Monday, January 20, 2014

Movies for Qualies

There are movies that make you forget everything, including work. And then there are movies that remind you of work. Here are some which remind me of Qualitative Research:

1. Ace Venture - The story of a pet-detective starring Funny-Face Jim Carrey. In one of the sequences, he has to find the owner of a particular type of ring. He sets out with a list of people who have similar rings and needs to check each one of them without letting them know. See video here. To me, it is a wonderful way of doing Ethnographic Immersions - where 
- you spend time with the respondent 
- you become part of their environment
- customize your approach to personality of respondent; even trains self to be able to do that
- have specific information requirements and spend only as much time as required for it

Apart from that, he also uses techniques to go back to a person's childhood to understand his guilt and intentions.
In the same movie, he is shown doing 'secondary research' and is shown reading newspaper clippings on what seems to be the internet.

2. The Croods - This animated movie about a cave family shows different mind-sets for research. 

The first is Grug Crood, the father. He is an over-protective head of his family and wants everyone to 'stay within the boundaries'. He is afraid of the unknown and evades any chance of having to encounter anything that is not familiar. If he was in research, he would have been a quantitative researcher working on the same tools with the same techniques, getting uncomfortable with anything outside the template and enjoys working in silos. 

Then there is Eep Crood, the daughter who seeks adventure, wants to see the unseen, know the unknown and explore the world beyond the boundaries set by her father. At times, her curiosity gets her into trouble, but she seeks adventure even in that. If in MR, she would be a lively, curious and hard-working qualitative researcher.

And then, there is Guy. He is bold, adventurous and uses innovative thinking to explore life around him. He has no defined boundaries and is creative enough to use anything around him as a tool to achieve his purpose. If in research, he would be someone who can transcend different functions, adapt to different situations and be a driver of innovation.

In the story, Guy opens up a new world for the Croods...much beyond Grug's boundaries. It's an under-rated movie and definitely worth a watch!

3. Ek Ruka Hua Faisla - Adapted from the original, 12 Angry Men, this movie is about a group of 12 men who have been appointed as a jury by the court of law. They are gathered in a room and need to deliberate whether the accused is really guilty of killing his father or not. While most are convinced with the evidence presented in court, there is one man who feels that the matter deserves more thought and investigation. Through the story, he presents perspectives and points of view that force the others to think differently, and by the end, he manages to convince everyone else.
Why it makes me think of research? Yes, because it is a group setting, for sure but not just that.

There is dearth of time. Until there is purpose.
All other men in the room had a reason to be elsewhere. They wanted to give their views and run away to do more important things. But our man gave them a sense of purpose - to prevent a wrong decision from spoiling a boy's life, for ever.
Similarly, in a FGD, it helps establish the significance of the discussion to ensure that participants are serious and share some dedication to our objective.

Pull the right chords
However homogeneous a group, there could be all kinds of people and personalities to deal with. Each will have a chord, which when pulled, let's them sing their emotions. In the movie, the protagonist finds arguments appropriate to individuals, which helps convince them.
In a research set-up, it may be difficult to pull chords of all respondents, but it helps to identify and pluck a couple of them. It is best to allow them to express themselves and wait for the right emotion that will resonate the most.

There will always be overpowering persona. And a deeper reason.
The character played by Pankaj Kapur is a loud, arrogant and aggressive businessman who runs down people who go against his view. He tries hard to 'convert' people back on his side of declaring the boy guilty. Though he does not have anything personal against the boy he does not want the boy to go unpunished. It is only when our man provokes him does he lead to a hidden agenda coming from a dark secret - which makes him despise such a 'bad son'.

Whatever makes them think
When he had to convince others of his visualization of the crime scene, our man makes props and recreates the scene to demonstrate what he meant. He leaves no stones unturned and brings forth enough and more evidence, doubt and possibilities that helps them think differently.
I wish our stimuli could do that all the time.

Apart from these, there are lots of lessons for moderation and on how to bring the focus in Focus Groups.

4. Sherlock Holmes - Ofcourse the movie is brilliant, just like numerous TV series, books and stories. But what i associate most with a researcher are his excellent observation skills, his reliance on data, his wisdom not take facts at face value and the persistent quest for truth.

