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Guest Column: Me, myself and complications; 'Orthogonally speaking': G Viswanathan, Red Fuse Communications

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Guest Column: Me, myself and complications; 'Orthogonally speaking': G Viswanathan, Red Fuse Communications

Two weeks ago, I took a mid-week break from meeting-charades and daily office emergencies. It turned out to be a break like no other. One filled with ideas, concepts and possibilities that the future held. And opened doors to the sharpest, sharkest and creativest minds in the marketing business. Yes, you guessed it right. I was at the WPP STREAM unconference 2017 in Jaipur.

STREAM’s unconference format thrives on participant-driven exchange of ideas. It offers a platform for a diverse set of creative problem solvers from various WPP practices, media / content creators, startups and marketing fraternity to come together -  to discuss, debate and drink-up various ideas and problems around businesses and marketing.

Castaway from their mundane moorings, it was a delight to watch people participate in discussions ranging from modern day relationships, fluid content, consumer archetypes, entrepreneurship, consumer choices in an AI world, hacks for build swimming pools to fantasy doglien (dog-aliens) invasions.

While all of it seemed like an incoherent babble of ideas on the surface, for me, there were some big pebble themes that emerged from the discussions.

All change - The consumer. The communication she consumes. Where she consumes it.

This may sound like a cliché from every marketing discussion. We have had consumer preferences and habits change in the past. We have also had communication messages and their channels adapt to these needs.

But what is staring us in our faces is that all three – consumers, communication consumption and channels, have all become moving parts. From first-hand examples of Amazon sales being higher in smaller towns to Patanjali adoption being concentrated in SEC A urban households. The discussions threwout the lethargy in our biases.  It made us realise that marketers can’t function in linear terms of T.G., markets, insights, communication and media anymore. The world out there is spiralling and it is time to re-look at the ‘definitive’ boxes we put consumers and their behaviour in.

Content + Context = Connect.

It’s a marketer’s world that is suddenly obsessed with briefing the next Youtube ‘sensation’ to create content. A brave marketer gave us an example of a brand that was beleaguered by negative consumer perception. Instead of zigging and collaborating with creators who have amillion followers, they zagged and worked with small micro- influencers who genuinely loved the brand.

The content placed in the context of someone who genuinely spoke with love for the brand connected with the consumers and turned the brand sentiments positive.

Democratization by technology

At one of the sessions, a ‘live’ online search for a personal care category threw upan unheard brand name as the top choice and everybody in the group was appropriately shocked. What hit us is that technology is changing business, not because more people are watching videos on FB and YT. But because it is making information distribution more symmetric amongst consumers. And is forcibly making billion-dollar brands compete against long-tail survivors. In the process, it is redrawing the status quo built by large brands, based on deep distribution and hefty advertising budgets.

To AI or not to AI

Starting from programmatic media buying models to automated finance advisory services -  to leverage AI or not doesn’t seem to be the question at all anymore!

The inevitability of it made us ask the next set of questions - How does it affect a person’s ‘choices’? Will consumers give up their decision-making for convenience? What would be the role of communication? What becomes of the brands that have more ‘signal’ value than ‘product’ value? And finally if all of AI is a co-relation algorithm with human data ‘ingested’, will we lose out on the larger understanding of ‘causations’? Answering one question seems to be opening up a lot more on this one, I guess.

Me, myself and complications

The one thing that hasn’t changed is the proliferation of buzz words that keep getting forged. I heard someone prefix a question with ‘orthogonally speaking’ across three sessions! Baked-in, social consultation, heterodoxy, cultural stake, these seem to be the flavour of the season. I didn’t understand any of them.

Not one to be constrained by personal inadequacies, I probed industry thought leaders on these buzzwords during the evening drinking sessions, only to be reprimanded and told that it was more important to simplify concepts than speak orthogonally!

P.S: I still don’t know what orthogonally speaking means… if anyone can throw light/shade, it would be great.

(The author is General Manager, Red Fuse Communications)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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