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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advertising, Branding and Communications, Economics and Politics

How Rahul Gandhi Could Make Political Come-back

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Rahul Gandhi has been made into a national joke. People think he is completely incapable of leadership, and has been given the mantle due to nepotism. They are partly right. However, for better or worse Rahul Gandhi must work at redeeming himself in eyes of the populace, or make space for his sister. Politics, like brand building is all about perceptions. At least, that is one way of looking at it. Often a product doesn’t sell with strategy X, even after trying hard and employing all the dirty tricks in the book. Why? Possibly because it has some irredeemable quality. And who better can teach turning irredeemable things into USPs than Volkswagen?

Accept who you are
The Volkswagen Beetle was a ‘reasonably ugly’ car when it launched. So there was no chance of it competing with likes of Chryslers and Fords. It completely turned this handicap into an advantage by accepting what it was, and created the campaign aptly launched as ‘the Ugly one’. It garnered a lot of sympathy for the brand. Rahul Gandhi is often thought to be naive, and yet he pretends to be all knowing, big boy. He is not that, nor will he ever be. However, naivety is excusable for three types. Artists, idealists, and the young. So in order to accept his naivety, he must choose either of the three.

From Pariah to a dreamer
Rahul Gandhi needs success desperately, and in order to achieve that he must learn from his enemy. Narendra Modi is an expert at selling dreams and successfully shedding the tag of a political pariah. He has an advantage though.In many ways he is a suave charmer that is easy to believe in. Yet, he is a seasoned politician, so his dreams are received with skepticism. Rahul on the other hand has no such backlog. If he can come up with compelling dreams for the nation, he will be ridiculed yet again, but back your dream with little data and people may notice. Right now, he just needs to occupy the mind-space again without being completely kejriwalled.

A fresh Start
To rebuild his political career, Rahul must first wipe the slate clean. It means getting rid of culture of sycophancy and elitism in his party. The new party line should be own up sins of their forefathers. Only then will people trust them again. There is also a need to do some hard word in constituencies that they own. Think of it like advertisement for the new ‘launch’. Once again, learning from the Gujarat model of trumpeting  may help. Concentrate on things that directly impact voters like roads, electricity, and cleanliness, and you would soon have a ‘model town’ that you can show off as your ‘dream’. Take notes from Anna, visit to Ralegaon Siddhi perhaps.

 

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In many ways, Congress as a brand is dying it’s natural death, so it may not be so bad to re-brand it, much like how Snap-deal has done with themselves.Get rid of the hand and tri-colors. It seems ridiculously transparant, but symbols are powerful, they can recreate excitement. It’s a huge gambit, but if Rahul Gandhi backs it up with some token actions, like retiring Mani Shankar Aiyyar, and making Shashi Tharoor, the vice president, he would have a very good chance of at least surviving. Then, it would be pretty much a long struggle to gain back trust, but it’s not impossible. Will this change anything for India? Maybe not, but it will be worth my time to see how it works.

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advertising, Branding and Communications, Marketing

Difference between brand awareness and brand salience

brandGoing just by definition, I would differentiate the two as follows.

Brand Awareness: How much do customers know about your brand. Have they heard about it, do they think about it, do they talk about it?

Brand Salience: Do customers think your brand is the ‘gold standard’ in the category. Is it the first brand that comes to their mind when you talk about the category?

A brand can have a higher level of awareness from time to time owing to the promotional campaigns they do or news about the product, however Salience is achieved through consistent delivery of value. For example, Samsung Galaxy 7 is right now pretty high on brand awareness scale due to reports about spontaneous combustion of the phone. However it doesn’t mean people will go and buy it. They will still go and buy iPhones. 🙂

 

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advertising, Art, Branding and Communications, Experience, Marketing, Reflections and rumination

Why all creative projects have an ‘urgent’ deadline

timeAround four years ago, I co-founded Purple Rabbit. It was possibly the most glamorous decision of my life. In terms of life lessons, it still is. However, when the crowd of well-meaning soothsayers leaves, and your bank balance still shows a depressing figure, things get real. Anyone who has ever worked in an ad agency would tell you that behind all the glamour, there are deadlines. It doesn’t matter if you own the agency, the deadlines own everyone. And the question we must ask is :

“Why?”

