Saturday, November 25, 2006

Brands Under Fire: Lessons from a dustbin

“There is nothing quite so useless in doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” Peter Drucker, quoted by Kurien Mathews of TBWA India and Ivan Arthur (formerly of JWT, now of AICAR Business School).
Urged by K. Kurian (no relative of the aforementioned Kurien) of the Subhas Ghosal Foundation, the two decide to do some work on Advertising in Times of Adversity. Titoo Ahluwalia of the SGF joins the fray and gets the Foundation’s nod for such a study, and Kurien and Ivan get down to doing with great efficiency what is proving to be something eminently useful, and something that should have been done a long while ago.
Students of AICAR, Kurien and Ivan study four instances of transgression by brands in the Indian context: Pespi, Coke, Cadbury and Unit Trust of India. The process is long and arduous, but, as time goes on, it also gets infinitely intriguing. Kurien and Ivan, as a consequence of many conversations with advertising and marketing professionals, decide that there is much richer learning available if more people were involved.
And they think of an old idea that had been explored by this blogger, in another world and in another context: collaboratively writing a book in 48 hours. The idea is retrieved from the dustbin to which it had been consigned, and it’s scrubbed and given new body and sheen.
Kurien and Ivan now work the phones and e-mails (and so does Titoo, lest one forgets), and invite a veritable galaxy of stars to join the party. The invitation is accompanied by the collation of the work put in by the main protagonists thus far – in itself more than worth a read. This would save participants the effort of doing their own background hunting, and would form the foundation for a day of discussion and writing.
Most of those approached are delighted to be invited to be part of the exercise. Some find the dates inconvenient (this is not an Internet exercise, it’s a PHYSICAL gathering of the writers) and some are skeptical of the outcome.
By now, again as a consequence of discussions, the name of the proposed work changes to Brands Under Fire.
Last night, a busload of the participants arrived at Neral (where’s that? Ask Google Maps), and this morning, panel discussions got underway.
Here’s the list of the panelists, in alphabetical order by surname: Rama Bijapurkar, Mahnaz Curmally, Gerson da Cunha , Santosh Desai, Vijay Gokhale, Kiran Khalap, Pranesh Mishra, MG Parameswaran, Roger Pereira, Gita Piramal, Prof. S Ramchandar, Shekhar Swamy and Prof. Shiv Viswanathan.
And if the panel discussions, moderated by Kurien and Ivan, are an indication, the book will be a must read, unputdownable one.
There are bits of the discussion that you will be able to catch on CNBC TV18’s Storyboard over the next few weeks (thank you, CNBC TV18, for airing the highlights of the discussions and for picking up the tab, with a little help from Allianz). By this evening, the panelists would have completed the writing and, on the morrow, will be on a bus back to Mumbai.
Kurien & Ivan then take all the background material, collate the words of these worthies, work on the introduction and foreword and do all things required to make the collective thinking translate into an informative and entertaining publication.
If you’re wondering why I’m so effusive about how readable the book will be, here’s a sampler of issues raised during the panel discussions:
Brands will increasingly come under fire, and it is impossible to predict where the next danger might come from. There is no way to protect the brand in the event of a transgression, as the new “media”, including blogs and mobile phones, are ever vigilant and alert. Be more and more prepared for the day your brand is in the firing line.
Brands are under threat every day, and the attack could come from anywhere, within and without your control.
Changing media, especially news media: no longer the objective observer, the media is on the prowl for sensation. More importantly, media houses will do all that is required to achieve their own commercial objectives and to handle their own competitive environment.
The role of public relations in the communication mix for all brands will undergo a sea change, as will the need for corporate senior management to acquire more than a working understanding of the function of PR.
The trust that consumers have in news media: with all the over-hyping and the trivializing, does the consumer believe his newspaper or news TV channel less?
Enough said. I’m not a reporter. And I could do the panelists and the authors more harm than good if I paraphrased their pronouncements (read this to understand why I’m wary).
Watch Storyboard for more. When Kurien and Ivan are done, CNBC TV18 and exchange4media (the online partner to this cause) will announce it. Then go buy the book.


S Ramachander said...

Thank you Anant! As a participant, I fully endorse the views. A write-in is a great idea, if you can pull it off. And if people like Ivan, Titoo and Kurien/TBWA can't together do it, I doubt if anyone else can!
It could be an improvement -- just a thought -- if individual notes and comments, even bullets, not a whole chapter, can be emailed in advance to the organisers, it can then be refined by further discussions. The notes can get the writing off to a start faster.

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