Group dynamics for the digital age

Facebook’s privacy notice hoax was probably the best example of herd mentality for the digital age. A fake ‘privacy notice’ spread virally Facebook, and was mean to protect one’s personal data from unauthorized copying. This notice was probably the outcome of a prankster’s over active imagination and spread a few days after Facebook posted its new privacy guidelines, announcing it would let users comment on proposed changes to its governing documents. As if this wasn’t enough, a very similar rumour about a popular android messenger- Whatsapp did rounds back home in India.

At other times, it was this very herd that had the heart to come forward to help a girl find her mother’s hat. Bridget Hughes’ lost hat had belonged to her mother. She was suffering from cancer before she passed away. Hughes’ mother used to wear this hat during chemotherapy sessions and the hat was all that Bridget had left of her. Within a short span, an old photo posted by her wearing the hat with a short description had 1.5 lakh likes and 8000 comments. The picture was so touching that it went viral in a few hours. While we hope Bridget makes history by finding the hat, here’s a lesson or two for marketers who hope to do so too- move the audience and be genuine if you want social media to work for you.

A watchful gaze on social media.

Steps to ensure that your digital content doesn’t attract attention- of the wrong kind.

The digital world has been making a lot of news lately. On one hand, the freedom of expression was at its peak with a couple naming their newborn daughter ‘Hashtag’ (after a method used to string comments together on Twitter). On other hand, wrong censorship of a woman’s photo brought Facebook worldwide embarrassment. To get rid of the guilt, (or shall we say to ‘get it off their chest’ for pun’s sake?) Facebook made a public apology to the user and reposted the censored picture.

Back home in India, there was uproar over arrests of two girls over a controversial Facebook post. Critics cried over the abuse of fundamental right of expression. As arrests and outcries went on, we were left with a bigger question- Is this a new era of moral policing on Social Media Sites? How afraid or bold can the users and brands now afford to be on Social Networking Sites (SNS)? Is it time that brands prepare their own guidelines specifically for SNS, in addition to TVCs, Print and OOH media?

Drew Bartkiewicz (founder of Apinomic, a data Agency) speaking for a conference on web 2.0 in 2008 said that people can make or break your brand online. Web 3.0 is no different with people generating content from the comfort of handheld devices. With arrival of tablets like Aakash 2 this week, that has twice as much RAM and a CPU comparable to the famous iPad, at less than one tenth of the cost of it, user participation has only just begun. What is it that brands can do to ensure that they are firmly on the ground and stay politically correct in the digital space?

Register your brand.

It is tough to get people to follow you on SNS. To make matters worse, anyone can take a handle similar to your brand name making it harder for people to know about your actual presence. A quick celebrity search on Twitter will tell you how many fake profiles exist with perfectly attractive handles. These profiles can talk about your brand in ways you can’t quite control. So if you are planning to go social, do it sooner than later.

Verify your account.

SNS like Twitter offer a facility to verify your account. This gives people the assurance that you indeed are the person or brand that they are looking for. Verification makes your life easy as no fake profile can easily defame your brand.

Do not ‘buy’ followers or fans.

The quality of your content and likes or shares you receive are a few parameters of your brand’s success online. The kind of audience you attract is also another. Think about it, if your TG is India +1 women, they will not contribute to your page if it has fans or followers who are mostly men from a lower stratum of the society.

Set a tone and reinforce with content.

Make it clear through your cover photos, headers, profile photos, brand descriptions, posts and tweets what you offer and what values you believe in. Send out a clear list of content that is a strict ‘no-no’ to the agency. If your brand page has nothing to do with movies or politics, there is no point of going there. If the tone is set at the right time, and reinforced through posts, any defamatory post by a user or any accidental wrong post by the agency will seem like a one-time forgivable occurrence.

Invest in monitoring systems.

There are monitoring systems that ensure that your SNS page is managed correctly. Websites such as check availability on SNS, sites like enable you to receive alerts when someone tweets about your brand. is another site that provides reports about who is bidding on keywords that tie in to your trademarks.

Play an active role.

People are willing to share and SNS content is mainly user generated. Take time to answer every query, appreciate every compliment and share and repost worthwhile user content. People are on SNS to hear brands but more importantly, to be heard. No one is as dissatisfied as a user who feels he is not being listened to. Remember, that in spite of all censorship, your fans are still free to write or tweet anything about your brand and it takes only an added limerick or two for it to go viral.

