Decrees of Influence

‘Influence’ as a subject has been popping up on this blog since 2010, the last post sometime in Feb 2014. In about half a dozen posts, I wrote about influence in the context of the landscape and complexities, visibility-credibility framing, the data driven approach and its challenges, ‘micro celebrity’ price tags, brands’ usage of influencers as media, and my talk on influence at #WIN14.

Conceptually, I am all for “influencer marketing”. I know it can work in some contexts because of what we achieved with it in Myntra in 2012-13. But even further back, in 2010, thanks to a discussion on a post by Palsule, I realised that with web platforms, after a certain scale is reached, the culture starts resembling that of mass (media) and the ‘influencers’ as well as ‘influenced’ begin a relationship that’s familiar from a mass media era. (Influence CyclesMore

Sounds like a brand

An earlier post’s title was reasonably self explanatory -“Convenience & Choices“, but to summarise, I had dwelt on the abundance of choice we have on all fronts these days, and its (inverse) relationship with conscious choice. I’d quoted from a wonderful article on the death of video stores, The enemy of video stores was convenience. The victim of convenience is conscious choice. The post was subjective, and more a consumer/individual perspective, but what does it to the supply side, or specifically, brands?

Would it be fair to say that convenience is an enemy of brands as well? Let me explain. There are ‘brands’ that have been built on the proposition of convenience. Given the internet’s penchant for eliminating middlemen who do not provide its kind of value, and its ability to create convenient interfaces, everything from Google and Amazon downwards is built on the idea of convenience. That’s not what I am talking of. My line of thought is whether convenience (also) leads to a certain kind of commoditisation – it becomes not so much about what I want, but more about how easily I am getting it. So long as the product/service is comparable in terms of price and value proposition, and not necessarily superior, I’d be fine. The premium is on ease and time, and not on the brand/product.  More

The transience of consumption & marketing

Rajesh wrote a very interesting post recently on ownership, and how it would impact brand/marketing/purchase. My own view of ownership has undergone a massive change in the last couple of years, thanks to a combination of factors like increasing life spans, the changing nature of jobs, and the rise of on-demand services. Add to that extreme income disparity, economic flux, and technological advances that have the potential to create obsolescence faster than ever before, and I’m reasonably sure the concept of ownership is up for a revamp.

Rajesh brings up two factors that caused previous generations to value ownership – financial success (trophies) and asset building. If I have to analyse my own motivations in the past, both of these would find a place. If I dig deeper, I also see a couple of others. One would be lack of access on demand. (eg. music/movie CDs, books, even say, photographs) You can see how streaming and cloud storage have changed this. The other subtext I can vaguely discern is ‘control’. A car, home, all lend an air of certainty and being in control. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in middle class India which had quite a lot of experience with scarcity. But in the line of anti fragile thinking, the key skill going forward would be agility rather than trying to retain control. In essence, a whole lot of cases for ownership that no longer seem relevant.  More

Brand Storytelling

Recently, on Netflix, I caught something that I had read about almost a year back – an easter egg of sorts. On my feed, I saw shows ‘watched by Frank Underwood’. For those who haven’t watched House of Cards, that’s the name of the show’s protagonist, played by Kevin Spacey. (fantastically, I’d add) The shows selected seem absolutely true to (his) character, which is manipulative, scheming, and truly Machiavellian!

Netflix More

Brand Interfaces

A couple of months ago, I had written a post on the inevitable ambient future of what we now call the internet, and the role of AI in it. The post was mostly on the rapidly changing nature of interfaces. The ones we actively interact with – mobile, VR/AR, gesture/haptic based tech – and the relatively more ambient ones like a certain kind of wearables and IoT. In that post, the argument was that Google was best placed to tie together data from mobile, social, sensor, location etc and give it context with the help of AI. (Hello, Alphabet!) As this Wired post states, Google is not a search company, it is a machine learning company. Do read about Google Brain while you’re at it! It has a role in several Google products we use, and shows the potential of what is possible when machine learning really works on content surfacing.

