Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Working with uncertainty


Chaos or uncertainty and my agnostic views towards research have found a place here, here and here. Paul McEnany's presentation above is brilliant and well thought-out. More importantly, he makes some very good recommendations. Happy viewing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mind Wandering


Boredom, is often times seen as one big downer. Being bored is considered to be a form of 'psychological sahara'. Not anymore.  

This interesting piece on psychology of boredom lays to rest many preconceived notions on boredom. Here are some of the excerpts.

Boredom and its synonyms can also become a crucial tool of creativity. “Boredom is your window,” Once this window opens, don’t try to shut it; on the contrary, throw it wide open.”

The secret isn’t boredom per se: It’s how boredom makes us think. When people are immersed in monotony, they automatically lapse into a very special form of brain activity: mind-wandering. In a culture obsessed with efficiency, mind-wandering is often derided as a lazy habit, the kind of thinking we rely on when we don’t really want to think. (Freud regarded mind-wandering as an example of “infantile” thinking.) It’s a sign of procrastination, not productivity.

In recent years, however, neuroscience has dramatically revised our views of mind-wandering. For one thing, it turns out that the mind wanders a ridiculous amount.

The last bit of mind wandering research worth highlighting also comes from the Schooler lab. Not all daydreams are equally effective at inspiring new ideas. In his experiments, Schooler distinguishes between two types of daydreaming. The first type occurs when people notice they are daydreaming only when prodded by the researcher. Although they’ve been told to press a button as soon as they realize their mind has started to wander, these people fail to press the button. The second type of daydreaming occurs when people catch themselves during the experiment – they notice they’re mind-wandering on their own. According to Schooler’s data, individuals who are unaware of their mind-wandering don’t exhibit increased creativity.

What are you waiting for? 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ideas mean nothing

(Image via)

Ideas, we all have them. They seem to pop-up like fireflies in the night sky. And like fireflies they seem to disappear in a flash, sucked in by the void. It takes a very brave and persevering soul to bring ideas to life. It does not matter whether the ideas were a success or a failure when finally developed. The fact that the ideas finally came into play is an achievement in itself.

You can find these brave souls in every walk of life. An ability to execute their ideas no-matter-what is the DNA plug that sets them apart. I have immense admiration for them.  I keep tossing lot of ideas but never gotten round implementing even one of them. It can be depressing especially when you see the very idea doing the rounds.

I hope to close the gap between idea(s) and execution thanks in large measure due to inspiration I find in the online (social) world. One such inspiration is a wonderful piece by Derek Sivers.  I have reproduced below a simple formula by which he proves that idea is a multiplier of execution.

Ideas are worth nothing unless they are executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.



SO-SO EXECUTION = $ 10,000
GOOD EXECUTION = $ 100,000
GREAT EXECUTION = $1,000,000
To make a business, you need to multiply the two.

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth only $20.
The most brilliant takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.
That’s why I do not want hear people’s ideas.
I want to see their executions.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You've just gotta fight your way through


The above statement is attributed to Ira Glass

It is meant for beginners is what the poster says. It resonates with me, loud and clear. I have been pottering around in the digital world for over 2 years now. The last 4 months have been particularly intense as I have taken on a full-time role. In the digital space, I can see the relevance of this statement every minute. From the conception of an idea (even the most basic) to its final execution requires one to fight their way through. I guess, this also holds true for most other creative jobs. Therefore, save this poster and be inspired even against the heaviest odds.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This is why you work in advertising

"Don't tell my mother I work in an advertising agency - she thinks I play piano in a whorehouse". Jacques Seguela

The picture and the oft repeated line above made me smile. I came across it in an interesting post here. The author quoting Jaron Larnier the digital visionary extensively, makes lot of interesting points. You might want to check them out.   

Monday, November 7, 2011

7 Deadly Sins Of Marketing

Tom Fishburne hits the spot every time with his cartoons. Anyone even remotely connected to marketing and communication will agree with this one too. The saddest thing is that anyone from the agency business with enough experience (>10 years) would have been a reluctant or willing accomplice to the 7 deadly sins at one point of time or the other. Sigh, the cross we all have to bear.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Digital Ninja

This video made me LOL because it is so true. You find ninjas everywhere and in every form. Brand, advertising, strategy, social media....but for these ninjas life will be boring. Behind every great bubble of hot air stands a ninja wielding a powerpoint. Or is it babble?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Out-of-focus groups

I simply cannot understand the fascination for focus groups. Very rarely does anything good come out of it. If focus groups were all it is portrayed to be why are there so many duds in terms of products, ideas and campaigns? Why do we ignore the collective wisdom that the marketing and agency teams bring to the table? Why do we overlook the wealth of knowledge waiting to be tapped from the war zone like sales, customer care etc? Why do we discount commonsense? And can respondents really be trusted?

I am not alone with my rant. There are many in the business with much stronger concerns about focus groups. I liked this example (via) that just hits the spot.

Years ago, British Airways (BA) decided to introduce a new service for its first class passengers on long haul flights. It was basically a mini fridge full of goodies so that if you woke up in the middle of the night feeling a little hungry, you could get something nice for yourself. The question was: What do we put into this little fridge?

BA dutifully did its market research and assembled several focus groups of first and business class passengers. What would you like, they asked? The response was universal. People wanted fruit or perhaps some light salads. All very good. All very healthy.

