Tuesday, October 31, 2006

noshtradamus here here

I've been using Blogger for a while now to air thoughts, opinions and news I gather about communication in general. It has been great, and I have a huge number of shy people reading my blog regularly. Yes, I'm saying shy because while the comments are few and far between, Statcounter tells me there are loads of people tuning in!

Now I also like the way wordpress looks, and the customisation it offers. So I'm actually going to publish my thoughts from both blogsites simultaneously. So you can read me like this, or like this.

Well however you may choose to patronise noshtradamus, I appreciate your visits. And hope I can keep giving you value for your time spent here.

Thanks and Regards,


Monday, October 30, 2006

50 Cent(s) worth of advice for communication pros!

What can marketing and communication professionals learn from hip hop / rap artists like 50 Cent, Eminem, LL Cool J, and Snoop Dogg?

Well to begin, let's do a quick summary of what we know about rap and hip hop music:
1. The artists are aggressive, strong, and have hordes of die hard followers.
2. The music is powerful, addictive, and has hardcore followers.
3. The lyrics are single-minded, insightful, and hit the spot bang on with their followers.

Now take a parallel of good brands, companies and people.
Aren't they driven by strong leadership, have a powerful presence in their markets, are insightful about their consumers, single-minded in their messaging, addictive in consumption, and attract hordes of followers wherever they go?

While this holds true for most musicians and rock stars, why am I tuning in to these (er) gentlemen?
Well there's something about hip hop artists that makes them more powerful and addictive than most other types of musicians - especially when it comes to getting insights for brand building in the new world consumer order.

And by new world consumer order, I mean a consumer audience that lives life in the extremely fast lane, has extremely fleeting loyaltly (if it can be called that), is extremely demanding, and extremely difficult to define in conventional terms.

When you (attempt to) analyse hip hop, you'll find the aura is all in the body language, in the confidence, and in the stories these hip hop artists tell.

The stance, the eye contact, the hand movement, the baring of the teeth, the overall body movement akin to that of a modern day street fighter cum classical boxer - is all about an aggressive statement of individuality.

The oversize clothes, the overdose of overpowering jewellery, the overpimped wheels - are all about standing out and projecting stature.

The sexual under and overcurrents, the good 'good guy' and good 'bad guy' stories, the in-your-face uncensored language, the repetitive first person lyrics - are all insightful and typical of the new age consumer.

Trust me, or simply look around you, and tell me it's not true!

You'll also realise this trend/attraction/insight goes beyond the prime band of 18 to 28 year old male!
It encompasses the 13 year old girl who lives an Georgia, USA as well as the 15 year old in Gurgaon, India; The 37 year old DMF in Memphis, and the 37 year old BCG Consultant in Mumbai - they're all hooked onto a diet of Black Eyed Peas, live an LL Cool J life, and spend their millions on 50 Cent.

Think about it. Take a stance. Show me your finger. Or thankfully kiss my *ss for this wake up call! Because this is a part of the new world bro' and you gotta get jiggy widit - and if you can't rap the talk, you ain't gonna walk no walk!

For more images check out Mr Blunt, Davey D and Art.Com

Friday, October 27, 2006

Happy To Be Stuck With You!

What is it that makes people stick to companies? What makes companies stick to each other? What makes countries friends with each other?

Different people will give different reasons and opinions. Some will point to money, similar goals, and common business interests. Another lot would even say language and religion.

As primitive as it may sound, but the latter is usually closer to the truth. Because more often than not, what brings and holds people, companies and even countries together is something broader, but more basic – culture.

While you may unanimously agree that cultures bring and hold people and countries together, you may not have looked at it from the organization perspective, would you?

I often hear people complain about their jobs, their bosses, even the industry within which they work. While the debate and angst may revolve around issues like ego, money, hours, whatever… the point I always say to them is:

1) “Forget these issues for the moment – do you feel that you and your boss/company/industry are culturally matched?
2) Do you have the same set of values and belief systems?
3) If you do have similar values, you should talk about these issues, fight for them, or even wait for them to blow over.
4) But if you find your values and culture do not match – get the hell out of there!”

It’s as simple as that – and this applies to Bosses, Companies, Clients, even Customers.

- How can an organized, polite person work under a chaotic, aggressive boss?
- How can people who believe in honesty and integrity work for companies that hussle and push people?
- How can hierarchy and process driven companies work with companies driven by chaos and lack of role definition?

It’s the basic funda of marketing – you pitch and connect with people with related interests.

The above are just examples of different values and cultures. You can choose any parameters that are really important to you, and then compare them with the parameters and values that are very important to your bosses, companies and clients.

So, now are you keeping your current job and client list? Or do we see a change in the near future?

Next Practices - Bottom Up!

Before the ICCO Global Summit 2006, many people were looking forward to Yann Risz speak about “Next Practices” (see link)… And many women were looking forward to meeting Yann Risz in person (see accompanying pic)…

While the women weren’t disappointed by Yann, some people were confused by his session.

I am not going to get into the what the women liked, but I would like to comment on the Session.

