Thursday, April 21, 2011
Many of us turned into “revolutionaries” this April. It required no protest marches, no dharnas, no violence, not even fasting. A mere click of the ‘Like’ button on the “India Against Corruption” Facebook page, a change of our profile picture into that of Anna Hazare’s, an updation of our “Status” message into “I support Anna” made each feel a part of the great movement. For many, just giving a missed call on 022-61550789 was enough to express their solidarity towards the movement. Anna Hazare fought, not just by fasting but also by ‘Facebooking’. It was the Internet & other communication tools that increased the voice of his anti-corruption movement. So powerful was this tool that within two days the members of the ‘India against corruption’ page increased from 5 lakhs to 12 lakhs. Some 7 lakh people showed their support by giving a missed call on a number texted to them. The revolution was “virtually there” for everyone to join in. It did not require physical presence; as long as you thought alike you could be a part of this ever increasing group, whenever you felt like, and could voice your opinions too on this “virtual” meeting place!


The last few days have witnessed a lot of revolutions around the world, many of which started “virtually” on the Internet. Today, the role of the social media has become more than just a place to catch up with old friends. Rather, it’s now a place where your voice can be heard – and if what you speak is sense, then there is no limit to the number of followers you can gather. Social media is now bringing about social change too.

Thousands of protesters gathered on the streets of Moldova in 2009 to protest against the communist government. Tunisia too overthrew its ruler in 29 days and many called it the “Twitter Revolution”. It was Twitter that gave protestors the courage to rock the Iranian government, and stand up for freedom and democracy. So overwhelmed was Mark Pfeifle, a former national security adviser, that he called for Twitter to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize! Twitter was helping in bringing like-minded people together – and in the case of India, also in staging a non-violent protest... just the way Gandhi did decades ago.
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The invention of the printing press gave momentum to the French Revolution . For the first time, pamphlets could be printed in bulk and thoughts and ideas could be spread faster. The invention of Twitter and Facebook has given momentum to all recent revolutions. They have provided a voice that is impossible to censor and that can spread faster than lightening! The new age revolutions have become so big largely because of this digital revolution.

While it’s true that Twitter and Facebook are very important tools to spread information, the fact is, real change requires something more. It requires a true leader, who inspires a feeling of camaraderie, of brotherhood. It’s not just a voice, but a voice filled with passion. A true revolution is not about just the number of virtual “friends” who support you, but about those real people who are ready to die for you; it’s not about the number of “media tools” one has, but about the real ‘cause’ you stand for. As Malcolm Gladwell said, “Social media alone cannot provide what social change has always required.” Yes, it gives a voice to the powerless, but a voice needs a face, the face of a leader, who has the power to attract ‘real’ followers. The ‘Like’ button is a strong indicator of your potential, but for a revolution to reach its full potential, the ‘virtual’ voice needs to be backed by a ‘real’ one too. A great leader of tomorrow will be one who will have the maximum ‘Likes’ and “followers”, both in the virtual and the real world. Both grounds will be equally important .That will be the way to change tomorrow’s world.


The ‘virtual world’ has a lot of potential and one person who exploited it best is Julian Assange. It’s not just the nuclear radiation leaks that have the power to destroy the world – rather more potent has been Wikileaks for that has caused more destruction; and that too in the right places. Assange found ways of channeling information from the ‘virtual’ spaces into the hands of the common man and woke him up from his slumber. When Assange started publishing the secret cables in Al-Akhbar, the Lebanese newspaper, did the common man realize how his leaders were cheating him. The revolution started from the average man and that’s how people could finally overthrow the government.

The ‘Virtual World’ has a lot of potential and a great leader can use it intelligently to change the world. An intelligent marketer can use it to get the cash registers jingling and change the very rules of business!


Last year, two students of Wharton launched a site named ‘Kembrel’, which was a private shopping community for just college students. The site partnered with a few well-known lifestyle brands to offer deep discounts on goods for a limited window of time. The catch was, this was a private store which students could access entirely through Facebook – a place they anyway spent a lot of time on!

