Monday, December 31, 2012
Friday, July 20, 2012
I don't know why it appeals to me at an elementary level. Me, a person who has been brought up in a most conservative, orderly, family. Whose every move in his career was planned out before he could even learn to walk. Who needs structure in his work. Who hates waste, and therefore cannot stop thinking of operational efficiency, of workflow, of systems over people. Who has already planned the rest of his life out.
But maybe precisely that is why I love anarchy. I remember Bertrand Russell's "Of machine and emotions", where he refers to the need for anarchy in everyone's life. Not a want, but a need without which people with boring lives will come together to act in a most horrendous manner. He attributes the popular support for the World War II to this "mechanization" of humans. How true he sounds to me now!
I have always, even as a child, secretly dreamt of a totally chaotic world, as I am sure, have you. In my mind though, it was vivid and inevitable. And in my search for the source of such chaos, I always ended up thinking of a cataclysmic class struggle that tears society, limb by limb. Not very different, then, from the movie I saw today. But what was different in my version was the finality of it all. No saviour. No rebirth. No redemption. Just a savage end that could have been brought on by any different means, but chose this happenstance.
And I intend to write a story of how I think such an end may come. The first stage of my anarchy is right here, in my reckoning. In my story, the 'gated communities' will become organized symbols of hate. Because they deny any kind of access to the people who supposedly are undeserving. Because when inside them, you are walling yourself into a world that denies any responsibilities to the world outside. In my story, these gated communities will evolve into self-serving sinks of resources that would expand vertically and horizontally even as they keep out the underprivileged except for when they need to be cleaned, or fed.
The storm will come one day, of course. But the battle will be epic. At least it will for me. Just like a fan-boy who cannot stop gushing about the epic he just witnessed (which just about describes me right now), I also am fantasizing about my battle. I want it to be an Indian story, because there is nowhere else you can find this level of inequality as you would here. And such a story would mildly assuage me of my own guilt.
There were many things that mesmerized me about 'The Dark Knigh Rises'. But the idea of a city with no structure appealed the most to me. I've already introduced a little anarchy in my life, of course. A small deviation from the best laid plans, if you will. But I still crave way more. And this would be my outlet. But will I actually write that story? I need inspiration like I received today.
Or maybe I just need to listen to Hans Zimmer on a more daily basis.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Considering the provocative nature of the title, you’d be forgiven for thinking this post was a critical analysis of statistics and contributions of the two greats in question. It isn’t. Instead, I’ve used a little of what I learnt in consumer behaviour to understand why no amount of record-breaking contributions is likely to convince some that Sachin is the best ever. Indeed, parallels can be drawn to many other sports. For example, I was a Sampras fan as a kid, and thus cannot accept anyone telling me that Federer is a better player. I was sincerely hoping he’d never beat Pistol Pete’s record of 14 grand slams (even though it looked extremely certain right from the start). And given his exploits with Barca, it is arguable that Messi is probably the best footballer Argentina has ever produced, but try telling that to the Maradona faithful.
While there will be many more such examples, what we need to observe is the pattern. A legend retires, and afterwards, any upstart is referenced in inferior terms, irrespective of his ongoing achievements. Since I found this pattern curious, I searched for an explanation. In doing so, I remembered a theory I learnt in one of the few classes in which I wasn’t sleeping/late/distracted in BIM. The theory is known as the Weber-Fechner law.
The Weber-Fechner law postulates that the link between magnitude of a stimulus and the perceived intensity of the stimulus is logarithmic, i.e., if the stimulus is multiplied by a factor, the perception of its intensity increases only as if that factor were added to it. My prof used the simple example of sugar and sweetness to explain this concept. He said that if we add 1 teaspoon of sugar to milk, the sweetness it generates(let’s call it x) is greater than the sweetness added when a second teaspoon of sugar is added(y), which is greater than when a third is added(z), etc. (x>y>z).
Now this law poses a significant difficulty for marketers. Why? That’s because it says that the first brand in the category that communicates to a customer (provides stimulus) will be the most effective at generating a recall. Subsequent brands have to provide much more stimulus (translate to spend more money on advertising) to even generate the same recall (which is why late entrants' share of voice vs share of market is disproportionate).
Why am I bringing up this topic here, you ask. Well, that’s because I think it’s the same law that affects our perception of the greatness of a sportsperson (and maybe our perception of greatness in general). This law explains why it is easy for us to believe Bradman is greater. It's because he provided the first big stimulus (try to recall any other great player before Bradman), making subsequent contributions seem a lot lesser than they actually are (as is the case with Viv Richards, who many still believe is the most fearsome batsman ever, irrespective of what Sehwag/KP & co. might have to say). Just the fact that people now consider Sachin to be as great is testament to the fact that he has provided a much greater stimulus than Bradman (according to the theory). If you have trouble accepting my contention and already believe Sachin is the greatest ever (as I do), just imagine this: A batsman who is greater than Sachin in every way possible in the near future. That might become a reality someday, but perception was never about reality.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Thanks to the models of buyer-behavior that I have been intently mugging up for my marketing exams, and thanks to the fact that I am down with para-typhoid and utterly bitter at having to sit at home while my friends are all out on a batch trip, I thought up a model to explain how I (and many other people I know) became a hard-core football fan. This model can be used by football clubs and sports goods manufacturers alike to increase the penetration of football fanaticism in countries like India, as this is where the next wave of growth is likely to come from.
