Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No lungs to invest in eco stocks!

In the future there are no lungs! (and heart and kidneys etc. but more about these later).

In the future there are no lungs! (and heart and kidneys etc. but more about these later).

We would not need to breathe air (oxygen) because we’d be getting the Oxygen to our cells (for whom we actually breathe) directly through an oxygen-making source attached/embedded in our bodies.
No breathing needed, is no air needed is no lungs required. I’ll not dwell on this ‘ultimate outcome’ of Genetics-Nanotechnology & Robotics (GNR), but I’d sure like to share what I believe could perhaps be the implications of this.

Ultimately we’d not be requiring our environment, as we love to call and click it, anymore. And environment is air, water, other animals & plants (the latter, again, are important for the oxygen that they make for ‘us’),‘natural sights’ (as for the last one we’d be able to create natural sights virtually and they’d be as good if not better!)
All this could actually happen as early at 2045.

Pardon me if I am making this sound too simplistic but I am just trying to summarize the key resultants of the present day technology explorations in fewest and simplest words possible.

What role does environment have beyond Survival (oxygen) and Aesthetic experience (those poetry inspiring & relaxing sights!)?
Off late it has come to acquire one more important role – Return on Investments. People are investing (these are really big people)in eco-stocks because they see our environment under extreme pressure in the medium term (those melting ice caps are a part of this). The natural outcome of this warming of the planet & melting of the ice due to our present day over-abusive industrial behaviour would be a massive clampdown on environment degrading industries.
That would be the day when eco-happy/friendly companies & industries would have their real value be acknowledged by the fuming chimneys of present day industries.

But as I pointed out earlier, this is only in the medium term (20-years) because in the long run we won’t need non-polluting windmills just as much as we do not want smokestack economies today. Computation will ultimately drive everything that is important. This primary foundation for future technology thus appears to require no energy.We'd be able to harness the information(yes!) stored in 'seemingly' dead objects like rocks and even trees. (More in 'The Singularity is Near')

That, dear reader, would be the day when our existence will surpass our environment.

Stealth PeeaaR.

May be it is my hyper-cynical self at its alarming best or may be these are the best kept secrets.. but I believe that a lot of luxury marketing-communication is happening in the name of what is seems to be programming content or news stories.
Be it VV Chopra gifting a super-expensive car to A Bachchan or the top actor-presenter wearing a maxi-exclusive designer label while hosting a TV show.
No matter what the product category is, but these stealth PR/Promotion moves are a very efficient way to create an awareness and association splash, a splash that people do not just ‘like to listen to’ but ‘believe in’ just as much.

These splashes might not be necessarily targeted to the old rich in India but they sure are the best way to reach out to the new rich who are eager to make a luxury statement and be known for it (new rich= ‘we pay to be on TV/pages of newspaper’).

So whether it is ‘I drive the same model of car that Mr. Chopra chose for Mr. Bachchan’ or ‘for my son’s wedding I am gifting the same brand of suit-length, to all the men invited, that that Mr. Khan is seen wearing when he hands over those big denomination cheques to the starry eyed contestants in KBC-3’, these publicity/PR/promotion stunts work exceedingly well.

The key is to keep them totally stealth (like in the VV Chopra gifting situation) or partially under cover (like the scrolling suit-length brand in the program credits).

Happy Marketing!

Friday, February 09, 2007


Third in a row on getting people to say what the truth is (let’s see if this is the last one..)
While it might sometimes become difficult to get responses from people without asking them questions directly (it requires patience, time & a trained researcher to do this) but there could be another way of preventing people from mouthing something that they do not necessarily believe in.
Yes it just might work – much better than conventional interrogation. I have not tried this yet but I am going to shortly.
Rapid Fire would get people to respond but not give them the time to think for a thought-out answer could be a logical answer which is ‘correct’ but not necessarily ‘true’.
Rapid-fire answers could be managed/cross-validated through an open a discussion about the responses after we are done with the rapid-fire session.

Words just get in the way..

My last post talked about how interrogation was not a good idea to get a grip on people’s feelings, about different things including brands. Here’s something I wanted to illustrate that point with, but missed out somehow.
Visualize the last date you went on with your girlfriend.
Did you get to say all that you felt about her?
Was she able to word all her feelings for you? And all this when both of you more than just know each other.
It is not very different with brands. The feelings we have towards them are complex and sometimes not very clear even to ourselves. Even if these feelings are understandable to us they are not easy to articulate just the way we are experiencing them.
(Listen to Richard Ashcroft’s – words just get in the way.. –it says it all..)

While direct interrogation is the wrong thing to do, there must be a better way too. There sure is - informal discussions with different kinds of people at different places – dentist’s waiting lounge, the gent next to you on an airplane, business lounge before the flight, the family traveling with you in the second class railway compartment (my favourite), community playground (get kids here), pubs (after two drinks..)These are some that have worked for me.
Also, more important than listening to what the person is saying is to focus on how s/he is saying it because the conviction is not necessarily only in the speech, it resides as much in the gestures..

Last suggestion – always carry your MP3 recorder & digital camera. We are all living and breathing in one giant group discussion..

Friday, February 02, 2007

Have questions? Do not ask.

This might provoke a little but heck, I have to say this - all interrogative qualitative research is warped!
Because in our daily lives (leave aside advertisers/marketers) we never actively think about brands, advertising, products etc. the way we are asked to in any qualitative research. This could be a focus group discussion or in-depth interview or anything else that involves direct interrogation.
To top it all we are even expected to articulate our feelings just the way we are experiencing them.
But step back & think how many times do we ‘actively’ think about brands and brand preferences?
Most of the brand perceptions & preferences are subliminal. Most of the time this brand related thinking is in our subconscious.
This does not mean that we do not think or talk about brands. All it means that it is more personal. We do this with our very close friends (“I really like Nike” or “I like going to the Mango store..”) or in a spur of a moment (What bullshit, Apple ‘is’ the best computer!)
It is there but we do not actively think about it unless we are planning to buy something or there is a heated debate where someone is countering our point of view about a brand or product.
In other words we are brand active around the time of purchase or in passionate discussions about the brand or discussions about things that also touch upon brands.
While on qualitative brand or advertising research, I am assuming that the people* who are responding have strong opinion about the brand or advertising (be it love or hatred). For anyone who is indifferent to the brand (even if he qualifies the Target Group test) his views are of least significance.

(More on the 'kind of respondents' we usually get for research, later)

Also, most of us are not very articulate. The feelings, thoughts and perceptions about brands, advertising or products are very fuzzy. Thus expecting a clear articulation of ‘what we think we are feeling’ is at best impossible for an average respondent.

I think that there is a very strong case for realigning our approach to qualitative research. To discuss brands and perceptions we need to find more meaningful opportunities and places other than hotel rooms.
What is the way out then?
To start with I suggest we stop asking and start observing – this would give us many a pointers.
If we are not convinced with the validity of our observations we can always cross validate them.
No, not by asking but by planting these observations or thoughts in situations where one can expect a passionate discussion. You are right there is not way to control this, but that is the nature of natural response you can’t control it. Control it and it is not natural any more.
So the next time you have a question try and get the answer without actually asking it!