advertising, campaigns, communication, conversations, digital, how to, measurement, social media

Marketers, Rethink What Your #SocialMedia Should Be Doing

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Sound familiar?

For the longest time, marketers have had the wrong expectations from social media.

I’ve spent years, both on the agency side and the client side, hearing about the need to “educate”, “drive engagement”, “sell”, “build awareness”, “drive traffic” and other such goals. All devised with the intention of “moving the needle”.

To be fair, I’ve been part of the problem, pitching these expectations to clients. And at this point, I’m willing to go out a limb and suggest that I’ve been mistaken.

When marketers write an integrated communications brief, we do it with an end goal in mind:

  • Increase usage by x points over the course of the year
  • Sell y units by the end of the quarter
  • Convince z people to sign up for the programme
  • And so on.

The error we make is the assumption that (organic) social media can have an outsized impact on these ROI/revenue-driven goals the way that paid media does.

Why is this assumption an error?

As of 30 June 2016, India’s Internet-going audience was estimated at about 462M users. This is roughly 37% of India’s population.

Here are the reach figures for the top 3 social networks in India.

  1. Facebook: 161M (Source: Facebook Ads Manager)
  2. LinkedIn: 35M (Source: Statista.com)
  3. Twitter: 23.2M (Source: Statista.com)
  4. Instagram: 16M (Source: Napoleoncat.com)

It’s fair to assume that everyone with a LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram profile is also on Facebook. So, the size of India’s social media population is 161M. This works out to 35% of India’s Internet population and 13% of India’s overall population.

We also know that, courtesy algorithms, current Facebook organic reach for pages with over 50,000 followers is at a mere 1%. Or even less for pages with high fan following. This article dated June 2016 pegs it at 2% and declining fast, towards zero. Facebook will also cut organic reach for posts that they deem too promotional.

So, here’s best case scenario for a brand with 18M fans on Facebook, assuming no further decline in reach:

The absolute maximum reach a single Facebook post can get is 1% of 18M = 0.18M = 0.000144% of India’s population. Assume that a brand creates 5 organic posts a day, each of which reaches a different audience (which we know is not true), you get to about 0.9M people a day. Or a mere 0.00072% of India’s population.

With figures like this, there is absolutely no way organic social media content can move the needle on ROI/revenue goals at scale for large brands.

So what should the end goal of social media be?

Let’s remind ourselves that social media is not a place people visit to shop. They’re here to kill time. To be distracted. To be entertained. To see what’s going on in the world at large. To share stuff that helps them build the image they want for themselves.

It’s true. People share things that help them appear interesting, knowledgeable, opinionated, concerned, trendy, cool, fashionable, successful, happy, and so on. Things that they subconsciously believe will raise their esteem in the eyes of their networks. Every analysis I’ve ever read points out different things that people share, and different reasons. The common thread uniting them all: the not-so-latent need for everyone to be seen in a very positive light by their peers.

This is where we marketers have a chance. Because, among all the other things people post to boost their image, are the products and services they use; the useful products and services they want to tell their networks about; and the brands they feel suit the image they want to create for themselves.

If we can create content that builds both brands – ours, and the user’s – we have found a recipe for social sharing, a recipe for starting positive conversations about our brand.

A recipe for brand love and advocacy.

Which, of course, has a knock-on effect on sales and revenue.

And that, grasshopper, is what we should orient our social media towards.

 

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campaigns, communication, content, creative, digital, how to

Seven Steps To Construct A Digital Campaign

Digital isn’t old enough to have theories. Or gurus.

The understanding of the medium, and how to use it to build brands, varies wildly. As a result, the planning and structure of digital campaigns is often a matter of guesswork.

The thing is, there is no single method to cracking a digital campaign. You can start with an idea, an objective, technology, data, a platform or the audience. Each method looks at the medium differently. Each method is equally correct.

Each truly great digital campaign has, however, some things in common. Let’s break those down into seven steps.

Seven steps to construct a digital campaign

The extremely complicated, ever-evolving, one-stop infographic of digital marketing.

