Monthly Archives: February 2013

Influence & Context

Last week, I read two stories on influencers on sites that influence me. ūüėÄ Since that’s a topic that has been seen here before (1,2,3) and it’s been a while since I’ve written about it, a couple of cents.

YourStory’s post, I cheered, despite failing on their influencer scale, (of 5000 twitter followers) because it asked a very pertinent question – “Are brands being ¬†held at ransom by Social Media Influencers?” I completely agree with Mekin’s tweet (cited there) on how it takes the twitterati only a few minutes to demolish years of hard work. Anyone who handles a brand account would relate to that. Expecting ‘influencers’ to mature and watch what they say is like expecting, say, a response from the nation’s leader. The other way to handle it is to be really good at what you do as a brand, be sure of yourself, be transparent, so that you can back up your tweets (no, not that kind of backup) with facts. (more)

LHI’s post was about brands leveraging social influencers. Prasant (of LHI, but didn’t write this post) had commented in the YourStory post about contextual influence, and I quite agree with his views. In fact, my stance remains the same as when I wrote this. To sum it up, (in general, there are of course exceptions including whole domains) brands tend to treat influencers just as they treat traditional media. The more reach, the better, who cares about context? No offense meant, but I am not really influenced by the gentleman in the LHI story. Mercedes needn’t care about that because I’m not really their audience. But the entire episode makes a very good story, so if that was the intent, and not necessarily the person’s influence,¬†opportunity¬†well spotted, and a PR job well done!

But if brands do treat influencers as media, how long will this party last, especially when people are already trying to correct their filter failure? (noise in the stream) Mass media’s ¬†indisputable role in creating perception have been blunted in the web and social eras. Arguable, but I think, in a while, we’ll see a kind of flip. Folks would start figuring out their go-to people, when making consumption decisions. I already do that – in fact, I realised that with a few exceptions, everyone on this list is a go-to person for me! Not all of them have 5k followers, but in their domains, they’re #likeaboss. What has social contributed here – 90% of them were unknown to me before blogging/twitter, but if I am asked for a recommendation in their domains, I don’t have to think twice. I trust them, and this has been built over various interactions across time.

In essence, using influencers would boil down to the intent of brands – mass reach or targeted reach (in this context) – for each activity. There are tons of ways to get reach on social media, in many ways it has already begun to resemble its media predecessors, but trusted sources remains a precious commodity. If brands earn and retain the trust of influencers in their domain – and they could only do that if they are really good at what they do – think of how it could help them when it comes to responding to those ransom calls.

until next time, an affluence of followers :)

Movie magic

There’s a new wave of movies in Malayalam which have now gotten a genre all to themselves – they are being called ‘new generation’. This has as much to do with the new breed of filmmakers/actors/technicians who’ve begun to make their mark as it is to do with the themes that are portrayed in these films and the mindset that a viewer has to probably adopt – this mindset being radically different from the one reserved for the standard potboiler fare that viewers were used to. I stress the last two because it isn’t as though these kind of movies had never been made before. It was just that they were very few in number. Simply put, the maker and viewer generations are now showing a radical shift from even say, 2-3 years back – in terms of approach, outlook, perspectives, perceptions and expectations.

Movies being a medium of expression, I have always been intrigued by the subtexts, though I have not had the liberty of time to actually spend thoughts on the subject. ¬†This article, for instance, does a good analysis on Mani Ratnam’s movies and the influence of various narratives. These days, when I watch (malayalam) movies from the 80s and 90s, ¬†I try to identify the themes that have been used in/inspired them. Earlier than that would be difficult since I have no primary experience of the era.

I saw Thoovanathumbikal again recently, a fantastic movie which deserves a ‘new generation’ tag even if it were made now, especially because of its sensibilities. It is very much what I call a mood movie – requires the viewer to succumb to the mood to truly enjoy it, especially the current day viewer who expects something to happen every second, and nuances are not counted. (probably why Annayum Rasoolum was not appreciated much – it’s less to do with the theme and its twists and more about the way it’s been dealt with – the sophistication and the aesthetic) Timeless as¬†Thoovanathumbikal might be, I wonder how much one would appreciate it more if one had experienced first hand the societal values, mindset ¬†and the ethos¬†of the time. The rain, for example, which plays such an important part, do we view it in that light anymore? At the same time, the maturity of the person is also a factor. I was nine when it released and would have slept through it! :)

And that’s probably why cinema is indeed magical – not only is it a representation of an era, or a part of it, but at any point in time, there’d be someone who’d be able to relate to it, across the passage of years.

until next time, moving pictures

Mammoth Book of Short Science Fiction Novels

The book consists of 13 science fiction novellas all written between 1950 and 1980. At the outset, I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t like the book as much as I thought I would. The start was fantastic, with Isaac Asimov’s “Profession”, where he manages to narrate a story that’s universal and timeless. I wasn’t particularly impressed with John Campbell’s piece, though it was made into comics and movies. Lester Del Ray’s “For I am Jealous People” has an intriguing plot in which God abandons the human race and sides with aliens.