There are multiple stages in this model, based on the timeline and affinity with football:
2) Curious Joe
As the name suggests, an unbeliever does not believe football to be a sport worth his time. He changes the channel whenever there is a footsie match, thinks that 'offside' and 'onside' are sides of the cricket pitch, thinks a striker has to be used in a carrom board, and cannot understand how away games are more difficult("Its the same pitch, isn't it? How can the home team have any advantage?!!"). The Unbeliever can be divided into the old hags and the young 'uns. The oldies are a waste of time, but the young unbelievers represent the best scope for expansion for football, because they can be turned rather easily. For the young unbelievers, the strategy to be adopted is Awareness(like the infancy stage of a product launch). World Cups and European cups represent an ideal opportunity for raising awareness(My awareness of football happened in the 1998 World Cup). At these times, when everyone around is talking about the game, unbelievers naturally move to the next stage. Other ways of moving to the next stage include word of mouth marketing(through peers and opinion leaders), football games on PC or consoles and local football tournaments.
In this stage, the unbeliever starts to search for information about the game. He is most likely to turn to the member in the gang who is already at a higher level. At this level, the stars of football are the most important people. Clubs will have to follow a strategy of branding their players to capture mind space among people in this level.
The allegiance of cat-on-the-wall football fans are with individuals rather than clubs/countries. When a star moves clubs, so does the allegiance of the fan. Clubs like Real Madrid have used this to great advantage, building a galaxy of stars and garnering a not-so-loyal following among fans who have just started watching football at the club level. At this level, the fans will not really support any club, but will claim to support many clubs in different leagues, because of the players that these clubs have. Sometimes, they might even support rival clubs in the same league. This is the period fans will start to stay up in the night to watch the champions league, and the team which wins trophies during this phase will become more important in the next stage, as will having friends who are evangelists of a certain club.
Despite the word used to describe the fan, this is exactly the phase a majority of fans find themselves in. It is a period of transition, and comes with a lot of baggage as far as fans are concerned. In this phase, fans will start supporting a single club, and in the process, start learning more about the history of the club. The club that they choose to support depends on multiple factors. For example, rebels will choose Liverpool , conservative ones will choose Chelsea, people who like a proven track record will choose Manchester United while people who love flair will go with the gunners. Of course, all of this is tempered by the peer group choice and the success of the club, but individual characteristics is the most important factor. In this stage, clubs will have to take up a reminder strategy, using PR and soccer news sites to the optimum level. Fans love news about their club, whether it is good or bad, so the clubs need to keep giving it to them.
This is the phase all clubs want their fans to be in. It is a natural progression, and every flirt will one day become an evangelist of his club. This is the phase when clubs can start harvesting on the fans, as they will be willing to pay for their clubs. Strategies for fans at this level include having holiday packages which include champions league match packs, tour of the stadium etc. Clubs can also increase exposure by reducing T-Shirt costs, as when more fans buy the club T-shirts, they are more likely to influence flirts and cats-on-the-wall to convert to club fans.
Clubs need to start looking east. This is especially true for the EPL, since it has a unique time advantage over the La Liga. The La Liga followed a similar strategy to capture the South and Latin American market, with the result that most of the young players coming out from there wanting to play for Real or Barca. The next gem could be from India, and the "Big Four" would better sit up and take notice. Even if a gem isn't formed here, the millions of pairs of eye-balls are reason enough for clubs to try increase penetration in this part of the world. I know of enough evangelists here, and have personally seen plenty passing through the various stages. Given a prod in the right directions, I would have a lot more company on matchdays!
Monday, July 20, 2009
1) Our need for individuality
2) Our need for acceptance in a group/Community
This time, let us study both of these together as a foundation for a more complex emotion, which seems to drive many of our actions. What I am referring to is insecurity. I am not using the narrower term which refers to a feeling of unease due to being (at least perceiving to be) unloved. I am trying to portray this in a broader sense, like the things we do to make sure we don't feel insecure.
That would entail a lot of things. Why would anyone want to kill himself/herself for any cause, however noble it may sound? We have an image of the self, which, most of the time, is far removed from the way we are perceived by those around us. To break that image of ourselves would be devastating to our psyche. Therefore, to make sure this never happens, we act in ways that are consistent to the way we perceive ourselves. For example, a person who would like to be considered thoughtful and intriguing might try to shut himself out. In the same way, he might also try to be an introvert who creates obscure blogs that no one cares to read (Ok, I AM like everyone else!) Of course, the route we take to achieve this final objective is a combination of social precedents and self-created hypotheses, but the fact remains that we want to get there somehow. Therefore, insecurity acts as a regulator, making sure we don't do extreme things, and at the same time, spicing up our lives and ensuring we aren't boring people. It is important to note here that our idea of the self is by no means concrete, and at different points in time, we would want to be different people, influenced by what surrounds us, which again drives our insecurity.
Sometimes, though, this emotion does drive us beyond that point of no return. We withdraw from society because we feel we would not fit in if we tried. Or contrastingly, we might become a Paris Hilton (says it all, doesn't it). Nonetheless, it is time we started acknowledging that we are all, to some extent or the other, insecure. In fact, we are more so when we try to show we are not (if that makes sense).
So, are you insecure? (I bet you are!). If you don’t agree (again, probably cause you are), please leave comments. Brickbats are most welcome!