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Best Machine Learning Certification Courses in Kolkata and Bangalore

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is based on the idea of artificial intelligence that enables the systems to learn and evolve through complex data rather than being explicitly programmed. Systems are now able to learn from data, identify and analyze patterns and make decisions that are beneficial for organizations with minimal human intervention. We all have heard of the applications like self-driving cars, online recommendations and suggestions on different websites like offers and friend suggestions, fraud detection etc.. These are some of the widely publicized Machine learning applications being used today. Praxis offers the best machine learning certification courses in Kolkata and Bangalore.

Why machine learning?

Machine learning has now become one of the fastest growing and lucrative careers in the new millennium. Because of constantly evolving computing technologies, machine learning is not a thing of the past. With large and complex data being generated every moment, it has become imperative for the companies to analyze the data and compute them to find some insight that can prove to be profitable for them. Praxis is the best institute for machine learning in India with the best team of expert faculties. Praxis provides certification courses in machine learning at Bangalore and Kolkata campus in India.

Machine Learning Use Cases

One thing that is common in every sector is the generation of big data. So to obtain some insights from that big chunk of data and make some profits and strategies, organizations in different sectors have become heavily dependent on machine learning technologies. Some of these sectors are:

1. Financial sector

Banks and other financial organizations use machine learning for 2 key purposes: first is to gain some insight, maintain data and analyze risk. This helps them to create business strategies and various essential decisions. The second purpose is for development of the fraud detection mechanism, to ensure the protection of data and finding any potential leak or other irregularities.

2. Government

Government and public sector agencies gather a large amount of raw data through surveys and various other sources. Therefore, to gain some insight from that big pile of raw data and for security purposes, they depend highly on machine learning.

3. Health care

Recently health care sector has seen a huge rise in its dependency on machine learning thanks to the latest technologies to assess patients conditions in real time. Nowadays, machine learning is also used to find concrete results and red flags so as to improve the treatment, diagnosis, and medication.

4. Marketing and sales

The most popular use of machine learning that is seen today is when you are getting automatic online recommendations and offers on different social and e-commerce sites. This is done by collecting all your previous records like purchasing details, your browsing history, and other data, analyzing them and promoting items according to your taste to personalize your shopping experience.

5. Transportation and navigation

Analyzing different data patterns and gaining some insight is crucial for transportation industries for predicting potential problems and routes. Even the most widely used application for navigation i.e. GPS uses sophisticated machine learning algorithms to find the best route and user experience.


Praxis is the best institute for machine learning certification course in Bangalore and Kolkata. Praxis offers a great opportunity for those who wish to dive deeper into machine learning, gain knowledge and computational skills needed to convert big and complex data into meaningful insight. Get yourself certified and equip with tools and techniques to enable seamless absorption into the domain of machine learning with the help of industry experts and hands-on-lab experience.

Intelligent Machines: Humans May Have To Contend With A Superior ‘Species’ Soon; Are We Prepared?

This article was originally published in Swarajya Magazine, Read  the original article at https://swarajyamag.com/magazine/humans-will-have-to-contend-with-a-new-species-in-ai-are-we-prepared


First we had computers, then we had the world wide web and now we are talking about IOT, the Internet of Things. Computers are now pervasive and have occupied every nook and corner of life. Artificial intelligence seems to be growing bigger, faster and smarter every day. Science fiction writers have often spoken of machines taking over the world, but is that pure fantasy or is it a matter of time before this fiction becomes fact? In this article, we will explore the genesis of artificial intelligence, examine how fast these are mutating and morphing into more advanced levels and finally speculate on what this means in terms of employment and other key indices of human society. But first…

How machines learn

When I was a member of the faculty at IIT Kharagpur, one of my senior colleagues had told me that we should not try to teach students, but instead, help them learn. Can this idea be extended to machines?

Any spreadsheet user would know how to have a computer add two numbers. Why just add? You could do many other tasks like finding percentages or net present values as well. Obviously someone has written a computer program that does all this! Those who know computer programming would also know that writing the code to add two numbers is quite easy. Depending on the level at which you would like to describe the process, the program can be written in a high-level language like Python or Java, with just one line of code. But if one uses a low-level language like Assembler or binary code, then he will need a large number of rather arcane instructions written as a series of 1s and 0s. Irrespective of the programming language used, a program that performs any task on a computer, from adding numbers to showing a YouTube movie, is a series of explicit instructions given by a human programmer. Irrespective of the complexity of the task, it is always a human who teaches a computer how to perform it. This is one of the fundamental tenets of computer programming – or was, until the emergence of machine learning. Instead of teaching a computer, can we make it learn on its own?

There are many facts that a child is taught in school – like how to add two numbers or when Raja Harshvardhan ruled in Kannauj. But there is much more that he learns on his own – like recognising his mother or realising that toffees are good to eat but stones are not. How people learn, for example, to recognise a friend in a crowd or choose the best move in a game of chess, is something that has baffled computer scientists for a long time. That is why even though we have had computer programs doing incredibly difficult things – like landing a spacecraft on Mars – they have had immense difficulty in performing apparently simple tasks like crossing a busy city road. This has now triggered a new line of thought that, instead of teaching computers how to perform, we need to equip computers with the ability to learn how to perform!

While a lot of human learning involves memorising facts, the really complex or intelligent skills that people acquire are based on a series of trials and errors that they make as soon as they become aware of their environment. Whether babies or laboratory rats, intelligence is acquired by performing a task and determining whether the outcome was good or bad – was there a reward or a punishment? This conscious feedback loop spread over days or even years gives man the ability to do intelligent tasks like recognising a friend in a crowd even if he has grown a beard or lost his hair. After despairing for years about what kind of instructions must be given to a computer to do similar tasks, scientists have looked into the human brain – the biological marvel that sits inside the cranium – for ideas and have finally hit upon a way to address these challenges.

The animal brain is an electrochemical device that consists of, literally, trillions of cells called neurons that can sense, generate and transmit electrical signals. Each neuron can be visualised as a little blob with a number of wires sticking out of it. Most of these wires, called dendrites, can sense an electrical symbol, while one, called the axon, can generate an electrical signal depending on the signals that it has received on its dendrites. The signal generated on the axon of one neuron feeds into the dendrites of other neighbouring or distant neurons, creating a complex electrical circuit that is constantly sending electrical charges rushing around the brain. Neurologists have a rough idea of what kind of electrical activity is associated with the corresponding human behaviour and it is believed that memory is created or defined by the way these trillions of neurons are connected to and influence each other.

Computer scientists have merged these two mechanisms – the reward-and-punishment mechanism from behavioural science and the input-output electrical mechanism from neurology – to create a software program that mimics the behaviour of biological neurons. Such a software program is called an artificial neural network (ANN), and is the basis for almost all intelligent software including AlphaGo – that can beat humans in board games, Watson – that can beat any human in a quiz contest and diagnose clinical diseases, or the Google self-driving car – that has travelled thousands of miles with an accident rate far less than that of humans.

While we already know that a computer can be taught to add two numbers, let us now see how it can be taught to learn to add on its own. To build a general purpose ANN, one starts by simulating nodes, or artificial neurons, each with its own set of inputs and an output. Each input is associated with a parameter, or number, called weight, and each output depends on the inputs and another parameter called bias. Output from each node is sent to other nodes to mimic electrical signals on the biological neural network. The number of nodes along with the numerical values of the respective parameters define the ANN. When the ANN receives an input, it generates an output that depends on the specific values of weight and bias parameters. If the values are chosen at random, the output is wrong, but with the right values, the network will generate the correct answer. Learning consists in determining the right values. The beauty of this approach is that almost all problems can be addressed with this structure – only the number of nodes, weights and biases need to change. (For a diagrammatic representation of the process, see accompanying article ‘The AIs Too Are Biased’.)

To teach a computer to learn how to add, we provide it with training data, consisting of thousands of addition problems along with their correct answer! Initially, the ANN has random values of parameters and, as it checks with the given correct answer and determines the error, it keeps changing the parameter values until, after thousands of attempts, the error becomes very small. Thus the machine discovers, or arrives at, the correct parameter and can be said to have learnt addition. Now it can solve new addition problems correctly even though no human programmer gave it explicit instructions to add or even the right parameter values. The programmer’s skill lies in specifying how the parameters should be changed so that the error is minimised with the least number of trials. What is amazing is that a similar way of changing parameters can help the machine solve many other very different problems.

This is meta learning. The machine has learnt to learn and can now address many other hard problems like handwriting recognition, face recognition, detecting criminal behaviour like financial fraud and computer hacking, playing chess and other board games, medical diagnosis, weather forecasting, road navigation and even reading human thoughts! In all such cases, the program has to cycle through thousands of pre-solved problems until it discovers the values of the parameter that makes it generate correct answers. Sometimes this training process is evident – as when you give it a large number of problems and their correct answers – but sometimes the training is implicit.

When you “tag” a picture of your friend in Facebook, you are inadvertently giving Facebook a correct answer to a face recognition problem that helps train its software. Similarly, when you click on a link in Google search, you are identifying the most relevant answer and so Google is learning about your personal preferences so as to answer your next query better! In general, any action that you take on Facebook, a like, an emoticon, a phrase that you type as a post or a comment, is being used by the ANN to learn more about you so that it can predict your next behaviour – which could be anything from accepting friend requests to clicking on ads!

Computers have been used for a long time to perform mathematical operations, process automation and other well-structured tasks. But despite great increases in speed and memory, tasks that are ambiguous or unstructured were never addressed adequately. Many people claimed that intelligence – something evident in children or even animals – is something that mere machines can never acquire. ANNs, that can learn, can be trained, have now helped us solve unstructured problems that were once considered intractable.

But unlike humans, machines can learn very fast – working out 100,000 addition problems is almost impossible for a man but is trivial for a machine. So is the case with reading through all the articles in Wikipedia. If learning is the key to intelligence, as is commonly understood here, and if machines can learn much faster than humans, then does it mean that machines will become more intelligent than humans?

Tipping into the singularity

In his 2000 bestseller, journalist Malcolm Gladwell defined Tipping Point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”, at which a small change, a sudden trigger, can suddenly usher in a huge change in the larger society. The phrase “tipping point” originates in the study of epidemics, and refers to the moment when a virus reaches a certain critical mass and then suddenly begins to spread at an accelerated rate. While Gladwell restricts himself to the analysis of social trends like crime and fashion, computer scientist and futurist Ray Kurzweil, in a series of books on technological singularity, predicts that human society as a whole is just about ready to transform itself in a way that is perhaps inconceivable today.

The trigger in this case is artificial intelligence or its alter ego, machine learning. The hypothesis is that society will pass through this technical singularity when non-biological intelligence transcends biological intelligence and changes not just how we live and locomote, but the way we think and what we believe. But is this hypothesis sustainable? Or is this another big hype – that has been with us since the dawn of the science-fiction era?

Twenty years ago, Deep Blue, IBM’s chess-playing computer, had created history by beating the world champion Garry Kasparov. Last year, AlphaGo, a computer based on an ANN built by DeepMind, a Google company, that had “learnt” to play Go, a game that is considered to be far more difficult for computers, had beaten Lee Sedol, one of the highest-ranked professional players in the world.

In the first week of January 2017, AlphaGo, playing anonymously under the handle of “Master” ran through China’s online Go playing websites and beat almost every top-ranked player with contemptuous ease. Playing with inhuman speed, it eventually ended its unbroken 60-0 winning streak by beating Ke Jei, the reigning world champion. More than the defeat itself, its style, the strategies that it evolved on its own, are so different from that used by humans that the champions were awestruck.

After losing to Master, Ke admitted on social media: “After humanity spent thousands of years improving our tactics, computers tell us that humans are completely wrong, (and) I would go as far as to say that not a single human has touched the edge of truth of Go.” Playing in a manner totally different from humans, it bewildered opponents with apparently foolish moves that placed pieces at outrageously unconventional positions so that one player Gu Li noted that “I can’t help ask, one day many years later, when you find your previous awareness, cognition and choices were all wrong, will you keep going along the wrong path or reject yourself.”

The key elements of the computer program were not written by humans but were discovered by the program itself as it learnt to play Go by observing millions of online games.

Similar is the case of Interlingua, a new language that has evolved, or emerged out of Google’s automatic language translation software. After being trained to translate, say, French to English and then English to Hindi, the software has learned how to translate from French to Hindi even though it was never “trained” to do so. This new language, or new way to represent ideas, has emerged not from the minds of programmers but from the neural network architecture that drives the software. This is an emergent phenomenon, similar to the appearance of language in primordial human society.

