Six reasons why your greeting cards and notes should be deeply personalised

You have got a lovely card, gift or bunch of flowers to celebrate a special occasion.

What about a special note to go with them? Most probably, you might have settled for a standard message that thousands of others have already used.

Personalisation does not only mean adding the recipient’s name to a card or a standard message. It means taking the time out to write and convey things that are deeply relevant to the person receiving the note, card or message.

Here are six reasons why you should invest in writing a personalised message for a special person and occasion:

1. Your personalised message is unique and therefore only one of its kind exists. Can there be a better reason than this?

2. Its value will multiply a thousand times because the recipient will know that your message has not been picked off the Internet or duplicated. It tells the person receiving it that you have invested a lot of time and care in crafting it.

3. Words are forever. Long after the flowers have dried, the candles have been blown out and the cake has been cut, the beauty of words will stay. They will immortalise the occasion and create lasting memories.

4. In the age of mobile phones, abbreviated text messages and vastly identical gifts and notes, a deeply personalised message will be cherished for its originality and genuineness.

5. Businesses are investing heavily in customised outreach to clients. Why shouldn’t you do the same for your personal relationships? The people who are most important to you in this world – your family and friends – also deserve custom-crafted messages.

6. A beautiful card or stationery that carries a generic message will become ordinary and runs the risk of being discarded. A handwritten note will increase in value and meaning when the words are written exclusively for the person receiving it. So ideally you should think about a custom-crafted message even before you get it handwritten or printed on a beautiful piece of stationery.

Next time you resort to writing a generic message, remember that it will dilute the depth of your feelings and make your note ordinary and forgettable.

Get a personalised message written today and experience the depth of your feelings come alive. 

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It’s a new year. But the fundamentals of blog writing will not change

The need for content will remain unabated, as people will continue to seek information, data, news, views and insights.

Subject matter experts will make domain knowledge more accessible than ever.

As you strive to share knowledge and insights, keep these classic rules of writing handy.

Demystify

The subject can be complex. But your writing shouldn’t be.

Whatever the topic may be, the most important reason why you are writing is to be understood.

Avoid unnecessary jargon and metaphors. Check if you can replace complicated words with simpler ones. For example, in this blog, we wrote, “it’s best to adopt neutral words and phrases” instead of “it’s best to adopt culture-agnostic words and phrases”.

Don’t be vague.

Ask what the reader wants to know and how best you can convey it.

Respect cultural and geographical sensitivities

Context matters.

Remember J K Rowling’s first book? The title “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was replaced with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for the US market. It was done because the publishers felt that American children would be less comfortable with “philosopher”.

Check if words used in your blog resonate with a particular audience, geography or culture. When writing for a global audience, it’s best to use neutral words and phrases.

However, if you are writing for a specific country and if it is important that they relate to your writing, then make sure that your vocabulary and spellings reflect that.

And don’t forget, it’s equally or more important to research what’s not okay or taboo for certain cultures or geographies.

The three golden rules

One: Keep sentences short

This has been said before and we’ll say it again. Irrespective of the length of the blog, sentences should be concise.

A long read requires sharp writing. Findings from the 3rd Annual Survey of 1000+ Bloggers from Orbit Media Studios show that the length of a blog has increased over the years. Readers prefer 800 to 1,200 words articles that can showcase substance and depth. 

If blogs are going to be long, it is imperative that sentences should be short.  Short sentences make it easier to assimilate information and insights.

Two: Avoid long paragraphs

Paragraphs are built to focus on a particular thought, theme, idea or argument. Ideally, a paragraph should not have more than four sentences.

However, more blog writers are resorting to single-sentence paragraphs.

Orthodox writers will argue that a sentence cannot be a paragraph. That would be an oxymoron!

However, one could look at it as a technique where a paragraph is being deliberately deconstructed into single sentences to achieve a distinct style of writing and to hold the reader’s attention.

It could also be driven by the fact that mobile reading has increased. Writers want to avoid paragraphs that look exceptionally long on the average mobile screen.

Read more about paragraphs here by the University of Leicester.

Three: Write in active voice, but don’t junk passive voice altogether

As a rule, write in active voice. It allows for succinct and clear sentences.

Passive voice has its uses too. It works well if you are looking to heighten emphasis for the subject receiving the action. Also, when you are unable to or don’t need to mention the doer, then passive voice comes in handy.

Include links

Provide links generously to attribute source of data, quotes, information or insights. Readers will be grateful for pointers to additional reading. It also adds immensely to the credibility of your piece.