 

Part 1: The Brief

In a medium that’s targetable, measurable and fast-evolving, writing a good brief needs to go beyond the basics.

Step 1: What do we want to say?

Nothing different from a traditional advertising brief. Have a single, clear message. If it can be differentiated from competition, excellent.

Step 2: Who is our audience and what do we know about them?

Digital allows one to segment and target by location, gender, age, browsing behaviour, interests, networks, content preferences, frequency of visits, online shopping habits, search history and much more.

Yahoo serves up over 6 billion unique versions of its home page based on this kind of segmentation and targeting.

Basically, digital allows you to put aside the bazooka and pick up a flyswatter when you have to kill a fly.

Forget the safety of numbers. Go for the effectiveness of tightly-segmented messaging.

Step 3: What do we know about their digital media habits that might help us crack this brief?

It’s time to drill down and slice-and-dice the data available to you. And it isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

Figure out where your audience is spending most of their time online. Which devices they’re using. Which browsers. What they are talking about. When. What time of day. It doesn’t sound like much, but it one well-inferred nugget can lead to a brilliant campaign.

Knowing that mums are the biggest online shoppers in India helped us plan an entire campaign for a baby brand. Knowing that most of our aspirational audience surfs the Internet on tablets helped us build a website designed for touch. Knowing the frequency of visits helped us optimise messaging on a website.

The more you know about them, the better your solutions.

Step 4: What do we want them to say, feel or do as a result of this campaign?

Traditional advertising teaches that perception influences behaviour. In digital, behaviour can influence perception.

Case in point: Many people I know perceived Twitter as a waste of time. They thought it was confusing, and wouldn’t touch it. But when pushed by friends to use it, they got hooked. They now think Twitter’s the coolest thing since sliced bread.

Behaviour influences perception.

So think smaller. Break down a large objective into more everyday tasks. For example, replace build expertise for our skincare brand with get people to visit our website every time they have a skin-related query. You’ll find a smarter, more effective solution.

Part 2: The Creative

It isn’t as simple as writing a TVC and crafting the print, poster and outdoor. Our campaigns need to be viral, and that needs a different approach.

Step 1: The Story

Digital is a multi-screen platform. Each screen is different in terms of size, content and usage. It isn’t enough anymore to adapt the same message for each screen. Instead, it helps to think of your idea as a story. And use each screen differently, to tell different chapters of it.

There are three kinds of media we can use to tell our brand’s story; unabridged, unaltered, under our control.

Owned media — the website, the mobile app, any other platforms the brand may have created.

Paid media — banner ads, search ads, emailers, SMS.

And social media — which is, in my opinion, more leased media than owned.

Take the example of a fashion brand. One can use the website to showcase products; the blog to drive imagery; the mobile app to combine a loyalty programme, a virtual dressing room and personalised, location-aware content; targeted, contextual, paid media to tell people what the brand has to offer and drive them back to the website; and social media to help begin conversations around the product range and image.

One story, different screens.

Step 2: The Virality

There’s no point in having a great story if nobody’s hearing it.

Remember: the average user visits 89 websites a month. And has Liked 80 brand Pages on Facebook. And has 229 other friends filling his or her News Feed.

The only way your story will be heard above all this clutter is if you can find enough of the right people to help you broadcast it.

Social Influence Marketing refers to leveraging people’s influence on social media to broadcast and amplify your message.

However, they’re not going to tweet out your body copy. You have to give them something malleable that they can reshape to create their own unique content, while still staying true to your story. Their mashup of your story then goes out to their own followers, which exponentially increases your reach.

Earned media, of course, generally refers to news coverage. While a smart PR agency will naturally tap news media online and offline, there is merit in seeding your story among bloggers and smaller, perhaps category-specific, online channels. It’s a quick way to ensure more and more people know about your story.

Make sure your story has something in it that’ll help you get talked about. Then find the people who’ll amplify it for you.

Step 3: The Reward

Here’s the thing.

People are overloaded with information. It’s easy to miss something. It’s even easier to close a browser tab in irritation or absent-mindedness.

