Worthy Intentions. Unworthy Title


L’Oreal Paris, along with NDTV announced the 2016 Women of Worth Awards on March 28 2016.

Congratulations are in order to the nominees and the winners for the tremendous work in their respective fields. And recognition at a special felicitation ceremony, like the one put together on March 28, becomes a fitting tribute to their endeavour.

However, the Women of Worth Awards shows how a good brand strategy gets diminished with poor execution.


First, why is the award for women only? Okay, L’Oreal makes and sells beauty products for women. So they restricted their awards to women. Isn’t that obvious? Yes, but isn’t it also obvious, that when you connect only the dots that are obvious, it demonstrates poor vision? It’s a fantastic example of brand myopia. Of course men are worthy too and making the award gender-neutral would have done wonders for a brand that might be used by primarily by women, but whose results are seen, experienced and felt by men too.

Next, what is with “Worth”?

Simply trying to associate the title name with the L’Oreal brand tagline “Because you’re worth it” is not just poor communication strategy. It’s downright lazy.

So, what happens to the women who got nominated, but did not win? Unworthy? It’s obvious that the communication and brand teams did not look at ‘Worth’ from all angles.

Ideally, the over-arching title Award name should not have an antonym. Examples:

Distinguished Leadership Award
Endeavour Postgraduate Awards
John Maxwell Leadership Award

In the case of ‘Worth’, the “unworthy” connotations that come immediately at the subliminal level are too strong to be ignored.


While we were still grappling with the unworthiness of the award title, the event added to the dissonance. The lineup of film stars and beauty queens at the gala nite completely diluted the purpose and vision of the awards. What were Aishwarya Rai, Katrina Kaif, Mandira Bedi and Sonam Kapoor doing there, other than making fashion/style statements, taking selfies and posing with their hands on hips?

While the line up of panelists to discuss the larger issue of women and their struggles was impressive, the core of the discussion was once again about ‘gender inequality’. The discussion was peppered with the usual suspect phrases “We, the Unequal”, “it’s time men listen to women”, “sports is a male bastion”and so on. The only sensible observation came from author and columnist Suhel Seth when he said – “There is no such thing as inequality. We live in individual silos. Sometimes activism around gender is the biggest hurdle in the way of gender neutrality.”

The opportunity to make the event really unique and memorable was tremendous. By not reducing it to a gender bias and female victory, and simply celebrating the achievement, L’Oreal and NDTV would have catapulted the award to new levels of aspiration for men and women. To dare, to dream and to do.

L’Oreal ‘Women of Worth’ Awards in partnership with NDTV is an example of perfect intentions going awry with poor brand vision and even poorer communication strategy. The powerful stories of those wonderful women got lost somewhere because some communication managers lost sight of the overall narrative.




The Power of Personalisation

As I swung my car into the driveway, our security guard ran up to hand me a thick manila envelope that had arrived by courier. The year was 2010.

I drew out a red cover on which was printed – “Wishing you a Happy New Year”. Inside was a desk calendar. The first leaf had an image of a neon light, on the front facade of a cinema house. The words said – “Now showing Guru. Premier Tonight. Azra Fathima in a Leading Role.”


“What’s this?” I was confused. And then, as I flipped through each leaf, I smiled. The smile and the wow grew bigger with each turn of the leaf.

Using a simple, time-tested formula, Airtel had reinforced the power of brand personalisation. Every calendar month had my name etched, glorified, immortalised in a series of well thought out
messages and complementing pictures.


Even as a dyed-in-the-wool marketing professional, I responded and reacted just like any other customer – absolute delight!

The warm glow of brand loyalty did not stop with me – softly, but surely spreading to my 11-year old, who has been showing off the calendar to just about anyone who’s been visiting home. No prizes again for guessing what will be her first choice, or at least the first brand in her consideration, when she starts to go mobile.


If the timing of sending this calendar has been part of the strategy, (and not a horribly gone wrong design-print-production delay), then it is brilliant. No one expects a calendar in April! Airtel combined the oddity of the timing with the awesome power of personalization. It’s precious, everlasting and forever. And it’s going to replace the nicest desktop calendar on my table.

Personalisation and customisation are age-old
and revered laws of marketing.
However, its implementation is a labour of love.
You have to be in love with the customer,
the recipient of your message, the person you love!
But first, you’ll have to take yourself out. When you do that and put the recipient in the centre of everything you want to say,
your brand, your message and ultimately – you, will be loved.
Paradoxical, but true.


Brand personalisation i.e., brand to customer / company to customer is not easy.

But personalising a message for a loved one i.e., person to person – whether a simple birthday wish, a congratulatory message or a difficult letter, is even more difficult.

Personalising a message for a loved one
requires an intimate understanding of the context
and the skill of a diamond-cutter

to present the ultimate message that touches the heart and soul.