Follow best practices in proofreading

If you treat proofreading as a routine, last minute exercise, your writing will run the risk of errors and show your blog in poor light.

There is a method and discipline to proofreading and it pays to follow it rigorously. Read about best practices in proofreading here.

For more tips and techniques, follow us on twitter.

 

The speeches of Philadelphia – powerful messages of equality & humanity

What an amazing week of speeches it has been.

As I blogger and speechwriter, I drooled and envied and applauded the speeches, their writers and the people who delivered them with such grace and sincerity.

These speeches, they weren’t mere election rhetoric.

They inspired and put faith back in people’s hearts to where it belonged.

They touched people across nations and gave them hope. For their own people and their own situations.

They were powerful messages of equality, of humanity and of togetherness; of the need for restraint and equally of being able to take a stand; of leaving something back for our children and being role models for them; of decency and generosity; of courage and grace and optimism.

These speeches were not just about America.

They did not just inspire and touch a nation.

When people saw whites and people of Anglo-Saxon and Caucasian origin cheering and crying during the speeches of First Lady Michelle and President Obama, you knew that people across the world are just as good.

That the human race, across nations, will go beyond race, colour, class and caste.

That the whites will take a stand for blacks; and the blacks will fight for the whites; that Christians will support the Moslems; and Moslems will be friends with Hindus; that Hindus will help Christians and Moslems will weep for the Sikhs and that the Sikhs will always support a noble cause.

And that everyone will help and pray and take a stand for everyone who is down.

Acrimony and terror and the hate mongering may have made people cringe and withdraw and be in doubt.

And the wolves may have cashed in on fear, to divide people on race, colour, class and caste.

But the speeches of Philadelphia helped to remind and reinforce that good will prevail over bad. Not just in America, but across continents and countries.

And for that reminder, speechwriters, go on, take a bow!

References:

First Lady of the US, Michelle Obama full speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 2016

President of the United States, Barack Obama full speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 2016

Democratic Presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton full speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 2016

Father of deceased Muslim US soldier, Khizr Khan full speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 2016

Note from the author:
This post may also appear on other third party websites, including the author’s personal blog page. The post may be subject to edits as per the discretion of the third party websites.

Leadership Lessons from Master Chef Australia

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I have been watching Master Chef Australia for about five years now and it never fails to touch a chord. It is much more than a cooking reality show. While it does celebrate food, flavor, culinary skills, technique and presentation, it also packs in more lessons.

Watch how Gary, Matt and George don their roles as coaches and mentors and provide unmistakable lessons for leadership.

Cooking
When the participants are cooking and racing against time, the trio steps in to provide that bit of valuable advice or to flag-off a potential cooking disaster. It is always done professionally and is always about the skill, technique, ingredient, speed and never about the person.
Take-Away for leaders:
Don’t wait till appraisal time to provide inputs or comments. Be involved, observe carefully and ensure you don’t set your team up for failure.

Tasting
This is leadership in action! Watch every tasting ceremony and see how sensitivity, compassion and objectivity become the core values of an ‘appraisal’ or ‘review’. When the participant places the dish for the ultimate test of tasting, the judges’ body language and expression is neither condescending nor critical. The first remark, whatever the outcome would be, is always positive like –“Wow! That looks good”.

When the stakes are high, especially in an elimination round, every tasting is preceded with a personal conversation – “what’s driving you?”, “how did you do today?”, “is something bothering you?”. There’s so much empathy that is demonstrated, especially with the participant who has struggled the most or whose dish is showing problems.

We see expert, incisive knowledge as the basis of observations and comments. Even though the viewers aren’t tasting the dish, we know exactly what went right or awry with the flavour, technique or ingredient. No personal biases come in the way.

Take-Away for leaders:
Demonstrate deep domain knowledge and let objectivity and fairness ride supreme. This way the candidate is completely enrolled in your evaluation and respects the decision. And don’t fake the personal conversation. Insincerity is always detected.

Scoring
The judges clearly spell out reasons for their score and you can’t fault their verdict.  The good points are unfailingly highlighted, along with the poor ones. In a close tie, the ultimate parameters are flavor and balance. Presentation, hard work, team spirit all get their due. But when its down to the last crumb and every dish is a visual treat, then it is all about the core value – how did the food taste.

Take-Away for leaders:
Let your employee know exactly the reason behind your scores and always align performance to the ultimate objective or core value of the role/project.

