March 2007


Allmarketers_2This provocative titled book is not all that provocative when one starts reading it and digesting the ideas. Seth brings in a lot of  examples, anecdotes to illustrate 5 key points which resonate through out the book

They are

  • Customers worldviews got there before you did
  • People only notice new and guess
  • First impressions start the story
  • Great marketers tell the story they believe
  • Marketers with authenticity survive

Why tell stories while marketing products and services ?
One of the first reasons is to spread ideas and ideas spread faster if there is a story element to it. Also, in the age of media glut where every brand is trying to vie for customer’s attention, how else can a product catch the attention of the customer with out a story element.
Customers worldviews got there before you did
People only notice new and guess

Customers are used to telling stories and narrating stories to one another.Its a natural thing to do for them. Hence as a marketer one needs to understand the world view of the customer and then weave a story in that context. The world view affects three things attention, bias, and vernacular. A few examples of world view

  • New technology can improve my life
  • If I were prettier, I would be more popular
  • If its a prescriptive medicine , then its safe
  • All carsales men are liars
  • I like opera
  • Physical therapy will cure me faster than surgery
  • Lets party
  • Dont tell me shallow stories about consumerisms, spend, spend. Talk to me about the inner values, quality and life

As you can see , world view is not a community . The size of each set of people who hold the world view differs. Its the job of marketer to look at the world views , create new products which address the unmet world views.

What is a great story ?
First impressions start the story & Great marketers tell the story they believe

  • Great story is true
  • Great story makes a promise
  • Great story is trusted
  • Great story is subtle, 
  • Great story happen very fast
  • Great story often dont appeal to mind, but appeal to senses
  • Great story is rarely aimed at everyone
  • Great story doesn’t contradict itself
  • Great story is in synch with the customer’s world view

World view comprises rules, values, beliefs, biases that the individual customer brings to the situation. Frames are elements of story that are used to paint the customer’s world view

How should a great story be told ?
Marketer should frame his story in such a way that it concurs with the world view. Very few products have managed to change the world view of the customer (ipod, Napster, etc). The other means of narrating a great story is by creating easy to pass on metaphors for the products/ services, creating purple cows. creating a context / ambience so that story is resonated through them in a subtle way

Whom should be the story told to ?

In the creation process, the story must be ingrained in the minds of engineers, creators so that story becomes a part of the product. In the distribution process, the story needs to pitched to customers, evangelists,early adopters etc so that it is passed on, there are enough market conversations about the product.

Where should the story be told ?

The story needs to be told at every touch point with the customer, be it website, be it the customer rep, be it the packaging of the product. Every effort should be made to see to it the story , product tie each other perfectly.

At the end of the book, one cannot fail to notice the power of storytelling in creating world class brands and successful companies. The examples mentioned in the book make a superb list of case studies for anybody interested in marketing his/her product through storytelling.Interesting ones that I can recall from the top of my mind are Starbucks, Riedel Wine, Amazon, iPod, BestBuy, Mac, Littlemismatch, SouthWest, Kiehl since 1851 , Ralph Lauren,Blue Nile, woot,com, Uk Travel agency  – Lunnpoly, Whole Foods .  There are umpteen other riffs and rants in the book which make it a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Here is the mind map for the  book : All_marketers_are_liars3_3

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Games_2 Most of us would have heard this statement – “What can I do about the situation? Everybody is behaving in that manner. My change of behavior is not going to change the situation?”

The above response could be in many situations in India like:

Why should you give bribe govt. official / middle man / for that matter anybody to get work done?
Why should you stop at a signal showing red, at the middle of the night?
Why should you care to throw garbage at some other place when the whole street is throwing it on the road?
Why should you care to use spittoons rather than spit on the road / wall?
Why does one stand to an injustice that is happening right in public places and doesn’t do any thing about it?
Why do people not pay up their student loans?

There are umpteen such situations where “What can I do” syndrome paralyzes action amongst Indians.

You view the above problems from the lens of a Prisoner’s Dilemma (PD) and what you have is the book “Games Indians Play – Why we are the way we are”. It’s an opinion by the author and not rigorously tested by empirical / experimental data. However, the author offers an interesting explanation for the way we behave. It is definitely a delightful read which can be read in one sitting.

