“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”


A walk down the city streets during the after-work hours these days, would show you a very different life of the hardworking labour class. Low cost smartphones and the latest revolution that was brought in by Jio has given all of them an access into a whole new world of entertainment and information that is creating aspiration in the section of our society that was never pulled in the economy. Though as single units, they might not look like a big change, but even a proportion of the 80 million migrant population can collectively change the face of consumption patterns in the country. Smart phones single-handedly have led to a revolution around us; the target groups are evolving, touch points for brands are changing, shopping pattern are way different, accessibility and experience are the new parameters for quality, but the world of advertising has failed to catch up with the pace of innovation.

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As any new pathbreaking technological evolution is accepted by people, the brand powerhouses start adapting themselves, they are followed by the marketing firms who tweak their strategy as per the brand’s need and then the advertising companies move towards the change only when pushed. Ad-agencies are not pre-empting the changes and adapting themselves but are being the laggards, and this gap could be as much as 2 years! In an era when technology is changing with the blink of eyes, 2 years is enough of a time to make you irrelevant and you may be consumed by what is being termed as ‘Digital Darwinism’.

Look at what’s happening in the Industry, many brands are losing their equity and connect with customers and are increasingly being commodititized. For instance, let’s consider the Airline industry, the companies have lost their brand value and the entire business has become a price war zone. People choose the cheapest flight and are not willing to pay any premium for a brand. One of the reasons could be that companies have failed to tell their stories to their consumers. Once, the television was an engaging medium, people had time to spare and TV commercials served as effective medium for brand communication. But now, the world has shrunk into the 5.5” mobile screen and brand communicators have not been able to tap that medium effectively yet. Although social media campaigning and digital marketing are a ‘talk of the town’ these days, but the innovators are moving far ahead as we are trying to figure out what hashtags and keywords make users click. The Siris and Cortanas are slowly becoming an integral part of our daily lives, our gadgets are becoming more intuitive and intelligent, chatbots are taking over communication, in such times shouldn’t advertising be moving on along the same pace? How do we integrate a brand with the modern-day J.A.R.V.I.S and F.R.I.D.A.Y, and gain the customer’s mindshare?

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Seamless connectivity, accessibility and quick service are no longer a tool for customer satisfaction and retention, they now are hygiene factors; if you’re not quite there, you’re off the evoked set, may be, forever. The factors like quality, better features, design innovation, though are still relevant, but they are not the only ones that would differentiate you, there are so many others offering the same. To find a place in the customer’s top of the mind recall we need the brand communication to be an experience that would keep the customers at ease and weave into their lifestyle perfectly; the message needs to be unified at various brand touch points, from the customer support service to the UI/UX experience.

A big revolution that awaits us in the very near future is Internet of Things, or IOT. We’re talking of a world where not just our phones and tablets but even cars, refrigerators, air conditioners would all be intelligent enough to know just what we need. These devices become store houses of data, giving novel insights into customer’s buying pattern, preferences, lifestyle and choice drivers: data that was previously unobtainable. The marketers will have several opportunities to deliver more relevant communication to the consumers and it might not be in any ad-format we know as of now. We’re heading towards an unpredictable era. Is the advertising industry ready for such a change, from being just a communicator to being an integral part of the service design and orchestrating a brand campaign?

We need to gear up and participate in this evolution, as the strategy guru Peter Drucker put it, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

First published in Business Standard on the 2nd Jan 2017 

Why should we emulate Japan and not Brazil?


 

In 50’s & 60’s Indian advertising blindly carried forward or mimicked the British, 70’s saw the influence of the American advertising fueled by FMCG’s and 80’s witnessed self-discovery of Indianess with television opening new doors. And Indian creatives were also exposed to the world and somehow “Thai” advertising influenced many of us as it reflected our realities with heavy dose of emotion combined with insightful “Pandeyji” type humor. 90’s exposed us to the cutting edge competitiveness of “Awards” our English-speaking writers and art directors influenced by Neil French started to produce minimalistic crafty ads. The new millennium made us watch Brazil take the center stage with Marcello Serpa as their leader.

Brazil became a role model for Indian advertising creatives, Brazilian ads were packed with high voltage of entertainment and cleverness with impeccable craftsmanship. Brazilian creatives became superstars by winning loads of awards and admiration, and Indians wanting to emulate the formulae started to create pro-active one-off ads and in the bargain lost the originality of what we are as a race and what are were fast becoming.

If one were to introspect we as people are far more closer to Japanese than carefree Brazilians, we lack Japanese discipline agreed but we both have two things in common “Humanity and technology” a leg in the past and the other in the future. Infosys, TCS, Wipro and the inspired San Jose migrated geeks opened ambition and possibilities in the small town Indian MCA’s minds. Who were responsible for some of the most tech supported innovations around the world by writing and breaking codes. Sadly these geeks operating from the poverty stricken backyard garages of Vijayawada and Mysore, were not even recognized by our very own tech savvy digital wiz kids. Now imagine these code writers collaborating with creative minds like Agnello and Rajiv Rao to create life-changing ideas for eradication of illiteracy or infanticide.

Japanese creatives show us the way with Grand Prix winning “Yubari” case or this year’s Honda Motors Internavi “connecting lifelines”case. Honda’s reflex action within 20 hours of last year’s earthquake and tsunami rocking Japan put the country back on road to recovery by providing road information collected real-time via Intranavi navigational systems installed in the vehicles. They actually used the data on Google maps and visualized usable roads to public via Internet and Google maps. This is an excellent case of “Humanity and technology” coming together to solve a problem.

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This is what the future India can do with creativity and technology, to my mind it’s the technology powered with creativity has the power to change our country’s contradicting and contrasting problems. Now its in our hands where we want to aim our dum-dum bullet.

Did I say bullet train?