Elimination
This is when the participant with the lowest score gets eliminated from the show. And how! The best moments are showcased, strengths and achievements are celebrated and the participant is reminded of his/her goal or dream.

What’s beautiful is that much after the elimination, the last frame tells the viewers about the participant’s current journey and success – “We wish you well”, “We know you’ll do well” “We’ll look out for you”.

Take-Away?

About the author:

Azra Fathima is a communication expert. In her own words –

“I architect highly coherent strategies that help organisations and teams to move from an idea to a successful, repeatable and sustainable outcome.

While leading strategic and global marketing (focus on US, UK and India) in multinational companies across technology and related industries, I have also instituted landmark initiatives and strategic properties that are supported with robust implementation plans. These have helped organisations to make quantum leaps in their stated objectives.

My core competencies include communication; writing; organisational strategy; marketing strategy; brand transformation; messaging; content strategy; content management, demand generation and high operational efficiency.

I love writing and am featured among HuffPost’s signature lineup of contributors for their blog page.”

For more, please read here – https://in.linkedin.com/in/azrafathima

How unique! Everyone has a differentiator

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 3.01.29 pmYOU have set up a new business or a new practice within your existing business.

You think you have something unique to offer.

You find out that:

EVERYONE ELSE has a “differentiator”. And almost everyone has proof points.

YOUR PROSPECTS do not look at your offering as unique.

THE CHALLENGE IS NOT about getting initial customer attention.

THE CHALLENGE IS about breaking their resistance to buy into your story.

IT’S WHERE sales and marketing folks struggle most – to be seen, and to be heard.


“I’ll see it when I believe it”

The battleground for getting customer / investor attention has shifted. It’s at a treacherous paradigm called “I’ll see it when I believe it”.

Clients/prospects/investors on the other side are surveying hundreds of offerings, promises and differentiators.

To them everything looks the same. That’s the single biggest reason for the stubborn mindset – “I’ll see it when I believe it.”

Communication managers have a real opportunity here to take control and change the filters through which the narrative is being viewed. And it goes beyond clever headlines, enthralling graphics and creative content.

Design thinking for communication

We can have the best innovation designed in our labs.

But how do we get our prospects to have a conversation about it?

It’s only logical that innovation in communication follows innovation in product and process.

When applied to communication, design thinking will transform the way we navigate and get in front of the customers; to get their attention and to get their active participation in our narrative.


Five key attributes of design thinking for communication

Listening is everything

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”  – Larry King

It’s not a new rule and it will never go away.

Executive interviews, client questions, prospect objections, conversations, data, analytics, observations – everything contributes to valuable insights. Teams should place themselves at the intersection of their organisation and the client and listen keenly to both ends of the spectrum – the client end and the organisation end. Design thinking begins here.


“Your problem”, “your customers”, “your outcomes”

Despite all the focus, when it comes to communication, most websites, emails, presentations and collateral will reveal a routine disregard for customer centricity.

Clients may not come knocking on the door, asking for a solution. But the truth is they are looking for answers to their problems.

Nothing can change the deep cynicism that sets in when the communication landscape continues to be littered with stereotype phrases like “our solution”, “our methodology”, “our process”, “our differentiator”, “our success” and “why us”.

Customer-centricity needs to move from being the rhetoric of an annual strategy meet to real action in every sphere of the business.

It takes immense courage and conviction to break away from the focus on “us” to “you”.

In marketing, we hear the oft-repeated phrase “does it resonate?” In design thinking, the first principle is empathy.

When there is empathy, communication will resonate. Empathy also means deep customisation of the communication plan that endeavours to address the client concerns.


Ask the right questions

The process of design thinking requires us to ask questions that will evoke compelling answers leading to a persuasive and well-founded communication plan. Examples:

  • Question: What information do we have about the client/prospect
    Change to: What is the prospect mindset?
  • Question: How do we showcase our value proposition?
    Change to: What is the client’s biggest problem?
  • Question: What communication channels do we use?
    Change to: Where, when and how will the client want to see the communication?
  • Question: What call for action should we include?
    Change to: How can we get the client to be excited to have meaningful conversations?


Don’t tell. Show

That golden rule is not just for book writers. It’s where social media has already gone – Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Pinterest and even Twitter.

Visual, tactile and tangible outputs have an incredible impact on storytelling.

Watch the Volvo Trucks video of the Epic Split Feat by Van Damme, Live Test here  and see how spectacular cinematography, a minimal but powerful narrative and haunting music come together in a riveting video that demonstrates the stability and precision of Volvo dynamic steering.

