Friday, November 06, 2015

Day 156: United we stand, Divided we fall

Image Courtesy: Google Images
Every person (animals too) living on this planet has a personality that is innate to them. It is usually something that is either shaped due to genetic make or that which is psychological and environmental. For an outside world a personality can also reflect the place where one comes from. For instance, most wolves behave similarly (from plain sight), most men, most children, most Indians, most North Indians, most Malayalees, most Asians,  most IT professionals, most doctors, etc.,. We put people in one bracket based on the assumed overall character and personality of that associate group.  Now, when people have such unique personalities, imagine what a country will be like. That is what we call as culture. It is that which evolves, shapes, transfers, permeates, accepts, adapts, and that cycle goes on and on. Every generation, every decade, every moment, there are changes that we sometimes observe and most times do not. We become a part of that. Most often we acclimatize and yet at other times, when we move, we stick out. But the important part is that all this reflects and shapes the 'personality' of that country/society. The people who hold positions of power and lead the country also contribute to how the country's personality is understood and also evolves. This in turn sculpts the nature of people living there. Just like our personality that appears to be in a constant state to the external world is actually based on various factors - internal and external, a country goes through many conflicts and chaos. This is, of course, based on various factors- internal and external. It is due to the leaders, the common man, the market, the business folks, and everything else. The reason I am bringing all this, today is because of the rampant use of the word 'intolerance'  while talking about India. The discussions are as though the rest of the world like US, Europe and others having the perfect culture and perfect society. Absolutely not. Even though my travel is limited  to just a few weeks in Italy, about 220 weeks in the US and the rest in India, I know that India is definitely not 'intolerant' at all. Yes, there are many things we got to change to be better and utilize our resources well enough to bring out the best. However, that does not mean we are 'intolerant'. If so, every country is, in its own unique ways. This country, where I live has issues of minority, color, race, and what not (in fact, for many centuries). Europe has been waging wars over crown, religion, philosophy and what not. We all have the belief system that when a country is technologically advanced and allows people to dress and do whatever they like, they are extremely happy. Well, no. Not always true. Every one has their own faults and they go through it differently. This is where what I study becomes very important- Media. Media can really make or break as to how issues are targeted. For instance, if the media are always focusing on the little issues because that is what the big and bad men want to, then that becomes our cause of fire. For instance, the little issues of Starbucks's new 'less Christmas-y' design cups change our focus from what is essential. Same for India. Having lived in India for long and having changed so many schools during my younger years, finding and meeting new friends from all religion, caste, and language has taught me one thing- we are very tolerant and adaptable. Of course, there are going to be people who do not fall under that category. They are the ones who are using the 'divide and rule' method and trying to break up our unity. However, if we focus on that, then we are probably going to call India the most intolerable as we have a diversity that not many can boast of. Let us look at that beauty in diversity, let us give back to those filthy politicians who are defaming the country and its people, the media which spreads negative messages and creates a fire out of everything, and those negative vicious elements who are disturbing our peace.

Let us all remember the pigeons- they stand for peace, freedom and also remind us of that old childhood story which tells us about how they hoodwinked the hunter and flew away with the net! 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Day 155: Tiny Tale : Perspectives? or Never good enough?

Yet again a tiny tale. 
Image Courtesy: Google Images

She dressed up in her favorite salwar. She looked at herself in the mirror. She liked her curls. She thought they made her beautiful. She was getting ready to meet someone. They took her out for a great lunch. Sitting next to them in the car, they hugged her tight and caressed her and kept looking at her. She thought it was love. Wait! She was about to find that out. 

They looked at her again and said, probably she needed a visit to the parlor to look 'good' and tame her 'unruly' hair. 

Perspectives?? or is it that sometimes it is never good enough? 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Day 154: (Not so) Wordless Wednesdays: Headless Buddhas

Image Courtesy: Meena Arvind 
Headless Buddhas are the scars of war, hatred, and invasion. Yes, these are man-made artifacts but  they symbolize the true nature of human- ego and power. Somewhere in the land of Ayuthaya. These relics from the past are now probably a photographer's delight and traveller's muse. However, they do teach us a valuable lesson that even the buried past reflects through its many lens. Though headless, these sculptures have many stories to share. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Day 153: A New Look for the New world : Barbie's new ad campaign