So, when someone clicks through to your campaign, be grateful. Very grateful.

I always like to give my audience a reward to show how grateful I am. The obvious way is through a contest, or gifts to loyal fans. However, I believe we can do more.

People come online to socialise, search for information, find a utility or just for entertainment. Make sure your campaign ticks one or more of those boxes, and you’ll have a reward worth coming back for.

The brand must have its reward as well. It could be crowdsourced content, new fans, time spent, leads generated, shares received, hashtags trended, what have you. Identify the rewards the brand will earn. And match them up against your objectives. If they don’t match, maybe you need to rework your campaign. For example, 100,000 new fans may not be a sensible reward if your objective is to get people to spend more with you than they already do, right?

These seven steps aren’t the alpha and omega of digital marketing. But, properly executed, they could help you develop better, brighter campaigns going forward.

This post originally appeared on afaqs! Campus.

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communication, content, how to, social media

Enough With The Social Media Pissing Contests!

Statutory Warning: Angry rant ahead.


Image credit: Funny Eye For The Corporate Guy

There are two phrases in social media that are beginning to annoy the living crap out of me.

“We have 5 million fans on our Facebook Page.”

And, “We got #ComeTakeAFreeIPad trending number one in India!”

They piss me off. Because they make me feel like social media agencies aren’t delivering real returns to their clients. And I don’t want to be counted among those who don’t deliver real returns to clients.

Let’s start with the “5 million fans” argument.

For the last couple of years, I’ve run some of India’s largest Facebook Pages. Across categories like beverages, fashion, beauty, technology, entertainment and more.

Each of those pages had fan-bases ranging from 100,000 to 5 million. Large communities built up over time through a mix of good content, fan acquisition campaigns and contests.

The assumption is, or should be, that this community the brand and agency have so painstakingly created, is extremely relevant and highly engaged.

If that is truly the case, why do the same set of (a few hundred or a few thousand) people keep engaging with the Page’s content time after time?

Why is it that one out of three comments on the Page is spam?

And why is it that the numbers increase only when there’s a freebie to be won?

Go check every large Page you can think of. Scroll through the posts. Do the math. 

And then consider that only a small percentage of the people engaging with you will actually click through to your site or walk in to your store.

Is that good ROI?

5 million fans is not your goal. Driving online and offline sales – through direct product push or brand imagery – is. And Facebook is good at it.

Let’s debunk the trending topic thingy next.

As recently as 18 months ago, we used to create interesting conversations around an entertainment channel’s TV shows, and get them trending. Worldwide, even. It was even harder considering that we had to not only pick the right hashtag, but pick one that’d get people tweeting even without a giveaway.

Today, that approach is dead. I’ve seen as many as seven branded hashtags running simultaneously on my Trending Topics pane, jumping up and down the list, fighting for popularity. 

What did they have in common? They were all contest hashtags. “Tweet with #ILoveBrandBecause and win an iPad/smartphone.”

Meanwhile, a brand trying to have a genuine conversation gets confined to trending on TrendsMap.

It’s no surprise that the contest brands have a huge following among people who use the words “Contest Lover”, “Contest Junkie” or “Contest Freak” in their bios. A quick scan through some of these users’ tweets reveals that all their tweets are contest-oriented.

If you’re a social media manager, you’ll know the way they work. One person will notice the contest and tag in several of their friends. Before you know it, your hashtag will be trending as several people tweet rampantly to win the prize.

Now, let’s walk back to that slide you presented the client during the pitch. You know, the one where you told them that Twitter is an influencer medium, and that you’d use it to build positive word-of-mouth, brand advocacy, brand imagery and loyalty through influence.

Now look back at the morons tweeting out your contest hashtag and tell me, hand over heart, that you’re delivering on your promise to the client.

Basically, social media agencies are getting into pissing contests and tom-tomming the size of the splotches as real ROI for their clients. 

And ill-informed clients are biting into it hook, line and sinker!

And you’re all giving digital marketing a bad name.

The solution?

This is the age of doing, not talking. This is the age where brands stop spewing empty words and start acting on them instead. Just look at all the Cannes winners, for instance.