Sherlock Holmes (2009) Poster

There are lots of cases, scenes and dialogues from all work around this fictional character. Here are some which mean something to a researcher:

'My name is Sherlock Holmes.  It is my business to know what other people don't know.'
-The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes."
-The Hound of the Baskervilles

'You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.'
-A Scandal in Bohemia

-A Scandal in Bohemia

'You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.'
-The Bascombe Valley Mystery

'There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.'
-The Bascombe Valley Mystery

'It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.'
-The Beryl Coronet

"Data! Data! Data!" he cried impatiently. "I can't make bricks without clay."
-The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

'Having gathered these facts, Watson, I smoked several pipes over them, trying to separate those which were crucial from others which were merely incidental.' 
-The Crooked Man 

'I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.  A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands on it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic.  He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order.  It is a mistake to think that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent.  Depend uon it - there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before.  It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.' 
-A Study in Scarlet

I don't think it is fair to classify him as a specific type of researcher except for 'the ideal one'.

5. Judaai -  This Hindi movie had a character played by Paresh Rawal who sports a question mark as his hairstyle, goes around asking random, unrelated and irrelevant questions. His barrage of irritating and unreasonable queries repels people. Those who due have the misfortune to be subject to his enquiry end up dizzying to the ground.

Here are some (most enjoyable if you understand Hindi):

The connection with research if a lot more obvious here. The kind of questions we ask - whether they are connected, have a logical flow, appear relevant and asked in a way that doesn't stress respondents. If research begins to repel people, we won't have people to converse with. 
I don't know what to call this breed.

So, well...this is it. Watch out for researchers in the next movie you see!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Brand Blessings from Ganesha

India is a religious country with multiple beliefs, practices and festivals. According to Hindu mythology alone, there are 330 million Gods and Goddesses.

But there’s one of them that stands out – Lord Ganesha. Or Ganpati Bappa, as he’s called lovingly. Or The Elephant God as he's called by fascinated tourists. Very few Gods enjoy the popularity and celebrity status as Ganesha does. What makes him so special? I’ll attempt to answer that from a brand POV, rather than a religious one.

Cut-through – Among the universe of so many Gods and beliefs, Ganesha seems to be a clear favourite and his appeal transcends differences of religion, sects, caste and languages. No wonder you find an idol of Ganesha in every third car or house or office desk

Democratic Customization – Ganesha is like an open-art-source. There are millions of visual representations of him in different avatars, clothing and situations, etc. Artists (both amateur and professional) take the creative and divine liberty of using Ganesha’s visual appeal to make their own point. Even in Sarvajanik Ganpati Mandals that host large Ganesha idols is shown in various forms – sometimes dressed as a common man, sometimes as Spiderman, but never has he used divine influence to punish the artists that took those liberties. It seems like he is waiting to be used as a source of inspiration and help people express themselves


Solves a Problem – As Vighna Harta (one of his names which means Obstacle Remover), there is tremendous faith in the ability of his worship to clear hurdles. Thousands walk miles, sometimes bare feet or stand in long queues, without food or water, to show their devotion and in return, seek a solution to their problems

Owns an Occasion – As a remover of obstacles, he is remembered right at the beginning of any important task to seek blessings for success

Creates Anticipation – Although there are temples dedicated to him, along with a day of week (Tuesday) it is not an exclusive claim. He is part of the 10-day Festival Club, in which people leave their work, vices and pleasures to enjoy an environment of festive celebration. Ganesh Chaturthi is the when people bring his idol to their homes, offices, housing societies and play host to their favourite deity for 2-10 days. They prepare sweets, savouries and delicacies to please their guest. The end of the festival makes of one of the world’s largest religious congregations. Ganesha idols from across are brought to water bodies and immersed by emotional and teary-eyed devotees. They call out his name pleading to return soon the next year

Connects People – Those who host Ganesha, invite family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, their friends’ friends, their relatives’ relatives and everybody else for darshan (viewing). They serve prasad (snacks with a divine touch) and allow socializing with otherwise strangers. The Lord opens doors to new opportunities and relationships

Mobilization – It was in India’s Freedom Struggle that Lokmanya Tilak discovered the power of a ‘social celebration’. The movement encouraged people to co-host Ganesha as a society in public places instead of small families in houses. This allowed mass mobilization of people to communicate with each other and test collective strength. Till date, this form of celebration continues and is used for mass communication

