Grow Talent, Grow Brands

Month: December, 2012

One Last Thing.


Steve Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) needs no introduction. The world knows him as the  ‘Father of the Digital Revolution,’  a ‘Master of Innovation,’ and a ‘Design Perfectionist.’ He impacted at least four industries during our times like no one before him did and these are: the computer industry, the motion picture industry, the music industry and the telephone industry.

One Last thing is his message that can be life changing. Here it is:

When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live  your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one single fact and that is: everything around you, that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it. You can influence it. The moment you understand you can poke life and actually push it and something pops out on the other side. You can change it and you can mold it. You can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you will never be the same again. 

Click here to view the message delivered by Steve Jobs himself…One Last Thing.

Now, ask yourself. What are you going to build so that others can use? What are you going to mold? What are you going to change?

Have a Great New Year!

Image Source: Wikipedia

What’s the Problem?

What’s the problem?

Defining a problem clearly is essential for finding a solution and designing an effective communication strategy.

Since all problems have solutions, it is critical that you define the problem correctly.

Einstein wrote, “ The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skills. To raise new questions, new problems, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and makes real advances.”

The four key questions to ask and answer while defining a problem are:

  1. What are we trying to say and why are we trying to say it?
  2. Who are we trying to say it to and why? Who are our target audience? And why are they our target audience?
  3. What can we say that our competitors cannot?
  4. What is the reason for our product’s existence? If our product is not there, would the prospect or consumer miss anything? If so, what would he miss? If not, why are we having this product? What can we do to make our product essential and indispensable?

Answers to these questions clarify many things and give us a sense of direction. It is important to remember what Norman Brown, the head of an advertising agency once said: If you don’t know where you are going, every road leads there.

Framing the question right or asking the right questions is the most important step in arriving at a right answer and correct definition of the problem. A right question often leads to the much-needed paradigm shift. Consider these for example:

It is said that Henry Ford invented the assembly line simply by changing the question from How do we get the people to work to How do we get work to the people?

Edward Jenner discovered the vaccine for smallpox simply by changing the question from Why do people get smallpox to Why don’t milkmaids get smallpox?

Arthur Koestler, the Hungarian-British author and journalist wrote in this regard: the greatness of the philosophers of the scientific revolution consisted  not so much in finding  the right answers but in asking the right questions; in seeing a problem where nobody saw one before; in substituting a ‘why’ for a ‘how?’

“The answer to any question ‘preexists.’ We need to ask the right question to reveal the right answer,” concurred Jonas Salk, who discovered and developed polio vaccine.

Think. Think, therefore, about what questions to ask, and how to define the problem.

If you are having difficulty in figuring out what the problem is or your solution seems flat, try defining the problem differently. You will find the solution.

What’s the problem?

What problem?

The Key to Life?

John Lennon (October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980), MBE (the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) was born as John Winston Lennon. He was an English musician, singer and song writer, who rose to worldwide fame as a founder member of the Beatles.

John Lennon once explained the key to life in his own words. He said:

When I was 5 years old my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.

When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I wrote down ‘happy.’

They told me that I didn’t understand the assignment.

I told them they didn’t understand life.

John Lennon grew up to become a legend in his own right and in his own lifetime, pursuing what his mother taught him since he was a five-year old. He loved songs; writing songs and singing them. He did what he loved throughout his life.

Do you love what you do?

If you don’t start loving what you do from this moment on, leave it and start doing what you love.

Remember we have to love what we do in life till we reach a stage of doing what we love. Loving what we do is important.

The key to life?


The key to happiness?

Loving what you do. Doing what you love.

Heart and Reasons

Life is Like Coffee

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers got together to visit their old college professor.

Conversation soon turned to complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups: porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal and some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite.

He told his guests to help themselves to the coffee. After everyone had a cup of coffee in their hands, the professor said, “ If you noticed, all the nice-looking and expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and the cheap ones.

While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.

Be assured that the cup adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it’s just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink.

What all of you wanted was coffee, but then you consciously went for the best cups. And then began eyeing each other’s cup.

Now  consider this: Life is the coffee, the jobs, money, position in society are the cups. And the type of cup does not define the coffee, nor change its quality. They are just the tools to hold and contain Life.

Sometimes by concentrating on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee.

Savor the coffee, not the cup.

The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They make the best of everything.

Live simply, speak kindly, care deeply, love generously.

The richest person is not the one who has the most, but who needs the least.

– Unknown Author

Ideation and Chemistry

Ideation is the process of generating ideas. Chemistry is the study of composition, properties, and behavior of matter. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds.