Set your tolerance limits.

In case of misbehavior, what steps are you willing to take? Will you take a stern course of action or will your replies be gentle? When should you seek legal help? Keep all scenarios in mind and make a small disaster management guideline. If nothing, it will help you to have the peace of mind that you can manage a tricky situation effectively and before the word spreads.

The Cult of Counter Strike

Counterstruck. The next gaming phenomenon in India?

If there is one game that has truly caught on with the Indian masses it is Counterstrike. Having sold over 25 million copies abroad and taking the battle to earlier multiplayer market leaders, Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament, nothing has ever quite comes close in the Indian sub-continent. With multiplayer gaming part and parcel of every game the next step in evolution has been social gaming now being married with this concept. The story of how Counterstrike still holds Indians enthralled has something to do with the fact that you don’t  really need a powerful machine to play it. You had gaming parlours that were opened across the country whose sole business were hosting on the spot Counterstrike games. So much so that next to ‘NFS’ this is the next game that became a household name in India.

So why talk about something that is already common knowledge? Yesterday saw me in Lamington road once again to pick up a replacement of a Samsung monitor (that’s a story in itself). I was pleasantly surprised that while waiting in one of the shops, the shop owner received at least three to four enquiries for the new edition of Counter Strike Global Offensive. My interest piqued, I asked him how many enquiries for the game he was receiving. According to him he gets around 50 queries for the game in a week, which is quite impressive considering people want to shell out for the original version of this game and not buy it off the streets pirated.

As a digital strategist this set a small bell ringing somewhere.  I am quite certain in the months ahead we are going to see some brand organising a gaming championship based on CS Go very soon. After all the gaming championships in India are held primarily on three platforms – Counterstrike, Need for Speed and Cricket related games. If SKOAR magazine for example is going to have its yearly gaming exhibition, you can bet that this will be one of the things on the agenda. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gillette thinks of it as well.

Closer to home though, my office seems to prove that this game still holds its place in the hearts of the gamers what with certain employees having caught the Counterstrike bug. If people can squeeze in a little time, you definitely catch them trying to take pot shots at each other. It can be both quite hilarious and stress relieving at the same time and seems to strangely build a sense of camaraderie amongst the players in real life. What remains to be seen is how this new version, Counter Strike Global Offensive will curry favour in India. If the queries at Lamington Road (and the fact that the game is out of stock there) is any indication, Indian gamers are all set to be ‘Countersrtuck’ once again.

Users who are having trouble installing the game from the steam service and wish to do it from the DVD that you bought should visit this link.

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Appropriate. A list of apps and advice for new iPad owners.

The first thing to do after unboxing the iPad

So you’ve got yourself a new ipad unwrapped it from its pristine packing and are now wondering what apps you should have on it. Before you are getting into the app department however you might want to check if you have a cover that protects your iPad completely and maybe invest in a screen guard. Personally I chose a matte finish screen guard to cut the reflection. However this does reduce the overall effect of retina display a bit, so be warned. I initially tried to use my old iPod cable to plug in my iPad, but initially it didn’t seem to fit right (though it did on a later try).Now on to the apps.

With so much of choice in the app store, where does one start? Some of the obvious choices are ‘essential’ app packs that are out there. What is interesting is that there are some basic apps on your iPhone that seem to be missing when it comes to the iPad. Apps like the voice recorder, the clock, the calculator, the compass and so on. Which naturally means that you need to find alternatives.

In addition to this, you will find that you will want to do quite a few things that you do on your laptop, on your ipad, just because of the sheer convenience of it. Being an iPhone user though, I did have some idea of apps that I had on my phone which I would like to have on my iPad and that was the obvious place to start. For anyone else who happens to be facing the dilemma, a nice site that points you in the right direction is Hard to miss, what with the fact that Google throws this particular site up first in your search query. I liked the way the site was organised. Not only the classification of the apps but the aesthetics of the site as well.

Another essential site that most people may be aware of is AppTrackr where users can download IPA files. This said here is my essential app starter list.

