advertising, Art, Branding and Communications

How to work with creative people

In a previous post, I talked about why all creative projects have last minute deadlines. In this one, I want to give my suggestions on exactly what to do in order to ensure your project gets completed before the intended deadline. A lot of it has to do with knowing how to work with creative people. As someone who has been on both sides, I have created a set of guidelines that helps me complete projects on time. Here are the three most important ones.

#1 Select the ‘right’ artist for the right job

Would you select Hulk to open a bottle of pickle? Probably not. It’s the same with creative projects. Yet, many marketing communications folks make the same mistake. A creative graphic designer and a DTP operator are two very different people. Of course you can ask a creative guy to follow your concept to a ‘T’, but you would be wasting your  money, and the designer would hate it.

#2 Avoid micro-managing, and offering color suggestions 

This works for almost any job, but especially makes no sense in creative field. Any decent creative professional prides himself or herself over the smallest choices that they make. Moving the icons / lines / circles 5 cms to the right or left, changing the text alignment, and worst – asking for a completely new layout would only make them plot for your murder. Needless to say, they will respond by not caring about your project, which will make it harder to get approvals from your seniors.

#3 Don’t leave things for ‘feeling’, follow your own brief like gospel truth 

A bad brief could be unclear,  or misguiding, but what’s worse is changing brief. Creative professionals, hate it when the brief ‘evolves’ midway on the project. It means they could be living a bad dream over and over again. It’s better to spell out everything from the beginning, and then stick to it. Asking for endless options will seldom produce better results. Most designers I know give their best shot first couple of times, and then lose interest faster than speed of light. It helps to ban these phrases:

  • Not feeling it
  • Needs to be crisper
  • Something is off
  • I don’t know… can we try…(Insert any thing here)

It might seem like designers are vane, and just incapable of ‘getting’ it, but they do know what makes thing look good. Not everything depends on it, but most of it does. Bad design can screw good products. It’s always more helpful if your designer likes you. Believe me, if they do, they are more likely to come up with special sauce that makes things perfect!

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advertising, Branding and Communications, Technology & Gadgets

Challenges of creating interactive content

Interactive content is considered the holy grail of content marketing these days. Every other metric is bases on engagement, and it’s not uncommon to hear CMOs demanding ‘Kickass interactivity’ in their website.

Soon we would hear something like the following.

Lets get rid of all the text, and videos are old, lets do something kickass- like VR operated content accessible without internet

However, interactive content development is not simple, or more importantly cheap. Here are common challenges you should be ready for before sailing down that boat.

  • Demands more attention from user – You require more engagement from your users in order for them to get content from you.
  • Risk of technical errors and glitches – As interactivity increases, technical challenges also increase in proportion. Content may not remain accessible across all ecosystem.
  • Much longer time to market – It’s much more difficult to create and deploy interactive content than plain text or videos. It’s thus also time-consuming.
  • Inflated development costs – There’s an added cost factor for interactivity, and not all companies may be able to bare it.

Having said that, if you have the patience, and money interactivity pays off. Always.

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advertising, Branding and Communications

What are the best ways to implement keywords in content marketing?

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Do not use key-words as an after thought. And never insert them just for ratio. Most of search engines are now doing deeper analysis on keywords, becoming more human-like. So your keywords have to be followed by accurate information. Heres a suggestion.

Put your keywords in headings, but build content around specific aspects of your keyword.

For example if your keyword is ‘bucket’, imagine exactly what your audience will be searching, and what will help them the most. Here is how I would do it.

Which buckets are best to carry more water

  • Heavy metal buckets
  • Plastic buckets
  • Intelligent buckets

This should be followed with more information on each type of ‘buckets’.

One golden rule to remember is that all of your content will be actually read by someone. It will have an impact on the purchase decision of your buyer. So never write for crawlers, write for humans.

*Originally posted on Quora. If you are in need for content-marketing ideas, please feel free to leave contact in comments.

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advertising, Branding and Communications

How to make your brand successful

This was asked on Quora the other day, here is my extremely short answer.

A brand is set of ideas that are perceived. Some of it may be tangible benefits, while other would be aspirational. In both cases, in order for the brand to be successful, either of them have to be fulfilled.

For example,

  1. Apple – A person would not buy iPhone just because its a good product. He or she would probably buy it to make a statement, that they belong to a certain class. The post-purchase experience makes them believe that its really an exclusive club that they have entered, this reinforces the brand, and drives more sales, which leads to more reinforcement.
  2. Xiomi – This is somewhat a ‘value for money’ brand. This will be reinforced more by actual product. People would buy it, use it pragmatically, and recommend when it performs to the their expectations.