Here’s what I would recommend.

Don’t waste your money buying every fan you can on Facebook. Target your stamp ads tightly. And pay more attention to your content. Run more promoted posts. That way, your content will bring in the right audience. Digital in India is about quality, not quantity.

It’s the same with Twitter. Focus on getting the right audience to your Page. Follow and engage with the right people. Interact with them offline. Be human. Show them you value them. They’ll spread your message exponentially, with more meaning and value than the contest whores.

And, when it comes to getting on the trending topics, I have a suggestion that might make sense to you.

Don’t talk. Do.

Do something small. Something big. Something funny. Something senti. Something low-key. Something magnificent. Something that’ll get people talking about you because of the nature of that something. Rather than for a fucking iPad.

If Twitter’s the world’s newsroom, then make the fucking news!

We did something like this last month for one of our clients. A small, senti activity. It wasn’t huge. But it earned us tremendous love and goodwill and a whole bunch of influential followers.

Trending is not your goal. Influence is.

Yes, it’s slower growth. Yes, your community is smaller than your competitor’s. But it’ll cost you less. It’ll drive better results. Each post will pull some weight. And you won’t keep wondering who your top fans are and what ROI you’re getting from your effort.

Don’t take the easy way out. Work for it.

It’ll keep you from looking like a fool when your clients wise up.

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communication, content, conversations, social media

If I Were Managing @PMOIndia

On 23rd January 2012, the Indian Internet community was abuzz with the news that the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, had set up an official Twitter account – @PMOIndia.

Initially the move was welcomed. Most of us thought it’d be a great opportunity for the PM tso connect with his people. We’ve all seen what Barack Obama and the White House are doing on Twitter, and we hoped that the good Doctor and his PR team would take a leaf out of their books.

Instead, what we got was a bunch of posts that looked like this:

[<a href=”http://storify.com/smartkani/at-pmoindia” target=”_blank”>View the story “@PMOIndia” on Storify</a>]

A quick analysis tells you that:

  1. The account is a bland mouthpiece for the PM.
  2. There’s nothing on the account that you can’t get in traditional news coverage.
  3. It’s a purely one-way street. There’s no conversation, no response to tweets or questions that might be coming in. Which goes against everything that Twitter is supposed to be.
Watching The West Wing has triggered a serious interest in me for political communication, and I’ve watched avidly how social media has changed the nature of the field. So here’s my (admittedly idealistic) pitch presentation on handling the official social media account of the Prime Minister of India.

The Insight
Ordinary people don’t know or understand the reasons behind decisions the government makes. All we get is the information that TV channels and newspapers put out. With scams and scandals at the centre of attention for the last couple of years, people have a very bleak and cynical perspective of the government. Evidence of this can be found in the consistently low voter turnout in urban areas. Belief in the government – and indeed Indian democracy – is at an all-time low.

The Strategy
Let’s make governance more accessible to the people through content that is transparent, relevant and understandable. And carry on conversations that will help the government listen to and engage with people at a deeper level.

The Execution
Deconstruct decision-making.
Even the simplest-sounding decision has some logic (we hope) behind it. Just announcing that you’re going to be amending the Factories Act to strengthen labour laws and ensure their compliance doesn’t mean much to anybody.

What I’d do is this: post the ‘in a nutshell’ decision in 140 characters. And then follow up with a link to a Slideshare presentation for those who want to know more about the decision.

The presentation itself needs to be written in a different language than Governmentalese. Make it simple. Advertising-style. Problem/Opportunity –> Idea –> Decision –> Execution –> Responsibility –> Measurability. Write it simply, make it visual rather than verbose. Think of it as an Executive Summary of an Executive Summary. After all, who has the time to go through insanely lengthy government reports?

Listen.
The nature of Twitter is such that things that make news swiftly show up in that little pane in the bottom left of your Twitter screen. First, it’s a great way for the PM to tell what his electorate is discussing, from defining who is poor to Kingfisher Airline’s woes. It’d make sense for the PM to comment (online, if not offline as well) on some of these topics.

