October 8, 2007

Nuggets of Management Wisdom #18

Posted by Bizaholic | 11:38 PM | with 3 comments »

Skepticism, if used diligently, can bridge the chasm between unrealistic expectations and realistic possibilities.

The world of business is not perfect. In fact, it is not supposed to be perfect. It is perhaps a collage of contradictions. Every situation is grasped differently by different individuals. Some see amazing potential in an idea, while others trash it. In such a scenario, the real challenge before a leader or a manager is to how to bridge the chasm between two extreme ends to marry optimism with reality.

Skepticism may be the answer to this challenge. Skepticism, as in philosophy, is based on the principle that "there is no such thing as certainty in human knowledge." The word is derived from Greek verb "skeptomai" which means "to look carefully, to reflect."

Generally, skepticism in business is taken with a negative connotation. But, I feel, this should change and skepticism should be used as tool for "reality check" of an idea or situation. Every idea or a situation, seemingly however breath-taking or absurd, should be subjected to a series of harsh questioning. Only upon passing this trial by fire questioning session, should an idea be approved or rejected. This is not to see any idea or a situation as suspicious; but to see it as a hypothesis and test its validity by trying to prove it wrong by all means of logic and questioning. A great idea in all likelihood would survive the grind while many a hollow idea, though brilliant sounding, will perish.

Of course, this is not a full-proof way of assessing the potential of an idea or a situation. Mistakes will still happen. Nevertheless, the success rate of striking gold and avoiding future disappointment would be higher with the help of diligent skepticism.

October 7, 2007

As a marketer, I want the biggest bang for my bucks. With tight budgets and astronomical expectations, every penny counts. In such a scenario, when advertising agencies come up with 80 seconds and 120 seconds creatives, it becomes tough not to lose cool.

Advertising is a business of story-telling in as few words (I must add seconds also) as possible. If it takes longer and longer (both words and time) for an agency to tell a story, they definitely are not masters of their art. In current scenario, I am slowly coming to a conclusion that if an agency can't tell a story in 20 seconds flat, they are either too lazy or too dumb!

Average attention span of a consumer is declining at the rate of speed of light. With a stressful life at every step, who has the time to concentrate for long on advertisement of a biscuit, or hair oil, or soap? If something doesn't grasp her attention in first 5 seconds she changes channel. Similarly, if something doesn't tell its story quickly (20 seconds) she changes channel. Patience to watch irritating and long commercials is not the cup of tea of current consumer. To grab her attention, you need to be a master in the art of quickie. Else she will become trigger happy and kill all your investments in production and airtime.

An off-shoot of this rapidly declining attention span is the growing importance of frequency. It is not that reach is not important; but with a disinterested consumer, the only way to get some attention from her is to bombard your advertisements on her as many times as you can without irritating her too much. In the current scenario, I feel that one can trade-off reach with frequency to some extent but trading off frequency with reach would be catastrophic. And the best bet to increase frequency is to have short and sweet creatives to get the most mileage from the spending on commercial time. By reducing length of advertisement from 80 seconds to 20 seconds, one can increase the frequency by 4 times (assuming everything else as constant)!

Isn't it time for our advertising gurus to don their thinking hats and set a 20 seconds limit on their creative works? If they could tell the brand story in 20 seconds, it would be true reflection of their creative brilliance. The end result would be a win-win situation for both the brand and the consumer!