Since its uncertain beginning in the 1960s, artificial intelligence technology took nearly 40 years to reach the level of maturity to beat a human chess champion, but the next big leap, when it learnt to play Go, took only 10 years. This is the law of accelerating returns – where key jumps in human or biological ability happen at increasingly shorter intervals, or where the gap between innovations shorten exponentially as shown by Kurzweil.

Kurzweil’s graph (on the next page) shows the time gap between key events in the history of human social evolution plotted against the time-frame of history and there is a nice linear slope because this is a log-log graph where we have taken the logarithms of the X and Y values in the plot. Similar graphs drawn with key events identified by others show a very similar downward trend.

However, if we convert the historical time-frame to a linear scale, then the drop in the time between two successive key events is clearly precipitous and this is what leads us to the concept of technological singularity.

Those who are familiar with Moore’s Law would know that the density of transistors on computer chips has been doubling every two years – with a corresponding fall in prices and increase in computation power. This exponential pace of technology has been the driver behind the inexorable and astonishing growth of computers. While Moore’s Law operates on computer chips and has been valid for the past 50 years, human innovation has been accelerating exponentially across an even bigger time scale. Each human invention, like the ability to walk upright, usage of tools, language, agriculture, writing, printing, industrial machinery, electricity, computers, internet – have actually reduced the time necessary to reach the next key invention. For example, years of calculations done by Kepler to track the movements of planets can now be done by school student on his desktop, and with Google search, it is far easier for someone to tap into the knowledge of others and create a new piece of technology than what it would have taken 100 years ago.

After millions of years of being bound to the ground, man learnt to fly and then in 60 years he was on the moon and is today planning to go to Mars. So is the case with industrial machinery, telecommunications, healthcare and a host of allied fields. We are at, or very close to, an inflexion point – a tipping point – that will put us on a trajectory that leads to what seems to be a world of magic that may include immortality, omniscience or anything that does not violate the fundamental laws of physics!

A key characteristic of the tipping point would be the blurring of the borders between the biological and the non-biological world. Just as the Industrial Revolution merged the ability of man and machinery to create the superhuman capability to manage enormous quantities of materials and energy with, for example, cranes, excavators, rocket engines, so does the digital revolution merge the ability of humans and computers to create a similar superhuman capability that manages enormous quantities of information.

Continuing with this analogy, we see that just as industrial machines today are far more muscular than humans in their ability to lift loads or travel faster and farther, so would the next generation of intelligent machines, powered by artificial super intelligence, far outstrip the mental ability of humans – as demonstrated by AlphaGo.

This then is the singularity, that point in time in human history that human society will soon pass through, after which the intelligence of machines will surpass that of humans. This superior intelligence, coupled with the ability to handle gigantic quantities of information at superhuman speed will lead to a cascading impact on the emergence of new ideas that “will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilisation”.

This explosion of intelligence, this chain reaction where each level of intelligence gives rise to an even higher level of intelligence, exhibited either by machines or in a hybrid cyborg of man and machine, at faster and faster speeds or at shorter and shorter intervals was first postulated by John von Neumann, a pioneer of, among other things, the digital computer. Neumann had coined the term “singularity”, but never lived to see technology reach anywhere near the level that matched his postulates. Subsequently, I J Good, Vernor Vinge and eventually Kurzweil have elaborated the concept. However, equally well-known people like Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft ,and Gordon Moore (Moore’s Law) have raised doubts about the plausibility of this concept. But with the rapid growth of artificial intelligence as evident in the spectacular success of AlphaGo, it seems that the singularity is indeed near and despite a wide range of predicted dates, the median value of its estimated arrival is the year 2040.

Once we pass through the singularity, how will the world look? Would this non-biological intelligence help create new, biological, non-biological or hybrid “life forms”? Would these life forms spread out across the solar system and the galaxy? But before we look at such a big question, let us explore something that is of immediate concern – the job market.

The future of employment

When computers were first introduced in India, there was a lot of concern that this would lead to widespread unemployment. In West Bengal, and elsewhere, Communist labour “leaders” led huge agitations against this new technology with the slogan: automation must be stopped with rivers of blood, and employees of banks and commercial establishments went on strikes to prevent the installation of computers. But in reality, the introduction of computers did not lead to any major disaster. The number of jobs lost to computers and automation was more than offset by the number of new jobs created not only in the IT industry but also in many new-age businesses that were based on computer technology. The number of people needed to use computers or write programs for computers was more than the number of people who became redundant. So while a certain number of individuals were retired or laid off, the overall number of people who were gainfully employed increased and the economy responded with buoyant optimism.

That was then, what will it be now? Will the new technology based on powerful instances of artificial intelligence create more jobs than it destroys? Can our earlier experience with an earlier generation of technology be extrapolated in time, through the technological singularity where machines become more intelligent than men? Unfortunately, the answer to both questions seems to be ‘No’.

While robots are not yet in widespread use in India, we can look at what is happening in other countries that are ahead of us on this path. Between 2000 and 2010, 5.6 million jobs were lost in the US and Canada. Of this, only 15 per cent were lost to overseas competitors – mainly China, while the other 85 per cent were due to what is euphemistically referred to as “productivity growth”. This means that humans were replaced by machines or robots. However, this decline in employment did not result in lower production. On the contrary, in the last 20 years, the value added by US factories has, after adjusting for inflation, grown by nearly 40 per cent to reach a record $2.4 trillion. On the street, McDonald’s introduction of self-service kiosks in response to popular pressure for $15/hour wage is a vivid example. This is jobless growth, where the economy expands but without a corresponding increase in employment and is perhaps one reason why lots of middle-class Americans who have been rendered unemployed and unemployable in the rust belt states have aggressively turned against the establishment and voted for Donald Trump.

Many Trump supporters believe that foreign countries are stealing their jobs, but the situation is not greatly different there either. The BBC has reported that Foxconn, the Chinese company that manufactures products on contract from Apple and Samsung, has recently replaced 60,000 workers with robots and many other companies in the Kunshan region, where Foxconn factories are located, are likely to follow suit. Since 2013, companies in China have purchased more industrial robots than in any other country, as thousands of companies are turning to automation in a robot-driven drive that has been backed by the Chinese government in a desperate bid to remain competitive in manufacturing. Can the “Make in India” movement avoid this? Unlikely, because no army can stop an idea whose time has come!

The services industry, that is of more immediate concern to India, is no better off. Thanks to better voice and natural language-recognition techniques, call centre operators – the backbone of India’s BPO/ ITES success story – can be replaced by artificial intelligence-driven bots that can do a far better job in patiently listening to customer problems and offering solutions. In fact, a whole range of service jobs are now at risk, and these include but are not limited to cooks and chefs, medical doctors, surgeons, pharmacists and pathology laboratory staff, security guards, retail salespersons, receptionists, bartenders, farmers, truck, bus and taxi drivers and even those who perform unstructured tasks like journalists, accountants and insurance claims adjusters.

This may sound too futuristic and science fictionesque, but as we have seen earlier, the fierce acceleration of change makes it impossible to wish away these dire, Cassandra-like predictions on the future of employment. Amazon Go, a new kind of store that has no human employees, is an example of what a typical retail store could be like in the future. It’s Just-Walk-Out technology allows a customer to walk in, pick up products from the shelves, look at it, return it if necessary, then simply walk out without any formal checkout procedure and yet be billed for it automatically on his credit card.

This is not magic, this is not the future. This is here and now. Such a store is actually operating in Seattle on a trial basis for Amazon employees and it is simply a matter of time before it becomes a mainstream technology, just like Google’s technology for driverless cars is proliferating across the US and Europe and is about to be tested even by Tata Elxsi in Bengaluru.

When bank workers were replaced by banking software, there was a big need for computer programmers to build and maintain banking software. When retail stores were replaced by e-commerce sites, they needed people to build and maintain e-commerce software and also an army of delivery boys to cater to an expanding clientele in the previously unreachable mofussil areas. But when jobs are lost to robots and artificial intelligence systems, the number of jobs created is only a fraction of those lost. Unlike computer software, industrial robots are not built by humans but by other robots that are designed and programmed by a couple of very smart humans. So a large number of low-end jobs are replaced by a few, high-end, specialist jobs. This makes eminent economic sense for both the users and manufacturers of robots but leaves the newly unemployed worker distressed and angry.

While robots can always build robots, it was thought that at least the programming of such automated systems would be done by a few highly skilled humans – but even such relief may be short-lived. In January 2017, the MIT Technology Review reported that Google is building systems that not only demonstrate AI in, say driving cars, but – like a snake, recursively, swallowing its own tail – actually builds the next-generation systems that demonstrate more AI. This is the eureka moment, comparable to the event of the DNA molecule being able to replicate itself and thus define the emergence of physical life.

As AI systems build more advanced AI systems, they can take on a life, a non-biological life, of their own. So the need for human beings becomes even more insignificant and inconsequential in the economic systems of tomorrow’s world. But then what do we do with humans who are no more necessary for the economy to generate goods and services? For whom would the “economy” generate goods and services? And who will pay for these goods and services? These are difficult questions that will crop up as humanity moves into an uncharted territory of the post-singularity era. An obvious way to contain the rising tide of resentment against unemployment would be to have strong social security systems like Universal Basic Income (UBI) or even NREGA that will push money into people’s pockets without them having to do any work – because there really is no useful work left that they could do.

Does this mean that people will simply stay at home and play cards? Or will they get drunk and create mischief? An idle mind could be the devil’s workshop. What kind of sociological and psychological problems will this lead us towards? Once again we have questions but hardly any definitive answers. In the utopian scenario, we envisage that man will increasingly be involved in cerebral, cultural and entertainment activities – art, music, literature, physical sports, cinema, virtual and augmented reality games, sex – while machines, robots and AI systems will do the “dirty” job of keeping the economy running so that it generates a distributable surplus. The other, dystopian scenario would between the unemployable poor and the talented be a descent into anarchy as the gap rich becomes bigger and more bitter. We are looking at gated communities, or huge walled towns, well-endowed with sustainable sources of food and energy, managed efficiently with high technology and defended with highly effective robotic systems against an angry, anarchic and violent outer world ruled by rogues and brigands.

These two extremes that we can atavistically think of are reminiscent of the Middle Ages – the first, benevolent scenario resembles a society of serfs and noblemen while the second, malevolent scenario reminds us of medieval cities being islands of civilisation and governance in an otherwise-anarchic and lawless countryside. But perhaps with the emergence and eventual predominance of artificial intelligence and non-biological “life” forms, our existing models of social behaviour will cease to be reliable predictors of hybrid, human-machine civilisation that we cannot envisage at the moment but are about to bequeath to ourselves anyway.

The accelerating pace of technology cries “Havoc” and has let slip the dogs of rapid and irreversible change. The genie is out of the bottle and new “life” forms, with a different type of intelligence, is about to be released first into the economy, then into society and finally into the planet as a whole. Would this wipe out humans? Or would man evolve and adapt itself to co-exist with this new “species”? Would he retain his position as the master at the top of the ecosystem? Or would this position be taken over by a machine or a hybrid cyborg that combines the best – or worst – of both man and machine? The answer lies in the womb of futurity.


By Dr. Prithwis Mukerjee

Four Analytics Trends to Keep an Eye On In 2018

Where is Analytics heading in 2018? Does the prominence of AI in our day to day lives, democratization of data and advanced analytics keep you excited? Last year was quite an eventful year, with the rise of self-service analytics, IoT analytics and of course chatbots becoming smarter. Having sensed these developments, 2018 should become another year of accelerated innovation in analytics industry – with some expected and unexpected disruptions of course! Excited? Here is our take on the top four analytics trends to watch out for in 2018!

AI chatbots newbies no more! Soon to become major drivers of all operations! 

“Siri, which movie should I watch tonight? Or ‘’Google, show me the best route to reach office’’ Familiar with these everyday conversations? Just imagine your life without them! Can you? Considering their impact on our busy lives!

In 2017, there was so much noise around smart recommendation, with AI chatbots identifying our emotions and responding to them accordingly. Not limited to weather updates or traffic congestion information, chatbots will evolve and possibly also help in scouring financial operational metrics as well as getting answers to ‘why’ and ‘what if’ questions, thereby enabling the transformation of business as well as consumer space. Although this might take a couple of years to mature, we can anticipate the beginning of the success stories in 2018.