And why does the PM have to wait for a conversation to begin? What’s stopping the PM’s social media team from getting a hashtag trending, like we do for our clients day after day. Use hashtags as a tool to spark a conversation, and get an insight into what India feels about an issue.

This’d make governance far more democratic, because the PM would actually be listening to the voice of the people.

Have a point of view.
Twitter is an influencer medium. Sure, there are thousands of tweeple who just share stuff and yet have lots of followers. But it’s the ones who share with a stance that are the true influencers. As I write this, @PMOIndia has 49,811 followers. Shameful for the leader of the world’s largest democracy. I’m willing to bet that if the account changed its tonality from ‘broadcast’ to ‘influence’, they’d add plenty of new followers.

The thing is, I elect my MPs (and hence my PM) for the opinions they have. When they express their opinions in public, it’s a reminder of what their government stands for, which is something all of us need to be reminded of from time to time.

It goes without saying that people use Twitter to crib, curse and make fun of people. @PMOIndia is already the butt of many jokes – as seen in the conversation below.

But I believe it’s better to be roasted for expressing your opinion than just for being there. And we’ve seen how the twitterati can spring to a brand’s (or a person’s) defence when they think he or she is being criticised unfairly.

Have conversations.
I fundamentally believe that people like to talk to the brands they use or aspire to use. And they like it even more when those brands talk back. If Volkswagen were to have a conversation with me, I’d RT every post, and then talk about it offline as well. Apply the same thought here.

It’s impossible (and not a good idea, because of all the trolls out there) for @PMOIndia to converse with every single person who mentions them. Instead, pick one person a day to have a conversation with. He or she could be a loyalist or an opposer or simply neutral. But an intelligent conversation is an opportunity to reinforce or sway beliefs, and turn somebody into an influencer for you, both online and offline.

Social media is a governance tool, not a political one.
Use it as such. If you’re going to use Twitter to tell people how evil the Opposition is, or whom to vote for, it’s going to backfire. Rise above the politics. @PMOIndia seems to have got this bit right, and I’d carry on this approach.

The Metrics
What could the ROI for @PMOIndia be? On a qualitative, non-political basis, I’d measure the success of the account as follows:

  • Have I built loyalty among online Indians towards the PM? Loyalty in this case goes beyond the number of followers, and extends into overall sentiment and number and quality of positive mentions. Above all – have the tweeple of India shown their support of the PM online, maybe even outshouting the dissenters?
  • Has listening online helped the government validate, improve or change a decision? If yes, then how often?
  • The PM is the face of the government. How he or she is perceived affects how the government is perceived. Has there been a notable improvement in how people perceive the PM (online and offline) after he’s taken to Twitter?
  • Do people believe that the government is more accessible and more relevant to them?
I haven’t included election-related metrics because I don’t believe the @PMOIndia account should be used as a political tool. It is the account of the office of Prime Minster, not the person currently occupying the chair and the party he belongs to.
I’ll end with a disclaimer: this post is not intended to reflect my political beliefs. Dr. Singh could resign tomorrow, the Opposition could win the election, and I’d still make the same sort of recommendations to our next PM.
I’d love to know what your take on this is. Weigh in with a comment and let’s start talking.

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communication, digital, industry, trend

The Digital Agency Is Now Obsolete

It’s strange to read an article with this headline in a period when digital marketing in India has just begun to take off. It’s even stranger to write one.

I write this post with all due respect to digital agencies. I was part of one for a fair period of time myself, and am aware of and appreciate the steps they have taken to bring Indian marketing into the digital age. But I do believe firmly that most digital agencies – some of them established international networks – have stopped evolving. Here’s why.

I’ve begun to believe that digital agencies are taking the moniker ‘digital’ too seriously. They’re confining themselves to doing work for clients purely in the web and mobile space. To most digital agencies – and I’ve met quite a few in the last few months – building a website, doing some banner campaigns, running a Twitter profile and building a few apps is all that they should be doing. And they build their teams, their thinking, their presentations and their USP around this offering.

