invested in every single aspect of its creation. From the brand name to the way it presents itself, there is a calculated sum of efforts and media that go towards building a brand in the minds of its potential customers.

You can throw this reasoning back at me and say that Windows is a brand. Apple is a phenomenon. Right. The same rules apply. Apple is the only phenomenon that has had a mixture of these two. So what's the difference?

Coke was invented in 1886 by John Pemberton, but world domination would not happen until almost 50 years later. Even Nike was a relatively slow burn, taking almost a couple of decades to grow into the powerhouse it is today. Justin Bieber won second place in an online competition and uploaded the video to You Tube to share it with friends and family who couldn't attend. It went on to attract millions of viewers who then turned Justin's act into a phenomenon and made him a global star even before he was 14. Joe Penna is Mystery Guitar Man. Having uploaded videos on You Tube from 2006, he now gets over 80 million views on his channel. In less than 4 years he went from becoming medical student to music icon.

Phenomenons result from lucky hits that strike home into people's tastes and desires. They can't be created by deliberation because it is impossible to predict how they will play out. You Tube does not have a 'least watched' ranking but 95% of the videos would figure there - the pile up of the wannabe Justins' and Mystery Guitar Men. The millions of hopefuls who never make it past their adoring families and friends - with videos stuck in views below 50. It's not that they haven't made the effort. In fact, you will find lots of well-produced duds that go nowhere. A classic "fail' moment was Jennifer Chapton who labelled herself 'The Hotness' but was colder than last year's soup

Brands, on the other hand are products of professional communication and design. They need to be built and nurtured carefully because they are inanimate - with emotional anchors built by communication. Apple's iconic ad appeared in 1984 - with the launch of the iMac. But then the brand, which acquired cult status lagged Microsoft Windows in terms of turnover all through the 90s and until the launch of the iPod in 2001, Apple played a poor second fiddle in terms of market share to Windows. But then Apple redefined the music, phone and the pc markets in a series of inspired products that helped it attain the status of a phenomenon.

The fundamental change was the internet. It democratised creation and distribution of music, apps and software. And that's what helps the 'discovery' of a Bieber. If movie and music making wasn't cheap, there's no chance that anyone out there could have had a stab at stardom. And phenomenons built on fickle taste, have a much harder job sustaining themselves

( 0 Votes )

Tags: advertising | Apple | branding | brands | Coke | Justin Bieber | Nike | Phenomenon | Windows


The Riddle in Retail

User Rating: / 1
retail store
Salesmen, like waiters, should materialise only when they are needed, not hover in the background like persistent dark clouds. Somehow, the salesman (or woman) who 'tags' along wherever you go is almost like the shop owner letting you know you're being watched and you can't make away with any merchandise. There's no real sense of being helped or guided.

The net result? Most people walk out without buying. The other reason is that most sales people in the fancy stores in India come from underprivileged backgrounds. They have limited social skills and while the street smart ones learn and adapt, most are uncomfortable just making ordinary conversation with affluent customers and figuring out their preferences. Much like policemen who will stop all the two wheeler riders who don't wear helmets, but let the big cars run the red lights without flagging them down.

Even with India's so-called retail boom and the huge number of jobs that have been created in this sector, the training and conduct of the sales people is woefully inadequate. The only difference is that they wear fancy uniforms and are turned out better. Ask them to locate an unfamiliar brand name and they will blink. In fact, a lot of them cannot pronounce the names of several brands stocked in the store, especially the ones of recent origin.

So when advertising does draw an interested customer, its quite likely that the store sales person won't have a clue. Which brings me to the question of whether companies need to spend more time training sales people in the store rather than having fancy launches in 5 star hotels. If they got together all the sales people from a retail chain, gave them a good product demonstration, told them why the product was better and rounded the evening off with some great food and entertainment, chances are, the odds of success could improve dramatically. Right now, that task is left to the company sales person or the distributor - who rarely interacts with the actual end customer. But the retail sales person does that all the time, so the chances of a sale improve if they can be involved with the promotion.

To return to where we started, sales people can be most effective when they anticipate a need and help a customer make up their mind without trying to hard sell. Its a fine line and customers are very perceptive about the sales person who tries to force a sale.

Which brings me to a retail experience that made me return to a store called Cotton World. When I picked a shirt I liked, the sales person removed it from the cover, opened up all the buttons and offered it to me with a smile. They had been instructed that they should provide the shirt ready to be tried, without having the customer fumble with the buttons inside the trial room. Quite a refreshing change from the showroom where 'trial shirts' are marked and placed separately. From a store point of view, the trial shirt is a good way to ensure that they keep their inventory fresh. But for the customer, it could be a deal breaker - and an excuse to go to a store offering a more personal experience.

( 1 Vote )

Tags: advertising | brands | merchandise | sales | training


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