Monday, October 20, 2008

Let's all feel bad all the time

Why do we all love to feel bad?

Let's see, I know this girl who recently broke up with her husband one day before their wedding night, poor gal that is so bad I feel sorry for her. What an interesting conversation to have over coffee... but please tell me why should I give a shit, I hardly know the girl who told me this story about her friend which I don't even know. My point being, we constantly seek things that my make us feel bad. Why do we always talk about these things, and in our free time see how bad Jack Bauer had it when his daughter was kidnapped and he was trapped in a hostage situation attempting to save the president? At other times we desperately seek to find out more information about the distressed citizens of Georgia.

Why do we care, why do we always want to see, hear, and learn more about things that make us depressed? Some say that we want to make everyone happy, that is why we want to help tsunami victims and contribute to charity, so with the aim of ensuring happiness we fill our time with discussing and trying to resolve all issues that make us feel bad.

Lets follow another route of thinking, we look at the sad things to appreciate our situation and happiness i.e. seeing the traumatized participants on Jerry Springer makes us see how good our family is.

The truth is however, that in the pursuit of happiness we have managed to virally disperse the negativity, turning each negative scenario into a community, country, or global epidemic.

Drop your Celine Dion music collection and watch some sitcoms, focus on things that put a smile on your face.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What makes branding suck?

Lack of reality.

I think we need to stop trying to live dreams and enjoy reality. Overpromising selling lines, “larger than life” CGI productions, unachievable aspirational values, and model casts.

Snap out of it!

Reality TV shows took over for a reason, so did ergonomic design, healthy food, and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Yes when developing a brand, campaign, or a product; sky is the limit. This is why creative directors preach never killing an idea in a brain storming session.
It is good to dream, but we can do this on our own unless you are selling a dream enhancing machine.

A brand is meant to represent the company’s identity – applying this the other way around has proven miserable. Steve Jobs thought different, Richard Branson was a nonconformist, Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin where true believers in simplicity and user-friendliness, Howard Schultz poured his heart into it (Starbucks), and P&G were boring.

Today’s companies, thanks to the expensive advice of corporate identity (CI) agencies, have been cross-dressing with queen outfits only to look rich and respectable.

I think the worst customer experience is when a brand promises something… and then they hear the CEO speak, visit the stores, or use the products only to realize that it was the CI and Ad agencies talking to them as opposed to the companies.

As lame as it sounds, my advice for everyone in the process of creating a brand or re-branding (which is the trend today) is BE YOURSELF. Promise what you believe in, and act as yourself. Customers can smell a fake a mile away, and they love reality. By selling what you love (I hate to use this term, it makes me sound like a consultant) it’s a win-win situation.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It is transmedia planning, Interactive communication, and tastes like chicken

As the mundane marketers go for multi-million dollar campaigns that boosts their ego, and emphasizes the ivory tower stature – other brands have come down to the consumer level, they talked to them, met with them, added them to face book, and got their comments to tailor their strategy for a fraction of the cost – or in other words they did the cluck!
Leo Burnett has developed the ultimate campaign 2.0 for Nando’s Kuwait.
The campaign is about the life journey of Fred the Chicken, an outcast HipHop mascot who has worked all his life to get into Nando’s and finally got rejected for not living up to their chicken quality standards. Fred later started an organization against chicken discrimination known as Chicken Power.
You can view the work on
Fred’s blog where he posted his life journey, riots in malls against chicken discrimination, his fight with Nando’s chicken Fernando Amore, tours of his crib, his music video, and finally a video were he barges into Nando’s and demands to be eaten.
Fred also has his group on Facebook, Videos on YouTube, and a music video on Melody Hits all of which are getting an exponential number of hits and many comments from Kuwaiti customers some of which are in love with him. Fred is very close to his fans, he responds to their comments, acts in accordance with their requests, and occasionally gives them flowers.
I truly hope that this approach gets adopted by other regional companies / operations and contributes to the rise of true interactive marketing, only with no comment-moderation this time.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The "Stand out" theory

Have you ever thought that you are right and everyone else is wrong? The truth is… You are right; but so is everyone else. We are generally prohibited from doing what we think is right due to our fear of risk or dis-consensus which results in pointing the fingers of blame. There is never one right way of doing things, typically each way has its draw backs but generally when you know you are right you put significant effort in whatever you are doing, you end up with a better result.
We have developed committees to avoid going with one person’s whim, however committees tend to dilute passion and ownership in addition to general risk taking which forces us to concede to lesser things for the sake of consensus – resulting in a shallow low risk alternative to our potential.
Believe in yourself and force your belief upon organizations that try to dilute your thoughts, do not opt for the mainstream alternatives to get acceptance, but seek eccentric ideas to stand out.
My underlying premise is that everyone is insecure at a certain level, and when they tell you no – they are as insecure as when you tell them yes to try and push your idea through.
The above is not meant to discard feedback, but to use it as a catalyst for improvement and not destruction. In my case and I believe with many others, feedback has resulted in the death or dilution of most great ideas, only to see them implemented by others with more self confidence and drive.
The world has many means to control risk and push for main-stream ideology, allowing only those with self-confidence, charisma (convincing skills), and drive to push their findings through; making them main stream for all of us to let go of our beliefs and follow.
Abstinence is always easier than confrontation, which I would say is our world’s way of separating the stars from the sheep. The sooner you paint yourself black, the faster you climb up the ladder and lead the herd.
Democracy is a deterrent to excellence, because the only thing that everyone agrees on, is the safe option that will keep us the way we are. Even though I sound as if I am endorsing the “Who moved my cheese” theory, I believe in the power of individuality and the strong positive effects of the following theories, one: trial and error, two: if it’s good it they will adopt it, and three: if you believe in it you will make it work.
We are in the world of customization and mash-ups, anything that works even if partially, will be used in part or whole to create a better bigger picture resulting in mental if not physical evolution.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Settle Down

I was thinking of my New Year’s resolution for 2008 and here is what I came up with:
- To settle down
Not settle down in terms of getting married, stopping drinking, or getting a 9 to 5 job in one country; but settle down in general. It involves giving more attention to the things I care about and less time to “pure entertainment”.
I’m writing this on because I feel that it is highly relevant for the industry. I have worked in numerous ad agencies and with many telecom operators, and all the work was geared towards “pure entertainment” i.e. what the agency enjoys doing or what the client personally likes. My advice to everyone is: Settle Down.
Settle down by becoming more focused, more tactical, and more relevant – put your efforts into telling the customers / public what they want to know, and not what you think they should see in order to decipher your message. The telecom industry is filled with jargon, technical details, and hundreds of services that very few people understand – at least the communication should make life simple. More so, mass media is dead – or should be assassinated because people are not the same and they should in no way be targeted with the same piece of communication! When operators communicate, they should focus on individual segments, it makes no sense to see a long-winded brand ad on every commercial break during a TV program or a sponsorship bumper after every program. Operators should also try to be relevant; the best ad I’ve seen is a 5-seconder pack-shot TV ad for Maybelline mascara. What was good about the ad is that it came during a movie after the main actress was putting mascara – making it extremely relevant, tactical, and focused.

My advice to all operators in MENA for 2008 is “Settle down”.Think more, spend less, focus, be tactical, be relevant.