Augmented Reality, from reel to real! Augmented Reality is and will be changing the world around us

Remember in July 2016, how millions of people trampled through parks, walked over graves and entered churches to hunt for augmented-reality versions of Pokémon characters? Although the Pokemon frenzy has faded, the frenzy surrounding augmented reality has not and we can hope to see some more advanced and dynamic mode of AR in 2018. The human-machine interaction will boost as businesses are already employing AR to enhance manufacturing and research processes or to offer new customer experiences. But, why does it matter to analytics industry? According to Gartner’s VP David Cleary, “Augmented analytics is a particularly strategic growing area that uses machine learning for automating data preparation, insight discovery and insight sharing for a broad range of business users, operational workers, and citizen data scientists.” So, yes in few years all the resource draining and time-sensitive analysis will become significantly easier and smoother with augmented analytics!

IoT AnalyticsA silver bullet for every industry, in 2018?

2017, was a year of huge gains in ‘’connectivity’’. There were a lot of investments and adoptions around IoT, despite many security issues. How about 2018? Will it be as exciting as 2017 for IoT analytics? IoT will continue to expand this year too, with more and more devices being connected, almost every second. Although retailhealthcare,and industrial/supply chain industries have been using IoT to boost ROI, this year we can see an increasing number of companies use IoT for more personalized marketing efforts. Additionally, Business Insider predicts business spending on IoT solutions will hit $6 trillion by 2021. Going by these predictions, we will see many venture capitalists continuing to pour funds into the promise of IoT. Thus underscoring its potential to improve customer experience in almost every industry!

Block Chain Technology: Enabling new forms of data monetization

2017 was a year of tremendous growth for block chain. Many believe we are already in the “early majority” phase of adoption, and that we are aligned towards full adoption of blockchain. And as with any new technology, the importance of data keeps growing. This year we might see blockchain going more mainstream with sectors such as healthcare & retail. May also start using blockchain to handle data and to prevent hacking & data leaks. According to Bill Schmarzo, CTO of Dell EMC Services, blockchain technology also “has the potential to democratize the sharing and monetization of data and analytics by removing the middleman from facilitating transactions.” So, yes organizations will accelerate their data analysis process on these virtual currencies to unmask strong trends, frauds, and insights and make informed decisions!

If you want to learn about virtual currency  in details, then read on!

Though it is hard to say how fast these analytics trends will manifest in our lives, we are confident that 2018 will yet again be another eventful year. There will be issues around security, governance and most importantly, the consumers’ ability to accept and adapt these innovations and changes. The only assurance, that the future this year is going to be different but promising and to see how it actually turns out, stay tuned!

Originally Published at Towards Data Science.com

The Three Laws

The Three Laws of Robotics are a set of rules devised by the science fiction author Isaac Asimov. Of course, Robots and artificial intelligences do not inherently contain or obey the Three Laws; their human creators must choose to program them in, and devise a means to do so. But with the rise of Machine Learning and AI, this is an important and interesting philosophical concept to look at.
 
1.A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
 
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
 
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
 
Here’s an illustration justifying why these laws are in the order that they are. Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Burger King Of Issue Based Adverts!

We have already spoken about companies and organisations taking a stance for what they believe in and have also shared research about how that is often helpful for the brand and that consumers usually appreciate such a stance. Here is another such example. Burger King taking a stance against net neutrality.
 
Burger King had already made a wonderful video about (anti) bullying and here they very cleverly – almost deviously – point out how net neutrality will affect citizens.
 
They very simply price their Whoppers differently, depending on how soon a customer wants his/her burger served. There’s also a clever play on jargon – Burger King calls it the MBPS charge, ‘making burgers per second’. And these are real customers, they are made to wait while those paying a higher charge are given prompt service, driving home the point.
 
“In place of the more emotional and poignant ending of that earlier spot, here we get a more plainly hostile vibe from the patrons—which fits the issue at hand better. If you were served a mashed-up burger, you’d be mostly confused; if you’re openly denied good service, you’d probably get annoyed pretty quickly.”
 
Watch this brilliant advert and tell us what you think!

Machine Learning and AI in Small Wonder

Artificial Intelligence is intelligence displayed by machines, in contrast with the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. The term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”. Machine Learning on the other hand is an extension of Artificial Intelligence and is a field of computer science that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed to do so.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are often used interchangeably but they are distinct ideas, and both are back in the news – both technology news and pop culture news. But there was a time when Artificial Intelligence was all the rage in pop culture, from films to tv to comics, every aspect of pop culture had a slice of AI. One of the most popular such depiction of Artificial Intelligence was the sitcom Small Wonder.

Small Wonder was about a little girl robot called Vici or Voice Input Child Identicant who becomes part of the Lawson family and hijinks ensue. But the reason we write about the show is long before Machine Learning became a thing, Vici showed remarkable progress in the field. Vici was a robot, a very good example of Artificial Intelligence but throughout the run of the show, she showed remarkable progress in adapting to situations and learning new things, whether actions or language or ideas, and most importantly, without being programmed to do so. This was an early example of Machine Learning in popular culture, long before Machine Learning was a buzzword like it is today.

Popular Culture, especially science fiction has often pre-empted actual scientific inventions, but that’s a discussion for another day. Small Wonder then that AI and Machine Learning also found a place in popular fiction which kind of pre-empted this by a few decades, the Machine Learning part at least!

Cannae? Yes, you can!

This is the story of the Battle of Cannae, which more than two millennia after it happened, remains the benchmark for leadership and tactics!

Leadership and tactics – qualities as important in war as they are in the modern boardroom!

The battle was fought between the Romans and the Carthaginians in 216 BC and was part of the Second Punic War. The Roman Empire was one of the greatest empires – in terms of reach and impact – in the history of the world. On the opposite side was Carthage, led by Hannibal. Hannibal would go down in history as one of the greatest generals ever, and he proved that in Cannae, when he defeated a mighty Roman army, solely relying on superior tactics and leadership.

The Romans outnumbered the Carthaginian troops, almost two to one, were better equipped and armoured and they fought the battle in their preferred terrain, an open filed. The Carthaginians however had better and more cavalry. The Romans relied on numbers, as they always had and were burdened by the opposing views of their two generals.

The Carthaginians, meanwhile, had one absolute leader, Hannibal. And Hannibal was an amazing tactician. He placed his cavalry on the wings, and had a thin inviting infantry line in the centre. He had a river on one side, that made sure that he couldn’t be flanked from that wing. And he faced away from the morning sun and wind direction, ensuring that Romans had to deal with both the sun and the dust blowing in the wind. And finally, he was right in the front-line himself, leading his troops. A risky manoeuvre otherwise but important for this plan.

When the battle commenced, he tempted the Romans to charge straight at his centre and when they did, he coordinated his planned and organised retreat – making it seem as if the Romans were gaining ground – but not losing formation. Meanwhile, his better cavalry charged and decimated the Roman cavalry, who were left without infantry support. Before the Romans realised, they had walked into a trap. The retreating centre of Hannibal’s army had formed a semi-circle, the flanks pivoted and enveloped the sides and the cavalry, free from decimating their Roman counterpart, came back and attacked from the rear. The entire Roman army was trapped in a Carthaginian circle and annihilated.

Remember Jon Snow fighting Ramsay in Game of Thrones? It was a direct lift from Cannae!

Hannibal had inferior numbers, resources and equipment but won so comprehensively that according to estimates, Rome lost about twenty percent of her adult male population in that battle. This is a testament to his leadership, resourcefulness and tactics and a shining example for leaders and tacticians of the future!

 

Freeze!

Freeze! Is a recruitment video (available on our Facebook page) by New Zealand Police and is a fantastic example of how such videos should be made. The video feels like a real Hollywood movie but stars actual New Zealand cops, their parkour skills are on display as is their surprisingly brilliant comic timing and presence.

More importantly, the video is edited and shot to almost big budget movie standards and has a very real feel to it, especially since all the cast is actual real police workers, including the commissioner of the police. What is also noticeable is the diversity on display; for a country like New Zealand which is home to various races and ethnicities, this video upholds and highlights all such and also showcases the duties expected of a cop – from catching (four legged) criminals, to helping someone cross the road or push starting a car.

A brilliant bit of marketing by New Zealand police which touches all the right areas without being overtly jingoistic or didactic.

And check out the fun credits as well!

Snickers and the Dave Media Stunt

When you want to make a creative advertisement and in your quest to do so, you go the full hog and make something absolutely brilliant! That is exactly what Snickers did, they took their tried and tested tagline, teamed up with a telly channel and made an amazing advert!

Dave is a British network that is targeted at millennials and usually features fun programmes but recently one day, suddenly out of the blue, the network started airing out of character shows like a boring chess championship, a stuffy art program and a noir film. This wasn’t just limited to the telly, Dave’s social media pages changed to Rupert as well. This all happened at exactly 3:28 PM, which according to Snickers is the “hungriest time of the day”. And what happens then? Well, if you have followed Snickers advertising, you know the answer; “you are not you when you are hungry!” Thus explaining why Dave had suddenly transformed into Rupert.

Snickers went another step forward and posted an open letter of apology as the final piece of the advert, promising viewers that Dave has stocked up on enough Snickers and won’t be turning into Rupert again!

The entire campaign was created by the ad agency AMV BBDO in London.

Go Market Research Yourself!

9Gag is a Hong Kong based cross-platform social media which primarily deals in memes and .gifs as well as rage comics. It has immense reach, more than 150 million users around the globe, besides millions of followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Would You Rather is an old and popular party/conversation game wherein participants are given a hypothetical dilemma in the form of a question beginning with ‘would you rather…’ and they must choose one of the options. Choosing both or neither is against the rules.

Why are we talking about meme sites and party games? Because recently 9Gag teamed up with market research firm, GfK, to create a simple ‘would you rather’ questionnaire for millennials to find out what they value more in their lives, careers, politics, technology, games and more.

This is of huge interest to any budding marketer as this is 1. Non-traditional and yet simple and cost effective mode of research and 2. The quantity and quality of the data collected. The survey, called the Millennial Black Paper received 134,694 responses from one ninety four countries over two weeks, which is a huge sample size, spread across the entire world. 9Gag thinks this is one of the largest millennial surveys ever. They defined millennials as people between the ages of eighteen to thirty four. And the responses have been eye opening and stereotype breaking, making this data invaluable to marketers.

One can register with 9Gag Global Millennial Black Paper to get a copy of the research.

Herbs and Spices!

Some of human history’s greatest mysteries include the legend of The Lost City of Atlantis, the identity of Jack the Ripper, the question of what happens after death and so on. But somewhere much further down the list you’ll also find the manufactured culinary mystery of the secret KFC recipe!

This legend of their secret recipe, other than having people swear by its taste, has also served as a potent marketing tool. The story of the secret recipe has been publicized and in turn it has helped in publicising KFC! And continuing in that tradition, the KFC social media team has just won the internet with their superbly subtle but absolutely amazing allusion to their secret recipe and this has all of social media going crazy about the genius of this move.

You see, KFC follows an exact number of eleven people on Twitter, five of whom are Victoria Beckham, Geri Horner, Melanie Brown, Melanie C and Emma Bunton or as anybody who didn’t live under a rock in the nineties would remember, as the Spice Girls! The other six are personalities who share the same first name, Herb.

Geddit? KFC follows elven herbs and spices! A genius allusion to their secret recipe!

When your social media game is so strong that you innovate a whole new level of marketing!

Setback? Or Opportunity!

What do you think of when you think of luxury watches? Craftsmanship, beautiful design, superior quality and high prices. Prices so high that they range anywhere between the cost of a small holiday to that of a car; but in 2015, brothers, Danielius and Matas Jakutis, sought to change all that. They went on Kickstarter and started a campaign to bring high-quality, luxury timepieces at affordable prices by eliminating middlemen and retailers that mark up prices exponentially.

Almost 18,000 backers gave support to the campaign and they raised some 5.7 million euros to bring their ‘luxury-watches-at-less-than-luxury-price’ dream to life. And that is how Filippo Loreti was born! According to the company, this was the most-funded watch campaign in the world.

But there was a slight snag, a delay in delivery. The initial backers received the product anywhere between two to five months late as the company faced production and customisation challenges. And in an amazing move Filippo Loreti has turned this snag into a great PR opportunity. They are individually calling each of the 17,819 initial backers and personally apologising to each of them.