Barbie dolls. The slim, fashionable, pretty, and 'sexy' dolls have been there for a long time (from 1959 onwards). Dolls and toys are probably and usually a child's true companion. Barbie is no different. For these past 56 years, Barbie has been always associated with cute little girls. How do little kids get to play with these? Well, many reasons. It could be because their parents played with it and hence, want their kids to enjoy and experience the same (mostly that kind of intergenerational effect is for LEGO). It could also be because, the advertisers tell the world, the new moms, new aunts, dads, and everyone else, including children that dolls are meant for only girls. It could also be because, kids see this attractively packaged and dressed either on the shelf or at their friend's place. As you know, my interest is varied and toys and games happen to be one of them. So, I have been following these different types of products that target children and Barbie's progress over years have evolved and are slightly closer to today's world.

Image Courtesy: Google Images 

As a child, I remember wanting to own a Barbie (for sure) but I don't remember if I did actually own one. I only remember other dolls (the ones that are 'actually dolls' ;)), soft toys, cars, trains and what not. Barbie, however, is always associated with rich kids. Slightly priced higher than other dolls, Barbie probably is a child's first introduction to a world of fashion and beauty. If we get in to the world of a young child we know one thing that will be present- imagination.  Most of the 2 to 6-year-old children have a brilliant imagination and their minds can take them to places we cannot fathom. Yes, seven years are not any less. But the imagination of these kids let them create their own imaginary friends, associate new names for their own family members, treat their teddy bears and dolls as real characters and people, feed them, share stories, food, toys, books, and even put them to sleep. Well, kids had the knack to travel with their thoughts to any place they want.

Anyhow, marketers used these to successfully create different products (or package them differently) based on what 'they thought' is right for the consumer. These stereotypes are not just shaped by marketers but by the society itself. The dogmatic views focused not just adult women consumers but also children. These views reflected in how the girls were portrayed with their toys vs. boys. For instance, if you look at the packaging for certain toys/games that are perceived to be for boys, you will find that there will be only images of boys playing with it. Even if there is a girl child present it will be subtly placed or in submissive roles. These days with more people voicing out and standing up to break these glass ceilings, marketers have taken a U-turn. They employ what is called 'Empowerment marketing'. This is one of the biggest shift in marketing. Do you remember the Dove beauty product ads and Pantene ads (I am not sorry ad campaign)? Well, these are examples for empowerment marketing.

Video source: YouTube (Barbie)

Children's toys are also making use of this and Mattel (the parent company) has finally decided to give a new focus to their star brand Barbie. With falling sales and raising voices,  Mattel has to give some refocus to its marketing plans. Even though this is a marketing tactic and all they care about is their bottom line, this is surely a welcome change. The ad uses the role of imagination in a child's play time and puts that in the context of 'strong' and 'independent' girls.

Created by BBDO San Francisco and produced by Slim Pictures Inc., this ad is a great persuasive message that changes the outlook towards girls and their dolls. It is like a repositioning statement for Barbie where they are looking at the old 'fashion' doll with today's 'be whatever you want' doll. They want to change the perception that someone playing with Barbie doll is not just a mushy cute girl but someone who can imagine endless possibilities.

This is a great ad, but I'm still thinking about how the accessories (which is a big part of their sales) and the existing style of the dolls can impact the message of this ad. In fact, Mattel has been using this empowerment marketing for their other product line- American Girl too. Probably that is for another blog post!

It might not be a drastic change, but every step counts. Do let me know your comments and your take on this. 

Monday, November 02, 2015

Day 152: O yay Punjabi!

Image Courtesy: Google Images

Punjabi is now the official third language in the house of commons in Canada. After English and French, it is Punjabi as there are many Indians whose mother tongue is Punjabi in Canada. That is such a terrific news. On the other side, we can also think about how funny sardar ji jokes go around the country (our own) where we portray these nice folks to be naive and dumb and now they have been able establish and spread their roots elsewhere. They have created businesses, taken up positions, own companies, run stores, well, the list goes on.  In this day and age of having easy access to move between nations and around the globe, in true sense, we are all global citizens. With travel, we can and should be allowed to find our new home. In countries like Canada, Australia, and a few others the migrant population are easily provided the permanent residence status and this attracts many immigrants. As I was reading this news, I was thinking of the various issues many Mexicans face as they move to this country. The Syrians who are homeless and migrating to the closest European nations, the Thai, Burmese, and Bangladeshis who move between nations to find a land of their dreams. The dissatisfaction and discomfort of their motherland is what drives them to shift base. Yes, as kids we are always asked to write essays about brain drain in India. This sure is. However, we must remember that people flock places based on the opportunities it provides. In this day and age, we know the ways in which international countries operate. Yeah, living in an alien nation is always hard as we have more responsibilities to adapt and acclimatize to that culture. However, once we do, we find that new home, as much as we miss the old one. 