So little said; but so much conveyed in just one minute and 17 seconds.

It went viral on YouTube with nearly 68 million views.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Volvo Truck sales rose 31 percent in November 2013. An email or a page on the website wouldn’t have done that.

Communication teams will need to work with design, engineering, analytics, technology, operations and digital marketing teams to integrate message with channel and create narratives that will defy stubborn mindsets.

White boarding with simple sketches and patterns to design the communication journey is a great place to start.


Call to converse – A different kind of call to action

A call to action can no longer be asking the client to reply with an appointment, download a brochure, make a call, view a film, fill a form or scan a QR code.

Design thinking requires ‘call to action’ to evolve to ‘call to converse’.

It’s about getting the customer to participate in the uniqueness of your innovation and getting them to engage with your solution and having meaningful conversations.


Not a department function, but an organisational strategy

Design thinking for communication will have to be deployed as an organisational strategy. It can work for marketing and communication only when it works for the organisation as a whole.

When done well, the communication plan can break new ground to overcome the existing mindset “I’ll see when I believe it.”

References:

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” —Tim Brown, President and CEO, IDEO. For more, please read here.

“In its simplest form, design thinking is a process—applicable to all walks of life—of creating new and innovative ideas and solving problems. It is not limited to a specific industry or area of expertise.” – Kaan Turnali, Global Senior Director, Enterprise Analytics, SAP. For more, please read this Forbes article here.

The Glitch in the Pitch. It’s back to the basics

Blogs should share deep insights, preferably on new/emerging topics. The more the writer breaks new insights, the greater the equity. Still, here I am writing the kindergarten stuff. What to do? I had a glitch week and instead of grumbling, I thought of sharing some experiences.

I sat through a week of credentials and strategy presentations by five PR agencies on behalf of a client, an international organisation with ambitious plans for this particular market. Here’s my experience.

The brief was inked. The agencies were invited. The stage was set for the credentials and strategy presentations by a select group of PR agencies.  One by one, they trooped in, loaded with their arsenal and determined to impress.

It would have all been very impressive, except that there were glitches along the way.

 The Technical Glitch:

Most agencies arrived on dot or rushed in a minute or two later than the appointed hour. Of course, Murphy’s Law had to prevail. The projector sulked and threw a tantrum and simply refused to talk to the agency laptop. The Managing Director huffed and the Account Manager puffed, while the Account Executive frantically pulled and tugged at the wires. Finally, someone remembered and scurried to get that wonderful little device called the USB stick. The agency presentation was copied and the USB was hurriedly stuck into the client laptop. Lo! The projector was happy to recognise a familiar client and beamed brightly.

Nothing much was lost, except 17 minutes on the clock and some points on the agency score card.

The WYSIWYG glitch:

Anyway, time to move on. Introductions were made and the agency credentials rolled.

When the ‘Our Clients’ slide came up, we relaxed. The projector glitch was forgiven. It was such an impressive client portfolio. The Leaders, the Fast 50, the Top 100, the Game-Changers, the Innovators – they were all there.  Our confidence was reinforced. Then someone from the Client played spoil sport. The agency was asked to pick out the Local vs. Global, Current vs. Past logos. When the exercise was done, the ‘Current-Local’ client portfolio simply did not represent the ‘Global-Past-Present’ list.

What You See, Is What You (Don’t) Get!

The WIIFM glitch:

We shook off the mild dissonance creeping in and resolved to pay attention to the rest of the credentials. In most cases, the credentials presentation was the standard cookie-cutter stuff. It began with an over-arching global slide with ‘geo-presence’ followed by the ‘global team’ slide that had people broadly grinning down from their frames. (I half expected them to wave. The Potter-effect… my bad, anyway…). The slides continued with methodology, client portfolio, strengths and so on.   I couldn’t shake off that feeling of Déjà vu. Ah! Now I remembered. The agency website had showcased all this really well. I made note to ask about the web agency that had designed their website. Good job.

The slides continue to fly in and zoom out. We waited in eager anticipation to see how their story would be aligned to us, our specific challenges, our goals and our requirements. But before we knew, the pitch had ended. “Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity…. We are really hungry to win this account…”

They promised to email the presentation.

The Mobile Glitch:

The shortlisted agencies then returned to present their strategies. The client goals were ambitious and we leaned forward in anticipation.