So to sum it up, you would need to fulfill the promise of your brand in order for it to be successful.

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Reflections and rumination, Society & Culture

The holy cow of dissent

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There is serious misconception about what dissent is, what is the idea of a nation, and what is democracy. Democracy enables one to participate in the idea of the nation. You are the nation in many ways. It takes time to build this idea of the nation, and each election, each generation adds a little into it. If at any point, any individual feels that the current state of affairs are a sharp departure from this collective idea of the nation, they are entitled to notify their dissent. However, their dissent cannot be against the shared idea of nation itself, it can only be against those who execute the will of the nation.In short, dissent needs to identify where the government ends, and a nation begins. The moment they dissent from the idea of the nation, they move from the dissent to treason.
Why is dissent against the idea of nation treason 

Nationhood is a contract that we agree to. When we identify as citizens of any particular country, we agree to recognize it’s collective idea. In return we enrich it with our participation through the elective process, and abide by it’s laws. This contract is the basis for our stay, and protection by the state. The moment we dissent against the shared idea of a nation, we no longer have the moral right to enjoy pleasures of the nationhood.

Then what should a disgruntled dissenter do?

To start with, they can continue to participate in the elective process by choosing the right representatives. If they can’t find anyone to represent themselves, they can contest elections themselves. If they feel they are completely at odds with the shared idea, and would not get much support in elections, they can choose to find another nation that is more in tune with their idea of the nation. Or, they could make themselves indispensable, enrich the nation with their contribution, thus gaining more influence, and then attempt to seed their ideas again. Sadly, none of the prominent ‘dissenters’ of India are enriching her with contributions beyond their dissent. The hollow, impotent dissent has no takers. However, they are not the only one who do not understand dissent. The government of the day, doesn’t either.

How the state should approach dissent 

The idea of the state has moved from being a ‘parent’ to a ‘facilitator’. The responsibility thus on those that run the nation, is not to crush any voice of dissent, but to simply facilitate means of intellectual purification. A dissenter must be asked to validate their dissent with actions, as the state provides the means. For example, in the context of J&K, it could be asking the dissenters to build model of governance, and provide a model village for implementation of the model. If the dissenter rises to the occasion, then confidence on state is built up, if they don’t then they lose face.

Unfortunately, we are at a strange Mexican standoff as far as the idea of dissent is concerned. Those who employ it, are not judicious in it’s use, and those who are to tackle it, are caught up with indecision. In Yuval Noah Harari’s thought – provoking book – ‘Homo Sapiens’. He remarks how all the nations are but figment of our imaginations, and depend on our willingness to accept the idea as a reality. Coming days will tell us exactly how willing we as a nation are to accept a uniform idea.

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Humanity, Society & Culture

What could be done to abolish caste

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BJP has been appropriating all national heroes India has. Since the agenda has moved from being simply pro-hindu to being pro-hindu + progressive, this kind of symbolic appropriation is nothing unexpected. Hindu upper castes feel in control, they are love the spin BJP gives to traditional vitriolic. Right wing think-tank is continuously at work to create progressive sounding rhetoric that changes little on ground, except polarizing the masses further. There is one key problem that BJP would love to address, but haven’t dared so far. Reservations.

I know people will point out what Yogi Adityanath has done in UP, and I must admit, on paper it looks like a good move. However, no reservations will not bridge the gap between lower castes and upper castes. It will only fuel the anger against ‘savarnas’ or upper castes for taking away priviledge that the community had got accustomed to. Also, it would be unfair for really underpriviledged communities, many of whom are even now marginalized. In many ways, this is a catch 22 situation with seemingly no answer. If you don’t give reservations, underdeveloped communities suffer, if you do, then the bias against lower castes strenghthens. Handing out reservations to economically underdeveloped is often pitched as a way out, but in a corrupt country like ours, how difficult it is to falsify economic state? Many of our politicians do not even have a crore in their bank accounts after all!

The only way out I see is offering reservations to progeny of inter-caste, and inter-religion couples. This could make a marriage in lower caste desirable for many upper castes if it means consolidation of wealth. Sure many fourth or fifth generation ‘lower-castes’, who are under-privileged would benefit, as they would be closest to what upper caste hindus find attractive. Yet, a state sanctioned benefit for breaking down caste barriers could have long term positive repercussions in annihilation of caste from India.

The question is, who will bell the cat?

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