What do then, ideation and chemistry have in common? Both are combinatorial in nature. Both are marked by outcomes, that could be interesting from various combinations.

What is a new idea?

A new idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old ideas. Who can, then generate new ideas? A person, who knows how to combine old elements. Consider this for example:

To be is to Do – Rousseau

To do is to Be – Sartre

To Be Do Be Do – Sinatra

How to combine old elements to generate new ideas? Look for analogues. Is your problem similar or dissimilar to other problems? If it is similar, what is it similar to? If it is dissimilar what is dissimilar to?

If the greatest benefit of your product is speed of action or rapid action, what is the fastest thing in the world? Can you compare your benefit to that thing? What is the slowest thing in the world? Can you compare (or contrast) it with that?

If your product’s greatest benefit is its strength and power, what is the strongest and most powerful in the world? Can you compare it with that? Can you think of the weakest and least powerful things and compare (or contrast) your product and its benefits to them?

Is convenience is the greatest benefit of your product? Duration of action? Economy? Ease of use? Taste? Safety? Whatever be the greatest benefits of your product, find out the best (similar) and the worst (dissimilar) and compare your product benefits with those, to make your product benefits memorable.

What are the most convenient, durable, economical, easiest to use, tastiest, safest things or people you can think of? Or the most inconvenient, least duration of action, uneconomical, bitter, dangerous things or people can you think of. Compare (or contrast) your product benefits to them.

Dr. Roger Von Oech wrote in his famous book, A Whack on the Side of the Head:

“Often the best ideas come from cutting disciplinary boundaries and looking into other fields for new ideas and questions. Many significant advances in art, business, technology, and science have come about through cross fertilization of ideas. And to give a corollary, nothing will make a field stagnate more quickly than keeping outside ideas out.”

Think about it. How did Gutenberg invent the printing press? The coin punch and the wine press were around and in constant use for centuries. It took a Gutenberg to see the relationship and a connection between them. The idea of a printing press became a realty.

History of science, technology and invention offer many such examples.

Ideas and chemistry have something in common. Both are combinatorial!

Advertising Legend Leo Burnett’s Wisdom

Leo Burnett (October 21, 1891 – June 7, 1971) was one of the most creative men in the advertising business. Named as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, he created some of the iconic campaigns such as Jolly Green Giants, Tony the Tiger, Pillsbury Doughboy and the famous Marlboro man etc. which are remembered even today.

Here are some of the nuggets of his advertising wisdom. They are as relevant today as they were in the 1960s.

1. There is an inherent drama in every product.

2. Steep yourself in your subject, work like hell, and love, honour, and obey your hunches.

3. When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.

4. Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think is still the secret of great creative people.

5. Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.

6. What helps people, helps business.

7. If you cannot turn yourself into your customer, you probably shouldn’t be in the writing business at all.

8. There is no such thing as a permanent advertising success.

9. I have learned to respect ideas, wherever they come from. Often they come from clients. Account executives often have big creative ideas, regardless of what some writers think.

10. Regardless of the moral issue, dishonesty in advertising has proved very unprofitable.

11. Good advertising does not circulate information. It presents the public mind with desires and belief.

12. Anyone who thinks that people can be fooled or pushed around has an inaccurate and pretty low estimate of people.

Leo Burnett Company, the company that he founded was known for employee retention. He was a great visionary. He thought much ahead of his times and placed customer in the centre of everything in advertising and believed that the customer was in charge, much before Social Media was even conceived, where consumer controls the media!

Leo Burnett believed that loyalty towards the products that the agency advertises and deals with determines the character of the agency and its team. He wrote a three-page note titled, ‘Scratching the Back of the Hand that Feeds You,’ that spells these values impeccably to all the employees in his organisation on December 16, 1958. The higher-ups of Leo Burnett Company re-circulated  the memo , fifty-three years later as a reminder of these values to all the employees in December 2011. Click on Leo Burnett’s note below to read the complete note written by the legend himself:

Leo Burnett’s Note.

Image Source: Wikipedia

How to Reposition Your Brand?

Repositioning is changing the frames of reference. It is changing a brand’s status in comparison to that of the competing brands. It is undercutting and undermining an existing concept or product, thus altering the market map and creating new opportunities for your brand. It is not for the faint-hearted and one should not be afraid of conflict or controversy while repositioning the product. Remember fortune favours the brave!

