Thursday, May 25, 2006

"L" The ‘L’ WORD in Advertising – DOES IT WORK?

 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri examines the intriguing “ying-yang” between the most heavenly emotion on earth and the persuasion industry... Welcome to some deliciously startling facts...

 Okay guys, chew on this: What is the single most powerful emotion on planet earth that has inspired dreamers, lovers and poets for centuries to touch new heights of self-expression & creativity?!

One magical word that continues even in the year 2006 to melt stone-hearts, transform & enrich lives, lending it more meaning & resonance! Really, and most honestly, the four simple, unpretentious & innocent alphabets that make your blood pound, pulse race, heart beat gallop, head spin & change your world into a paradise... officially allocated one day in a calendar year to celebrate this life-altering thing – Valentine’s Day! Yes.. It’s LOVE. And boy, is there a global overdrive (riot?) towards hard-selling heart-sell!!

“The concept of love is important because it is a fundamental and universal kind of emotion,” asserts Santosh Desai, President, McCann Erickson, “And still, in the SBI life insurance ad, the image of an old man presenting a diamond to his wife, is something that was unthinkable a few years back.” This irony takes on surreal & ironic dimensions when one observes that even as the Sensex zooms north, basic human values (emotion, compassion and hope) hurtle south, increasingly prompting inhabitants of this cold, impersonal and heartless world to desperately seek empathy through personal, human contact.

Result? Never in recorded history has there been such a huge, mega, gigantic need (market?) for love… Something that the smart, savvy & sensitive emo-track communication specialist, can & does tap into.

While the hard-boiled cynics may pooh-pooh the idea (“Love in a hard-nosed, competitive environment like business? Bah!”), the truth, as usual, lies elsewhere.

Look around and you are likely to see people consciously (or subliminally) longing to invest more in emotion, spirit, inspiration and feelings – in the way they conduct their life and business. But, they all have one major problem: They don’t seem to have a clue about how to translate love into palpable, tangible and credible action. How to dovetail innovation, speed and flexibility with the magic of bonding. How to convert traditional transactions into relationship-building.

Vociferously thunders Prahalad Kakkar, “Love is one of the most powerful catalysts to sell a an extent that today, even a city like Kanpur has hordes of youth celebrating St. Valentine’s Day!” The secret is simple – Get back to the basics. Give those bulky reports, statistics & research studies the heave-ho… & give love a chance. Leverage this extraordinary quotient as a strategic device for an enduring emotional connect – with business customers, partners, team, colleagues – & watch the bottom line surge skywards! Consider this. Love allows the smart communicator to escape from the dreaded ‘Commodity trap’ & evolve into something different by the simple act of placing brands where they should belong – at the emotional centre stage!

But there’s of course another issue. As human beings, we love to love. But in today’s harsh & cynical times, we constantly expect the worst, the dark, mean & selfish side of human nature to call the shots. We need to bring back the past, get love back on track & single-mindedly engage ‘both head & heart in the drive toward a happier tomorrow.’ Towards achieving this end, Love (as inspiration- emotion No.1?) can work as red hot Viagra! Today, only the blinkered (or those who consciously choose’ to remain blind) will miss out the writing on the wall. The paradigm shift has begun with love/emotion as an identified, critical decision-making component. The cool cats know the world of difference that exists between emotion & (yesterday’s superstar) reason. The former leads to action. The latter conclusions. Hence, more emotion translates to more ‘action-with the motion’ part socking it big time, as they would say!

Radharani Mitra, Executive Creative Director, Bates India, comments emphatically, “Look at the Saffola ad; it shows love as a responsible emotion, where the woman is concerned (about the family’s health).” Shifting the kaleidoscope a wee bit, we see the magical & multi-hued patterns of mystery, sensuality & intimacy designed as much to enthral, engage as empower. They are potent drives of everyday lives, aren’t they? Why should they but shut off from the world of business relationships? Fortunately, given the legacy, sensitive practitioners are placing mystery back to where it belonged & what we don’t know is beginning to be as critically important as what we do know.

An outstanding example of companies that have created experiences out of these three enchanting attributes is Starbucks in USA & Barista, Cafe Coffee Day in India. They have decimated and demolished the impersonal, corporatised passion, trimmed into efficiency mode & replaced it with a strong, personal emotional correct. Their agenda is not about Consumer Contact Programmes – just hanging out. Not about taking sample notes, but taking the pulse.

Finally, the old, traditional & never-ending battle between head & heart, instinct & reason raises its head. Intuition, feelings versus scientific market research. It is a well established fact that in today’s techno- savvy world, the Wise Men have researched whatever there is to research & what they couldn’t has been (conveniently) ignored. The truth is that everything of value cannot be measured, leading a brilliant insightful captain of business to astutely observe: “We are in danger of valuing most highly those things that we can measure. As a result, ironically, we are in danger of being exactly wrong instead of approximately right!” The problem lies in the commodification of information, allowing it easy access to one & all.

In this faceless, one-size-fits-all, uniform, assembly-line environment, where lies the magic potent that will make a difference? That is a task research need to address. Should they continue to put consumers at the base of a very large pyramid rather than the centre? Shouldn’t the primal shift actually be towards counting the beats of your heart rather than the fingers on your hand?

From the well deserved record that a humongously huge majority of songs that have made it to the Billboard chart-toppers’ list in the past decade have had their compositions based on love; to a point where one moves ahead to understand what drives the emotion. Faith. Trust. Reliability. Loyalty. Bonding. Connect… Love is the CEO that presides over them all & the businesses, groups, constituencies & people who are driven by this unique, irreplaceable passion are the ones most likely to reside in the most precious, significant & sacrosanct place of all…the space between the heart.


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