This honest approach and their genuine effort to address the issue coupled with their efficient customer service (all this is being done over two days) is winning hearts all over. But how would any non-stakeholder be aware of this effort? Therein lies their masterstroke! Filippo Loreti is livestreaming this entire thing on Facebook, therefore, giving them this insane publicity.

The lesson here is simple, even a disaster can be an opportunity for positive PR. And in this day and age of social media, at almost nil cost!

 

 

Advertisement Pujo!

The city’s biggest festival was recently concluded and it was full of crowds and colours and food and fun! But the other stand out feature of Durga Pujo, other than the pandals and the idols of course, is the sheer amount of marketing, advertising and publicity involved. And we aren’t just talking about the publicity that the various pandals do of their Pujos but of the brands and sponsors lining up every street, every open space and every fencing across the city.

One will witness everything from banners, hoardings, drop downs, pillars, framed banners and gates! All covered in advertising material. Recent trends have ensured that even the inside of the pandals and sometimes the idols itself are covered in or decorated with sponsored materials. Sometimes the ornaments worn by the idols are sponsored as well as part of extremely innovative marketing! So many adverts, and such creativity all around.

Arguably the most viral advert/publicity this year was the stunning kilometre long ‘alpona’ on Lake Road, by the Samaj Sebi pandal. The artwork was created by hundreds of art students with the support of a corporate house and the splendid creation added to the visual extravaganza.

There were some other brilliant adverts, Tanishq and Century Ply ads come to mind. Century Ply made a touching advert about the clay artisans, the unsung heroes of the festival. Check out their advert here.

Durga Pujo is many things to many people but to marketers, it is also an amazing advertisement opportunity, where the entire city is part of the tableaux!

Game of Group Projects!

So you have been assigned a group project and you must now choose a team that complements your abilities. Choose carefully, for in the Game of Group Project, you either win or you are stuck with a horrible team.

Yes, that was a reference to Game of Thrones.

Also, yes, to make things interesting, we are going to make a list of tropes you find in every group but use Game of Thrones characters to describe them.

Here goes, in no particular order!

The Hodor: The person who does all the drudge-work, spends considerable time and energy and has immense contribution to the team, but is sadly not given his due, mostly because of his limited communication skills.

The Bran: Apparently the most intelligent person in the group, who claims the ability to solve any problem in an instant but mostly makes Hodor do all his work – literally and figuratively riding on Hodor’s back – and is unnecessarily cryptic all the time!

The Tyrion Lannister: Fights against other people’s assumptions of him and is determined to prove himself and his ideas, finally achieves acceptance and even comes up with some clever plans but is terrible at executing them!

The Khaleesi: Shows immense concern about the project and everyone in the group but you still can’t help feeling that her contribution and participation in the group are all for personal glory.

The Hound: First impression aren’t very flattering, seems mean and vicious but then people realise his value as a team player. Don’t put him on the hot seat though, isn’t very comfortable with heat.

The Jon Snow: Doesn’t seem too aspirational at first, but realises that he has the required skills and abilities. Takes a leadership role and tries to see the best in everyone. Willing to take risks for the greater good of the group.

The Bronn: Tries to project a very casual image, makes it known that he doesn’t really care for the assignment and has better things to do; and still turns out to be an exceptional team player and an extremely valuable asset!

The Cersei: Don’t absolutely have this person in the team. Never!

 

Nirma Advert Si Recall!

Do you know what’s common between them? Actresses all? Well, not all of them are. Oh, we get it! They are all members of either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha or have been at some point. Yes, that’s true. But there’s something else as well. Not got it yet? Think again!

Here, we will give you a clue. Sing along, why don’t you? Hema, Rekha, Jaya aur Sushma… Got it right? Of course you did. Hema, Rekha, Jaya aur Sushma, sabki pasand Nirma! One of the most famous jingles and advertisements in Indian television. Did Nirma actually give ‘doodh si safedi’? It doesn’t matter, does it; because even decades down the line, people remember the jingle and the advert. That is the kind of recall value most marketeers hope for, this once in a lifetime kind of phenomenon.

The company was started by Karsanbhai Patel in 1969 out of a small room and within decades it was one of the most successful brands in its industry. The product itself, pricing and distribution was responsible for its success as much as its marketing was. Such simple, direct lines and a memorable jingle.

What made Nirma go national was its earthy TV ads. A lively montage of young men and women singing and dancing, cutting across regions, cultures and income groups was so very relatable to audiences. The three oft cited reasons for the success of the brand’s imagery were the catchy jingle, the characters of Hema, Rekha, Jaya and Sushma, quintessential housewives, and the mascot of the Nirma Girl.

One of Indian marketing’s success stories; sabki pasand Nirma!

The iPhone short!

Michel Gondry is a French independent filmmaker who won an Oscar for best original screenplay as one of the writers of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He also directed the film. He has also directed The Green Hornet, Indigo and The Science of Sleep among other films. And from him comes this delightful short called Détour. This whimsical ten minute ride is at once heart breaking and hopeful and most importantly a visual treat!

A visual treat that will remind you of Little Miss Sunshine and Amélie and yet it was shot solely on a phone. An iPhone 7 plus to be specific. Apple was inspired by Wieden + Kennedy’s Stories Are Everywhere campaign for Instagram but they wanted to show the true capability of what an iPhone user holds in her hands and so they got Michel Gondry to make this delightful film.

The film highlights the iPhone’s video enriching benefits and its 4K recording, slow-mo, time-lapse and low-light capabilities. It also helps, that an Oscar winner is behind the camera… the phone!

As part of the marketing campaign, there’s also a series of Masterclasses on Apple’s UK website, free of charge instead of the usual $90 it costs; while Gondry himself appeared for the film’s launch in Paris and spoke about his perspectives on shooting a film entirely on a phone.

Watch the film here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrN1ytnQ-Tg and let us know your thoughts!

The TiVo Prankvert

Last week we wrote about Prankvertising, this week we are sharing an example (click on the link at the end of this post) of such. In this ‘prankvert’, TiVo pranks movie goers by inserting a commercial in the middle of the film. The point being, that no one likes their films interrupted. This highlights the fact that the TiVo is free of such interruptions and thus promoting their unique selling point!

Do note, how TiVo makes up for the prank by hosting an after party and ‘gifting’ each audience member with a free sample of their product. This obviously doubles up as the second level in this smoothly integrated and layered promotional strategy.

Now imagine this prank in India. Our movie going audience is used to having their experience interrupted. Our movies have an interval anyway. It’s a story of two halves. Would such a stunt work in India? What do you guys think? Let us know in the comments!

Ad of the Day: Watch TiVo Crash a Movie Theater and Interrupt a Film With Commercials

Prankvertising

Advertising is, in the very basic sense, a means to communicate with consumers, both current and potential, by a company to publicise its products and services. It is a very dynamic concept and has evolved through the ages. From print to audio to visual and so on!

Pranks on the other hands are light hearted practical jokes, a little bit of mischief to raise a laugh. But what have pranks got to do with advertising? We will get to that, but let’s introduce another word first. Portmanteau. A portmanteau is a word that is derived from blending two distinct words and derives its meaning from those two words. An example would be smog. Smog comes from blending smoke and fog and therefore refers to polluted haze or fog.

Now, that we have introduced the three separate concepts, let us get you to the newest evolution in advertising – Prankvertising! And yes, it is exactly what it sounds like.

Prankvertising is an advertising strategy that gets the commercial message across by tricking or ‘scaring’ an unsuspecting audience. Essentially, by pranking the target audience! According to Business Insider prankvertising is “riding on a push from marketers who believe that content creation is the best way to get and keep a brand in front of consumers online.”

Prankvertising is gaining popularity in this age of social media, as these campaigns typically produce highly memorable and more importantly highly sharable videos. Ensuring that the video will go viral, thus these ‘campaigns’ reach a vast audience on very little cost while additionally giving the company a ‘hip’ and ‘rolling with the times’ image!

Pranvertising helps a company reach a larger audience, unrestricted by geography or region. It helps cut through the noise as well. Print, radio or television adverts are limited by region – circulation or broadcast. A viral video has no such limitations in this age of social media. Prankvertising is the logical next step in the evolution of advertising.

The Miracle of Eden: Management lessons.

Cricket is arguably India’s most popular sport and it’s as much a game of bat and ball as it is of strategies and planning. Cricket, like most, sports demands not just skills in the sporting department but also requires exceptional management skills. And these management skills are not just restricted to the backroom or the dressing room, cricket needs dynamic and direct leadership and management, right on the field. Let’s take an example of the “Miracle of Eden” and try to get a few management lessons from the match. From the Australian point of view.

Background: This was the summer of 2001, the Australians riding high on an innings victory in Bombay had come to Calcutta to play the second test, in the March heat. This Australian team – one of the greatest of all time – was at the peak of their powers and were on a eighteen match unbeaten run, having won their last sixteen tests.

1. Overconfidence: The Australian team was filled with once in a lifetime players – McGrath, Warne, Gilchirst, Ponting, Hayden and the Waugh twins. They had just demolished India and were in top form. They continued that run in Calcutta as well and destroyed India in the first innings. One can see why they could become a little complacent and that’s exactly what happened. Their overconfidence led them to enforce the follow on as they thought that the opposition would wilt quickly.

2. Communication: But there was one problem, one of the greatest captains of all time, failed to listen to his bowlers. The Australians were playing only four frontline bowlers – three of whom were fast bowlers. Of the three seamers, one had spent more than three hours batting in the heat and then they spent the second day bowling in the humid Calcutta heat. Steve Waugh failed to listen to and understand the situation of his bowlers.

3. Situation Analysis: Fast bowling is a tough job, bowling fast in hot and humid conditions is tougher and especially so when you are not native to the conditions and the country. The Australians didn’t realise that their bowlers could break down in the heat and the unfriendly conditions. Which is exactly what happened. Besides, their overconfidence meant they didn’t plan for batting last on an Eden pitch that is infamous for deteriorating as a test match progresses.

4. Contingency Plan: The Australians did no’t have any. All the Indians had to do was show some grit and stick it for some considerable period and that’s what Dravid and Laxman did. The Australian fast bowlers were now tired, hot and physically struggling – a fact that would cost them the series in the next match starting three days after this with almost no recovery time! They had one recognised spinner and Warne might be an all time great but he had a woeful record against India and that is exactly what happened in this match; he was completely ineffective. And worst of all, the Australians did not plan to bat again at all. There was no Plan B and were sitting ducks on a cracked fifth day pitch. India took less than a day to bowl them out.

This match was lost less for the ‘sports’ aspect of cricket and almost entirely for terrible management and strategies.

Hell Of An Esolang!

Let us tell you the tale of the Esoteric Programming Language or ESOLANG as they are often abbreviated to. These are programming languages that are designed less for practical use and more for experimentation and even sometimes as a joke. They are deliberately hard to program in and there is a small but active community of people who are involved in this activity.

Esolangs are usually minimalistic and have as few instructions as possible. They are are brief and short. Sometimes they are themed, like being modelled on Shakespeare’s plays or based on the fictional Klingon language. They are most of the time, weird and are sometimes created purely as a joke.

One of the earliest esoteric language is INTERCAL; other more popular ones are Befunge and Brainf*#k. And perhaps the most difficult one is Malbolge.

Malbolge was invented by Ben Olmstead in 1998 and is almost impossible to use. It’s named after the eighth circle of hell from Dante’s Inferno (In picture is Botticelli’s Mappa dell’Inferno part of which is the Malebolge). There have been programmers who have made coherent use of this language but it is an extremely difficult prospect. Interestingly, Malbolge was used as a plot device in an episode of Elementary.

Look up more such languages and let us know if you come across anything interesting.

Antikythera Mechanism

This here is the Antikythera Mechanism. Discovered along the coast off the Greek Island of Antikythera in 1902 by archaeologist Valerios Staiswas; the Antikythera Mechanism was found in the wreckage of a Roman ship believed to have sunk around 60 BC. The device itself dates back to 85 BC and recent studies suggest that it might be even older, and could be from about 150 BC.

The Antikythera Mechanism is the world’s first analogue computer and studies have suggested that its most likely use was to chart the movement of the sun, moon and planets, predict lunar and solar eclipses and even signal the next Olympic Games. This two millennium old device was also a calculator and could add, subtract, multiply and divide as well as being able to display the position of the sun and the moon in the zodiac. Apparently, the device also had a fortune telling aspect.

