Fear

It’s been more than a month now.

Medically speaking, I am recovering and much better than that day.

That day when people gathered around me, lying in a blood pool weren’t even sure if I was alive.

If I was alive, would I survive?

If I survived, would I be fine and normal again?

Many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ that suddenly clouded our life within a fraction of second. That second when our car met with a fateful accident on Chennai — Bangalore highway.

Was it an accident? What was it? I try to recall the details often but everything, oh so vague! Husband and my brother were seated on the front seats of our Ecosport while me and my 5 year old leisurely sprawled on the back seat. Something happened and even before we could realize, the car hit the left divider and then the right and then toppled once, twice….was it the third time when the locked back door broke and I got thrown out on the highway? Was it just then that I managed to push my son further inside and save him from being thrown out? What exactly happened at that time? It was all blank for me, sort of a weird white in front of my eyes. I hear from others that the car toppled perhaps multiple times before it skidded to a halt. No one remembers the count. The only thing I know after seeing the pictures of our car or talking to police and doctors is that I am thankful that my family is safe and I am alive. My son, husband and brother got some bruises and I even though critically injured, am still thankful that I am alive!

Ford Ecosport— The car is beyond repair now but thankful that it’s sturdy structure could save us to some extent

What all did I experience at that moment or that day? Perhaps I will take some more time to have the courage to jot it down. It’s all scattered and jumbled up in my mind but keeps coming back to me in multiple formats.

Dealing with bad accidents or trauma is not new to me. Like many others, I have had my own share of lows and brutal misfortunes in life. Though this time, something has been incredibly difficult to deal with and something that’s not fading with time.Read More

It’s all about photos

Photo Credit — https://unsplash.com/@jaywennington

Out of all the work experience that I have, almost half of it has been into photography industry now — a category that has really exploded in last decade, a category in which you literally have to be on your toes in case you want to make a mark, a category that has gone through unimagined consumer behavior changes at an unimagined pace. We all are clicking, clicking all the time, clicking anything & everything!

My work also involves meeting photographers and consumers who are looking to hire photographers on a regular basis and at times the kind of insights that I get by just observing or casually interacting with them is mind blowing.

The trend of getting life events photographed or preserving our unique moments as photographs has been existing since centuries but there is something now because of which photographs and photography are as much part of our lives as food and sleep.

Thanks to social media, it will be safe to say that now we humans literally eat, breathe and live our lives through photos. This is something that we all know of but at times certain incidences just make this realization starker!Read More

Facebook Advertising — Customise, Connect, Change

Image Credit — https://unsplash.com/@carlheyerdahl

Love me, or hate me, but you can not ignore me — Sincerely Yours, Facebook!

Even if certain set of users won’t agree to this statement but considering Facebook & Instagram are still dominating the charts of most downloaded and most used apps, it would be better to accept that Facebook is one of those beasts which marketers can’t ignore if they’re going for a paid digital campaign especially for a consumer product category.

I know there are enough pro and anti Facebook advertising arguments all over the internet but this post is not about whether to go for Facebook advertising or not, it’s more about when you are doing it, do it right. No point in spending money without fixing the basics first.

It’s 2017 & why I am still talking of basics of Facebook advertising? I mean, even a school kid knows how to advertise on Facebook? What’s the big deal about it when it’s just so simple and easy to set up a Facebook campaign? Well, that’s the exact problem — it’s just so easy! And almost everyone is setting it up without much effort or thought put behind understanding the platform or learning the best practices.

And when something is very easy, it’s also easier to mess it up. Isn’t it?

In last 15 days I have met four startups who are spending big money on Facebook advertising and three of them have digital agencies managing their accounts. While we discuss CPA and efficacy of the medium, there is this general sigh that CPA is not coming down and the effectiveness of their campaign is decreasing with time. I got a chance to analyze their campaigns and surprisingly, I found the problems common across — ignoring the basics and one-size-fit-all campaigns.

And all it takes is 3 simple steps to fix the same.

Customize

So startup A, with whom I was interacting recently, is a food company with a potential target audience that could range in between any age group, i.e., teenagers to even 50+year old ones. Their agency was running a digital campaign for age bracket 18–45 years with same messaging and same creatives. Their logic — after all it’s a food category and anyone could potentially be a customer for this category. True, absolutely true. But what happened to the basics of marketing known as segmentation and customizing the campaigns according to each segment? The more granular we go with customization, the more effective the outputs are in digital medium. For e.g., in this case it took us a day’s exercise to go through each product variant and try to figure out the star appeal of each variant. The moment we were ready with product feature matrix, it was getting clearer to the founders that perhaps each variant needs to be targeted to a different segment, customized with a different messaging. And that’s what we did — instead of one master campaign showing different products in different units of carousel, we configured multiple campaigns with messages and visuals tailored to different audience type. Going granular and customization upto the last level was some task for sure but the results were obvious and in a week’s time the acquisition numbers were moving northward within the same budget.

