On Jan 21 – 23, I attended a three-day live concert in Cochin, Kerala, India. It was a christian concert with artists from all over the country. You can get more details about the event at mightythunderconcert.com.

I got the opportunity to photograph the event and I loved it. It is the first time, I went all manual on my DSLR and used only my 70 – 300 mm lens on all three days.

One of the best things about covering an event like this is that you get to be in front of all the action. :)

So after10.5 GB and 3600 photos, here are some of my best frozen moments:

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In India, we have had our green and white revolutions. We are having our high-tech revolution. They are also trying for a tiger-striped revolution.

I think it is time for India to have a marketing revolution. As I make this statement, I acknowledge that, as a country, we have some great companies, products and services. We are also known for great  creatives and campaigns. But I am not referring to the few who are successful or to a particular function within marketing but to the general attitude towards marketing (and how that can apply to our everyday, sometimes personal, life).

The reasons why I think we need a marketing revolution are plenty and just to list a few:

  • Everybody seems to be doing the tried and tested. Nothing new!
  • Involvement (at different levels) seems to be at an all-time low.
  • Poorly executed marketing strategies (not just flyers, but the whole works sometimes)

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Go figure!

December 30, 2010 — Leave a comment

I made seven posts on this blog this year (eight, including this one). Yes, that is pathetic!

If I resolve to make a post every week in the new year, will I be able to keep it?

I feel like Craig Ferguson who keeps talking about his crappy set and how nobody watches his show. He actually has an amazing show with actual guests and is very popular.

Go figure!

There really is no substitute for content and consistency.

Pictures: Gazing at the moon

December 21, 2010 — 2 Comments

My fascination with the night sky started very early. I could stare at a star-filled sky for several minutes (I never could do hours because I could never find a nice place to lie down and stare at them!) Anyways, when I got my camera, I had the opportunity to capture those moments. But, I faced two problems:

  • It was and still is too dark at night.
  • The only thing bright enough for me to capture with my camera is the moon. And if you don’t have a tripod, it is going to look like a very bright, shaky studio light.

So I got myself a tripod and read up on the right settings and this picture here is my pick from the first lot.

Full-Moon-Kerala-Tungsten

In case you are wondering if I encountered a blue moon, I don’t think I did. That is a result of the White Balance set on Tungsten.

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Rethinking Repetition

December 19, 2010 — Leave a comment

One man’s audience may not be every man’s audience.

Just because something has been said before does not mean it cannot be said again. That is another reason why some ideas are worth sharing again. In fact, the whole concept of social media is based on repetition. Content creators create or mash content. Content share-rs. echo that content. Everybody, at different points, are either one.

Success, sometimes is defined by how many times your story was repeated – how many people liked your video or how many retweets you got on that post. Ideas go viral because of this repetition.

Repetition + your opinion = more valuable comment.
More valuable comment * other more valuable comments = conversation.

That is why it is recommended to add your opinion to a retweet than a simple RT (which is why I find it strange why Twitter promotes retweeting without any edits). Facebook allows conversations around certain events – a statement, link, picture or a video. It is easier to track the (larger) conversation on Twitter (it’s reminds me of IRC).

As people, our opinions vary. Differences abound. But that is exactly what makes conversations interesting. If we were surrounded by yes men (or women), then life would get boring.

But we often hesitate to say something for fear of criticism. The fear exists because we worry we will have to change our opinions. But what if that criticism helps hone our ideas and opinions. I can proudly say that some of the greatest influences in my life were my critics. (That is another topic!)

When in conversation, always keep in mind that – what appeals to one set of people may not appeal to another. It is important to understand that difference and move forward.

Don’t be scared to say something because you think (or know) someone else has said it already. Your audience may not have heard it. And even if they have, some of them may appreciate hearing it again.

This is one of the best discussions I have seen in recent past. Martin Giles does a great job in moderating the panel. Add two of my favorite authors (the third one just got on my list), you have a WIN!

Direct link to the video on YouTube

If you have ever played strategy games like Caesar or Sim City, you would notice the people inside the game get bored and the game tells you need to give them some sort of entertainment. You are expected to build gardens, parks, arenas or theaters and allow citizens to chill out. In the game, it helps enhance your popularity among the people.

Well, that is what came to my mind as I read Azim Premji’s article in the Times of India about the expenses that is being incurred for the upcoming Commonwealth Games at Delhi. Rs. 28,000 crores i.e. US$ 5.97 billion is the estimated total spend for the games. This includes the cost of upgrading stadiums, infrastructure like the new airport terminal, wider roads, new flyovers and even the Metro rail extensions. This definitely does not include the cost of getting the poor off the streets or the below-average working conditions they had when building all this infrastructure nor the poor standards they were paid by. Cheap labor is a resource in India.

Azim Premji quotes a University of Oxford research in his article that states, “There are more poor people in eight Indian states than in the 26 poorest African countries combined.” 55 percent of India’s population of 1.1 billion, or 645 million people, are living in poverty.