The book starts off with a brief explanation of prisoner’s dilemma. Every PD contains four states T, – Temptation, R – Reward, P – Punishment, S – Sucker from a player’s standpoint.  (Player A for example interacting with Player B)
T is where Player A cheats while Player B plays a fair
R is where Player A and Player B plays a fair game
P is where Player A plays and Player B cheats
S is where Player A plays a fair game while Player B cheats

It then goes on to talk about Single PD, a situation where players interact only once. A couple of situations to illustrate Single PD are:
One time export contract given to Indian – Should the exporter be sending lesser quality goods as his chance of getting another export contract is very unlikely
Whether to give a handsome Tip in a foreign restaurant that would be visited only once?
Whether to jump the queue?
Whether to put billboards all through the city so that one can get more publicity?

Indians, according to author’s opinion, always try to squeal in this Single PD interaction. Once this type of behavior is showing by each of individuals, then we end up in a situation where, individually we might be good, but collectively we are dumb. If an Indian exporter has to export only once, he would end up in T or P, i.e be either present in the Temptation zone or Punishment zone. The sad part of the story is when this sort of behavior is aggregated, we become collectively dumb . Why not be try to be in state R , by playing fairly and thus thinking about long term profits than the immediate profits that one can get by squealing

The book then goes on to talk about Iterative PD where players interact multiple times. The author brings out three strategies which are usually found in Iterative PD scenario. How do you play if you know that you would be interacting with another person multiple times? There are some folks who always squeal, come what may – Fall under Supremely Selfish category. Some folks keep playing a fair game until they see that the other player has cheated. Post this they never trust the other person and become defensive and cheat through out. The best strategy in an iterative PD scenario is that of Tit for Tat Strategy / Gentleman Strategy. Keep playing the fair game until there is a defection. Once the other player starts playing a fair game, revert to playing the fair game. All this might sound a little complicated but the examples given in the book flow smoothly with these categories thus giving a reader an interesting perspective towards the application of iterative PD to understand Indian behavior.

The author comes hardly on Indians saying that we lack self regulation. An example he cites is of a traffic behavior at Ithaca where the vehicles follow a clear pattern with mutual understanding. Also the presence of free riding which is rampant amongst folks, gives rise to a host of problems. One interesting thing I came to know was about the prevalence of insurance to ticket less is a thriving industry in Mumbai. It is something to be shameful of, but that’s how the situation is.

The other aspect is about the fact the Indians are typically not system driven people. They love uncertainty, chaos. India, they say is functioning anarchy.  This lack of creating systems, understanding systems and following the systems is one of the biggest reasons of many maladies.

Overall, this book gives an interesting perspective towards behavior of Indians. I loved it.

Einstein_s_dream_1

This books is superb book on ways to imagine things, see the issue from various perspectives. Einstein’s Dreams is a fictional collage of essays stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905. Each essay views the TIME from a perspective and presents the scenarios of the world if TIME were to behave in a specific manner. The perspectives explored are :

  • A world where Time is a Circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself , precisely
  • A world where Time is like a flow of water, occasionally displaced by a bit of debris a passing breeze
  • A world where Time moves in three dimensions like space
  • A world where Time is in 2 forms- Physical time and Body time
  • A world where Time flows slowly, the farther one is from the earth
  • A world where Time is absolute
  • A world where Cause and Effect are erratic. Time and events in the past have no bearing on the events in the present – Unpredictability is the order of the day.
  • A world where Time does pass, but little happens from day to day
  • A world where Time ends on a certain date
  • A world where Time appears or moves at different pace in the same town
  • A world where Passage of time brings more order to the world
  • A world where Time stands still
  • A world where there is no Time .There are only images
  • A world where there is no memory and hence no significance of Time
  • A world characterized by changed plans, unexpected visions, sudden opportunities
  • A world where Time passes more slowly for people in motion
  • A world where Time flows backward
  • A world where people live only one day
  • A word where Time is sense, like taste or sight
  • A world where people live forever,
  • A world where Time exists but cannot be measured
  • A world with out future
  • A world where Time is a visible dimension
  • A world where Time is discontinuous
  • A world where Time is a local phenomenon
  • A world where Time is rigid bone like structure
  • A world where there are countless copies
  • A world which thinks that firmness to past is an illusion
  • A world where Time moves differently by age of a person

There is an essay dedicated to each of the above perspective and it portrays various aspects of the world if the above perspective were to hold good.

Even though this is a work of pure fiction, it is a classic book as it makes a reader wonder the possibilities that one can come up with, while thinking on any issue. Be it improving the profitability of a firm, framing the hypotheses of a model, etc. One must open up our minds to the various possibilities. After all, brilliant ideas are nothing but a combination of ideas and simulation of possible scenarios