On the first flight with the new service an air hostess paused as she noticed the fridge being filled. “What are you doing?” she asked. And the person dutifully explained what was happening. The hostess laughed. “They’re lying!” she said. “They don’t want salads. Listen, I’ve being doing the London to LA route for years, and when they wake up in the middle of the night the last thing on their minds is salads.”

“But the focus groups all said …”

She shook her head and walked away. A couple of minutes later she came back with some chocolates and cakes. “Please put these in as well,” she said. “Trust me. I know my customer.”

And they did put some chocolate and cakes in and when they checked at the end of the flight, they were all gone and nobody had touched the apples or salads.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Inside Pixar


Pixar is what every creative organisation should aspire to become. Not only are their films critically acclaimed but are also mega-commercial successes. In the interview above you get to know the reason why. It is all about leadership and culture. This simple interview covers lot of territory and is at once fascinating and insightful.

For example, take managing ‘creative types’.

In an agency you can see some of the so-called-creative types strutting about like a peacock-on-heat throwing tantrums and in general making life miserable for everyone. Management is completely paralyzed into inaction not knowing how to deal with them. The result is that such behaviour becomes cancerous vitiating the entire atmosphere.

At Pixar, the creative process is viewed as a group effort. While there is room for creative eccentricities, they do not let it affect group dynamics. They simply fire the creative person even though he might be the best. Following is the transcript about that from the interview. 

"[At Pixar] there is very high tolerance for eccentricity, very creative, and to the point where some are strange… but there are a small number of people who are socially dysfunctional [and] very creative – we get rid of them. If we don’t have a healthy group then it isn’t going to work. There is this illusion that this person is creative and has all this stuff, well the fact is there are literally thousands of ideas involved in putting something like this together. And the notion of ideas as this singular thing is a fundamental flaw. There are so many ideas that what you need is that group behaving creatively. And the person with the vision I think is unique, there are very few people who have that vision.. but if they are not drawing the best out of people then they will fail.

We will support the leader for as long and as hard as we can, but the thing we can not overcome is if they have lost the crew. It’s when the crew says we are not following that person. We say we are director led, which implies they make all the final decisions, [but] what it means to us is the director has to lead.. and the way we can tell when they are not leading is if people say ‘we are not following’."

Do you think an agency will dare to do this?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Do This Or Die - A message from Bill Bernbach


This message is as relevant today as it was when Bill Bernbach wrote it decades ago. Marketing and communication(creative) without lies and hypocrisy can work magic. Bill Bernbach has proven it many a time. And so have quite a few like him. Therefore, what is stopping you?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The World Of Mobile

Sowing seeds by yiibu
View more presentations from Bryan Rieger.
Courtesy via Conrad Lisco

I couldn’t help post the above presentation for two reasons.

Reason 1: It is a great presentation of thoughts and stats that reinforces simplicity as the key to succeed in creating mobile experiences. 

Reason 2: We have been hearing the constant drone about the ‘future is mobile’. Yes, the stats are impressive and the projections even more so. Yes, at a socio-cultural-economic level the impact of mobile technology has been phenomenal. This is best represented by aid to Haiti or the service to farmers in India or m-pesa in Africa. And we know that this is just the beginning in this sphere of mobile activity.

However, brands have made very little headway in trying to tame this beast. There are examples though but they are more an exception than the norm. 

This wonderful presentation by a young strategist, Avin Narasimhan, is maybe just the answer brands need. He has provided an easy framework for us to look at people’s mobile behaviour and brands. The reason I am endorsing this POV is based on my personal experience in December 2009. In order to demonstrate the capabilities of my client’s mobile technology (3dSoc) to a prospective client, I had worked almost on the same lines as Avin has suggested in his presentation. I knew then that I had hit a sweet-spot in the approach to mobile for brands and so did my client. And when I came across Avin’s presentation sometime in 2010, it was a déjà vu of sorts.

I also think that the beginning of a new year (and a new decade) is a good time to place before you thoughts and information that I have collected on this interesting subject. So here goes: 

The amazing Mary Meeker sets the tone with some stunning stats and predictions here and here. By default most presentations today carry key slides from her presentation. Frankly, this has increased my annoyance quotient considerably, not at Mary Meeker but at these unimaginative hacks.

When an industry has astonishing growth figures, the VC’s cannot be far behind. Here’s the latest view from the highly respected Fred Wilson on the direction mobile is headed. It might seem predictable. But hey, you might want to know what the VC’s think for you to wrangle the all important $$$ with the sliver of an idea buzzing in your head.  

Academia too have strong views on the subject with MIT summing up 2010 neatly.

Youth form the largest base of mobile owners with 1.5 billion of them owning it across the globe. But do we know how they use it? For example, did you know that rural youth in India spend nearly 5 hours every day listening to music on their mobile? You can find such information about youth from across 65 countries in the amazing MobileYouth.

Tomi Ahonen is One of the leading experts on mobile and marketing. He is a rich resource of insights and information that one should tap into regularly.

Finally, the icing on the cake is this crystal-ball gazing effort on the part of guru’s on what mobile trends in 2020 will be like.

Let’s not go that far though. Let’s begin with 2011 and hope it truly ushers in the ‘decade of the mobile’. 

Happy New Year!

PS: More suggestions welcome