Facebook commerce is the new buzzword. Retailers are exploring Facebook as a revenue channel like never before. Bulgari, the high end fashion label, has developed jewellery lines, leather goods, and perfumes which are priced right for its Facebook audience, who may hesitate to enter its store in Fifth Avenue, New York; these very consumers can access the brand in the comfort of their Facebook world. This year, FCUK [French Connection] and Dove also opened shops on Facebook, enabling their followers to buy their products directly from the page. P&G had already tasted success when it launched its Max-Factor brand on Facebook last year. Again, last year, Tesco Clothing generated £2 mn in sales as a result of their UK Facebook page. Using vouchers, it tracked its activity on Facebook and found out that its campaign “Friday Frenzy” resulted in more sales in two hours, than it would usually get in a week.

Facebook is inarguably becoming a lucrative place for marketers. Oscar de la Renta launched his first fragrance in 10 years on Facebook. All the people who ‘Liked’ the brand’s page got a free sample. Indian designer Arjun Khanna saw his Facebook page grow so much in popularity that he opened his store in Goa. 3M came up with an innovative product to rejuvenate its Scotch Tape brand. It launched a Scotch Shoe, a tape dispenser that looked like a lady’s shoe. The launch happened only through Facebook, for that was the place where its consumers were.

According to Booz & Company, the value of goods sold through social media may rise six-fold by 2015 to reach $30 billion. In the future, many product sales/launches would happen on Facebook. It’s time for companies to seriously start working on getting more ‘Likes’ and simultaneously thinking of ways of converting the ‘Likes’ on their Facebook fan page into ‘Buys’.

The future seems to be all about ‘Likes’. The power will lie in the hands of the people who will use the ‘Like’ button to give their vote. The one with maximum ‘Likes’, be it an individual or a brand, is the one who will wield the maximum power; for that’s going to be the way to judge the potential of an idea or a brand.

As future leaders, let’s start thinking of ways of making the most of the ‘Like’ button.


Thursday, April 7, 2011
It was an unforgettable moment of pride for all. That night of April 2, 2011 every Indian forgot his caste, creed, worries, tensions, apprehensions and rejoiced with his fellow countrymen as India won the ICC Cricket World Cup. It was a long wait of 28 years and victory never earlier had tasted so sweet. A big achievement for India and most importantly for its most amazing captain M. S. Dhoni. Fearless, confident, cool and unflappable. He drove in unlimited self-confidence into each player, and together the team conquered the world.

The man showed the world he doesn’t play by the rules – and India loved him for that. A captain like Dhoni and a tournament like the World Cup is a combination that doesn’t come too often and it made every marketer sit up and take action. With the whole nation glued to their TV sets, there was nothing more exciting an advertiser could have asked for. Along with the nation, every brand too was eating, sleeping, breathing and singing cricket. Every brand had jumped on to the cricket bandwagon.
With cricket and only cricket on everybody’s mind, most brands changed their advertising strategy to match the mood of the audience. Those who could afford to, roped in the cricketers to endorse their brands, while the numerous others changed their advertising themes, punchlines, promotional offers to match the cricket euphoria. As this was the best way to engage with the audience, Krishidhan, India’s 5th largest seeds company changed its tagline to “Beejon Ka Tendulkar”. DSP BlackRock Mutual Fund asked people to “Prepare your investment kit”. Style Spa introduced its “Hattrick offer”. Dr. Batra’s introduced its “Super Six Offer”. LIC doled out a slew of catchy slogans, each one reflecting the spirit of the game. From “Live life on the front foot” to “Great partnerships are built on trust”, each one showed how life & cricket were not very different from each other. Relating your brand to cricket was the best way to get noticed this time. Those who did have the means – like Revital, Oakley, etc – got a cricketer to endorse their brands. However, for some, in spite of spending so much and changing their advertising themes to cricket, the magic eluded them. Very few could reflect the passion for the game in a way that would get the viewers excited and involved. Research has shown that out of the hundreds who infused “cricket” into their marketing plans, only two brands stood out head over heels above others – Nike and Pepsi.

Much like its “Just do it” slogan, which caught the imagination of youngsters across the world, Nike’s “Bleed Blue” was on the lips of every Indian as he confessed his love for the game. Nike put into words what every Indian felt when its cricket team went to play against the world. Winning the cup and defeating the world made every one weep and bleed for the men in blue.