Why aren’t design or any other creative projects planned better? What stops people in marketing and communications from indulging in meticulous planning that is hallmark of corporate life?

designers

The short answer is, design is taken for granted, even by the designers.

Over the last few years, I have worked with many creative designers, and have understood that their mind works differently than lets say a content writer’s or even a project manager’s. My experience as a part-time designer has often helped me bridge this gap, and communicate with them in their language. However, quite often I have struggled to get projects done. The deadline keeps extending, with Client servicing complaining about lack of commitment on creative side, and designers complaining about lack of humanity on client servicing side. So whose fault is it? Perhaps it’s the collective culture that is to be blamed.

  • The maddening culture of ‘last minute stretch’ 

Since designers are temperamental beings, who need a lot of free time in order to come up with really creative output, their work culture usually lacks discipline. So, a project that needs to be worked at everyday for about twenty days, is put of in exchange of other ‘interesting’ projects, or even Youtubing random videos. In fact, here is a neat list of things designers procrastinate on.

  1. Watching movies or listening to music to ‘get inspiration’
  2. Playing games to ‘get inspiration’
  3. Going on smoking/tea/ “other” breaks for stress relief
  4. Taking up completely random, and sometimes even personal projects because they are in the mood.

However, before we put the whole blame on the designing community, we must understand why they do this?

  • Many layers of ‘buffers’ in Client Servicing 

The biggest fear of a Client servicing executive, is being found out as ‘unprofessional’, and losing the client.

Think about it, a Client servicing executive is a buffer between marketing communication and the creative team at the agency. However, their work involves a lot of coordination, with little creative input from them. This makes them eager to prove a point, and to make themselves appear to be ‘working hard’.They are also completely under the jackboot of the marketing communications department.  So a client servicing person, by virtue of being in this field, has to conduct the following set of activities.

  1. Keeping an extra buffer on ‘quality’ of the output, in hopes of completing the project sooner.
  2. Keeping an extra buffer on deadlines by having an ‘internal’ deadline.
  3. Promising an oversell to the client when none was required.

Then, can we blame the client servicing for creating this culture of ‘last minute delivery’? Of course not. Because they turn to these means due to behavior of Marketing Communications, or even marketing managers at client end.

  • Insecurity of marketing communications

Marketing communications professionals struggle with an existential crisis for better part of their career.

business

Unlike designers, marketing communications field has a more transactional relationship with creative projects. Usually a project is the means to an end, i.e. more publicity, and perhaps browney points from the management. Communications manager people often suffer from a secret insecurity complex, of not adding any real value to their company. To add to this, most have suffered an ‘escalation’ from the management because the agency they hired was unusually slow in producing the work.

In order to keep up appearances and to get a dose of self importance, communications usually employs following strategy.

  1. Reject ideas of the creative team in order to ‘align’ creative output to the brand.
  2. Have a long loop of emails to show that they have ‘worked’ at the project
  3. Provide abstract or vague briefs that do not include important marketing objectives.
  4. Keep an extra ‘buffer’ to ensure the calendar stays on track.

The big reveal. 

Let me tell you an open secret. Every designer worth his or her salt has a very good idea about what an ‘actual’ deadline for a project could be. This sixth sense of deadlines develops with a lot of hard word rejected down the drain, many hours of burning midnight oil only to find out that the project wasn’t due for another week.

In short, the designers are tardy in their approach, because the client servicing is finicky. The client servicing is finicky about deadlines and keeps extra buffers because they know it takes a long time for project to finish, and they are eager to finish them earlier. The projects take longer to finish because marketing communications has insecurities and a false sense of entitlement, and feels that ‘agencies and creative people’ need a firm push.

So what we have here is a Marketing Mexican Standoff of the epic order.

Do you agree with the above? Do let me know in comments! I would be sharing my opinions on how the above ad agency standoff can be broken without anybody getting hurt. 🙂 Stay tuned for that.

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