But all that is only context setting. Something that has been occupying a lot of my mind space these days is the impact of these continuing developments on brand communication and distribution. For years, the limitations of traditional media have forced brands to communicate to lumpy masses of ‘target audiences’. As the internet transitions into a much more ambient an ubiquitous form, all of brand marketing will be digital either overtly or under the hood. But even digital’s early versions have been on the same path, with incremental changes based on intent/interest. That, I think, is about to change fast. This superb article on the same subject puts it really well – we need not simply digital strategies but strategies for a digital world. It also explores the technological and platform advances that will allow frictionless experiences for consumers and what it means for brands.  More

The purpose of brand

The Guardian had an interesting post recently, titled “Brand is becoming meaningless“, it (brand) is being replaced by a company purpose that the organisation can rally around. Yes, there is a study that this is linked to, and quotes. To paraphrase, brand is the effect, not the cause, and that has made it lose its fashionable shine.  Someone should tell Maggi this, they just lost $200 mn in brand value, even as the corresponding goods value is ‘only’ $50 mn! (via) Now, just so we are clear, I am not completely against this thought, all the more because this is something I have been writing about for a while now.


(via) More

The IoT battlefield

The last time I wrote about the Internet of Things, I hoped for an application layer that could sense and collect data and convert it into use cases. In fact, the title of the post was Interweb of Things, the nuanced difference between them being connection (IoT) and interoperability. (WoT) (read) In the few months since that post, there has been quite some activity in the space. I saw a very useful classification a few days ago that illustrated both the ‘things’ as well as the infrastructure and showed the possibilities of interoperability. (via)



Change Strategies

It was mid last year when I wrote The Change Imperative, which was as much a note on massively changing business dynamics as it was a note to self. I thought the new year was a perfect time to revisit and explore how brands and business can use change as an opportunity. The new year sees a glut of predictions, trends, insights etc, but the one I look forward to is the JWT Future 100. This year too, it impressed me with unique insights and potentially far reaching consequences. But in the change’ context, I found slides 33 and 52 most interesting. Both of these were related to brand strategy – 33 (Third Way Commerce) was about how millennials were looking for brands with clear values, and 52 (The Long Near Game) was on brands taking a dualist approach to balance short and long term goals.

In my mind, they are related, as brands are making efforts to maintain/create business models that are buffered from current and future shocks and can remain relevant now and later. I found an intersection of the two thoughts in a couple of places. The first was in this post by David Card on new models of  disruption. The first model brought up in this is “Adjacency Platforms”, which is about platforms migrating into new markets or industries. Apple’s iOS moving to payment is the example given here. This thought is also echoed in slides 24-28 of this trends presentation – the phrase used was Startups going ‘Full Stack’. I particularly liked this framing of the thought – It’s not like a brand like Virgin diversifying to follow an audience, it’s diversifying to follow an expertise. Both fantastic approaches, I must say, because they’re based on consumers who believe in the brand’s values. [I believe that Uber is a brand with much potential in this respect – check this]


An Interweb of Things

Since the time I wrote An Internet of Things narrative, its trajectory and pace has seen tremendous acceleration, to an extent where TC has claimed that it has reached escape velocity. Indeed, there is a whole lot of activity happening that would back this claim – startups, larger companies getting interested in the space, geographic expansion and so on. In fact, the article has what seems like a comprehensive chart on applications, platforms etc.

In my earlier post (linked above) I had pointed to the distinction between the Internet of Things and the Web of Things. What was then a nuance seems much more wider now and is even more relevant. Another article on TC, titled The Problem with the Internet of Things is actually about this. One of the products that has fascinated me for a while is Mother, from To me, it aims to solve this problem, and the last two points in their ‘Creating the Internet of Life’ document is proof of it. (Like wearables in 2014, I plan to get a consumer IoT experience in 2015, and this is most likely going to be my preference) Another simplistic but potentially very useful product I have seen is Flic. The last example is Signul, which uses a beacon system to automate things used in daily lives. (both on Indiegogo)