Customization takes time and effort but it’s worth it. Just go for it. Go granular, go microscopic.

Connect

Are you targeting your ads to those who have liked your page as well? Of course, the logical brain tells you why do you need to especially when you have limited money? The ones who have liked your page are already getting to see your updates, so why not use the money to target new audience and acquire new customers? Start up A, B, C & D — all four had done the same. And earlier, even I used to do the same. But then after experiencing the diminishing organic reach of Facebook posts that perhaps is not even in the range of 2 to 5% these days, I had changed my targeting strategy. And I was surprised with the improvement in the conversion rate.

So, next time when you are trying to sell any new product or targeting your users for repurchase, connect with your existing base first, you’ll be surprised with your acquisition percentage and more importantly, your CPA. The rationale behind this is pretty simple — the ones who have liked your page are somewhat interested in you, the chances of them buying your product are much higher than the new ones.

When you have limited money, it’s all the more important that you prioritize it on targeting the interested ones first. Connect with your existing fan base, it works.

Change

Startup D had spent some decent money in getting their products shot beautifully. The campaigns were doing well initially but with time, the CTR had reduced. On asking, when was the last time the images were changed, the answer was almost three months back. To add to that, all the good pictures were used in first burst itself. But then why do they need to plan for second or third bursts when the first one was doing so good? Well, simply because users get bored of seeing the same thing again and again. To add to that, this phone era has reduced our attention span to 8 seconds which is perhaps lesser than that of many living creatures. And the only method to grab attention these days is through striking visuals. Visuals attract attention and new images give a fresh perspective to your ads. Be it digital or any form of advertising, a good visual evokes emotions and enhances the consumer connect. This has been tried and tested since ages in all forms of advertising but is especially true in this digital era where we literally breathe and live our virtual life through images.

Change your ads frequently, especially the images. Even if you are advertising the same product or service, just change the visuals and see the impact on your CTR. In one of my last campaigns, it moved up by 3x.

Customize, Connect & Change — that’s it. Focus on these and your basics will be in place. And if basics are in place, we all know rest can be managed, enhanced and improved 🙂

New Year Reflections

End of previous year & beginning of a new year… this joy & celebration & enthusiasm to welcome the year. While I join the celebration and enjoy the fun, I also end up wondering why? Why this zeal to welcome a new date? Why this eagerness to greet this day? After all, isn’t it just another calendar date? Why to make new resolutions only on first of January? Would it make any difference if new resolutions were to be made on first of March? Why this keenness to start things today and not on any other day of the year? Is a calendar date really that important to start something afresh? A beginning can be anytime, anyday, any moment, why this strong urge for the beginning today?
While I sit back and reflect, I realize once again that it’s not the rational or logic that can give answers to every why of ours. Perhaps for certain things, it’s just good to rely on our belief and have that faith – faith on new beginnings, faith on magic of those beginnings. Somehow the magic of beginnings always remind me of these beautiful lines by Meister Eckhart:
“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust in the magic of beginnings.”
So, cheers to yet another beautiful beginning, yet another new year and let’s hope this new year proves to be as magical for all of us as we are hoping it to be today.

Happy New Year to You & Yours from Me & Mine 🙂

Happy New Year

Reflections — captured randomly one fine evening in Goa

End of previous year & beginning of a new year… this joy & celebration & enthusiasm to welcome the year. While I join the celebration and enjoy the fun, I also end up wondering why? Why this zeal to welcome a new date? Why this eagerness to greet this day? After all, isn’t it just another calendar date? Why to make new resolutions only on first of January? Would it make any difference if new resolutions were to be made on first of March? Why this keenness to start things today and not on any other day of the year? Is a calendar date really that important to start something afresh? A beginning can be anytime, anyday, any moment, why this strong urge for the beginning today?

While I sit back and reflect, I realize once again that it’s not the rational or logic that can give answers to every why of ours. Perhaps for certain things, it’s just good to rely on our belief and have that faith — faith on new beginnings, faith on magic of those beginnings. Somehow the magic of beginnings always remind me of these beautiful lines by Meister Eckhart:

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust in the magic of beginnings.”