Most people got carried away by the title of the Session and the theme of the Summit, and were perhaps looking for fireworks in terms of new tools and technologies from Yann.

But if only those who complained had read the synopsis of Yann’s session, they would have realized that he delivered what he promised – which is a killer opportunity in its own right, however “unglamorous” it may look and sound.

Yann Risz talked of ‘bottom of the pyramid’ consumers (which many “elitist” brands/agencies pooh-paah), and how companies can address and alleviate their social and economic issues, while creating relevant business opportunities for themselves.

Unfortunately, the Q and A session got waylaid by self righteous and so called “politically correct” questions like “oh how can you take advantage of economically disadvantaged people” – while the questioners completely missed the point that these companies were creating mutual wealth, and attempting to raise the basic standard of living at the bottom of the pyramid.

I doubt anyone can question the motives of Yann’s first example - ITCs e-choupal and the positive change it has brought to the landscape of rural India. And while I personally believe his other example, ICICI Bank, is stretching itself thin when providing low cost, low value finance across the country, and will have a tough time sustaining this promise in the long run. Where’s the profit in that!?

As Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Commerce, Government of India pointed out later in the Summit – “while countries like India and China will certainly become global economic super powers in the macro sense, the per capita income will still be very low, with the average citizen still struggling to make two ends meet.”

And as Yann pointed out – this ‘average bottom of the pyramid citizen’ is going to be a huge chunk of consumer; a very large audience which we will also have to address – if we’re to survive and thrive, in the next generation economy.

Learning from "The Grand Master"

“To begin, let me tell you how happy I am, to be here with you all in New Delhi… In fact, at my age, I am happy to be anywhere at all!” began Harold Burson, the 80-something Founder and Chairman of Burson-Marsteller.

And with these opening remarks, he not only disarmed and connected beautifully with an audience of senior people used to holding centre stage themselves. CEOs, but reminded us all at the ICCO Global Summit why he’s called the ‘Father of Public Relations”.

But listening to him speak that morning, and remembering things he said over dinner one evening before the Summit (yes I had the honor, and am indulging in blatant name-dropping) I would rather call him the ‘Grand Master’ of Public Relations – as ‘Father’ has rather benign connotations.

Here is a man who’s not just been on top of his craft for decades, but one who has had insights and vision, of understanding and depth, to take his industry of previously called (and often maligned today as) spin doctors, to a highly respected position of corporate reputation and strategic advisors.

Yet, what he said at the Summit, was nothing new or mind blowing – but simple and deep. I won’t elaborate, but simply crystallize what he said. You think about it.

1. PR is an Applied Social Science
2. PR professionals have to play an advisory role in policy making and business
3. PR is about crystallizing public opinion
4. PR professionals need to constantly educate themselves, test themselves
5. Proper research public opinion/decision making is important
6. You can’t talk the talk, if you can’t walk the walk
7. PR professionals need to educate the clients as to how the business works, and how much goes into it – to get them to appreciate and value remuneration
8. Do good, and get credit for it
9. PR firms need to think about and manage their own reputations and public image.
10. PR firms need to have a good relationship with their clients, where they add value by providing a broad, independent perspective on not only corporate reputation, but the overall business as well.

To know more about the man, and get insights on what's on his mind, visit Harold Burson's blog here.

To get a proper PR professional's perspective on the session, click here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What's someone like you, doing in a place like this?

Reading my previous post on the ICCO Global Summit a lot of people asked 'what on earth was I doing at a Summit for PR professionals??' I mean, I am a student of economics, with a hardcore advertising and marketing background, and I'm now making a living out of strategic design and new media consultancy... where does this PR jamboree fit in??

While I think even the organisers of the Summit underestimated the potential of something like this, and hence only targetted (and got) PR folks to attend the Summit.

However, if you look at the agenda you'll notice it had far more to offer than what you'd expect from conventional public relations. And not living and operating out of any specific industry silo, I was quick to spot the learning opportunity!

You see as boundaries between advertising agencies, pr firms and marketing consultants begin to blur and even compete with each other (an they should, if they want to retain their jobs and premium remunerations) it becomes all the more important to know what 'the other side' is thinking.

The name full form of ICCO (International Communications Consultancy Organisation) alone should have got other folks interested. I mean aren't all the above mentioned (ad, pr & mktg) people communication consultants really?

Next practices... the changing face of the consumer and the changing face of communication... the internet... opportunities in India and China... talent, measurement... aren't they relevant to anyone who's in the communication business?

If your answer is 'no' - buddy, you better have a fat bank balance on your side, or an alternate career path as a pan handler all mapped out - because you're certainly going to need it, sooner or later.

If your answer is 'yes they are relevant', but missed this opportunity, just stick around - and let noshtradamus guide you through the learnings in the next couple of weeks!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Comsuming Online "Ban"ter

What's with many governments and authorities, and their constant threats and attempts to ban free speech online? The stated reason is always "national interest".

Of course, the usual public outcry and debate is about what really constitutes national interest - the interests of those who power the nation, or those who actually make up the nation?

The fact remains that such bans have never really helped nations improve security, or even stop terrorist or communal forces from doing their evil (in India, we're a target of both).

