The ‘Mighty’ Pen’s Journey From A Sword To A Swiss Knife

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The ‘Mighty’ Pen’s Journey From A Sword To A Swiss Knife

There is an old saying – ‘The Pen is mightier than the sword’. The power of the written word has gone beyond paper with the advent of new technologies and the ‘3 screen revolution. The ‘Sword’ has transformed into a ‘Swiss Knife’, where content is more fluid than ever. It is leaping off hard bound books and is getting customised to suit the increasing number of eye balls on tablets, smart-phones, PC’s and e-readers.
As per a research conducted by CyberMedia, 158,000 tablets were sold between Oct 2010 and June 2011 in India. Add to this 12 million smartphones and 40 million mobile internet users in India and we have an enormo, and applications to ensure interoperability of content across these devices.
Led by Rajesh Lalwani, team Blogworks conducted a social media workshop for leading publishers of India at the GLOBALOCAL conference. The workshop focused on the opportunities and challenges that this new wave of digitisation brings and how publishers are engaging with Screenagers.
The Publishing industry is gearing up to harness interesting platforms on the digital medium. So whileRandom House plans to produce games, Penguin Books is restoring its catalogue of e-books to e-book library lending services, such as the one offered via Amazon’s Kindle e-reader and tablet devices. This is a cue for marketers to engage differently across multiple touch-points as consumer behaviour across these touch points differs.
This is also leading to cross-industry collaborations; old world publishers are joining hands with game developers, designers, application developers to create new standards of creativity. On one hand this collaboration is creating content that is engaging, it is also helping them arrest the attention of the consumers who are spoilt for choice.
The biggest shift however is the end of ‘passive reading’. Where earlier, people would read a book and share their experience on a one-on-one basis, conversation are now happening many to many. Welcome to the world of Social media, where everyone is an ‘author’! Micro-publishing and on-demand publishing sites like Lulu are enabling new age writers to manage all aspects of book publishing with minimum intervention.
Frank Rose, author, The Art of Immersion sums up this phenomenon, “Everywhere we look, stories are breaking the limits imposed by print and film and video. Boundaries that once seemed clear—between author and audience, content and marketing, illusion and reality—are starting to blur.”
The only word of caution for the enthusiastic content developer and marketer is to not lose sight of content that is ‘relevant for the consumer’. Technology is a mere enabler and the aim should be to build compelling, engaging stories for consumers. By virtue of the quality of your content and its associated relevance, the consumer will be your most credible ‘marketer’.
P.S. Mr. Publisher while you adapt books to online platforms, don’t stop printing the hardbound book. I can never savour curling up with a Kindle under the winter sun:)

Videos that go viral & those that don't


Day 1 of ringing bells on the streets of Delhi, which is part of a Social Media Campaign designed to sustain the Bell Bajao campaign.
Zooming out of this, to give you a little context on the Bell Bajao! campaign by Breakthrough, an international human rights organization . Bell Bajao is a symbolic message to raise your voice against domestic violence. As opposed to popular belief, raising a voice against domestic violence is not encroaching on anyone’s privacy. Stop it, if you see it.
The Bell Bajao campaign has now become the ‘go-to’ campaign for all news/views related to domestic violence and uses the power of popular culture, media, and community mobilization to create change. It relies heavily on its fan base on FacebookTwitter and the Blog.
However the need now is to sustain the campaign using social media. The aim is to widen the circle of influence, increase engagement rather than static flow of information and create user generated content.
Hence the idea – “Kya apney bell bajai”? (Did you ring the bell?)
- Create a viral video with people from diverse backgrounds ringing the bell – Common man, Online influencers, Celebrities
- The video should be raw and not look orchestrated
- End with a call for action – “Kya apney bell bajai?” (*Did you ring the bell)
- Premier the video at the UnBox Festival as the first offline launch and amplify online
That’s day one of shooting the video, take a peek here. Disclaimer: The videographer(read: me) will not be held liable for any neck jerks after watching the video;)

Day 1 :: Digital Activism Fellowship


Shooting Bells with the HOHO Bus for Wheels!

Today was a long, tiring but fruitful day for us. As part of the Bell Bajao social media campaign, we were out from dawn to dusk shooting videos of people ringing the bell in diverse settings.