A very sophisticated device for its time, the Mechanism had thirty gears housed in a shoebox sized wooden and bronze case. The gears allowed for complex calculations otherwise virtually impossible without the Mechanism.

Today marks the 115th anniversary of the discovery of the Mechanism, most likely built in the island of Rhodes and most likely not one of a kind, although no others have ever been found. There has been numerous references to such devices in the pages of classical literature dating from 300 BC to 500 AD.

The device is a technological wonder and some its components are as intricate as eighteenth century locks. And although there were inscriptions on the device (about its workings and so), its technological and mechanical complexity was lost for at least another thousand years. Today’s Google Doodle pays an homage to the Antikythera Mechanism – from one technological marvel to another!

Finger Lickin’ Marketing!

Harland Sanders might have been dead for thirty years but that is not stopping his literary ambitions! Harland Sanders who, you ask? You are likely to better know him as Col Sanders, we answer. Col Sanders of KFC. Coming back to the point, Harland Sanders has recently written a romance novella; well it is actually written by “outsourced author” Catherine Kovach, a former Bustle.com feature writer and is the brainchild of Wieden + Kennedy Portland.

The book is titled Tender Wings of Desire, get it? Tender wings, like the tender chicken wings that KFC sells. The title is as amazing a pun as it is cringe worthy, but what good pun doesn’t make you cringe! The book is a publicity stunt by KFC for Mother’s day, which is the busiest day of the year for the fast food giants. The brand explained in a statement – “Paired with a $20 Fill Up featuring KFC’s Extra Crispy Chicken, mothers can finally get what they want this year—a family meal they don’t have to cook, and some alone time with a captivating novella.”

Is the book truly captivating? Well, I am afraid, you’ll have to read it to find out but what it definitely is, is a distraction; a distraction from the everyday mundane and a chance to relax with a little bit of frivolity. What it also is, is an amazing marketing strategy and another innovative one to boot.

We here at Praxis, keep writing about innovative marketing strategies whenever we can and it is so that young bright minds like yourselves get entertained as well as inspired!

The Snapchat Saga!

The Snapchat Saga!

Here’s five reasons why the Snapchat Saga was way over the top!

1. Did Evan Spiegel say what he did? The whole controversy started because Snapchat CEO, Evan Spiegel apparently called India a poor country and that the app is for rich people. That’s a very elitist statement and in extremely poor taste. However there is no proof that he said it, he denied it when asked and squarely blamed a disgruntled former employee for spreading the rumours.

2. Fact checking usually helps. We live in the age of information, it is literally on our fingertips. We have access to a several sources to verify most news. And we have access to fast information, it takes almost no time to look something up. Fact checking is a virtually effortless task and yet we let our actions be driven by hearsay.

3. Trolls can’t be opinion makers. Trolls are beings from Scandinavian mythology who are known for their aggressive nature and for being exceptionally stupid. Two very apt reasons why internet trolls have been named after them. Facts or logic don’t really matter, any small reason to cause mayhem is enough. And ergo, what self-respecting nation should allow these “extremely stupid’ trolls shape their opinions.

4. Introspection. All the point is moot in this context, but just for our own sake; are we a poor nation? No! DO we have multitudes of poor people? Yes, unfortunately. Instead of taking offence, maybe an acceptance of the facts and a continuation of our efforts on the alleviating poverty from our country should take precedence. And we have been doing exactly that since independence, trying to build a better India! But till we live in glass houses…

5. Poor old Snapdeal! Again, this references point number two. Fact checking helps. Dragging Snapdeal, a completely different and unrelated company, not even in the same industry into this mess was absolutely uncalled for. All Snapdeal did wrong was to have a similar sounding name and they got dragged into the crossfire! Like we said, trolls have the intelligence of an avocado, trust them to confuse between two very separate entities.

Pepsi United – memed and maimed!

We had recently shared a link about the Kendall Jenner Pepsi advert which was, according to most critics and viewers, extremely tone deaf and in pretty bad taste. Here was a successful, rich, beautiful model, from the majority populace, who comes in and solves some sort of a protest with a can of Pepsi. This was the tone of the advert which did not go well with audiences. It was deemed to be too disrespectful to protesters and an extremely frivolous depiction of serious issues happening around the world now.

Then, there was the United scandal that happened just a few days ago. If ever there was a demonstration of how not to treat your customers, United came out with flying colours. First, they overbooked their flight – standard procedure, then they asked a certain number of passengers to deboard, offering them some compensation in return. A few of the passengers accepted but they still needed to make more room. At which point they decided on a random selection and this is where things got worse. One of the passengers, on refusing to deplane, was forcibly and physically dragged out and even sustained some injuries. You must have read about the fallout after.

And as the internet is wont to do at such times, it swiftly wears its cape and tights (and the underpants over it) and takes on its superhero persona. The internet wasn’t going to forgive United or Pepsi, at least not let them forget and how do they go about that? Well this is the age of the meme and everything can be summarised into a a hilarious sarcastic, self referential and meta response. And here we have one of the funniest and hard hitting of those responses – Kendall Jenner solving the United fiasco with a can of Pepsi!

This should ideally be a lesson to the companies about the power of social media in the information age!

The Industry of Durga Pujo

Over the past decade, Durga Pujo has transformed from a festival into an industry. We’ve all noticed the transformation, but it was so smoothly executed by various corporate bodies that we didn’t even feel the transformation happen. Do you remember Pujo in 2006? It maybe a tad blurry, but Panchami surely wasn’t such a big deal back then. Some schools would give over on Panchami. Some even had exams up to the day. It was always a quiet affair till Shashti, and rather low key.

The Pujo crowd’s penchant for pandal hopping and boasting about how many fancy pandals and idols they caught a glimpse of began only on Shaptami. Panchami now is a completely different affair. It’s as crowded and congested as the last three days of Pujo. Corporate bodies recognized the pandal hopping trend as a great opportunity to increase brand visibility and awareness and wanted to capitalize on that.

So have you ever wondered how this super-commercialization of the festivities began? Well, Bengal and parts of East India have always been big on pre-pujo shopping and we have seen brands that battle it out during the frenzy with ridiculous discounts and deals on purchases. But the commercialization of the festivities is something relatively new. Once the marketers realized the potential of pandal-hopping, they had to find out ways to increase footfall and thus began the revival of the trend of award ceremonies. By giving out various awards in different categories to organizing committees corporate bodies created a buzz around already popular pandals.

They heavily publicized the award ceremonies and the hook worked. More and more people lined up to see what all the hullabaloo was about. Hordes of curious bystanders, jam packed like a can of sardines and enveloped on all sides by relevant branding that never failed to tug at the mostly Bengali crowd’s heart strings and capitalize on the Pujo sentiments. If you remember campaigns like Fevicol’s “Don’t get stuck like Fevicol, keep moving…” or Hot Wheels’s “I’ll enter the pandal directly with my car…” or Eno’s “Learn to deal with/digest large crowds, loud noises and taxi refusals… Unfortunately all these are rough translations of perfectly captured sentiments expressed in Bengali. Once they got the ball rolling marketers realized the importance and the potential of experiential marketing in such a context and thus came a slew of on-ground activations that thoroughly engaged the consumers, like Thums Up’s “Aamader Pujo” (Our Pujo) campaign or Bru’s “Jegey otho” (Stay awake…) campaigns that involved not just sentiments but perfect incorporation of the products at the venues.

If the super-commercialization of Pujo is not something that bothers you, you should definitely jump on the bandwagon, because you know you are a marketer at heart.

Keep watching this space for more – find out next how to use the digital domain to your advantage for Pujo ’17.

Thums Up > Coke & Pepsi

If you are an avid Thums Up fan and a brand loyalist like I am, you are bound to have faced one of the following situations:

  1. You walk into a shop and ask for a bottle of Thums Up and the shopkeeper tries to sell you a Coke or a Pepsi, instead… sometimes even a 7 Up/Dew or some kind of an ‘uncola’.
  2. You walk into a shop, see a bottle of Thums Up in the refrigerator and you ask for it but the shopkeeper denies it’s there or that such a brand even exists… and when you insist, they tell you that it is not cold at all.
  3. This is the worst one – you walk into a shop and it actually doesn’t sell Thums Up.

India’s most popular soft drink.

It’s infuriating but this keeps happening. It made me wonder, so I did some pseudo research on Wikipedia about Thums Up. Since you can find all the information on Wikipedia about this, I’ll just write a short intro about it and then share my own thoughts about the whole ordeal (yes, ordeal – because it’s that frustrating).

The market, pre-liberalization, was not conducive for multi-national brands such as Coke to conduct business. So they wound up and left. That created a lacuna, eventually giving birth to various homebrewed beverages such as Campa Cola, Thums Up and the like. Thums Up was an innovation by Parle and soon rose to the top of the soft drink game. Post-liberalization, Pepsi came in and Thums Up faced fierce competition, not by virtue of the quality of Pepsi’s product, but their ad spends.

Rebranded as the Maha Cola after Pepsi entered the market.

Of course, Coke was soon to reenter and mess things up more. Parle eventually gave up on the cola wars and sold out to Coke. Coke wanted to discontinue the product (like they did with Gold Spot and some other beverages), but the demand for Thums Up was so high that they realized that stopping its production would be suicide. Besides, people seemed to gravitate towards Pepsi when they couldn’t get Thums Up – and that was bad for business. So they kept Thums Up alive – but it meant product cannibalization for Coke.

Well, that brings us to my thoughts on the issue. I believe that Thums Up is less easily available because Coke carefully controls the production and distribution of the beverage. That apart, in order to ensure that shopkeepers do not oversell Thums Up, they offer a greater profit margin on Coke. This is a little dicey to comment on because shopkeepers refuse to give out information on this – but it may be that shop A makes a rupee more on Coke than on Thums up and shop B makes the same on Thums Up as it does on Coke and Shop C gets some kind of an incentive to sell more Coke than Thums Up. Unless we’re insiders, we will never know. Looking up wholesale prices for beverages doesn’t help much either. They vary from dealer to dealer. But I really wish that Thums Up would be more readily available to the ones who love the taste of its desi toofani thunder.

Oh, by the way here’s Campa Cola making a comeback.

90s kids, gear up for a blast from the past!
90s kids, gear up for a blast from the past!

Pujo banner advert near Shobhabajar Raj Bari, Kolkata.

The Time When 7 Up Dethroned Coke & Pepsi

It is believed that in a particular product category (detergent, beer, cars, soaps, etc.) there is space for only two or three dominating brands in a consumer’s mind.

Let’s say you’re asked to think about brands of potato chips. Well, I can tell that Lays is on your list for sure, followed by Uncle Chips and Bingo or something. It is unlikely that you first thought of Pringles or Pogo. Or even that local brand that makes for awesome chaat with your beer. Speaking of which… Tuborg and Kingfisher, maybe? Unlikely that you thought of Haywards or Heineken first. So you see, while you are familiar with more than a couple of brands, there are only about two of those which dominate. This hierarchy of sorts is a consequence of brand positioning (or Vijay Mallya’s shenanigans).

In the 70s, Coke & Pepsi would dominate the soft drinks market and while other drinks were popular too, soft drinks essentially meant cola. In came the citrus drink 7 Up, repositioned as the uncola, and single handedly dethroned both with one simple albeit brilliant strike. A straightforward insight, realised into an extensive and immensely popular marketing campaign that created a greater demand for the product – suddenly, everyone wanted a piece of this magnificently clear uncola.

From Uncool to Uncola – The Fabulous Psychedelic 7-Up Ads 1969-1973

Game your way to learning something new everyday!

You may beat Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde, boredom and your bladder but you will not beat binary.

Who is Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde you ask? Well, they are the ghosts who relentlessly chase Pac-Man, like our greatest regrets constantly chase us, but that is another story. Although, designed to be an infinite game, without any ending, if you are good enough that is – which is more about endurance and concentration rather than skill, because every level after level 21 or 22 is identical. The makers of the game didn’t realise that anyone would be good enough or invested enough to continue playing the game and neither did they know that there was a glitch in the game.

The lesson here is, never underestimate obsessed gamers. They are always good enough and they always have the time, even if the game repeats itself incessantly. About six hours of game play and two hundred and thirty four more times to be exact. That’s how long it takes to reach level 255 and when you beat that level, hoping to do the exact same thing for another level, is when you get the dreaded kill screen.