“The Mortal and the Monster” by Gordon Dickson also proved too slow for my liking, and though well paced David Drake’s “Time Safari” seems jaded now that we are inundated with Jurassic monsters regularly on the screen. Phyllis Eisenstein’s “In the Western Tradition” is an interesting plot but from just a human angle.

“The Alley Man” by Philip Jose Farmer was too convoluted and slow for me, but I found the concept of John Jakes’ The sellers of the dream” very intriguing. Donald Kingsbury’s “The Moon Goddess and the Son” was another extended work and I gave up on Barry Longyear’s “Enemy Mine” after a few pages. Larry Niven’s “Flash Crowd” had teleportation which I have always found interesting and it helped that it was a fast moving plot. Frederik Pohl’s “In the Problem Pit” was also just barely there but the book ended reasonably well with Robert Silverberg’s “The Desert of Stolen Dreams”.

There were indeed many stories which I would rate as good science fiction, but there were too many universal human condition stories which were science fiction only because of a setting which then faded into insignificance. There were also a couple of fantasy works which seemed to be masquerading as science fiction. I would say that the “Science Fiction Treasury” edited by Isaac Asimov is a much better read. But it’s still amazing to see many of the concepts spread between what is now reality, or aspirational or still science fiction.

Project Lead

My earlier post on media consumption fragmentation¬†also made me think of the other side – the creation perspective. Despite the hubbub of “integrated campaigns”, some platform, more often than not, plays the lead. In earlier eras, choices were easier – until televisions came into the picture, it was limited to newspapers, events, radio; even after TV made its inroads, things like objectives, costs, geographical reach of the brand etc could be used to make decisions. In general, I’ve seen TV trumping print more and more as time passes, taking on the role of project lead.

After the advent of social, and despite the low internet penetration, the above parameters have increasingly started working in favour of social ‘media’. Of course, there’s always the beginning of the curve when everyone wants in because of the shiny new object syndrome, but I do believe we are crossing that stage now. I still see “let’s do this on social media too” (after the entire campaign has been conceived and produced) or the single slide on social rampant, but that’s also part of the learning curve. As always, some brands are moving faster than others.

We already have brands, internationally, that are experimenting (and successfully) with ideas that are inherently social, and using traditional media for say, additional reach. Just as TV took over from newspapers, it is possible that social will take the seat at the head of the table at some point. It is also possible that it would go the way of digital – relegated to performance campaigns, and belying its potential. That is even more so if social is measured in the same ways as the media before it. However, I think this time the story would be played out differently. But then again, I also think there will be a fragmentation of the brand story, understanding each platform’s nuances, using its inherent strengths, making frameworks that have tailored measurement indices, and in the process, providing a cohesive perspective to the consumer, and cohesive metrics for the brand.

until next time, leaderboards ūüėČ

Lovestrong

Slightly dated in the context of real time, but I thought this was a pertinent read in the Armstrong era. It’s titled “Honesty of the long-distance runner” and is about a Spanish runner¬†Iv√°n Fern√°ndez Anaya. He was running second in a race he had no chance of winning when he saw race leader¬†Abel Mutai¬†pull up about 10 meters before the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line. Instead of exploiting the situation, he let the Kenyan win using gestures to communicate. He thought it was the fair thing to do. He also candidly said that if a Eur/World medal was at stake, he’d probably have done things differently.

I saw this poster at gaping void, related to ¬†purpose, but twisted it a bit in this context. It isn’t as though there aren’t things we love to do. As we move further in life, we learn more about the way life works. Sometimes these things we love make business sense, sometimes they don’t or requires either stellar talent or more hard work than we are willing to put in. Some of us work at it, some of us lock the love away and some of us decide to find an easy way out. And thus it is that even things which involve love and passion – sports and arts – have been converted into competitions and ruthless economically viable phenomena. So really, where does the corruption begin?

until next time, strong-armed

The Oriental Kitchen

When we read about The Oriental Kitchen on the web, and saw the address, we thought it would make it the fifth restaurant in that building – the one that houses The Great Indian Thali, Barbeque Factory and An Elegant Elephant. But turned out that El Tablao had shut down and Spain had been replaced by Chinese-Thai. Ah well, the Buddha has always been clear about the transient nature of it all, so he wouldn’t have had any qualms about replacing the Spanish paraphernalia that made up the earlier ambiance. The chandeliers remain though, and thankfully so does the view. We were the only group when we reached, and were asked if we had a reservation. After an awkward silence during which we scanned the rows of empty tables and chairs, we got exactly the table we wanted. :)