We ditched the car and instead took the HO HO bus (my first)  to tour Delhi and its sounds. Here are a few points that ‘rang a bell with me’:

A big hi five to the Ho Ho bus. It’s just not a marketing stunt, it works. On time with  live commentary on the history of Delhi by college students who play the conductor when free

The Ho Ho ride gets better if you have a group of enthusiastic kids singing “Why this Kolaveri Di”. (I did not like the original, but this was good)

As opposed to popular belief, Delhites are helpful and co-operative. Thoda pyaar sey samjhaney ka!
Bells are interesting and different people ring the bell different. I say ringing bells can be linked to personality traits

I was wrong when I thought twins grow out of dressing alike within a few years. We met a pair of 36 year old twins dressed alike from head to toe. (Oh they looked cute ringing the same bell)

Cops and security guards let you take liberties if you have a big bulky DSLR
And there is a story brimming everywhere – dreams, satires, melodrama, jest.  Your interpretation of these make “it a story in a story”:)

The Making of a Movement

Here is a TED talk by Derek Sivers, founder and former president of CD Baby. I am yet to come across a more hard hitting projection of how to kick-start a movement. Brilliant is the word!

My Breakthrough Moment

2007 – Working at an advertising agency

Week 1 – I love this life. My chance to pen down sexy copy and become famous (doesn’t matter if I have to slog 10 years for it)

Week 5 – Hunt for a new phone after my first stipend comes through(10 years look tough with this amount of money)

Week 6 – Confident about my purchase because a friend had a great experience and the review on Labnol blog gave it a good rating

Moment of Truth – Did I look at a ‘creative’ advertisement during my research?

Not really. This is me, an advertising drop out who realised that no one listens when you speak about yourself, what matters is what others say about you. This was just the time when another new reality of ‘market saturation’ was surfacing. Hence, for a new brand to enter a cluttered market and make its mark it was important to create a category. For example when Kellogg’s entered a country that woke up to paranthas any amount of advertisement around cold breakfast cereal would be too bland for the Indian taste buds. Hence they built the category of “health food” before embarking upon an advertisement campaign. Building categories is a function of changing behavior through endorsements from people who matter. For example doctors, health experts, friends, family and the media in the Kellogg’s case. This belief in third party endorsements made me shift to Public Relations and now Social Media Marketing.

My breakthrough moment for me came as a result of the following realisations:
• Identify people with whom you have affinity – The digital medium allows you to target these people
• Build a relationship with consumer through shared values – Social media encourages interaction rather than  a static flow of information
• Crowd source for product development – Listen to your consumers first and foremost
• Stay real for long term sustenance – Engage naturally and stay real, superfluous conversations will die
• Social media is a tool and not the cause

 The UnBox fellowship in Digital Activism got me excited because it involved “movement creation” by shared experiences from diverse backgrounds. The opportunity to work closely with Breakthrough on the Bell Bajao will further my belief in simple and brilliant campaigns involving ‘people like me’. More on movement marketing and the excitement of cracking that ‘idea’ to sustain the Bell Bajao campaign coming up. Stay Tuned:)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Online censorship – the new wave of repression!

Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer-prize winning foreign affairs columnist, examines the newest stage of globalization’s evolution in his latest book, The World is Flat. Friedman defines ten "flatteners" that he sees as levelling the global playing field for enterprising individuals who look beyond limitations of race, geographic location, or language. For Friedman, the ‘Internet’ is the agent that renders inevitable a transparent, democratic, decentralized, and market-based society.

This dream of a flat world through cyberspace is now convoluted with the restrictions imposed by various governments across the world. A case in point being the Chinese laws and regulations with regard to online search results. By filtering and controlling access to information, the world ceases to be flat for over a billion people in China. Online censorship is the ‘virtual’ Great Wall of China.

To comply with China’s censorship rules, the search-engine giant launched Google.cn, a version of its search engine run by the company that self censors content that is considered illegal from its search results in China. However Google’s decision to self-censor Google.cn attracted significant ethical criticism on how it clashed with the company’s most basic values.

I believe that we are distracting ourselves from the genesis of the problem. The point of worry here is not how global companies are changing their system to ensure continuity in one of the most populated nations. It just makes business sense to be present in countries like India and China where achieving “critical mass” is easy.

The point of concern is how consumer experience and privacy is compromised on humanitarian grounds, no matter how bureaucratic they maybe. The biggest oxymoron is the attempt to achieve a fine between local rules and regulations and upholding the ideals of freedom of information and exchange.

There are three sides to this story – the governments, global companies and the consumer. Bureaucratic governments will continue with its totalitarian mentality with respect to political speech and Internet communications and companies will have to learn to work around these.