All these bans do, are drive the rot below the surface, to rear its ugly head in the most unexpected places.

The only people that actually get stopped are the innocent bystanders on the digital highway, who have nothing to do with terror, but become a victim to arbitrary authoritarian actions like bans.

Instead why not let the 'so called offenders' stay in public view, ranting and raving about what they think is right and wrong? Why not let them continue their 'offences' in the belief that they're invincible or whatever?

What they will do is expose themselves, give us an idea of who's saying what, and help intelligence and police forces watch out for signals of an impending trouble...

Look at the United States of America, for example. They probably have the greatest record of free speech and expression in the world. Their people can say or do things in the context of their government and national symbols, which would get me arrested in many countries, if I even mention them here!

But the US intelligence system I believe monitors and tracks these 'posts' and 'trends' - playing the wait and watch game, more often than not nipping any trouble in the bud, before it can bloom.

It is one of the most important lessons for warfare - "Know your enemy".

Is that so hard to digest?

Friday, October 13, 2006

What were they drinking??

I've never really commented in public, but I've always believed alcohol advertising - oops! make that bottled drinking water and sundry accessories advertising - in India is completely asinine!

Most of the time the user is shown as some jerky, fast paced, stupidly grinning bloke doing completely insensitive, childish and pretentious things (all at the same time). This is done under the garb of a 'supposed feeling induced by the consumption of the product' and being something that 'men will identify with'.

Yeah right.

Actually I don't blame them, I think these ideas usually are 'sparked' using the age old advertising technique of 'product interrogation'. And when you're so involved in interrogating 'playing cards and bottled water' what else can you expect anyone to come up with!??!

I see very few brands, which maintain some sense of self respect and communication, most of them need to wake up with a strong cup of coffee!

What sparked this rant of mine?

Well I was driving my 3 year old to school with his car pool friends, and suddenly they all erupted in excitement pointing out of the window - "look! look! a joker! see how funny he is!" I looked up and saw this billboard of some dude in a Roman Helmet pompously grinning at us, along with a pretentious headline for good company.

"I also seen him on TV" said my son excitedly "he's so funny, na daddy!?"

You're right son, you're right! If only more people were as perceptive as you and your kindergarten buddies!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Forget Best Practices, Think Next Practices!

Next Practices - How cool a phrase is that! Well the first time I heard it, it was in the context of ICCO - the International Communications Consultancy Organisation, and the theme for the ICCO Global Summit 2006.

That was early this year… the Summit is now concluded… and all the speakers and delegates have gone home.

In the mean time I not only got involved with creating communication for the Summit (full disclosure here) I also attended it as a paying Delegate.

But whatever I say here is purely from the perspective of someone who paid good money to get something in return. Here’s what I got.

Next Practices – yup! I discovered what they’re all about. And I also learnt a lot about next markets, next consumers, and next opportunities – but not necessarily from the speakers.

Well like all conferences I’ve attended, some speakers were brilliant, and some were complete boors! Some made a lot of people see sense, and some made a lot of people snore.

Allow me to elaborate:

If you are a person like me with your ear to the ground, and a finger on the pulse of consumers and media – there were few surprises at the Summit.

But then, not everyone is like me, so I saw plenty of jaws drop and heads shake in awe at the insights and perspectives that were shared.

The ones who stood out (even for me) among the lot of speakers were: Harold Burson, Louis Capozzi, Paul Taaffe, Aedhmar Hynes, Jairam Ramesh, Esther Dyson, and Christopher Graves.

The ones I wanted to hear some more were: Paul Holmes, Tarun Das, Bill Rylance, Doug Hauger and Jean-Leopold Schuybroek.

The ones who had something potent to share, but didn't get due justice were: Yann Risz and Advait Kurlekar (I'll explain how and why in subsequent posts).

The top prize for sheer attitude and energy would be shared between: Christopher Graves, Simon Quarendon, and TN Ninan.

Among the extra curricular sessions: I’d say the most mind opening session was the one with Jamling Norgay!

The second day was better than the first, even though every session on the first day ended bang on time… hey hang on a bit..! That’s why the second day was better – the first day so cut and dried on time, it became boring, and there was hardly any interaction! It’s on the second day when the process took a beating, and everyone asked questions, that the Summit actually became more enjoyable!!

Overall, I’d say the Summit was a success, not just in terms of attendance, but also in terms of learning.

While Simon Quarendon dished out some amazing stats in his vote of thanks to prove the attendance bit, my following posts will give you a session-by-session run down on the learning at ICCO Global Summit 2006!

Stay tuned… Next Practices & Co… Coming up… next!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Back to the Future!

Hi y'all! It's odd really, when someone who keeps talking about the future disappears like he's become history. It's just that I've been so busy helping companies get updated with new media, my own blog got really backdated!

But now I'm back, with promises of sharing a whole lot of stargazing I've done in the past few months. Plus I've got a whole lot of news to share with you about trends and technologies I've discovered along the way.

Simply, it's back to the future for me and my blog!

Thanks for tuning in!