Below The Line Experiential High Embedded in Culture – Ganesha’s roots are in age-old Indian mythology, but the 10-day cultural and social extravaganza is a modern-day phenomenon. Processions have people dancing not just on traditional folk songs but even on disco beats with hi-quality sound speakers. It is open to adaptation and liberally flexible to allow new tastes to blend in. This flexibility allows making the festival more inclusive as young people, migrants and others find celebrate in ways they are familiar with. For instance, one of the popular processions plays electronic music and is called Trance Visarjan.

Is a friend more than preacher - Unlike other Gods and deities who are on a pedestal so high that it is respected more than loved, Ganesha is a friend. A children's movie symbolizing this status is quite popular

I am sure there are more connections to be drawn and marketing lessons to be learnt from Ganesha. 
I don’t know how many brands live up to these subtle, derived and indirect teachings of Lord Ganesha. I think Google follows most of these. 

Any other…? Feel free to add to the list.

Pudchya post-var lavkar ya…

Monday, October 28, 2013

'Un'conventionalizing Advertising

Advertising is story-telling. Just like the movies, some are conventional, beaten to death, seen-before, 'typical ads'. While there are others, that break norms and social taboos, break the stereotype and challenge traditional behaviour. In the process, they create milestones for a fraternity and role models for society.

Here are representations of these two views:
1) The Conventional India Ad
2) A Moment of Truth

1) The Conventional India Ad (courtesy: a viral forward on mail / messaging)

What Indian Advertisements taught me.???
  1. Kareena has dandruff problem, Katrina has dry hair problem, Shilpa has hairfall problem and Priyanka has chip-chip.
  2. If you've a hot wife, make sure your neighbor doesn't use a deodorant in your absence.
  3. Your complexion is more important than your qualifications.
  4. If there is no salt in your kitchen you can use Toothpaste.
  5. Every second oral care brand is No. 1 and recommended by every dentist in India!!!
  6. If your daughter is not Ready to Get married, take her to a jewelry/textile shop.
  7. Only reason why men use deodorant is to get girls.
  8. Most colas cure all kinds of phobias. You will be close to a superman, if you drink these regularly!!
  9. All superstars are so poor that they prefer to risk life for a cool drink than to purchase it for Rs:10
  10. The special effects in shampoo ads are greater than special effects in Avatar.
  11. Fruit content in shampoo and soap is more than fruit content in 99% of juices.
  12. Amul has better satirical cartoonists than people who make better milk products
  13. Most people buy vehicles to travel in bad roads but complain about roads in India.
  14. You can't eat Dairy Milk Silk without spreading it all over you face.
  15. Nobody uses motorbikes for commuting, its only to pick up girls.
  16. All soaps kill 99.9% of germs.
  17. People believe that Bacardi makes music CD's and Directors special/Kingfisher make mineral water.
  18. The only time mothers and daughters talk to each other, it's usually about hair oil.
  19. No matter what kind of expert one is, he'll always wear a white laboratory coat.
  20. And, finally this:  Mutualfundinvestmentsaresubjecttomarketriskspleasereadtheofferdocumentcarefullybeforeinvesting

2) A Moment of Truth

This is a piece timed around the new Tanishq ad. It looks at life-stage very differently and doesn't shy away from breaking stereotypes.

Somewhere, it gives confidence that in whatever that we do, we can look beyond conventional definitions and spot opportunities in alternate TGs.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Water spreads viral. Again!

If your boss isn't around or if you're down with a viral, you've probably seen the video clipping called 'Jennifer Aniston goes viral' or 'Jennifer Aniston Sex Tape'. Don't just hit 'Alt+Tab' out of embarrassment. It's only an ad. For a packaged water brand called SmartWater. It shows Jenni Aniston sharing how and why they made the video like it is.

It has been viewed 2,897,953 times in three 3 days it has been on YouTube. My guess is that by now at least a few Social Media Experts would have written about it and maybe even made it part of their New Biz pitches. Since i am not such an expert, i can take the risk of putting forth some simple thoughts.

