Supercharge your creative brief

Getting effective creative work is not simple. The agency handling it has to understand the rhythms of your business and you have to provide insights about your customers and how they react and respond. The best client-agency relationships are built on collaboration, not judgementRead more


Customized Promotional Products

A little more thought into how you can interact with visitors at an event will go much further than mere handouts. Yes, exhibitions and events can be chaotic but you have to think through the chaosRead more


Limited Email storage?

Ever since 25 and 30 GB became the norm for business email, businesses continue to pay the price. Even while the per GB cost for providers has dropped with every passing year, users still end up paying more when they cross the allocated storage limits.Read more


Why get a business email address?

When you send business email, you need to signal commitment as well as authenticity.
And you let yourself down badly if you make the first approach with an email address that you use for your personal correspondence to friends, family and associatesRead more


Don’t get free email from your domain host

Free now. Pay later.

It’s tempting to get an email address from the same company that provides your domain hosting. Don’t.

The problem is that each mailbox has a low limit – 2, 5 or 10 GB. And in today’s image and video rich world, those limits are quickly reached.

You end up having to pay more and more each year. As you renew, you’ll find your bills creeping up, ever so slowly.

This is what happens. Let’s say there are 5 users in your small business. Once each of you reaches the limit, you end up paying as much for email as you do for hosting. And if you have set your account to auto-renew, the money is swiped from your credit card.

Your domain company does a fine job of hosting your site. Email is probably outsourced, since it is not a core activity.

The bigger problem arises if you want to transfer your hosting package. Good luck moving 100-150 GB of messages to another hosting provider. It’s worse than moving house because you can’t call some movers over to get it done for you!

So, what should you do? Keep the two separate. If you want the hassle of getting an email server set up and all the attendant problems of keeping it going, that’s a low-cost option. But if it goes down, you’ll need expensive help to get it back up.

The other one you could consider, especially if you have a small business where you send out only a few emails every day is a Swiss Email company that has a different business model. They charge by the number of emails you send every day. And plans start at $4 a month.

You may receive tens of email every day. But, chances are, you send out only 8-10 emails on a daily basis. The other advantage is no charge for unlimited storage or the number of domains you manage on the site.

Bottomline: Get email wise. And don’t fall for Free because it is expensive in the long run


Cheaper email

Email. Why pay per user?

 Isn’t that standard practice? The way the industry works?

The option is to set up email with your friendly local provider because that is sure to be cheap. But again, the local provider may or may not have enough resources to devote to keep the service up and running all the time.

Plus, if you ever decide you want to move away because the costs creep up over time, or if there are strange technical issues which have not found satisfactory solutions or if the service really slows down because your mailbox got huge, you’ll have a hard-to-solve problem

Techies who discuss the merits of POP vs IMAP may not ever need this. But for the small business which needs a few tens or a few hundreds of users without having to worry whether they have made the right choice, there is a sensible option

And there’s that worry in the background about storage limits. Exceed your allowed GB and you’ll have to pay the yearly tax, sorry, subscription. Or decide that one stack of old emails just have to disappear. Even if it contained something important, who has the time to check?

Migadu is a Swiss company focusing only on email. You pay $4 a month for unlimited storage and users. So, if you’re a small business with tens or hundreds of users, you don’t need to pay more. Yes, there is a catch. You can only send up to 100 emails a day, on the lowest price plan. You can upgrade to a $13.50 per month if you send out more than 500 emails a day and if you’re a heavy user you pay $49.50 per month for 2000 emails a day.

Of course, you’re welcome to Gmail and Zoho. Or AOL. Or Yahoo. But why pay more for email than you should?



Change the Agency Pitch

The typical agency pitch has an air of complete predictability about it. All the agencies are provided with the same brief and asked to come back with creative strategy and communication.

We would like to believe that each agency approaches the problem differently. But most clients will tell you this – while creative approaches could differ, most strategies are depressingly similar. The choice of media, the segmentation of the target audience, the go to market strategies may look as if all agencies sat in the same room and decided to present the same thing to the client.

I remember being part of a pitch where 42 agencies vied for a tourism account. We were No. 35 or so on the list and as we unveiled the creative strategy after recapping the brief, there was a collective groan. One of the guys from the client’s side actually told us – “Ok, so French ancestry is our strong selling point, but have you even considered alternatives?” We struggled to find a response. The guy went on “We’ve sat through over 30 presentations during the past week and I am yet to find someone who challenged the fundamental assumption. Why is it that not a single agency has dared to question the status quo?”

It was a different matter that the campaign that finally evolved had no change of position – but the real point was that we did not even try. I suspect that the problem is that the same brief is given to all agencies – it’s a lot like asking a set of fashion designers to stitch something very different from exactly the same ream of material.

Maybe the brief should merely be a placeholder. The competing agencies should be asked to work campaigns with a completely different tone and voice. Sure, it won’t be an apples to apples comparison, but that’s the point. I really wonder if the current pitches are getting clients what they want. Maybe apples should be compared to pomegranates. Or peaches.

The truth is that in a pitch, the consumer is not in the picture at all. It is only the decision makers on the client’s side who are the focus. Agencies may not want to start off on the wrong foot by questioning a successful position in the market – especially if it has been working.