For the Internet consumers across the world, the online medium is much more than a source of information; it is the new digital playground. It is emerging as an ‘entertainment hub’ and a popular destination for serious content research and creation. This apart the new age citizen is looking at the internet to increase political transparency (Anna Hazare), to start revolutions (Obama’s Change campaign) and dethrone autocratic regimes (Egypt and Libya).

To engage with this new age citizen more and more brands are moving online. The differentiator between a “brand” and a “loved brand” will be focus on the consumer and all else will follow.

However Internet censorship is as much a social and political problem as it is technological. So will citizens and policymakers come together dethroning governments with autocratic mindsets? Will every country rise to be the next Libya or Egypt?

And in this flat world, this is a dream that can be lived – the onus is on us.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Life was never so surreal, virtual becomes the new reality!

If you think that we are looking at ‘green’ as the new ‘black’ and taking up farming as a career alternative. Then you are being misled by this banter about laying seeds, cultivating crops and rearing cattle. And neither are we giving up our line of business and becoming Genesis Farms, it still is Genesis BM. Then how come Strawberry, Squash, and cows are being spoken about in unison. And your last guess about the return of the Green Revolution falls flat too. These ecstatic and animated conversations are about the latest hanging out zone in town called ‘FarmVille’. This Facebook game allows members to plant, grow, and harvest virtual crops, and become neighbors. Neighbors like Shilpa Kaicker and Suvir Paul who live almost 1,163 kilometers apart in real life.

Welcome to the world of social networking which is becoming a way of life for many of us. Applications on these sites have become our crystal ball that will identify your friend or foe or that faithful day when you will get married, even if you already are. Notifications about who tagged us and comments on photos is something that keeps us on our toes. And most of all the status updates that have amused, irritated and used very strategically to get a message across to a ‘particular’ person.

These sites have also become centre stage for voicing one’s opinion on politics, movies, media and business. Right from discussing Shashi Tharoor’s solidarity with the cattle class to Rakhi Sawant’s mother’s tryst with fame on Bigg Boss, everyone is brimming with opinions. Ashwani who is an active member of Twitter and Facebook, often gets us thinking about current issues like the Jet Airways strike, the changing face of CSR and the importance of social networking itself.
Social Networking sites such as Facebook, Orkut, and Twitter have exploded in the past five years and fast replacing other leisure activities like watching television, reading a magazine and even catching up with your partner after work. Natasha Gupta who has been married for the past three years hits home and heads straight to her Facebook page after a quick hi to her hubby. She defends herself sheepishly and says, “But I was just checking for comments on my Goa snaps”. Her last visit to the page was when she left work an hour back!

But she is not alone. “I find myself checking social networking sites several times a day and I can easily spend hours chatting on Facebook, checking comments, and looking through pictures.” was a view echoed by many across locations. But updating status messages topped the list of ‘must things to do on Facebook’. This is one space where one can speak one’s heart and still manage to be conspicuous and candid. Upset with your boss, angry that your domestic help who just burnt the milk or your geographical placement hour by hour, even if it means it is in the shower (honest!) The status message lets you do this and lots more. But where does one draw a line on what to put and what not to put. “Well sometimes I feel updates have become a mode to just attract attention. The ‘in’ thing to do. Why put up absurd stuff up just for the heck of it”, says Saurav Bhanot. Contesting this view, Deepanshi Chaudhary says, “I think status updates are meant for you to write what you feel like. Till the time they don’t offend someone, I guess it’s okay to write what you feel.”

But how does one deal when one finds oneself logging on to social networking sites without any goal and checking one’s profile becomes a compulsive habit. The sticky situation that many of us find ourselves in is the various paths one can take after that. “Hopping from your profile I get on to a friend’s profile and then their friend’s. Photos of the latest birthday bash, the first baby steps of my uncle’s son to who is getting married or divorced (Facebook Auto Update: XYZ is no longer in a relationship). The trail never ends and time truly flies”, says Karan Dutt.
Apart from an addiction it is a great tool to help breeze through a day where a client sent a stinker for the media that never came or when your boss gave you off for ‘typos’. Vasundhra Mudgil says, “I think it’s a great thing to do on most days; but when you are having a tough day at work, social networking websites help de-stress.”

So it is truly a case of ‘different strokes for different folks’, whether the motive is to stay in touch or express without any inhibitions or just keep one entertained. The beauty is that we are waking up to trivial things in life. The sunny day or the walk on the beach or an ice cream with your one year old nephew, all is being written down and PUBLISHED. Just a word of caution you are under the scanner always!

Post done. Off to check my Facebook account… Mansi Pal