Pepsi and its campaigns have always been young and appealed to the youth. However, its campaign around the World Cup created by the agency Taproot India, brought a smile to everyone’s lips. Humorous, irreverent, and interesting, the campaign brought out the spirit of the viewers. When it comes to cricket, every Indian thinks he’s the expert and that one could easily teach the cricketers a thing or two to improve their game. For every lost match, we have an explanation & a solution, which, if the team had followed, would have ensured they won the match. The Pepsi ad portrayed this so beautifully with everybody teaching the cricketers how to master unique batting and bowling tricks. It brought a fresh twist to the game and soon the “helicopter shot”, “the doosra”, and the “upar cut” become the new cricket lingo. They were funny and totally different from the cricket rule book. Pepsi did change the game.


That’s the problem with most. We have no idea; or rather no new ideas. Be it in life, in schools, in politics, or even marketing, what’s lacking is original thinking. The problem starts at the grassroots. In schools, IQ scores are rising steadily because children are busy learning and increasing their IQ, but they have no time for idea generation. Whereas it’s the CQ – creativity quotient – that matters in life. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs showed that the No.1 leadership trait was “creativity”. There seems to be a creativity crisis everywhere. Creativity is not confined to art; it’s the ability to think beyond the obvious. Creativity could help leaders in solving world problems, from identifying ways to educating masses, providing health care to finding a peaceful solution for Libya, Afghanistan etc. A creative leader can change the world by thinking & doing things differently. Creative marketers can find ways of taking their messages straight to the hearts & minds of the consumers. They can design campaigns that don’t just look creative, but have a creative, powerful & meaningful message too. The sad part is that not many are doing it. Look at the advertisements of cellular service providers. Everybody is saying they are the best and we should switch to their network. Apart from Vodafone’s Zoozoos, not many names shine out distinctly. While every insurance provider was talking emotions, the adorable Bharti AXA Life Insurance ad shone out as the podgy man at the doctor’s clinic refused to accept that he had a critical lung disease – but a kidney failure was fine for his policy covered it! Somebody thought creatively and drove the point home. Tongue-in-cheek, it poked at the other insurance providers without being critical or preachy. While every advertisement of suitings looks the same with a dapper male model and an attractive girl hanging on to his arm, it was Raymond that shone out with its series of “The Complete Man”. Somebody thought there was more to a personality than just good looks; and as expected, the message was loved & remembered and Raymond stood out above the clutter.

When the stakes are so high and the rewards so lucrative, what every marketer should have stressed on was creativity. Right from the dream semi-final between India & Pakistan to the finals, this World Cup provided umpteen opportunities for creative leaders to shine out. With such unheard of advertising rates (Rs.17-18 lakhs for a ten second spot during the Indo-Pak match) it was absolutely essential for all to think different. M. S. Dhoni kept his words, thought differently and planned the match most creatively – which got us the cup finally, but not many advertisers lived up to the promise, save some like Pepsi. In fact, the Pepsi ads have worked so well that when Dhoni hit the last six, even the commentator remarked that “that was the helicopter shot”, a term that till now had never been a part of the cricket vocabulary. That’s creativity. Exotic locations, attractive models, top quality special effects can never make an advertisement successful. It works only when everything comes together with a great idea. So get new ideas.


Events like the World Cup, the Super Bowl, et al, are huge platforms that can provide an instant reach. They are dream events for advertisers. The men in blue always provide a huge opportunity for advertisers, at least in India. However, this month-end, another “blue” event caught the imagination of the world. It’s the Royal Wedding of the blue blooded Prince William with Kate. A wedding like this comes once in a lifetime almost, and according to some economists, it might even save the British economy. It’s expected to generate £620 million just from tourism, add to that the sale of memorabilia and other merchandise.

It’s a big event and marketers are already working overtime! While Walmart is selling tea mugs with the Royals on them, Hyatt Regency has introduced a “William & Kate. The Love Story” package; a brewery is even producing a special “Kiss Me Kate” beer... and the list goes on.

It’s time again to put on our creative hats and make the most of this “blue blooded” event, for the one who thinks differently is the one who will profit the most. And David Cameroon, you can save your economy too! In whatever you do, be creative, be original, and just like our super captain Dhoni, think from your heart and bleed blue with passion.