The Basics Internet Related
Opera (if you are an Opera user on your desktop) =
Google Plus
IM+ Pro (awesome chat app)
Flipboard (reason enough to own an iPad for, a consolidated news & feed reader)
Pulse (In the realm of Flipboard with a lot more sources)
StumbleUpon (So that you discover something new)
Vintique (for Instagram like effects)
WordPress (if you have a self-hosted or blog)

Productivity & Misc
Pages (as an alternative to word)
Key note (if your job involves you doing a lot of powerpoint presentations)
xPlan (for project management)
Comic Reader Pro (Because you are never too old for a decent comic)
Wolfram Words

Paper (free doodling app that looks marvellous
Art Rage (Sketching app )
Art Set
Adobe Ideas
Quark Design Pad
iMockups (if you need to make wireframes)

Audio Video
Pinnacle Sutdio
Garage Band
CineXPlayer (To play movies)
Sound Hound
Garage Band
Piano Prodigy
Virtuoso Piano

aNote HD

Infinity Blade
Infinity Blade 2
Temple Run
NFS Most Wanted
Asphalt 7
Metal Gear Solid Touch
Wild Blood
GeoMaster HD
Labryinth 2 HD
Air Hockey

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Ever wondered what happened to email?

When was the last time that you sat down and typed out an e-mail for personal reasons? It is highly probable that if you are between your twenties to forties, it has been quite a while since you did so. True we use e-mail a lot in the office space to keep things official, however the art of writing emails for a more personal touch seems to being dying out, just like the art of writing letters did not so long ago. If you happen to have been a netizen for quite some time you would probably have accounts on Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail, while Rediffmail being an option for a lot of Indians due to the speed that its local servers offered once upon a time. So its not a want for lack of technology. In fact hotmail has recently revamped to a new Outlook like interface I hear. Out of all the email accounts you could possibly have, one would be your predominant account, the other the account you use to sign up for stuff and another one just a backup of sorts. Its likely that you are checking only one regularly on a daily basis though.

What do we use email for anyway?

Pull up any statistics about internet in India and you will likely see emailing taking a major chunk of the activities does online. But what are people using email for anyway? The most popular answer is probably registering for something. We always need to dole out our email when signing up somewhere and sometimes check our emails to complete the registration process. Though some could argue that this is not entirely true with F-Connect and logging in using your Twitter or LinkedIn ID’s now possible. Next in line is receiving official correspondence that ranges from your bank statement, offers from brands that you have shopped with and so on. With e-commerce blossoming in our country there has been a spate of newsletters that cover offers of one kind or the other. The point being that e-mail consumption has not quite decreased. It is the creation of emails that seemed to have taken a plunge.

Exceptions to the rule

There are certain scenarios that are obviously exceptions to the rule. My mother for one is regular in writing e-mails to my sister who happens to be studying down under in Australia. So it is possible if having one of the close family members far away, you would write more e-mails. However this may not be quite true for distance relatives, especially if they happen to be on your Facebook profile. Facebook messaging and the fact that you tend to see updates from your relatives have made the need for sending the frequent e-mail obsolete.

It was after all before the advent of social media that the usage of e-mail was in its peak and that there were so many new e-mail service providers out there opening one after the other. It is unlikely that you would be lured into using a new e-mail provider today. Being social via email meant sending your friends forwards of chain mails (something that still happens these days, especially amongst people who are just adapting to the net in their later years.)

E-Mail Marketing

From an advertising and marketing stand point, it has been quite a long time since there has truly been an innovation in the realm of e-mailers. A good open rate – the number of people who actually read your email communication is around 14% and that is enjoyed usually by educational institutions. The technology behind the mailer has not quite evolved and still allows people to only use plain HTML with inline CSS. You can’t quite embed Flash into an e-mailer nor have any fancy java script, which seems to shackle any possibility of creativity. If you want to have a dipstick into the kind of e-mailers that are being sent out, then head over to Emailium which happens to be a search engine for e-mailers. The site offers users the ability to search using a number of parameters including colour, company, subject, industry, body text of the emailer and lots more. Being an Indian it was interesting for me to note that most foreign e-mailers now resemble a cross between a newsletter and an website in terms of design.

One last thing one should point out, is that now more emails are read from mobile devices than they are read from desktop computers. We have Blackberrys and other smart phones to thank for this. But coming back to the point in question. What is happening to the personal email that you longed to get in your mailbox. Today even if you did maintain such a correspondence, its likely to get lost in all those other mails, shares and so on that you get.

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App reviews- the conventional, convenient, casual and crazy.