This makes us think that Pac-Man is a more accurate representation of our lives than you’d guess about a game involving a circle running around a maze eating dots forever and ever until one day when you finally reach the dreaded end screen.

Philosophy aside, what is it that makes the game go bust on level 256? It’s simple really, the original Pac-Man was an 8 bit video game. And what that meant was that they had eight lines inside
the processor for carrying the numbers on, which limited what
the computer could do. We all know that computers count in Binary. So this means, that when you have reached level 256, you have run out of space to carry the last binary 1. The computer, simply doesn’t have a number big enough to store that value. That is why 8-bit computers can only count to the number 255. And thus Binary scuppers the compulsive gamer where the game itself can’t!

Pac-Man: Life allusions and binary lessons. Game your way to learning something new everyday!

Begrudge the surge? Maybe not.

Taxi, Ballygunge jayega?
 
Surge Pricing has been a matter of some concern and much controversy in our part of the world, actually in a lot of places really. And given the time of the year, especially if you are in Calcutta, it’s safe to (mis)quote Ned Stark. Surge price is coming!
 
So, what exactly is surge pricing? Well, it simple really. It’s the oldest trick in the economics book. Price elasticity of demand. More demand, more the cost of the ride and hence a ‘surge’ in prices.
 
“Surge pricing” occurs when a company raises the price of its offering if there is an increase in demand. The strategy is simple – if available supply of drivers became dangerously low, the company would raise pricing.
 
But does surge pricing help? Well, in a way it does. Most such cab companies work on the principle of flexible timings for the drivers, which means, a driver gets to choose when he or she want to work. As such, the incentive of a surge is bound to attract them to an area where there is demand. And an area with demand means that there are passengers there looking for transport. So it helps both drivers and passengers – “this strategy, would help to increase supply, as it would encourage more drivers to work. Without surge pricing supply would eventually run out and people wouldn’t be able to hire a driver.”
 
But the passengers are being forced to pay a higher rate. Only those who value the ride most. Other passengers can wait till the surge dies down, besides, the initial surge attracts drivers to the area, which consequently works to get the surge down – as supply equals demand or surpasses it. So, because of the surge, passengers now have transport option in the area and drivers an incentive.
 
Obviously it depends from city to city and context defines and influences a lot of the consumer feedback – surge pricing during an emergency like a terrorist attack or are considered exploitative and have received much flak. On the other hand, surge pricing system has ensured transport availability at the middle of the night in places like Delhi and Kolkata.
 
And in many ways, most of us have always been paying a ‘surge’ of sorts – bees rupaye zyada de dena. At least, now there’s an alternative and alternative which will take you where you want to go within the described limits and will pick you up from where you are.

Missing Type Campaign

The thing with humans is that they are notoriously fragile. One little mishap, a small insect bite, sometimes just a change of weather and they find themselves sick, injured or in a hospital. And, worse, science hasn’t yet caught up with creating artificial substitutes for the body. If we need blood, it has to be actual blood. Thankfully, that’s not a very difficult process.
 
Donating blood is fairy simple, it involves a trip to your local blood bank – make sure you ain’t drunk, or carrying any illness. They’ll tell you actually – then you fill up a form and lie there for a few minutes. They’ll stick a needle in you, and it’s not as painful as it is made out to be. You’ll be given a sandwich and some juice and in a short rest later you are good to go about your day, feeling much better about yourself.
 
Jokes apart, donating blood saves millions of lives every year. In an emergency, your blood might help save someone in a critical condition and even if there isn’t an emergency. Blood is one of the most needed things in medicines, which is why it is important to have blood banks and maintain supply.
 
Recent research in England suggested that there was a nearly thirty percent drop in the number of donors in the past decade. This prompted the NHS Blood and Transplant to come up with the ‘Missing Type’ campaign.
 
The Missing Type is a clever pun and is exactly what the campaign is asking brands to do – drop letters from their name and logo which also signify blood groups – A, B and O. And it’s not just restricted to companies, cities and other institutions, even the Royal Air Force, have joined in as well. It’s been a raging success, given that more than thirty thousand new donors have registered with the first ten days of the campaign. The campaign has also gone international – outside the UK – with other cities and companies joining in.
1472723795 images-1 images missing-type-raf-500x333
 
This amazingly clever marketing for a cause has been astoundingly well received across the world and has succeeded in spreading the desired awareness. Here are some of the pictures.
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Share the post, spread the awareness and become a blood donor.

Bunny Business!

What is pink, fuzzy and runs on batteries? Bunnies obviously!

Specifically the Duracell and the Energizer bunnies. There are differences obviously, first up, the Duracell Bunny is less of a bunny and more of a species. Also, it’s older, existing since the 70s. The Energizer Bunny is more stylish, has larger ears, wears flip flops and shades and beats a drum. The idea for both was to portray toys that run on batteries and can outlast other similar toys run on inferior batteries. In fact the Energiser was a parody of the Duracell and was launched in the 80s.

The Energizer Bunny came into being when Duracell was reportedly too slow to renew its trademark. Energizer hired DDB Needham Worldwide to create a rabbit of its own. Europe still has the Duracell Bunny following a 1992 arrangement between the battery giants but only in European countries.

The Energizer is up for a makeover, he is 27 years old after all. He would be animated, so his movements would become more realistic, have a range of motion and facial expressions. His fur would be softer as well. The new look Energizer is scheduled to debut at the New York Fashion Week. Not that this will be his first brush with fame. Between the Duracell and the Energizer the bunnies have hung out with the likes of Darth Vader, the Grim Reaper, the Wicked Witch of the West, King Kong, Wile E. Coyote, Blackburn Rovers and Dracula to name a few.

Both of these are marketing success stories and would figure in the most recognisable mascots list. In fact, the Energizer Bunny, according to a survey of the over-40 crowd in the US, is second only to Bugs Bunny in terms of recognition and to target the millennials Energizer is planning a significant social media campaign for their new look Bunny, across outlets like YouTube and Snapchat.

Very few companies can boast of such memorable mascots that come with a heavy sprinkling of nostalgia. The bunnies are a marketers dream and the two battery giants are reaping the benefits of simple yet intelligent and memorable marketing campaigns of the past!

Turnaround, like a Tata!

Mr Praveen Kadle, Managing Director and CEO of Tata Capital Limited. A graduate in Commerce & Accountancy from Bombay University and a Chartered Accountant, Cost & Works Accountant and Company Secretary. He joined the Tata Group in 1996 as the Chief Financial Officer of Tata’s Joint Venture with IBM in India. Later, he was transferred to Tata Motors Limited as the Vice President (Finance) and was instrumental in the hugely successful turnaround of Tata Motors. Including the cross-border acquisitions like Daewoo of South Korea and Incat Technologies of the UK.
 
A very interesting story related to the successful turnaround emerged last year from Mr Kadle, while speaking at an award ceremony.
 
Tata Motors was in a bit of trouble after it’s fledgling car business did not take off as planned. The hatchback Tata Indica was launched and received a poor response, as a consequence, the company wanted to sell off the passenger car division. Ford showed interest and invited a team from Tata to visit them in their headquarters at Detroit. What followed was an extremely unsavoury incident, Ford officials were extremely dismissive of Tata’s ability to make cars and arrogant about their own prowess. They informed the Tata officials that Ford would be doing them a favour by buying Tata’s passenger car division.
 
It’s no surprise that the Tata team was deeply offended and decided to fly back to New York the same evening. Not long after this incident, within a decade, Ford found itself in a bit of a situation themselves and had to sell off their marquee brands, Jaguar and Land Rover. And who would help them out of the situation by buying these two brands? A now successfully turned around Tata Motors of course. Poetic Justice!

From Pint to Print!

Ever had a grouse about a (Red) Grouse? Well, Sir Hugh Beaver did. Sir Beaver wasn’t quite convinced whether the Red Grouse was the fastest game bird in Europe. You see, he had been out hunting that afternoon and the hunting party had missed a few Golden Plovers; his argument therefore, was that the Plover was the faster of the two birds in Europe.
 
As arguments over drinks tend to go – as he realised must be regular case in pubs all round Britain and Ireland – for ever, he soon accepted that there was no definitive solution to this, in the sense of a published reference. And so on, November 10th, 1951, a magnificent thought occurred to him; all because his hunting expedition in the North Slob, by the River Slaney in County Wexford, Ireland earlier that day was slightly unsuccessful.
That evening at Castlebridge House, a revelation dawned upon him that, a book that researches and chronicles such details would really come in handy to settle such arguments and therefore, might prove pretty successful.
 
Was he right about it or was he right! He was at that point, the managing director of a famous brewery – somewhat legitimising his concerns for drunk debates – and so proposed the idea of compiling such a book. (Sir) Christopher Chataway (Olympian, television broadcaster, politician) had just graduated Oxford and was at this point employed in the same company. Sir Chataway heard of the idea and suggested the services of his university friends, fellow sprinters, twins and proprietors of a fact finding agency in London. Norris and Ross McWhirter.
 
And so, history was written, at 107 Fleet Street, London. The brothers employed a curious method to collecting information – “When writing to an expert they did not ask for a direct bit of information, but stated a fact that they figured might be close enough to being right and asked the expert to correct it” – “We found that people who have a total resistance to giving information often have an irresistible desire to correct other people’s impressions”
 
The first 198 page edition was ready on 27th August 1955 and was soon topping best seller lists in the UK and the USA. A book that lists records, curiously holds the record for the world’s best selling copyright book ever.
 
Something that began as a debate over drinks is such a huge marketing success that (arguably) more people know of the book than the parent brewery. The story literally went from a pint to print (different pronunciations not withstanding); what a difference an added letter can make to history!
 
Sir Hugh Beaver, engineer, industrialist, and founder of the Guinness Book of Records!
 
PS: For the record, it was the Red Grouse which was faster.

Battle of the Colas!

This is the story of two ancient superpowers and a rivalry that began at the turn of the last century. And by ancient we mean just a bit more than a hundred years.
 
Theirs has always been a game of one-upmanship, a cutthroat competition that though began in the early decades of the last century, really reached its peak after the second world war. The worst decades of the discord were in the last few decades of the 1900s and although it never spilled out into an all out war, it has always threatened to.
 
Considering the influence of these superpowers around the world, most countries have been affected or somehow have been part of the conflict, from India to Latin America. The Twenty First century have seen the rivalry wane a bit, but ever so slightly. The undercurrents are still very palpable.
 
Most of you might have read about this rivalry – given a two word name; first, a four letter word beginning with C and the second a synonym strife. You guessed it right, we are writing about the (in)famous Cola Wars.
 
The tough rivalry between Pepsi and Coca Cola has its roots from the early days – Coke actually had coke (the other, not too legal anymore kind) as an ingredient and though both were initially marketed as healthy drinks, Pepsi presented itself as the healthier option of the two. The decades long tensions, exploded when Pepsi unveiled the Taste Test. Getting volunteers to blind taste the two drinks, Pepsi claimed a moral victory when it was chosen by most tasters as the better drink. Coke messed up by launching the New Coke, almost as a direct consequence of the taste tests and it was widely criticised. Coke went back to ‘Classic Coke’ and Pepsi claimed the episode a decisive victory.
 
The Cola Wars are most infamous for their mutually targeted comparative advertising and have been fought everywhere from your television screens to even space!

2 Must-Reads for Marketers/Advertisers

Some people sell things. Marketers and advertisers also change things for the better.

If you keep this basic tenet in mind, branding is going to be a cinch. You will find yourself designing campaigns that endure, leave an impression, drive not only sales but also add value for your customers and to society.

Think of brands like Nike, Lifebuoy, Amul, Coca Cola, Apple, Dabur and Google. They’re brands that have endured because they have created value.

If you want to be a master marketer/advertiser, you must get your basics right. For that you need a strong foundation and reading the following books in the conjunction is a lethal idea.

  1. Principles of Marketing – Philip Kotler & Gary Armstrong

The building blocks of marketing! If you place an order for this book, ensure that it’s the latest edition updated for mobile, digital and social media marketing.

While there are many dissenters who claim that this book is a tad dated, Principles of Marketing continues to serve as the Bible for marketers all over the globe. Armed with the knowledge provided in this book, you will never go wrong with your basics.