There were some astute observations and interesting ideas. A favourable murmur went through the client team. An animated discussion was about to begin. Just then, a shiny, smart phone rattled and danced on the table. Of course, the owner had taken care to put in on vibration mode.  Sorry… the presenter punched the red button and pushed the phone in his pocket. Okay, so where were we? We went back to the discussion, determined not to be swayed by these minor distractions. Focus returned, but not for long. In just 10 minutes, another agency phone hopped madly again.

I decided that I preferred the Ring Tone to the Vibration Mode…

This takes the cake Glitch:

Ten days after getting a polite ‘No’ from us, we got a call from the agency headquarters. There had been a communication gap and the practice head was not aware of this pitch ….they had a practice team, with all the experience and expertise to fulfil our requirements….we should really give them another chance to present. Uh? Okay. We masked our disbelief… No problem. These things happen… but we really can’t be unfair to the other agencies. The credentials are done and the shortlisted agencies have been intimated. They persisted and so we relented.

We waited for the domain capability note – sharp, strategic, outlining high value. It arrived twelve days later by email.

It was the same presentation with just three new slides added.

What’s your pitch glitch story?

Best Practices for Proofreading – A practitioner’s guide

In the world of fine dining restaurants, the ‘Pass’ is a place where orders coming in and food going out of the kitchen is monitored.
In quality-obsessed restaurants, the Pass, usually sentineled by the head chef, is the ultimate test of quality before it is handed over to the service staff to take it to the customer. It’s a brilliant practice that should be replicated, especially by marketing, communication and content teams. Identify the expert and let that person be the sentinel at your Pass;
the final custodian of quality for your content.

Now for the best practices, ordered in sequence…



Edit first, proofread last
Yes, because editing is different from proofreading. Editing is a deeper exercise where the editor examines the style, tone, structure, choice of words etc., and rewrites it for overall refinement and appeal to the audience. Proofreading is more about spellings, grammar, syntax, typos and punctuation.

It is highly likely that one edits while proofreading and proofreads while editing. Still, make sure that editing and proofreading get their respective, dedicated focus. Edit first, proofread last.

The writer does not proofread
The writer/author owns the thought. An objective eye for proofreading therefore, becomes difficult. Get a second pair of eyes to proof your content.

Never proofread all aspects at the same time
Proofing requires you to be highly organised. Resist the temptation to fix everything at one go. Check only one aspect at a time. Make a checklist, print it and fix it on your soft board. Example:

Grammar and language
Facts
Sentence casing
Headlines
Subheads
Formatting
Names and spellings

Assign at least three to four rounds
Some folks, especially managers in a hurry, will ask why proofreading can’t be done at one or two rounds. Tell them that it takes more than one round to spot all the errors. Poor copy results in poor impression. Be stubborn about allocating sufficient time to proofreading. The written copy that will go into public domain deserves a keen eye and lots of patience.

Proofread on printed copy, please
The last two rounds of proofing should be on a printed copy, preferably in 14 to 16 point size.

Spellings – Check. Punctuation – Check. Formatting – Check. Establish your own Proofreading Pass for every Check
In the world of fine dining restaurants, the ‘Pass’ is a place where orders coming in and food going out of the kitchen is monitored. In quality-obsessed restaurants, the Pass, usually sentineled by the head chef, is the ultimate test of quality before it is handed over to the service staff to take it to the customer. It’s a brilliant practice that should be replicated especially by marketing, communication and content teams. Identify the expert and let that person be the sentinel at your Pass; the final custodian of quality for your content.

Hit ‘send’ to a test team first
That ‘ouch!’ moment when you spot errors after hitting the ‘send’ button is every communication manager’s nightmare. Cheat that law by sending the email, newsletter, article, blog etc., to an internal ‘test’ team first. It will let you spot the naughty, elusive errors and fix them. Do some more ‘tests’ before you are ready to go official!

Phase out the ‘send’
This best practice works for online campaigns, especially when you have a large database that includes internal and external readers. Phase out the launch of your campaign across two or three rounds. Start with the marketing and communication team in your organisation. Then move to company staff. If you’ve got global offices, send it to branch offices first and then to headquarters. Wait for a day to see if anyone points out errors. It’s a fantastic opportunity to fix something that might have been missed. The last ‘send’ should be to the customer and partner database.

Worthy Intentions. Unworthy Title

WOMEN OF WORTH 2016

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.

BRAND MYOPIA

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.

THE AWARDS NITE

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.”

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“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.

iPod

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.

Egg

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.

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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.