Three things. First, the guy who is seen lip-syncing at the start, is 'Lip Sync Kid' a.k.a. Keenan Cahill, who already has 338,774 subscribers to his YouTube channel in which he lip syncs famous tracks. His YouTube channel has almost 2 million views and has over ten times more views combined for all videos on his channel. Tapping into an existing viral like his, it seems, was definitely a smart thing to do.

Second is the animals and children parody. The context: the popular belief is that the presence of animals and children in an ad, makes it more enjoyable. What makes it a learning is a Millward Brown perspective...

The Link™ database tells us that the most enjoyable ads are more likely to involve animals, nostalgia, children and well-known music. Celebrities also have their place. However, these are all patterns; there is no magic formula — we have plenty of examples of ads that involved animals and children that were not enjoyed!

The parody is on marketers and advertisers who go by this blindly and force-fit such elements into the communication, sacrificing any intended story. I'm sure ad agencies and clients would have interesting incidents of requests to use animals and kids as props - just to this effect.

Search for the 'Best viral ads' you will come across the third point i want to make: Evian's Roller Coaster Babies. Another ad with babies (and also one that SmartWater takes a dig at). More importantly, it is the second-best viral till date, with 103,867,704 views (since June '09. Source: and belongs to the same category - bottled water.

Just makes me curious are the bottled water brands. It is a category you may not expect great virals on. Not that it is lesser as a category or has less respectful brands, but instead of two cola, telecom, technology or durable brands, we have two bottled water brands. Yes, i have assumed that 'Jen Aniston's Sex Tape' will become one of the biggest virals. (So what if she is looking older?!)

Nobody expects water to induce virals. But then, doesn't every brand on the internet need to act like water - shapeless and free-flowing.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Gorgeous v/s Beautiful

The last few months have seen some hair-softening advertising. One was Marico's 'Gorgeous Hamesha' campaign for Parachute Advansed Hair Oil. The other, Unilever's 'Beautiful Hair' campaign for its Zero Damage range of shampoos, conditioners and treatments.

'Gorgeous Hamesha' is about this jingle / song with simple vocals and soft strumming that resulted in a CD of the song. The slice-of-women's-life TVC / video shows women in different situations and essentially uses Deepika Padukone, the feminine beauty and emotional strength of women as a support for showing good-looking hair. Subtly, it gives the message that women go through a lot of emotions - happy and not; light and heavy - and it is their hair that makes them look gorgeous in whatever situation they maybe.

'Beautiful' is about the hoarding / print ad with ladies' hairstyles arranged in a way that spell out the alphabets B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L. It is a lot cleverer and classier than most ads and is a brilliant combination of idea and execution.

What i like more, is the Dove website that allows sharing of notes on hair-care, information on products, activities, etc. Parachute Advansed's website, though, has much less 'community stuff'.

Both these brands may not competing directly, but are defnitely fighting for Share-of-Hair (sounds quite scary). I feel they have both managed to hit bulls-eye in making a connect with their TGs, which i think, are different too.

But where i think Beautiful loses and Gorgeous wins, is the word 'Zero Damage'. It automatically triggers a theraupatic mindset - which may work instantly for those facing hair problems, but may be repelled by those with normal hair.

Either ways, Gorgeous or Beautiful - i love both!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Advertising's 'Evolution'

To see something breaking rules, going against empirical evidence and challenging the present, makes me feel good. The Dove 'Evolution' commercial made me feel good.

In case you've been too busy - or too ignorant - to watch the best television commercial made last year, you can catch it or or

It shows a model been made up and metamorphosed (with help from post-production studio-work) into a face for the billboard. "How did our idea of beauty become so distorted?" it leads you to ponder.

The film was created to expose the manipulation of the female image in the media. The objective was to encourage discussion around the subject of real beauty and lead people to the website.

This is marketing that touches the heart, strikes a cord, makes you connect with millions and makes millions buy what you're saying. And selling.

No doubt, it is a feel good piece of commercial communication. But my feeling good comes from more than this direct effect.

The ad was actually a viral video to bring leads on the brand's web-site.