Downloading, using and developing apps has become the world’s favourite hobby. With Facebook’s app centre release in May, it is obvious that applications, both social and mobile, are the next step in the unprecedented journey of social media. Here are some apps that either save your life, enrich it or promise to bring messages from the afterlife!

The conventional- Flipboard

Flipboard offers voracious readers a chance to lay their hands on all their favourite magazines- with a single touch. The free app available at I-store and Google Play, designs a magazine just for you, with snippets from all your listed interests. You can know about food, trends, politics, fitness and fashion fads. What’s interesting is, Flipbook can be synced with your Facebook and Twitter accounts and news feed is presented in a glossy magazine-like manner.

Flipboard also promises to save stories for offline reading with Instapaper or Read It Later bookmarks. This is especially convenient for tablets without 3G, such as ipad Wi-Fi and the recent Google Nexus tablet. The app that has been voted as Apple’s iPad App of the year and selected by TIME as one of Top 50 innovations requires iOS 4.0 or later or Android 2.2 or later.

The convenient- DriveScribe

We all know that irrational itch to pick up our cell phones as soon as they beep. What makes this habit lethal is that we tend to answer our phones and messages, driving or not. DriveScribe takes the very technology that can spell doom for many drivers and converts it into a safe driving tool. The app not only blocks all texts, calls and notifications while on the move, but also monitors the speed of your vehicle and warns you on precarious driving.

With DriveScribe Parents can finally heave a sigh of relief as it keeps a tab on your teenager’s driving behaviour. Available at i-store and Google Play, DriveScribe also rewards safe driving with gift cards. So subscribe to DriveScribe and hit the road safely.

The casual- Flock

We all know the drift. We go to a party, take pictures and then wait till someone creates an album, uploads them and tags all of us. Too much of a hard work for the digital age, isn’t it? How would it feel if pictures would upload as we take them, get auto-tagged and those in the pictures get notified as soon as you leave the place? The photo sharing app ‘Flock’ does just that.

The free app uses iOS’s photo detection API, to cross reference your geographic location with your Facebook friends and recognizes who was present in the picture. This sheer brilliance comes from the makers of Bump, an app that allows users to bump phones together to exchange data. Though Flock meets high expectations of the Apple users, Android users will have to wait for a while before they can use this smart app.

 The crazy- If I Die

Getting messages from beyond the grave was the stuff that horror movies were made of. With ‘If I Die’ app it has become a reality. Write messages for your loved ones and the app promises to pass them on in case you, well, pass away.

You can choose whether to make your message public or private. The app offers one free message to everyone. If you want to leave more than one free message you can, provided you fulfill one and only condition they have- you must be the first user to die! Before you judge us for featuring this app, know that it has two lakh active users. For those interested in leaving a digital time capsule behind for their relatives and friends, the app is currently available on Facebook.

Dear brands, read this before you go digital.

Most of us industry people can’t help but break into a smile during a client briefing. The client itinerary for his digital journey is often narrated and repeated like a nursery rhyme.

Hello marketing manager,

Have you any plan?

Yes, sir, yes, sir,

Threefold plan;

One for Facebook

And one for Twitter fame,

And one involves buying

A website domain.

Sounds good. But a few conclusive questions about goals behind choosing these channels and we begin to hear ambiguous answers. The rhyme then goes askew.

The truth is that a competitor having an online presence or feeling left out in the online world isn’t reason enough to go digital. Choosing a channel with discretion to reach out to the right audience goes a long way in facilitating your digital strategy. So what should a client consider before going digital?

A good creative strategy flows from the business goals.

You cannot have a solution without making the problem clear. Treating the campaign independent of your business goals is akin to cutting off oxygen and expecting the brain to survive. A winning creative strategy is derived from challenges your business is facing and what can be done to solve them. For good results, an agency must work like a partner with the brand, arriving at the core communication and then exploring channels that would do justice to the communication. Take for instance P&G’s thank you mom initiative that met the business’ need to connect with its consumers during the Olympics. Mom bloggers proved to be the most influential source of spreading the message. It is only later that the initiative moved to other channels.

There is life beyond followers, fans, like and share.