The Case of Avis

Avis rent-a-car’s strategy ranks among the top repositioning strategies in the history of marketing. Study the copy thoroughly and you’ll gain insights into how to alter the market map and create new opportunities and give compelling reasons to try your brand. This is necessary when you are confronting a dominant leader in the category with whom you cannot compete head-on!

Launched in 1963, the repositioning strategy with the campaign – We Try Harder – of Avis became synonymous with Avis, superior customer service, and going the extra mile.

The ubiquitous We Try Harder button is not only worn by Avis employees, but is often adopted by volunteers of different charities to highlight the volunteers’s spirit!

What is more, even the heroes of the 2/503 Battalion of the US Army (also known as Sky Soldiers, who made the only parachute jump in the Vietnam war and later in Iraq) adopted the Avis Slogan – We Try Harder! It became a rallying cry for the Sky soldiers.

We Try Harder

The Case of Tylenol

Tylenol, the original brand of paracetamol in the US repositioned itself against the mighty Aspirin and won the battle. The Tylenol ads said, ” For the millions who cannot take Aspirin… If your stomach is easily upset or you have an ulcer … or you suffer from asthma, allergies, iron deficiency anaemia, it would make good sense to check with your doctor before you take Aspirin… Aspirin can irritate stomach lining, can cause hidden gastrointestinal bleeding…Fortunately there is Tylenol…”

Tylenol became a leading OTC (over-the-counter) analgesic anti-pyretic category and is a household name today.

The Case of  Incidal  

Bayer’s Incidal (mebhydrolin), the anti-allergic brand followed a successful re-positioning strategy in India during 1980s. Incidal stood out distinctly amidst a plethora of anti-allergic brands with its product promise – the ‘day time antihistamine’ – backed by its ‘alert’ theme of communication strategy that changed the frame of reference of the category. Anti-histamines had a strong association in the minds of prescribing physicians as ‘effective but cause drowsiness.’ Therefore, they cannot be prescribed to patients who drive, operate machinery and by those who are on the move. Incidal with its day-time antihistamine promise changed the frame of reference, achieved a distinctly different and superior position and became a brand leader in record time. Later in the mid 1990s, Bayer withdrew the product to introduce a newer antihistamine molecule (cetirizine) with the same brand name.

Two Points to Remember While Repositioning

1. One of the most effective ways to get into a prospect’s mind is to first admit a negative and then turn it into a positive, because candor is very disarming to natural consumer skepticism. Every negative statement you make about yourself is accepted as truth and any positive statement on the other hand is looked at as dubious, especially in an advertisement.

2. The basic prerequisite for a repositioning strategy is a thorough examination and analysis of all existing customer perceptions about you and your competition. It is important that you look below the surface to find out what might be obvious about competition to you, and how you deliver and state the obvious to create a lasting impact of  your (re)positioning in the market.

A successful repositioning strategy can make all the difference!

The Greatest Ad!

Ernst Shackleton, the famed polar explorer wrote this advertisement, seeking volunteers for his South Pole expedition. The ad appeared in London Newspapers in 1900. The Response? Overwhelming with about 5,00 applicants. In Shackleton’s own words, ” It seemed as though all the men in Great Britain were determined  to accompany me, the response was overwhelming.”

How could a simple, seemingly inconspicuous in terms of space for gaining any attention draw such huge, unprecedented response? The lure of adventure for sure! And the power of the deadly frankness.

This is the first entry in a list of 100 greatest advertisements (1852-1958). You can say it would be among the 100 greatest advertisements till date if you consider and include all the advertisements published after 1958.

Can you think of any company releasing such an ad for seeking applicants? To do that the work and the job have to be sculpted and carved as adventure, fun, challenging and passion.

Adapted from Julian Lewis Watkins book – The 100 Greatest Advertisements: Who wrote  them and what they did, which was first published in 1949.

What Will You Choose?

Jeff Bezos, the founder-chairman of, the world’s largest stores on the internet gave a very inspiring talk to the Baccalaureate Class of 2010 at the Princeton University on May 30, 2010. He told them that as a civilization, we will have so many gifts and you as individuals have so many individual gifts.

He asked them, “ How will you use these gifts? And will you take pride in your gifts or pride in your choices?”

Although he asked these questions more than two years ago to the students in the audience, these questions are as important today to all of us as they were important to the gathering then. They will be relevant tomorrow to our successors. Here are those questions:

How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?

Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?

Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?

Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?

Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?

Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?

Will you guard your heart agains rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?

Will you play it safe, or will you be a little swashbuckling?

When it is tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?

Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?

Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?

He further told them, “ When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices.”

What will you Choose?