There’s a missed opportunity here. The rise of digital media – especially social media – has ushered in a new paradigm of communication. Consumers drive the conversation. And, more than ever before, they’re keen to interact with the brands they love and consume (or want to consume), in ways that are new and surprising.

Today’s consumers are enthusiastic about Liking, tweeting, blogging and creating content for the brand as long as they’re recognised in some way for it. They’re also keen to get what they’re paying for – a single tweet or blog post is often enough for a company to create a Customer Care division out of thin air!

Today’s consumers are also looking for great content from brands, be it text, video, photos or apps. They’re happy to spend more than thirty seconds with the brand, as long as they’re getting something out of it – be it entertainment, information or gratification.

And sometimes, you have to go out of the mobile and web space to give them that. It’s simple, really. Today’s generation is armed with smartphones and GPRS connections. They carry their digital channels with them, all around the world. We always talk of going where our consumers are…so it follows that we need to be with them – on the ground.

I think ‘digital marketing’ needs to mean ‘technology-enabled marketing’. When you think of it that way, a whole new world opens up in front of you. Suddenly you realise that social media is just a channel to reach your audience and promote your content to them, and that they’ll come to your website only when they really have to. An instant later, you’re seeing QR codes at train stations, 3D projections in bathrooms and augmented reality-enhanced streets. Soon your mind begins to conceptualise of a radical repackaging campaign and how to create a digital firestorm around it. (All this while stone-cold sober.)

This isn’t to say that no digital agency thinks this way. But if you ask them for a run-through of their work, they’ll showcase websites and social media. And offer no line-of-sight into this sort of thinking.

I’ve been screaming about integrated marketing on this blog for a long while now. I’ve even proposed a model for setting up a digital-enabled integrated agency. But few mainline agencies are ready, or even capable enough, to show the way. It’s up to the digital agencies to take a deep breath and consciously evolve in this direction.

It’s either that, or go the way the typewriter did.

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advertising, campaigns, communication, digital, insight

Heretical Thinking

One (more) good thing about shifting to digital is that it’s opened up my mind to whole new ways of thinking.

In my last post, I’d talked about what’s holding digital back. In this post, I’m going to talk about an idea I had a few days back – an idea that might help digital find a role it can call its own.

Every brief I’ve got in my advertising career basically revolves around two things:

  • Telling a consumer about a product.
  • Making a consumer think that he/she wants to buy that product.

There’s a section of the brief titled What do you want your consumer to think or do? The general answer is: New XYZ detergent washes whiter. Or, ABC cream will make my skin soft and smooth. Or, I want to buy a JKL watch because it’s the watch for my generation.

Clients and agencies have built fortunes around objectives like these. I’ve helped too.

The thing we sometimes lose track of is that there’s a team sitting in the agency across the road writing a brief of its own to take on the brand you’ve just launched.

So, your very own target consumer will soon be bombarded with a message that makes him/her think, DEF cream will make my skin softer and smoother than ABC cream will.

So, six months later, sales plateau; the agency huddles around a conference room table once again to develop the next commercial, to take on DEF cream. And so on and so forth.

How do you keep the pendulum from swinging?

To arrest the pendulum, to lock it into place, you have to get your target consumer to subscribe not to your brand’s benefit, but its philosophy as a whole. An idea that greater thinkers than I have put out long ago.

Tata Tea talks about awakening, not tea. Idea talks about the power of a mobile phone, not its great plans or awesome coverage. Surf talks about values, not stain removal. They’re all selling beliefs. Philosophies. Bestselling philosophies, too.

That’s where the “heretical” idea I had comes in to play.

You can’t get a consumer to believe in your philosophy through a TV commercial, or a print ad. You can only make a consumer aware of your philosophy.

To get them to believe, you must communicate your philosophy using the most engaging medium you can find. A medium which is not a medium at all. A medium consumers don’t think of as an advertising medium.

For example: I could commission an author to write a book. A bestseller that spins a yarn around my brand’s philosophy. Maybe mentions the brand in passing. All in all, it’s a great read by a brand-name author. Release the book. Promote it. Sell it cheap. Hold events with the author – book readings, autograph-signings, etc. Distribute a free e-book version. If you love the book, chances are you’ll resonate with the brand when you see its next ad.