Anyone can get fans, followers, likes and shares. Don’t believe us? Try having an account with racy content. Internet memes are also evidence enough that you don’t need to be too intelligent to get shares. While having all those dreamy numbers met is everyone’s goal, don’t forget that social networking sites are all about making an impression and reaching out. This can be done so much better with image based sharing that has become popular off late. Show the users what goes into making the product, the intricate details of how it is made and the values your brand stands for. Weave a story and get them hooked. Burberry, which is the most successful Facebook page, describes itself as ‘a 156 year-old global brand with a distinctly British attitude’. And their timeline lives up to every word of the same.


Hey, let’s make a viral video!

Hang on, wait a minute! You can make a video but how on earth does one make a ‘viral video’? Do you ever get flu when you wish to escape that stressful business meeting? Just as flu can happen and spread on its own, a video with rich content moves from one person to several others. There is no fixed formula in making a video go viral because it has humans and emotions involved. Producing content that’s entertaining, different from competitors and one of a kind does the trick instead of focusing on hits. Think Ameen Sayani’s unique voice on the radio, think Amul’s fascinating hoardings. They all went viral (or spread through word-of-mouth in ancient terminology) even before the term was coined, long before YouTube arrived on the scene. Still don’t believe one of a kind serves the purpose? Think Kolaveri D. There is no reason brands cannot do the same.

Lastly, marketers need to understand that Social Media Marketing is not merely Facebook, Twitter and off-late Pinterest. These are merely channels which will change from time to time. The ‘media’ here refers to the people who spread your brand’s voice. Get their attention and you’re golden. Bombard them with what they have already seen and done, and you become a part of the white, albeit bright digital noise.

Flying High

If you are planning on flying somewhere within the country these days, your choice of domestic airline is likely to be IndiGo. With a television commercial that stands out from the rest of the competition, and the fact that this is an airline that prides itself on being on time, Indigo is the way to go. The airline is touted to be the youngest airline in the Indian sky with the most awards and commands 27% of the market with over 355 daily flights.

I happen to travel by this airline last weekend for a quick hop to Chennai. One of the first things that you notice when you get to an airport is the fact that the Kingfisher check-in counter is relatively empty. Next in line being Jet Airways. The biggest lines to be seen however are queued up at the Indigo check in counter. Packed flights and long queues, signs of an airline that is not only prospering but has managed to garner brand loyalty amongst frequent fliers (without a flying points program as well I’d wager.) While I personally found the seats to be kind of cramped, there were several things that caught my eye from a marketing perspective.

At the beginning of the flight when you are getting strapped in and the air-hostess goes through the various routines, you may notice that the captain makes it a point to introduce the crew, telling you where they hail from and what languages that they know. This is a nice touch, especially when you hail from a country that has different languages and many first time fliers. One thing I would like to see them add is to have the flight crew being introduced in each of the languages that they know. Could be a bit time consuming, but if done well it adds a reassurance to any of the people who speak that language. One of my friends once told me that the best way to break the ice is to speak the same language.

One thing I couldn’t quite fathom was the use of an angled walkway to board and de-plane. Personally I thought that a normal staircase was much more comfortable and was glad that they used the same at the rear of the airplane. Descending the ramp with heavy baggage is no easy feat, especially if you happen to be an elderly person. True I expect wheelchair bound people can be wheeled up the ramp more easily. Whether that was the motivation, or whether it was to increase the speed of boarding, I can’t quite figure.

The in-flight literature – ‘Hello 6E’, from a copywriter’s viewpoint is quite a delight. Each product on offer is preluded with a witty headline that leads the reader in. For example the page with T-Shirts are captioned ‘Addicteed’ and the scale model has ‘Model of a modern global airline’ as a headline. True some can argue that this may be wasted on the common man flying on these flights, I on the other hand think that this is a clever way to carve out a memorable niche. In fact while I do not remember the actual copy, I recall there was something witty on the staircase that boards the aircraft as well! Added to this is the use of the brand’s characteristic font in all its communication whether it is the in-flight magazine or the cover photos on Facebook or print ads.

Behind every seat you will find that the seat cover ends with a  toll free number. Users are requested to use the toll free number or website for any customer complaints. It is interesting that a visit to the facebook page of the brand revealed that the company does not solicit any kind of customer complaint on the wall. This is a bold step and a very good way to ensure that just brand communications and offers are pushed on the FB wall. With a respectable 17000 odd fans talking about them, they must be doing something right.

As the brand matures I think they will find more ways to carve out a niche for themselves. Right now the company is focussed on getting its product and service right, and kudos to them for achieving it.

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