With not a penny of paid media and in less than a month, "Dove Evolution," a 75-second viral film created by Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto, for the Unilever brand has reaped more than 1.7 million views on YouTube and has gotten significant play on TV talk shows "Ellen" and "The View" as well as on "Entertainment Tonight." It's also brought the biggest-ever traffic spike to, three times more than Dove's Super Bowl ad and resulting publicity last year, according to

By those measures, "Evolution" is the biggest online-buzz generator in the U.S. personal-care and beauty industries, topping this year's effort from Omnicom Group's Tribal DDB on behalf of the Philips Norelco Bodygroom shaver. And that's before the campaign began rolling out to 10 additional countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America last week.

That should explain why it makes me feel good.

How hungry you, Johnny May?

For reasons best not known to my employers, i'm into radio. Not listening, but more than that. And soaking into the advertising fest at Cannes is a dream since some time. Somehow these got together and i found myself checking out the best advertising on radio the world has heard in the last year. Online, of course!

The Indian entries / winners, you've probably read about (Yes, read; not heard. Try telling a scam from genuine work.)

Anyways, the Grand Prix is the highest honour and in the category Radio Advertising, it went to an agency from Melbourne, Australia called Clevenger BBDO. The ad for which it won, was a 2-minute spot titled "Hoedown" for Snickers.

The idea was simple - eating a Snickers bar is like eating a horse.
The execution was funny, catchy, luxurious (2 minutes?), attention grabbing and attention holding. And i believe it must have been a great viral - with men of all ages and genders singing it as a alternative to a country folk-song.
The relevance - brilliant. Research suggests that 'filling ability' is a primary driver for preference among chocolate bars.

Listen to it at
Here is the script:

SFX: music
MVO1: Well, I'm so hungry…
MVO2: How hungry you, Johnny May?
MVO1: Well, I tell ya. I'm so hungry I could eat a horse.
MVO2: A horse?
MVO1: But not just any old horse. This is a special horse. 'Cause this old horse, well… He ate a chicken, and the chicken ate a cat, and the cat ate a dog, and the dog ate a frog.
MVO2: Go on now! Eat them furry critters!
MVO1: And the frog ate an eel, and the eel ate a panda.
MVO2: A panda. That's some endangered eatin'.
MVO1: And a panda ate a mule, and the mule ate a chimp, and the chimp ate a tapir.
MVO2: What in the hell is a tapir?
MVO1: A tapir's a nocturnal, mammalian quadruped that dwells in Central and South American jungles. Yee-haaaaaaaw.
MVO2: Well, what's it eat?
MVO1: This ol' tapir? Well he ate a moose, and the moose ate a rhino, and the rhino ate a rare- crested macaw. And I was so hungry, boy I ate 'em all.
MVO2: Yee-haaaaaaaw.
MVO1: But hold on now, there's more! I ate L to Z in the encyclopaedia. Then I ate Werribee and Micronesia. I ate 33 tons of Chicken Madras and 2 full canisters of VX nerve gas. I ate an Emperor penguin and the Great Wall of China. 26 steaks in a California diner. Two Beluga whales stuffed with bratwurst. A rusty old anchor and a pickled chirst.
MVO2: What the hell is a chirst?
MVO1: I don't know, I just made it up and ate it. Don't bother going to the Maldives these days, I polished 'em off with some herbed mayonnaise.
MVO2: So long, Maldives!
MVO1: I ate a Swedish futon and a queen size doona. Then Gary Busey and Lou Gosset Junior. A light sea-plane and a Dutch wooden shoe, the Big Brother house, and the gay guy too.
MVO2: You even ate the cameras? Well that's just greedy!
MVO1: I was hungry, so yes indeedy! Yeeee-haaaaaaaw!
SFX: Fiddles and banjos
MVO1: Now you go, Aussie Bill. Come on boy.
MVO3: Ok, here I go now!
MVO1: Sing it. Lay it on me! Yeeee-haaaaaaaw.
MVO3: Well… I was so hungry I ate a Snickers.
MVO2: I hate it when you do dat, Bill.
MV01: That's cheating, Aussie Bill.
MVO1: Play the game, Bill. Play the game.

Popular opinion, though, doesn't seem to be in favour of the ad winning the Grand Prix. Feedback on blogs and sites calls it "undeserving", "too long...and perhaps that is why it won!", "too stupid", etc.

I want to agree with the popular opinion. But instead, i'll just go have a Snickers.