When we can spend so much money on something like the games, why can’t we spend money on building schools and health-care facilities? I like the way Mr. Premji puts it, “the country has very little sports infrastructure on the ground. To encourage sports, our first step has to be to ensure children get access to playgrounds, good equipment and quality coaching. To not have this, and to instead spend on a grand sporting spectacle sounds like we have got our priorities wrong”

It reminds me of Russell Peters’ joke about India not playing the Fifa World Cup. He said in one of his stand up acts, “We are the second largest population in the world. There is 1.2 billion people there and we can’t come up with eleven dudes to make up a team!”

We cannot come up with eleven dudes for a soccer team or one person for a tennis court because our children are not encouraged in school to excel in extra-curricular activities like sports or music. Even if they were encouraged, there are no facilities in our schools to promote such skills.

If we scour through our streets in different cities and villages across India, I am quite sure we can find talent that will dazzle the world in different areas – sports, music, why even the popular mainstream areas of study. The only way to achieve this is by setting up schools across India, training teachers to look for talent and empowering them to encourage these students. Give the Indian youth an opportunity to see what is out there. Help them understand what they are capable of. They will not be able to do this when they are burdened with the load of winning bread for the family.

I am not against us hosting the Commonwealth games. It gives us a great opportunity, as a country, to showcase our qualities – variety, tradition, culture and beauty. It brings other nations’ attention to us. The marketing leverage a country gets out of doing something like this is tremendous. But as Mr. Premji put it, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our priorities. We fought the British for independence because we wanted the right to build this country ourselves, to make sure all of us got equal rights to every opportunity. Not just to dream our dream but to live it.

One of my favorite places to visit when I am in the US are book stores. Walking down the street, subway or inside a mall, if I see a book store, I have to go inside. And most of time, I end up purchasing something, even though I may not have finished reading my previous purchases. Among all the physical stores I have visited, I have always liked the Barnes & Noble store. I stress “physical” because my favorite store is Amazon.com, simply because I get a better deal on books and CDs apart from the expansive range of stuff I have access to and access to different opinions about what I am about to buy.

The main difference between these two stores is that – Amazon helps me make the right decision whereas Barnes & Noble makes me feel good about my opinion. That is because they sell me the experience of buying a book. I can feel it before I buy it.

In terms of recommendations and reviews, B&N gives me shelves or tables filled with best-sellers, new books or bargain-finds. But I don’t have access to instant reviews about a book or whether I have different choices I can look at. I could always sit down and read a few pages myself and do it over a cup of Joe.

And now, click-and-mortar is winning over brick-and-mortar. It was bound to happen. On Aug 3, 2010, Barnes & Noble announced that their board was considering a sale of the company. There is now a tussle over who gets control of the company. On one side, you have Leonard Riggio, Barnes & Noble’s founder and chairman (29.9% of the company’s shares). The other side has investor Ron Burkle, who is already a large stockholder in the company (19.2% of shares). We will know what comes of this fight by September 28 at the company’s annual meeting.

 

 

Barnes & Noble has 777 locations

What intrigues me about Barnes & Noble is the fact that they have 777 stores across the US. Compare that with 19 fulfillment centers (in US alone) of Amazon.com. Why do you need so many stores? It is obvious that running and maintaining these stores can be expensive by themselves. It definitely is not going to help keep the costs down.

Look at the numbers:

Revenue (US$)Operating Income (US$)Net Income (US$)
Barnes & Noble5.12 billion143 million75.9 million
Amazon.com24.5 billion1.129 billion902 million

Source: Wikipedia.com

B&N introduced the Nook Reader to compete with Amazon’s Kindle. They even did well by producing Nook apps for the iPhone and iPad. But it was late and not well accepted in the market, especially with its touch screen and software problems.

I am no supply-chain expert neither am I a financial wizard. But it would be very depressing to see a neighborhood B&N store close down (even though sometimes that makes sense).

One of the few things that Barnes & Noble needs to get right first is – take the fight online. And use the network of stores to your advantage. Amazon plays on a much wider scale than B&N (electronics, instruments, appliances etc.) and it will not make sense for B&N to get into all that now.

  • Engage the reader/buyer online. Invest in technology that will make bn.com more like Amazon.com. Given the choice between bn.com and amazon.com, it is very easy to choose Amazon’s website because of the wealth of information available to you about what you want to buy. BN.com has some great features like their professional reviews, local store events, etc. Club that with some community participation, they should see people spending more time on their websites.
  • Fix the Nook Reader. People are not going to buy a device that is slow. (You could slash the price heavily but it won’t help you in the long term.)
  • Do something with all that space. Each B&N shop has so much space and so little happening. There must be something else you can do than just book readings and author meets.

I just hope that whoever gets control of the bookstore makes it right this time.

What do you think? Do you think B&N has a chance? What should they do to improve business?

Much has been said about the new Old Spice “the man your man should smell like” commercials and Isaiah Mustafa, the ridiculously handsome guy whose random rambles got viral on the Internet. The result: you see an old brand reinvent itself and put themselves in people’s thoughts.