Risk taking needs trust on both sides. But serenading the client is not a situation in which agencies take risks. Sure, you hear stories about how a certain agency walked into the client’s boardroom and told them how they were completely wrong – and still managed to win the account. However, I have yet to see clients who take kindly to having their existing and past campaigns trashed. They have invested time, effort and money in getting those campaigns out – and no one likes to be told that they look like a bunch of amateurs.

So here’s a suggestion. Stay away from the straight and narrow. Allow wondering, because there is never one right answer with a creative solution. There are so many shades of expression that it helps to get hues, rather than the primary colours alone. And if the client does not want to be wrong, either about the agency or the campaign, expect the agencies to play it safe as well


Obama’s Election and The Syrian Civil War

We’re accelerating faster than we know it. Technology is uncovering the genetic code and just as quickly, someone tries to manipulate it to create a virus. As we get better at using and deploying technology, we’re also getting equally good at misusing and subverting it.

Two diametrically different stories show how the march of technology and its ability to do good and harm in equal measure is being played out. Here’s an in-depth look  at the team that helped Obama correct a misstep in the election race into a sprint that carried him past the finish line ahead of Mitt Romney. From the article – They raised hundreds of millions of dollars online, made unprecedented progress in voter targeting, and built everything atop the most stable technical infrastructure of any presidential campaign. To go a step further, I’d even say that this clash of cultures was a good thing: The nerds shook up an ossifying Democratic tech structure and the politicos taught the nerds a thing or two about stress, small-p politics, and the significance of elections.

The US Elections will never be the same again. The Republicans may have lost this time due to the complete breakdown of a rival system called Orca, but they won’t be caught napping next time. We won’t see this played out in newspapers or on TV, but in shadowy technology that endlessly analyses voter sentiment, action, attitudes and affiliations. From a complex web of social media and voter databases, Obama’s team was able to extract the data that would tell them exactly who was for them and who wasn’t. Romney’s technology campaign had a rival approach that focused on getting Republican supporters to vote on Election day. But the system crashed at the 11th hour since it had not been stress-tested or used in the field.

Now, Syria. What comes on TV is the endless bombing of cities and the fight back from people in the trenches. One wonders how this is being sustained and how the two sides are getting back at each other. In Syria’s case, social media data is being mined to find out who is against the Government and trying to organise groups together. From the article – What made the hacks so effective was their deviousness. Malware was discovered in a fake plan to help protesters besieged in the city of Aleppo; in a purported proposal for the formation of a post-revolution government; and on Web pages that claimed to show women being raped by Syrian soldiers.
Whenever possible, the people behind the attacks would use a compromised account to spread the malware further. In April 2012, the Facebook account of Burhan Ghalioun, then the head of the Syrian opposition, was taken over and used to encourage his more than 6,000 followers to install a trojan mocked up to look like a security patch for Facebook.

The very freedom and the benefits that we prize are being used at two extreme ends of the spectrum. Mining for good, where supporters are identified and encouraged to vote. And mining for bad where opponents are mercilessly tracked, tortured and killed. One supports the dream of sustaining a democracy. The other ensures that freedom doesn’t stand a chance. In every field in the future, technology will prove to be both the tycoon and the tyrant.


Complain. Consume. Create.

The first two are easy – complain and consume. But the third, which is where the solutions are, is the most difficult. It’s easy to buy anything these days. A phone. A car. A television. Then complain about all the things that are wrong with it. But to create anything new requires extraordinary effort and the willingness to be wrong. So most of us will spend all our lives doing the easy things – and very little doing the most difficult thing

Let’s start with the complaints. Everything is wrong. Schools don’t work. Traffic is bad. Governments are corrupt. Business destroys resources. Hospitals are the scourge of the earth. Religion polarises people. Young people have lost their direction. This is something we all discuss since we experience some aspect of this in day to day life. But we are content to leave it to those who supposedly have the power and the solutions – the government. How many initiatives do we take up on our own and then champion them? Hardy anything, since the process of change, is long, mystifying and frustrating.

We’re very happy to consume. The latest phones. The biggest blockbusters. The flashiest cars. The king sized burgers. The palatial houses. The pizza with ten extra toppings. The designer dresses. The glittering jewels. The procession of cities through airplane and train windows on package travel tours. Life, in other words, is best when it is a never-ending shopping trip.Or so some people believe. Complaining about the way the world is helps to blow off steam and reduce stress levels. Consumption does make us happy in the short term, at least until the gloss and the excitement of the purchase blow over.

But creation is different. When Salman Khan set out to teach his cousins mathematics and put up those scrawly tuitions on YouTube, he had no idea that he would be redefining education in a fundamental way. He had not set out to change the world. He simply solved the problem of distance, time and repetition required to learn a subject by making it available to his cousins to learn – 24/7. Not within the confines of a classroom, but anywhere in the world. In the process, he redefined the problem of creating millions of great teachers to one of creating access because, with Khan Academy’s system, a million students can learn at the same time.

If you Google for inventions that changed the world, the results are startling The first ball point pen did not appear until 1950 – and now about 14 million are sold every day. The bicycle was invented only around 1820 or so. The bra was not around before 1913. The button was invented in prehistoric times, but the buttonhole came into being only in the 13th century! Did that leap actually require over 1000 years of thought? And it took 200 years after the lead pencil was invented to dream up the eraser! The paper clip, an essential part of every office and liberally quoted as an icon of design excellence was invented only in 1892.

Just goes to prove that we are great when it comes to consumption. I’ll leave the truth about complaining to your judgement. If only we created more than we complain or consume, the world would be a far better place!