Based on the overarching idea of creating value for the customers, the massive popularity of this book is testimony to its effectiveness. This book will teach you how to create socially responsible and consumer driven campaigns by analyzing the market environment and gaining valuable customer insight. It will also give you insights on how to position and consolidate your brand.

  1. Hey Whipple Squeeze This – Luke Sullivan

This book is one of the holy grails of advertising, especially for the ones in the creative departments. Written by ace copywriter Luke Sullivan, this book is a fun and light read about communication, creativity, branding, marketing and advertising.

If you’re wondering about the title, it’s a tribute to Mr. Whipple, a ridiculous mascot who drove record sales for Charmin, an American toilet paper brand.

The tribute is not a positive one. Mr. Whipple was popular no doubt, but he was also voted as one of television’s most annoying characters. Somehow, his annoying presence created a strong impression that drove sales for the brand. But Mr. Whipple’s arguably counterproductive branding has been likened by the author, to spitting on the table and grabbing the attention of a board of executive – it grabs the attention, but it doesn’t create value. That’s whats post-liberalization me-too brands do.

The book also sheds light upon the life in the advertising work environment and exposes the awkward sibling rivalry between marketers and creatives; it educates you about many of the nuances of branding through beautiful analogies and fun anecdotes. You’ll learn about campaign designing from Sullivan’s analysis of various successful and unsuccessful campaigns, like 7 Up’s de-positioning of Coke in the consumer’s minds, by positioning itself as the “Uncola”, or Mr. Whipple’s branding failure, etc.

Marketers often have to work in capacity as advertisers and vice versa. And these books are the perfect combination for a strong foundation.

No, I am your advert.

This is a wonderfully funny and touching advert. It is not just hilarious but has a brilliant reference and is sprinkled with a tinge of nostalgia.
 
KISS FM is a radio channel and it is important to note that their business isn’t audio cassettes, their business is songs and by extension, entertainment and this advert wonderfully covers both.
 
The advert makes it evident that songs have been eternal, the device has changed. That before there were this generation’s iPods there were audio cassettes. The advert adds this nostalgia which is sure to appeal to anyone who has grown up in the audio cassette area.
 
Adding to this is is the brilliant Star Wars reference. The background and the colour scheme brings a striking resemblance to Darth Vader and the caption is a direct reference to his famous (mis)quote; “Luke, I am your father.” (The actual quote is; “No, I am your father.”)
 
Advertising like this appeals to such a wide range of audience, all while bringing a smile to the reader’s face.

Top Placement!

You are young and impressionable and stumble upon the film with the coolest characters; the handsome and confident lead, the equally fearless frenemy and the strong, beautiful heroine. The hero does things his way, rides a bike, flies a fighter jet and romances his instructor. Top Gun was the epitome of cool for the generation when it was released.
 
Tom Cruise won a million hearts, Val Kilmer and Kelly McGills a million oohs and aahs. Maverick and Iceman were as cool flying jets as they were playing volleyball. Any youngster who watches the film for the first time is sure to be taken in by the uber-coolness of the entire story.
 
A huge part of that ‘coolness’ can be traced to the leather jackets and more importantly the stylish Ray Ban Aviators. A fact backed by statistics – the sales of Aviator sunglasses rose by 40 per cent in the seven months following the release of the movie.
 
The other thing that the film did was to increase interest in the US Navy – the number of young men, who wanted to be Navy aviators, went up by 500 per cent – and the US Navy actually set up recruitment booths outside the theatres. The producer, John Davis, stated that “Top Gun was a recruiting video for the Navy. It really helped their recruiting. People saw the movie and said, ‘Wow! I want to be a pilot.’”
 
We have two words for the amazing marketing success of the Navy as well as Aviators riding along the success of the film; Top Placement!

Real Estate to Plumbing and Mushrooms

This gentleman here, M Seagle, is an American businessman and Real Estate developer and has been involved in numerous projects since the 1950s in the Seattle area. He owned a private asphalt construction business which he sold off in 1998 to the Irish concern CRH plc, for integration into its Oldcastle Materials unit.

But his legacy comes from the time in 1981 when he had rented out one of his warehouses to a company, to use as their American headquarters. The company, at the time, was struggling for a bit, and therefore got behind on their rent payment. They were however confident that their latest offering waiting for release would really do well in the American market.

Seagle, nevertheless, wasn’t too happy about the late rent payments and paid the company a visit, there was a heated argument and in the end, the company’s America President, managed to placate him with a promise that the rent would be paid soon. And this was the meeting that sealed Seagle’s legacy.

The company in question was Nintendo, their latest release was going to be Donkey Kong and the meeting/argument with M Seagle gave them the inspiration for their lead character’s name.

The Italian plumber/adventurer, who is forever told that his princess is in another castle, and is probably addicted to hallucinogenic mushrooms, is named after MARIO Seagle.

And if you haven’t watched it already, check out the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, dressed up as Mario in the Closing Ceremony of the Rio Olympics, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_Kj2mPIp1I here at this link.

When The US Wins, McDonald’s Loses!

We wrote about the 84 Olympics yesterday, and today we are writing about the marketing misadventure that went along with it.

McDonald’s went all-in with their sponsorship of the Games and announced the “If the US win, you win” campaign. Customers got scratch cards with an event printed on them and if an US athlete won a medal in that event, the card holder got a free Big Mac or fries or a Coke depending on whether it was Gold, Silver or bronze.

The only slight problem was that McDonald’s based their campaign on the the US’s medal count from their last participated Games – 76 Montreal – the US had boycotted the 80 Moscow Games because of Cold War tensions. The US had won 94 medals in the Montreal Games, of which 34 were Gold. But the top two nations in that Olympics was Russia and East Germany.

Now the slight problem was that after the Moscow boycott, Eastern Bloc nations responded in kind and missed the Los Angeles Games. Which meant that in the absence of Russia and East Germany, US won far more medals than McDonald’s had expected – 174 medals with 83 Golds.

Apparently many outlet ran out of Big Macs and obviously McDonald’s made a huge loss. The Simpsons episode, Lisa’s First Word references this entire fiasco, where Krusty beings the promotion for Krusty Burger.

Los Angeles 1984: The Olympics That Financially Changed the Games!

Los Angeles 1984 went a long way in securing the future of Olympic Games. It was and still is the most financially profitable Games. After the disaster that the Montreal Games were, in monetary terms, no other city was willing to bid for the Olympics. Tehran, the only other city to have bid, pulled out because of political concerns. New York and Los Angeles were interested but since only one city from each country can bid, the decision basically came down to the US Olympic Committee’s choice. Los Angeles won the vote and went on to create history.
The biggest factor in favour of Los Angeles was the disinterest of other cities, a fact that Los Angeles leveraged and decided against building any new facilities thus avoiding huge expenditure. The second thing that Los Angeles did uniquely was securing corporate sponsorship for the only two facilities that were built from scratch. The Olympic Velodrome and the Olympic Swim Stadium were largely funded by 7-Eleven and McDonald’s. The third thing that secured the Games financially also kind of set a precedent for future sporting events – the burgeoning broadcast rights prices.
Since most of these contracts were signed well in advance of the Games, Los Angeles found itself in a position where they could make a better and more financially profitable plan. This resulted in a $200 million profit and the most financially successful Games in history. What’s more, this success renewed interest from other cities for hosting the Games and other future sporting events. The Los Angeles Games also set a precedent on how to run an event and make a profit out of it.
The Los Angeles Games still remains the model on how to run a Sporting event successfully as well as profitably and how to leave a lasting legacy of the Games; The Olympic Committee led by Peter Ueberroth used some of the profits to endow the LA84 Foundation to promote youth sports in Southern California, educate coaches and maintain a sports library. Despite the politically motivated boycott by some Eastern Bloc nations, the Los Angeles Games remain as a positive watermark in the history of the Olympics assembled on a platform of conservative, non extravagant but intelligent spending backed by intelligent corporate partnerships, well planned sponsorship deals and pre sold broadcast rights.

Financial Legacy of the Montreal Olympics

The Olympics are in your town, that’s gotta be great, right. Except, Montreal may not agree with you. You see, 1976 Montreal Olympics was a disaster, in terms of the business of sport. The city was still paying for the event in 2006. Thirty years, thirty years is what it took to pay for the Olympics. Add to that the stunted legacy of the Olympic stadium. You just don’t build a stadium so that the world can be impressed for about a month or so. There needs to be a legacy, what happens to stadium after the event? There’s always a plan, this particular one was to hand it over to the Montreal Expos baseball club but with a dysfunctional retractable roof and the huge capacity of the stadium coupled with low attendances meant that the transition from Olympic venue to a profit making sports facility did not happen.

The other thing that happened around the same time was the political rise of the French speaking Parti Québécois, who made legislations strengthening the status of the French speaking majority of the state; consequently driving away the majority of English speakers away from Quebec. This, in turn led to the economic prominence of Toronto, the capital of Ontario – where most of these people migrated to – at the expense of Montreal and Quebec. This affected the economy and although the Olympics weren’t to be directly blamed for this decline, the financial stress on the city wasn’t helping. Remember, these were times when benefits from sporting events were calculated more on prestige and honour of being the host and less on economic terms.

The Olympic Stadium, nicknamed, “The Big O” in reference to its doughnut shape was soon cheekily being referred to as “The Big Owe”, considering that the city had to pay about $1.6 billion (Canadian, which took them thirty years to pay off. The stadium still doesn’t have a permanent tenant and hosts just some individual games of the Montreal Alouettes the Montreal Impact.

The first Olympics to be financially successful was the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, eight years after Montreal.

 

 

 

 

 

Social Proof!

Remember, as a kid, when you tried to justify something you shouldn’t have done by saying that all the other kids were doing it too. And your mom’s response was, “agar tere dost kunwein mein ja kudegenge, toh tu bhi kudega?”

Well turns out you are very likely to jump into the well along with your friends. And what’s more, marketeers know this truth and use this every day. The fancy term is ‘social proof’.

In non childhood analogy terms, social proof is influencing you withinformation about your social environment, sometimes subtle, sometimes, blatant. And where do you experience this? Everywhere!

Did you read that restaurant review on Zomato before deciding on a place last weekend? Did the Amazon review influence your choice of trainers? Were you not sure what you wanted to watch last evening and Netflix suggested something based on your watch history? Did you buy that book because it was on the New York Times bestseller list? Did you bet on Chelsea because the expert analytics of Bet365 suggested that they are more likely to win?

If you did all that then congratulations, you just experienced social proofing. (Also, we earnestly hope, you are not betting on sports).

Social Proof may be of five categories

1. Experts – Approval from credible experts in the relevant field, like the bet365 analogy up there.

2. Celebrities – Approval or endorsements from celebrities (paid or unpaid), like the time Mark Zukerberg happened to post about the iGrill and their website crashed because of the number of hits. Mind you, this was unpaid, and the iGrill people didn’t even know that Mark Zukerberg was a customer.

3. Users – Approval from current/past users (ratings, reviews and testimonials). Usually reliable, unless it’s Rotten Tomatoes writing about DC films 😉

‘4. Wisdom of crowds’ – Approval from large groups of other people. Why, according to rivals, Manchester United has so many fans.

5. Peers – Approval from friends and people you know. Why you accepted that ‘black and white photo’ Facebook challenge.

Now you know how simple psychology can be used for marketing!

The Viral Witch Project

Remember The Blair Witch Project? The film released in 1999 but the rumours started in 1998 and it certainly wasn’t limited to American audiences. School kids were talking about how this was a true story and how disturbing it was.
 
For those of you who need a reminder, The Blair Witch Project was this found footage documentary style horror film, about three film students. These kids set out to produce a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch and so travel to Maryland to interview the locals as well as investigate the mystery. This, according to the film, happens in 1994.
 
Nothing is heard of them since until about a year later, their recording equipment is found from which the film is pieced together. It’s all very mysterious and disturbing but it would have been just another horror film, if not for the amazing marketing.
 
Remember, the internet, at this point in human history was still in it’s nascent stage, still not as universal as it is now and most importantly, neither YouTube nor Facebook existed. A fact that both helped as well as severely challenged the marketing of the film. It’s super easy to go viral these days, spend enough money and/or enough effort on content and you are all over social media in no time but then, people also have access to numerous sources to verify your claims.
 
It’s all the more remarkable then that The Blair Witch Project was and still is, the most successful viral marketing campaign that used the internet, especially when, the internet was so much more limited. It all started with the film website, which gave the story behind the witch as well as a constant update on the rumours and a detailed section on the ‘lost’ students.
 