The commercials were originally launched in the US around the Super Bowl last February. But the best part of this campaign is that they did not stop with the commercials. Some weeks ago, Old Spice responded to “the Internet” – questions or comments people left on any social media – YouTube, Twitter, blogs. They were the common everyday people and the commercially successful or maybe we should call them “socially popular” people/brands like Starbucks, Kevin Rose, Alyssa Milano. He even responded to his own daughter on one of his videos.

I didn’t hear anybody in India refer to the commercial much. In fact, most of time I mentioned the commercials to my friends and family, they were like “really?, what’s that all about? Old Spice?!” But since this was done on the Internet, it became close to a worldwide phenomenon. It generated a lot of activity online with networks and blogs covering them. Bloggers and marketers were all ga-ga about how Old Spice reinvented themselves.

The first question I had in my mind was, “What are these guys up to?” I mean, this is Old Spice we are talking about. The last time I used an Old Spice product was over 15 years. But here they are – new, refreshing and funny too.

Mashable brought out some stats:

  • Number of videos made: 180+
  • Number of video views: 5.9 million
  • Number of comments: 22,500

(Mashable.com, July 15, 2010)

If you think about it, Old Spice just made some advertisements. But the real difference they made were the personal video responses. Social media is all about making conversation and they did exactly that.

Here are some good reads on the topic:
How the Old Spice videos were made
Lessons for small businesses from Old Spice

I am not going to talk about what marketing lessons we can learn from this campaign or how the right mix of creativity, humor and timing can help in your social media strategy. I just wanted to share this with you, in case you are one of the remaining 6+ billion people in this world who haven’t seen this yet.

Did this interest you? What did you think of the campaign?

Time-Management-LCSomeone said, “You can’t change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future”

Inundated. I have my work at full steam – and sometimes they get the better of me. Organizing and coordinating the different parts of a media & communications job can be fun. And challenging. I am learning to adjust to the lead times involved in this work and the different time zones!

But why did my blog suffer? I had time to brush my teeth. Take bath. Daily. Eat food. Why did my blog suffer? It was not fair. But I give credit to all of you who have been patient and very encouraging. I am thankful.

Time management has not always been my forte. My idea of time management is to not sleep. But my body does not agree with my theory. How much ever I try, it always gets the better of me. It just would not let me have my way. I don’t know how it does it but it always keeps me in bed for five hours every day. And if I push it too far, bam! In bed you go for a week! If someone knows how to beat that, let me know.

What did I learn about time management?

  • Use a calendar. Paper or online.
  • List your tasks/appointments.
  • Prioritize them. You could either number them or mark them in some way so you can clearly see the important tasks. Those are the ones you want to get done first.
  • Cancel tasks. There is always a “not-to-do-list” where there is a to-do list.
  • Start. Sometimes, this can be the toughest part. There may be planning that is required or information that needs to be gathered. It is important to start somewhere. It sets you in motion. You can build momentum as you move on.
  • Strike them off, once it is done. Move on to the next task.

Side notes:
– It is important to know when to stop. You could go on forever doing a homepage or cleaning the bathroom. It is easier when you realize that you will have to update the homepage tomorrow or the bathroom needs to be clean and sanitized, not polished and slippery! You could always spend more time on tasks once you have finished the other things on your list.

– Don’t beat yourself because you were not able to finish the task list. Learn to carry forward and finish it the next day.

– Some tasks are not meant to be finished in a single day. Break them into parts and split them over days.

How do you manage your time? Would love to know.

what-matters-now-seth-godin-ebookOne of my favorite marketing authors, Seth Godin is releasing his new book in New York on January 15. But he teamed up with some 70 others popular in what they do and released a new (free) e-book. The e-book is titled “What Matters Now” and is available for download here.

Lot of great authors and ideas in there. You will find people like Michael Hyatt of Nelson Publishers, Chris Anderson, Tom Peters, Guy Kawasaki, Mark Hurst etc.

(If you are not much of a reader, you will like the format of the book. Each author has only page to him or herself. They convey the message in less than 200 words. S0 every page you turn, you finish a chapter. The sense of accomplishment comes faster! :p )

value-coffee-cupsCreating value is a difficult thing. If you market products or services, you need to provide value in terms of quality, functionality and pricing. If you are marketing yourself, you create value by doing things differently and making it work by doing it differently.

But what do you do when you have competition? Creating value is easy when you are the single player. But when there is someone else offering something similar, what kind of value would you create? A better one. And value is always created for the customer.

If you and your competition have the same product or offer the same services, the difference you offer is consistency. Consistency, really is a rarity in today’s world. Offering the same high value over and over again drills down one concept in your customer’s mind – trust. If your customer can trust you, it does not matter who your competition is – they will keep coming back to you.

Creating consistent value can be tough. But if you keep at it, they will notice you and stick with you.

Image courtesy: singing

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