So, cheers to yet another beautiful beginning, yet another new year and let’s hope this new year proves to be as magical for all of us as we are hoping it to be today.

Happy New Year to You & Yours from Me & Mine 🙂

MOANA – Books to read to your children this winter vacation

Winters, Christmas, New Year & Holidays – now can there be any better time to laze around in sun curled up with a good book? And since this is a vacation time where many are traveling outside, how about a book for children that’s around travel and adventure?
So the first book that me and little one are reading this winter vacation is – MOANA by Disney

Moana is destined to take over as chief of Motunui one day. But when danger threatens her island, she sets on a mission to save her people. Will Moana be able to unlock the mystery of the sea and discover her life’s true destiny? Well, that’s for you and your little one to find out through this interesting book by Disney.

So, here’s my quick take on this book:

  • The story is quite fascinating, I am sure younger kids would love this adventurous tale of princess Moana.­
  • Its not gender specific and suitable for both boys and girls. My son who is in general a big fan of superheroes quite liked it.
  • Visually very, very rich. I mean the pages are literally treat to the eyes, something that totally helps in keeping the attention of kids intact to the pages.
  • It has a very good message for kids around traveling, exploring and finding your destiny on your own.  It’s dreamy but at the same time not very old generation fairy tale type of book.

I strongly recommend this book for kids below 10 year age group. And in case your child loved reading this book, you can make him / her watch the movie too that got released earlier this year or vice versa. After all what’s a vacation without some good movies 🙂

The book is available for purchase on both amazon and flipkart and I am sure it will be available for rent in your nearby library too. So, what are you and your little ones reading this winter break? Do let us know in the comment section.

Before we visit the Goodess – Book


There are books and then there books you wish would never end
Before We Visit The Goddess is one such book. The kind of book that makes you sad once it ends, you know that feeling of emptiness when a good book ends, yes exactly that one! You wish the story could continue forever, you’re so engrossed in the plot and so absorbed in the characters that you literally find them to be real and part of your daily life. Sabitri, Bela & Tara – how real were they! Hats off to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni for giving us such gems one after another.
I have been a great admirer of her writing ever since I read Sister Of My Heart and Oleander Girl few years back. I have read almost all of her books now and each book of hers is a masterpiece in itself. Varied plots with intricate story lines, but what I like most about her books is the protagonists. They are someone with whom you can relate to, someone real. Before We Visit The Goddess is also yet another literary treasure by the author that tells us the story of a family over three generations. It’s a must read for those who love to read good story around human relationships and emotions.
Here’s my quick take on the book:
  • Poignant story line that touches your heart somewhere deep within.
  • Genuine plot that highlights the imperfect yet connected family ties. No unnecessary fictitious perfect-happy-family kind of drama at all.
  • Brilliant characterization, you can almost imagine a Sabitri or Tara living around you, inside you.
  • Powerful writing that actually presents the complexity of human emotions in a very beautiful way.
  • Captivating read, not even once I actually lost interest anywhere in the book. A story spread across three generations and two continents but towards the end, it was like all pieces of a scattered puzzle finally put together.

Overall a book that I strongly recommend, totally worth the time and money. And as always, I will be eagerly waiting for the next book by this author, she is just terrific and brilliant and…. well, for her I think I will actually run short of adjectives :).

This book is available at both amazon and flipkart and I didn’t buy a kindle version of this book. I actually bought a hard copy as books like these are meant to be a part of your home library collection :). 

Whatever happened to being real?

How do you explain that expressing genuine views against some national movements is not equal to being anti-nationalist, but realistic?

How do you explain that not being optimistic is not equal to being pessimistic, but realistic?

How do you explain that not being happy always is not equal to being depressed, but realistic?

How do you explain that not having opinions matching to yours is not equal to being crazy, but real me?

How do you explain that not enjoying large crowds or social gatherings always is not equal to being unsocial, but real me?

How do you explain that not being able to see silver lining in everything is not equal to being negative, but realistic?

Whatever happened to being real!
Whatever happened to being realistic!
Whatever happened to being imperfect! 
Whatever happened to being human!
Whatever happened to being original!
Whatever happened to being you!

Experiencing the power of Brand Consistency through a 4 year old

Brand Consistency Helps.

And it just doesn’t matter if the consumer is 40 or 4 year old!

This is something that we all know and always try to achieve as a marketer but recently I experienced the power of a consistent brand in a different way altogether.