IMDb helped, the actors were listed as missing or presumed dead and the low budget trailers, shown mostly in college campuses along with a strict avoidance of mainstream advertising created a sense of curiosity and discovery. The masterstroke was a limited release, only twenty seven screens, creating the impression that this was a difficult ticket to get hold of, drumming in the idea that you cannot afford to miss out along with a full-page ad in Variety Magazine, simply noting the website and the number of hits to date: 21,222,589. It was a simple call to action – you can’t afford to miss out; social proof is one of the strongest marketing tactics there is.
 
The film which was made on an estimated $25k plus another million on marketing grossed about a million and a half on the opening weekend and ultimately reeled in over $248 million at the Box Office, the second highest return on investment of any film. Despite advances in modern cinema and much deeper pockets in today’s film industry, not a single independent film has come close to that campaign.
 
Obviously the actors wren’t dead and obviously it wasn’t based on a true story but the marketing campaign that went viral is now part of history, more than, even the success of the film.
 
And that kids is how you use the internet like a boss!
 

The Story of the two Italians – Ferruccio and Enzo

Ferruccio was a born to a family of grape farmers in Northern Italy. During the war, he was stationed at the island of Rhodes and quickly earned himself a reputation for repairing army vehicles with whatever parts were available.
 
After the war, his interest and expertise led him to set up a small car and motorcycle repair shop. Until he realised that post war Italy, devoted to agricultural and industrial revitalization, was in desperate need of tractors and so he started assembling tractors. Demands for his tractors grew and he started manufacturing the engines as well before venturing out into heaters and air conditioners.
 
Ferruccio’s growing fortune and an interest in cars meant that he bought himself a variety of expensive fast cars. The more brands he bought, the more disappointed he was with their performance and frustrated by the problems, Ferruccio decided to travel (not too far) to meet one of the manufacturers and to bring his misgiving’s to the founder’s attention.
 
The founder, a certain man named Enzo, was an extremely important and busy man, as well as a very proud man, dismissed Ferruccio as an ordinary tractor maker. Ferruccio didn’t take the incident very kindly and realised that there was nothing that Enzo was doing that he couldn’t do better. So he resolved to make better high performance cars without compromising tractability, ride quality and interior appointments.
 
His interest in a particular sport as well as his zodiac sign influenced his choice of logo for his new automobile brand, a charging bull or a Taurus which contrasted well with his rival Enzo’s logo, a rampant black stallion on a yellow field.
 
Oh, some readers might better recognise these two automobile makers by their last names, Ferruccio Lamborghini and Enzo Ferrari.

The Spirit of Love

Long ago there was this nobleman who was in love with a commoner, John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu (second Baron Montagu of Beaulieu) fell in love with his secretary Eleanor Velasco Thornton (Thorn). Theirs’ was a sad love story, which remained hidden and their courtship secret, until her death on board the SS Persia (torpedoed during the war) on their way to India, where the Baron was to assume command.

Baron Scott-Montagu could never marry Thorn because, he was already married but he wasn’t going to let the memory of his love fade away, he was going to immortalise her and how! Well, he was also an early pioneer of the automobile movement, and editor of The Car Illustrated magazine. His interest in cars and his solid financial status meant that he owned a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost and thus he asked his friend and sculptor, Charles Robinson Sykes, to design him a mascot for his Rolls Royce, in Eleanor’s image.

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And so he did; a female figurine in fluttering robes, one forefinger against her lips – to symbolize the secret of their love affair and he called it The Whisper and attached it on the bonnet of the Baron’s Rolls Royce, as his personal mascot. It is now on display at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu.

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Later, when Rolls Royce was concerned about the other, what they considered inappropriate mascots that owners were attaching to their cars, they also sought the help of Sykes to create for them a dignified and graceful mascot. The initial brief was to create the mascot in the image of the mythical beauty, Nike, but Sykes, who wanted a more feminine representation, turned to the image of Eleanor Thorn and he called the first model the Spirit of Speed. He later described it as “A graceful little goddess, the Spirit of Ecstasy, who has selected road travel as her supreme delight and alighted on the prow of a Rolls-Royce motor car to revel in the freshness of the air and the musical sound of her fluttering draperies.” And that is how the Spirit of Ecstasy name stuck. She is also called “Emily”, “Silver Lady” or “Flying Lady”.

Sykes also later made the lower, kneeling version, to give a clearer view to the driver, and the new ones, since 2003, are smaller yet, and retractable as a safety measure.

And that is how, Baron Scott-Montagu’s lady love was immortalised. Eleanor Velasco Thornton – The Spirit of Ecstasy.

 

Time as a motivating factor!

What motivates a person most? If you put your faith in Hollywood or Bollywood films, it’s always (not very insane) amounts of money. Characters, usually the evil ones, are willing to go through convoluted schemes (and the consequent danger of bodily harm) to get their hands on the prize – which more often than not is an amount that does not justify the risk.

Anyway, our point is that, outside of films, it’s rarely money that acts as the sole motivating factor. And that’s kind of the same with employees, while everyone thinks of earning in millions, people soon realise that money might not be the only thing in this world. Of course, it depends on individuals, but usually some of the other motivating factors are

  • Job profile
  • Job responsibility
  • Work environment
  • Relationship with colleagues
  • Scope for growth
  • Achievements and recognition
  • Supervision
  • Personal life
  • Time

We would, for the purpose of this opinion piece, like to focus on ‘Time’. Time is an often ignored factor. Companies have worked on the fixed time principle historically, you clock in, and you clock out and based on that you get paid. Obviously this system is historically rooted and that’s how most firms work. But how much time is a question that is rarely asked.

 

During the industrial revolution, when conditions ranged from ten to sixteen hour work days, six days a week, the eight hour day movement gained steam. And although the aim was to get a total of 40 hour per week, the actual conditions, in a lot of countries, almost two centuries later, remains none too better.

However, loads of companies and countries now understand the benefits of more flexible timing. Research has shown that happier employees improve productivity and it is pretty obvious that anyone who works above a certain amount of hours per week isn’t going to be too happy at her job. France has enacted a 35 hour week law besides, no work related calls or communication after 6pm to ensure that an employee’s free time is actually her. Some other companies prefer a more flexible approach, where they reward smart work over fixed timings.

More companies now have other recreational facilities, like gymnasiums, pool room, gaming rooms and such so that employees may take a break and be happy even while at work. Obviously, these frameworks may not be applicable to a lot of industries, like hospitals as an example. But even these industries, try to compensate for the long hours and not just in monetary terms.

The world is waking up to the importance of personal time of an employee, and it’s about time too. As more and more companies are realising, that a happy employee is a more loyal, focussed and productive employee.

Woman Power – From the Company Named After the Goddess of Victory.

Do you know these following women? Well, at least you know one? Deepika Padukone, right? Yes, she’s not really known as an athlete but she did play badminton once upon a time before venturing into acting. Her sister is a golfer, though and her father obviously was an accomplished badminton player.

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We digress; you must have seen them in the viral Da Da Ding (song by Gener8ion) video? But can you recognise the rest? You may be able to recognise Harampreet Kaur? The vice captain of the Indian cricket team, possibly Joshna Chinnappa too? She is amongst the top ten in the world in squash.

Well, here’s a list of who they are.

Joshna Chinappa: Squash player who is currently ranked 10th in the world.

JC

Rani Rampal: Member of the Indian women’s hockey team. She started playing for India at the age of 15.

RR

Ishita Malaviya: India’s first professional female surfer. That’s some achievement!

IM

Jyoti Ann Burrett: Footballer who plays for the Indian women’s team as a striker.

JAB

Jaie Bhadane: Model

Naina Mansukhani: Song writer and singer

Tanvie Hans: Footballer who plays for English club Fulham Ladies FC. Since she holds a British passport, she is barred from playing for India.

TH

Shwetha Subbiah: Personal trainer.

Gabriella Demetriades: South African model-turned-actor

Harmanpreet Kaur: Plays for the Indian women’s cricket team as an all-rounder. She is also the vice-captain. She’s also in the Big Bash.

HK

Smriti Mandhana: Opening batsman of the Indian women’s cricket team.

SMan

Shubhlakshmi Sharma: Plays for the Indian women’s cricket team as an all-rounder.

SShar

Shweta Hakke: Sprinter.

SH

 

 

Nike deserves all the good publicity for bringing these athletes to the nation’s attention. We are about a month away from the Olympics and many of these women would be there, some not. We even have a few women who are medal hopefuls; it is amazing that Nike decided to focus on these oft ignored athletes. It’s this sort of corporate encouragement that id needed for the women who represent our nation in their sport of choice.

Of course, Nike used a few non athletes, and of course they used a famous actress, but at least they got people talking and curious about the other sportswomen in the advert. If Nike didn’t use a ‘known’ face, maybe the advert would never go viral and people wouldn’t even notice the rest of the athletes. Kudos to Nike, for a trailblazing marketing campaign, that gave the long due limelight to our sporting heroines! And Nike as well, of course!

 

 

 

Pokémon Go (and get me more business)!

Pokémon, a media franchise that enamoured an entire generation of kids. And let’s face it, adults too. The franchise was created by Satoshi Tajiri in 1995 and was created as a pair of video games for Game Boy. It was then adapted into films and an animated series and has recently come a full circle with the launch of the augmented reality game, Pokémon Go.

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Pokémon Go is an example of the wonders of technology of the modern age. Everyone who watched Pokémon, dreamed of catching and training these pocket monsters (incidentally that’s where the name comes from. Romanisation of the Japanese Poketto Monsutā). The author remembers reading a post where someone suggested the exact idea of the game, a few years ago. Now, it’s quite possible that the makers had the idea themselves, while there’s also a faint possibility, that in this increasingly socially connected world, maybe someone at the right place got the idea from that post. If so, then Pokémon Go is so much more the result of a modern technology – socially connected world, realising their childhood dreams with the help of available technology.

Finally with the launch of Pokémon Go, many from that generation are getting to live their dream. Adults, mostly, are more excited than kids, with people actually taking longer routes or detours just to catch one in the area.  But, Pokémon Go is not just about realising a childhood dream, it’s also about commerce. Not just selling the game and in game products but the different opportunities that it offers.

There are something called Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops, and they are usually local landmarks and businesses. This provides an opportunity to local businesses and the game also offers something called the Lure Module, something that lures a Pokémon to your PokéStop for thirty minutes. Which means, if you are a business, you can use that to attract customers, like this museum here, which photographed the Pokémon and put them next to their various displays and then on their blog to get more people in or this clothing store here or like this clothing store here.

Clothing Store

Obviously there was going to be a negative and a recent report suggests that robbers used the game to lure unsuspecting victims in and then mug them. However, more businesses are getting inspired as well and are using the game, usually with some sort of Pokémon themed deliverable. Some businesses are also looking to apply as a PokéStop or a Pokémon Gym but as of now, these are predetermined locations by the developers. Although, it sure seems like an opportunity they’ll look into soon. Till then play Pokémon Go and get yourself some more business!

Marketing Managed: Jaguar solemnly swears to blow your mind!

Virtual Reality (VR) is the next big thing. It’s supposed to change the way you look at entertainment, quite literally! Watching the telly or gaming on your Playstation might be fun and immersive but wait till you strap on a headset and have an overwhelming experience of simulate reality. Check out some of the available videos on the net to have a vicarious feel of things, of course, you ain’t gonna feel it unless you actually use it.

And as with any new technology, companies and agencies are racing to incorporate it into their new age, hip and cool marketing. So did Jaguar, but with a twist.

The Jaguar F Type is a two seat sports car and at the Big Boys’ Toys Expo, Jaguar came up with an innovative and excellent campaign. The campaign won the creative agency behind it, Y&R New Zealand, four Lions at Cannes and amazing amounts of good PR for Jaguar.

Participants were asked to put on a VR headset and have a simulation experience of riding a F Type. Participants were absolutely blown away by the VR experience and then after their reactions were recorded, came the big reveal. The twist in the plot was that the VR headset was a decoy; they were actually taken for a ride. Pun very much intended. But a ride they enjoyed thoroughly!

As Jaguar puts it, sometimes Virtual Reality is no comparison for Actual Reality. And sometimes, marketing campaigns like these are no comparison to regular campaigns.

Check out the video on our Facebook Page!