Since Zomato had the menu, we roughly knew what we wanted, and asked for a Tom Kha Chicken soup. Before that arrived, we got a little complimentary¬†amuse-bouche made of darsaan and peanuts. Sweet and spicy it was, and did its job very well. The soup arrived soon after and though we would have liked it to be thicker and wished for the coconut milk to have a stronger presence, its flavours were quite good. Not the best we’ve had, but passable. We had also asked for a Banana Leaf Wrapped Grilled Chicken. That turned out to be really good – spicy with a hint of sweetness and a sauce that complemented it very well! Great presentation too.

 

For the main course, we asked for a Thai Chilli Garlic Noodle with Chicken and though we wanted a Tsinghoi Chicken, the person who took the order recommended a “Slice Chicken with Corriander and Fresh Red Chilli.” (sic) Both the dishes were good (and spicy) though the red chilli was replaced by a green version.

 

The service was friendly and helpful. All of the above cost us just over Rs.1230. I’m guessing Oriental cuisine will definitely have takers in this part of town despite competition around.

The Oriental Kitchen, 612/1 Lotus Building, 4th Block , 80 Feet Road, Near Sony World Signal, 4th Block, Koramangala. Ph: 40906789

Confessions of a ‘social worker’

It’s raining discounts and practically everything is on ‘Sale’, except probably Trivortex bangles! At Myntra, we’ve been having an ‘I Love Sale’ campaign running since January. While we have been tweeting about it since then, last week we decided to take the relationship to the next level. The #ReplaceMovieTitlesWithSale turned out to be a huge success for us, and I’ve chronicled the details on our corporate blog.

Since there were many interesting answers, I even tweeted about it from my personal account, a rare occurrence. I was asked by a couple of people why we chose the cliched hashtag, and I thought this would be a good time to convey my version beyond a few multiples of 140 characters.

I’ve always been a staunch believer of figuring out intent before anything else and it driving everything else. In that sense, I still stick to my earlier stance on hashtags, but it’s more nuanced now, because I begin to understand the kind of roles it can play in a brand’s framework. As the perfect example, in this case, our objective was simple – create a buzz around the sale at Myntra. We could have tried a more ‘critically acclaimed’ hashtag, like #bachpanstyle, but our intent was reach, and the more ‘banal’ it was, the higher its chances of usage. And boy, it worked – generated more than 7000 tweets in 3 hours, and not only was it a #1 trending topic in India, it also touched a worldwide #2. Mission pretty much accomplished.

Zooming outward a bit. I like to think that I’m a social purist, to the extent that I request people not to use social and media as though they are doomed to be married to each other. There are so many things that are social and not media, at least yet! However, social media is a reality, or rather, social is also media. In fact, this is what marketers can¬†instinctively¬†relate to, because it can be viewed in the same paradigms of reference that they have been used to in traditional media. It can also, unfortunately be ‘bought’ – from Promoted Tweets/Followers to Promoted Stories and Page Like Ads. The purist in me lives by not doing this.

However, if I approached all of my assignment as a purist and argued that this is only a long term game and numbers don’t really matter, I’d probably be raised to sainthood in future, but my job would have died long before that! In essence, I need to be pragmatic, and run the sprint and the marathon. My intent decides what I should be running and when. It’s a balance, and one that needs to be worked at every day. If I asked you about the 100m sprint record holder, you’d probably do the pose in a second, but if I asked you the same about marathons…. In general, that holds true for social activities as well. After all, it’s real time, and is a nascent domain in which we have seen very few marathons. :)

In summation, the whole world is on sale, and another sale is not really a news maker. But the sprint can help, by adding a layer that helps this sale stand out. Thanks afaqs and Lighthouse Insights. :)

until next time, now running

Fence sitting

It’s easy to guess the book from where this has been taken. I started reading it only recently. (yes, yes, give me a painful death) “Others dwelt here before… and others will dwell here again…” is pretty timeless, but I was more fascinated by the line after that “The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.

To an almost ‘asocial’ like me, fencing myself in has been an escape route that I use more often than not. It’s also why this is one of my favourite songs

But of late, I am not sure how much fencing oneself in works, especially since the world will find a way to intrude. Probably a sign that I’m getting old, or at least older! In fact, attempts at it become a struggle, one that serves no purpose. That’s probably why most people don’t treat it as black & white, and get by with occasional forays into their fenced-in world.

until next time, keep fencing