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Saturday, April 19, 2014

What's your story?

The world is abound with stories. No matter where you look, you will find one. Right from political election campaigns and sales pitches to job interviews and casual conversations, there are always stories. Some central, many peripheral.

Everything you do is either a result of the stories you tell yourself or stories told by others that you believe in. This is why some can do amazing things under adversity while some others crumble to pieces at the slightest sign of pressure.

Products that have a well-defined story about why they exist and whom they hope to serve last far longer than ones that are willing to do anything for anyone to gain social shares and quick bucks.

When you go after everyone, there is no consistent story that you can tell. Very few succeed in telling a compelling story at such a level of abstraction that a large number of people are able to relate to it despite their differences. 

It is possible to tell different stories to different sets of people and convince them all to buy your product. But, as politicians will attest to, it is nearly impossible to live up to all these disparate claims. 

Make your story compelling. And be willing to leave behind those whom the story does not apply to.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Abki baar Modi sarkaar

Do you want to know how I got this scar?
Abki baar Modi Sarkaar!

'Abki baar Modi sarkaar' has become such a popular line that I see it everywhere. Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, even normal conversation.

When someone doesn't care about one or the other in the available options, she generally tends to choose the one which she has seen/heard about more frequently. This is the only thing an FMCG marketer needs to keep in mind. Blast the message. Everywhere. As often as can be done.

This is true about politics as well. There are many many people who do not really care to logically differentiate between one candidate or another. They end up voting for the one who they see and hear about more often.

If little kids were eligible to vote, you would probably hear this as well.

Twinkle twinkle little star
Abki baar Modi sarkaar!

Dynastic politics and Brand identity

Mark Antony, in Shakespeare's Julius Ceaser, while delivering his famous burial speech says,
The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones,
This time, as every other time, there are several electoral candidates who come from a family of successful politicians.

While dynastic politics is talked about in negative light more often then otherwise, there is an interesting article in today's Economic Times Magazine on Dynasty Politics. Today being a Sunday morning, I will give in to my laziness and let you dig up the article online.

When the children of doctors, lawyers and accountants go on to become doctors, lawyers and accountants, absolutely nothing negative is said about it. But this is not the case when the children of politicians go on to become politicians.

This was the argument provided by Mani Shankar Aiyar as well, when he was asked a question on dynastic politics in India, a couple of years ago when he spoke at IIM Calcutta. This seemed a valid argument to me at the time and continues to do so today.

Borrowing from the ET article, if we were to invest in a start-up, we would likely choose one that already has a positive brand identity (be it through famous founders, investors, etc) as opposed to one that has to build it from scratch. We perhaps end up doing the same on election day.

The children of successful politicians already bring with them a positive brand identity as opposed to unknown new-comers.

The key is positive brand identity. This brings me back to the initial quote from Julius Caeser. It is much harder to leave behind a positive image than it is to leave behind a negative one.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Price, variety, effort

These are the three things that the value proposition of most e-tailers hinge on.

They are constantly looking to bring down the price of products on offer. They are focused on providing access to a wide variety of brands in every single category that they operate in. With cash on delivery, return policies, published customer reviews, they are making the process of buying things as close to effortless as possible.

And its working.

But that doesn't mean it is the end of traditional retail stores. Sure, they have no chance of competing if their value proposition is focused on the same three things as the e-tailers. But, if they compete on other things. They are still in business.

Supermarkets sell cheap wine and beer. From various labels. And its just another item to pick up while grocery shopping, so there is no extra effort involved. Yet, a lot of people still pay several times the cost at a restaurant or a pub, where the options in terms of variety are likely lower.

The story matters.

If you want to compete on price and proximity, sure, go ahead. You are in business until someone else makes it cheaper and easier to access.

Build a compelling story instead, and people seek you out.

This e-booklet by Seth Godin brings out the argument through a very specific story. That of placebos. 


After Chelsea's loss to Crystal Palace last night, a reporter asked Jose Mourinho in the post-match interview "What is the quality you desire in your side?"
Mourinho, in reply, "I cannot say in front of cameras. I can write it on paper."
When handed a notepad by one of the media persons, he wrote, "balls".

We all need a bit of that.

The courage to go out and perform at our best irrespective of where the conditions fare on a favourability scale of 1-100.

Achieving something when all the conditions are favourable needs merely knowledge or ability. Making a decision when all the data is available is just a straight forward calculation. There is no challenge. It can just be automated.

Football matches are played in any weather and the opposition can employ any possible tactic. Irrespective of that, a team has to succeed. Just like we need to go out and succeed irrespective of what situation we are in.

And for that, knowledge and ability matter but little.

What matters is the mentality and the attitude, or as Mourinho not-so-subtly put it, balls.