Another example: take 2010’s biggest viral hit yet – Pants on the Ground, by General Larry Platt. With one smash-hit video, Platt has heaped scorn upon the ‘cool’, low-waist, boxer-showing jeans American youth wear. Isn’t that a great philosophy for a clothing brand to piggy-back upon? Imagine if a denim brand were to say that there’s nothing cooler and more timeless than a superbly fitted pair of jeans. It would simply captivate the millions of people – myself included – who hate low-waist jeans. And it’s not advertising, just some much-loved content a brand would adopt.

A third: Diesel’s new Be Stupid campaign. It’s launched with a series of headlines that espouse the philosophy. Why not shoot a series of videos recreating the moments when great inventors and thinkers had their ideas? Why not put out an online guide to thinking bigger by being stupid? (Very mildly branded, of course.) If such content were inspiring enough, the brand’s philosophy would resonate far more strongly with more potential consumers. (If anyone from Diesel is reading this and wants me to execute these ideas, call me. I give best price, la!)

By the nature of the medium, digital plays a crucial role here. It offers a range of media choices – social media, viral films, gaming, blogs, web shows, web comics, e-books, what have you. And it’s easy to generate conversation using digital. One powerful blog post or video can start a debate. Use that power. Get feedback. Get hated, get loved, get death threats. Respond positively. Argue. Fight. Widen the debate. It shows you’ve engaged. Sell not your product. Sell your beliefs.

And this can be the role of digital – to quietly embed a brand’s philosophy among its intended consumers.

Now we just have to think big enough to make it happen.

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communication, office

Who’s Calling?

Being a worker drone at an MNC means that you occupy space in a cubicle along with a few other people.

And one of the cubicle duties you have, apart from taking making fun of everyone regularly, is to answer a colleague’s phone when it’s ringing and he/she isn’t around.

So you pick up the ringing phone and say, “XYZ is not around right now.” Then you hang up.

But what do you do when, precisely 60 seconds later, the phone rings again, and it’s the same person? And after you’ve picked up and put it down the third time this happens, it rings…again?

In most MNCs, a certain level of formal phone etiquette is demanded, to go with the starched collars and tight neckties. Ad agencies, however, expect – no, demand – a lot less formality, and a lot more madness.

So the next time the phone rings for the fourth time, pick it up yourself and do something like this:

  1. Put on your best impression of an ‘I’m currently falling from the top floor of a very tall building’ scream…complete with the “Thunk!” at the end of the fall.
  2. Pick up and sing, “Na na na na…” Hang up. When it rings, pick up again and sing, “Na na na na…” Hang up. When it rings, pick up and sing, “Hey, hey, hey…GOODBYE!!!” Slam it down.
  3. Burp into the phone. If you’re an accomplished burper, try and do the alphabet. See how far you can get before the caller hangs up, hopefully for good.
  4. Pick up and say (in your best imitation), “CEO’s office…”
  5. Forward the call to the office playboy/slut. You might just score some blessings here…
  6. Tell the caller that the person they’re calling has just quit. Or worse, died. Refuse to acknowledge that you’re just kidding.
  7. Take your cue from Hindi movies. “Hello, is XYZ there?” “Nahiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnn!!!” Loud enough to burst a eardrum.
  8. Ignore what the caller’s saying. Instead ask, “Listen, have you heard that we’re retrenching? God, I hope they’re firing you and not me!” Hopefully that will distract the caller enough, and might just spark off a rumour that’ll keep you entertained for a few days.
  9. Pick up and say, “Hello, what can I do you for?” Once you’ve told them that XYZ isn’t around, ask when they’d like you to do them.
  10. Heavy breathing.

And if nothing seems to keep the caller away, try this classic. Call on their extensions, put on a desi accent and say, “Hello, EksVaiJhed? Aapke liye vhijiter hai.”

And if that doesn’t get them off your case, smash the phone. Preferably on their heads.

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