Few weeks back, I was traveling out of country along with my 4 year old and one of the days during that trip we were roaming in an area that had very limited options for food. While I was ok with anything to eat but it was the little one for whom we were not able to find any suitable option. To add to that, internet connectivity was weak and Google map wasn’t being of much use. It was already quite late for his meal time and he didn’t want to eat any of the packaged snacks that I was carrying. And suddenly he shouted — Mumma, look there is a Domino’s! I tried to look around and asked — where? He was pointing to a remote corner where we could spot a red & blue part of glow-sign. It was quite far but yes the red & blue looked familiar and we started walking in that direction. And bingo, he was right, there was a Domino’s! As we approached nearer, we realized there were other food joints as well including some good options for pizza. We tried to convince him to try out something new but the junior was adamant on having a pizza and that too from Domino’s only.

Here’s a snapshot of conversation between me and my 4 year old.

Me: Ok I understand you want to have pizza only but why not try this place (me pointing to the next outlet of Brand Y).

Him: No, I want to eat at Domino’s only as I know their pizzas are good.

Me (Trying my luck again as we wanted to explore something different): But how do you know the pizza at this other outlet is bad without even trying?

Him: Mumma, I don’t know if the other pizza is bad but I know Domino’s pizza is good. What if their cheese pizza will have mirchi (chilly) in it? Domino’s ke cheese pizza mein mirchi nahi hoti and taste humesha same hota hai (Domino’s cheese pizza doesn’t have chillies in it and always tastes the same). I’m hungry and I will have my favorite cheese pizza of Domino’s ONLY!

And yes, the mom and dad in us won over the foodie in us. We finally had pizzas at Domino’s only despite the fact that Brand Y outlet looked more appealing and had much higher rating on Tripadvisor.

Now a 4 year old’s love for pizza is something that I needn’t explain 🙂 but his love for Domino’s was something that I thought was worth observing:

  • He can’t read all the small letter alphabets yet, but it was him who could spot the brand from a really far off place. In fact the brand name was hardly noticeable but he could recognize the outlet just by a glimpse of that red & blue logo unit. Well,

Consistency surely makes a brand easily recognizable!

  • His trust in brand and its offering was rock solid! He had tried Domino’s cheese pizza at different places earlier and he knew that it tastes the same everywhere. Preferably,

Consumers trust the brand they recognize and consistency helps in building that trust!

  • He was sure of his choice and when it came to his favorite pizza he wasn’t willing to try anything else except Domino’s. He ensured that we bought the pizza from Domino’s only. And,

When there is a trust, there is a loyalty and chances of repeat business are quite high.

So here I was, practically experiencing the three key lessons of Brand Consistency through purchase behavior of my 4 year old who doesn’t even know how to read a brand name yet :). Consistency actually helps your brand get recognized, builds trust in the minds of your consumers and increases the chance of repeat business!

Btw, that area also had Domino’s biggest competitor in Indian market but somehow that brand was not the top of mind recall for my 4 year old, maybe because Domino’s is more of a household name in India due to its focus on home delivery model as against the fine dining or eat out experience by the competitor.

Domino’s — you definitely have a very loyal 4 year old consumer at my end!

Life of Angela: Book

Just finished reading this book with a smile on my face. If your roots are from any small Indian town or you have lived in one during your growing up years, then this book is surely going to bring a smile on your face.
It was quite a pleasant surprise when my childhood friend Rakhi Anand pinged me about her debut novel – Life of Angela and when she mentioned it being based on school life, I was all the more keen to pick it up. And I am glad I grabbed a copy of it as the book reminded me of my growing years in many ways :). Here’s my quick take on the book:
  • It’s simple & real, no wannabe portrayal of cool, hip student life.
  • Presents the inner turmoil of a fatherless middle class teenager girl beautifully, the pressure on her to do well in academics, get a well paying job so that she can support her family, her struggle and challenges due to her introvert personality – all of these have been presented quite genuinely.
  • Has an important message for students who try to give up life due to academic pressure. Life is much more than just scores in board exams and if you believe in yourself, there is always a beautiful destination waiting for you ahead.
  • Engaging plot presented in a very crisp and easy language.

Overall it’s a book that’s definitely worth a read. And for a change, it’s an Indian fiction that’s not on romance at IIT / IIM campus 🙂 or about a girl who is dying to get married just because she has entered in her 30s!

Do give it a try, it’s available on Amazon as well as on Flipkart.
Rakhi: Kudos to you for your effort. Wish you good luck for your future books.