Imagine how it will be 100 years later. Just like how we have many of our families moving back and forth between the various states in India has established their own new mixed culture or just maintained their old traditions (like a friend who said that his family was originally from West Bengal but had settled in Lucknow for over 250 years. However, even now they still continue to speak Bengali and are married only within Bengali families). It is such an interesting phenomenon. With the traditional boundaries disappearing and more of the rural India is migrating to the urban landscapes, we have the existing urban folks who take that one step ahead and travel to much further places. Who knows what we will evolve to be tomorrow. A 100 or 200 years later, with a probability of many inter racial marriages, the genetic pool will diversify. There will be more (read much more) to study and they will evolve differently. Diseases will be different, the food and cuisine will be different. There is always going to be new beginning, new pathway that will lead us to something we cannot even fathom today. It is indeed a very important topic that can be discussed for long! 

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Day 151: Special day- Anniversary and Kerala Piravi/Karnataka Rajyotsava

Image Courtesy: Google Images

November 1. Already? Wow! This year has just flown by so fast. As we begin this new month, I would like to start with the significance of November 1 for me. There are two big reasons why this is special. One is that it is my dear parents anniversary and second it is my God's own country's birthday! Every child grows up absorbing and learning from their own parents. Of course, then shaping and forming their own individual identity. I would love to wish my dearest and sweetest mom and dad a wonderful and beautiful anniversary today.

Going on to my second special reason, it is the day beautiful state of Kerala was born. In 1956, it was formed as one state (which earlier was independent provinces of Cochin, Trivandrum, and Malabar. This year is the 59th year and yeah, happy birthday, Kerala. May there be less of bandhs, hartals, and toddy, and let the beauty of this state be appreciated for all good reasons. Playing one beautiful song about Kerala :)

As it happens, the state that I'm married to (as A belongs here) is also celebrating the founding day today. It is also the 59th year of Karnataka. On this day, Mysore, Malnad, and North Karnataka were combined to be initially called Mysore instead of Karnataka. The name Karnataka came in only after 1973.

Just like how we have birthdays these states do celebrate their birthdays too. So, here is a wish to the beautiful states of Kerala and Karnataka a happy birthday;) 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Day 150: Halloween

Okay. Today is Halloween. It is probably celebrated or should I say enjoyed here in the west than in the other parts of the world (which is the east and south east). However, given that we all want to fit in and be just like how the west is all the time except for things that matter, it is not a surprise that India now celebrates Halloween. Probably it has been a year or two since the last one. I remember reading a funny status post by a dear friend and terrific writer on this.

Image Courtesy: Google Images
With changing economy and demography we have a new India that loves everything from the west more today than ever. Thanks to social media and internet. Everything around the world is at the touch of a button. I am not against change but it still makes me wonder if people even know what or why it is celebrated here? Yes, one of the  very reason why I love to study consumer culture and media. It could be because of the growing number of Indians in the US who post pictures to their fellow FB and Twitter friends displaying costumes every year. Probably they are doing it to feel 'similar' and post something like their international student friends. Or probably they are following what the Bollywood stars do as a chance to splurge some money and party. Just sticking to the 'fad' and doing what everyone else is doing! By the way, most of our movies are either a copy from Korean or Hollywood movies too. So, it is no wonder if Bollywood decides to follow the Hollywood lifestyle !

By the way, we as kids are so used to wearing costumes and dressing up for fancy dress competitions. I am not against celebrating anything but doing it for the sake that someone else is celebrating it is totally lame. A lot of Indians do it here especially when they have kids because their kids need to acclimatize to this culture and it probably is their way to feel as a fit here.

I'm sure this will be a new lead for businesses and opportunities for marketers to flood the new and emerging markets with Halloween costumes and more for parties.

So, for those who celebrated it- Happy Halloween and for those who did not, happy day to you !