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Blog Posts (44)

  • Why Design Thinking is a Lifeline to our world

    As the Apple advert goes, "Here's to all creatives, innovators, thinkers, dreamers and most importantly do-ers". In our life as creatives, we coin ourselves with many monikers, "Problem Solvers", "Imagineers", and recently "Design Thinkers". The transformative power of design thinking In my life as a creative professional, I've been repeatedly awed and mostly humbled by the transformative power of design thinking, both as a learning experience and from an executional perspective. The power of good design, can transform societies, create communities and foster change in behaviour (sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad). But oddly enough, not a lot of creatives even know that what they are doing is design thinking, and not a lot of them are even aware of how overreaching a role, design can play in our lives. Design is every day, everywhere. We all interact with design every day. It's a part and parcel of the products we use, the apps on our phones, and the signs on our street. But beyond just its physical manifestations, design is a methodology, a way of thinking. And it's this facet of design—design thinking—that I believe holds the most potent promise for our futures. Design thinking, for the uninitiated, is a human-centred, solution-focused approach that values empathy, experimentation, and iteration. It's a mindset that allows us to delve into the intricate labyrinth of human emotions, unravel complex problems, and weave together creative solutions that truly resonate with people. By placing empathy at its core, design thinking fundamentally shifts our perspective. The fundamental questions yet remain, like "How can we build this?", or "What's the most effective or efficient way to solve this?" It may urge us to inquire a step further, "How does this make our user feel" or "Are there any deeper needs that this solution addresses, if so, what?". And most importantly it enables us to walk a mile in our user's shoes, to immerse ourselves in their experiences, and to make decisions that honour their aspirations and goals. Today with the advent of AI, from Midjourney to Google Bard and ChatGPT, everything is automated, from the recipes you cook your daily meals from, to the day-to-day mundane tasks your job requires you to perform. We now live in a word that is inherently automated to some routine and is increasingly data driven. And in such a cold world where you are just a pattern of recognition, a series of tasks, it is very easy to overlook the importance of emotions and to underestimate the power of human feelings. But let's not forget, we are thinking, breathing and emotive beings. Emotions will always be the undercurrents that form the basis for our actions, shape our everyday decisions and form connections with our fellow human beings. In essence, they are the invisible threads that weave the tapestry of human life. And through design thinking, we have the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate these threads, to create solutions that not only solve problems but also touch hearts and inspire minds. Design thinking should be part and parcel of every designer's way of doing things Think about the products you've used, or a service you have availed off in the past, that has left a lasting impression on you. More often, it's not the features, or the gimmicks, or the efficient process that you notice, it is always the tiny nuances of human touch, the ones that made you feel heard, noticed, valued and appreciated that you remember fondly. As Jon Kolko says in his brilliant HBR article, "Design Thinking Comes of Age", To build empathy with users, a design-centric organization empowers employees to observe behavior and draw conclusions about what people want and need. Those conclusions are tremendously hard to express in quantitative language. Instead, organizations that “get” design use emotional language (words that concern desires, aspirations, engagement, and experience) to describe products and users. Team members discuss the emotional resonance of a value proposition as much as they discuss utility and product requirements. Design centric organizations don't view emotions as silly or denigrated, they are central to creating emotionally resonant products and experiences that customers rave about. Design thinking was earlier used to develop and build physical or digital products, is now being applied to more intangible issues like how a customer experiences a service. This encourages organizations and brands to help build the courage to start looking at things from new perspectives and traverse new territories. Design thinking can also be used to shape narratives, experiences and influence perceptions. But most importantly a culture built on design thinking almost automatically fosters nimble innovation. To design is to be human In a 'sea of sameness' with AI tools that enable speed of execution, how does design thinking fare? It's simple really, to design is to be human, and to think like a designer is to embrace our shared humanity wholeheartedly. It's not about just designing for people but designing with people. Also, because design is fundamentally empathetic, it implicitly drives a more human-centric approach to business. In the words of the legendary designer Dieter Rams, "Good design is as little design as possible." And to me, good design thinking is as human as possible. The only way to be truly bold is to be incredibly humble. said Gilbert, who has lead IBM’s design program since 2012. In a world of user outcomes, restless reinvention, and diverse, empowered teams, design thinking is finally receiving the attention that it deserves. Let us continue to champion design thinking in all we do, not just to create better products, services, and systems, but also to create organizations and a world that is more understanding, compassionate, and kind. Because ultimately, isn't that what being human is all about?

  • New Age Social Media Marketing: TikTok or Instagram?

    Man is a social being which explains the increasing importance of social media for the current population. In the last two decades, social media has changed the way people communicate and express themselves; we have moved from forum chats and status updates to dynamic visuals and short video content. Social Media marketing is here to stay, with the rise of their user base and the potential digital markets. In terms of marketing, visuals and video content are better at attracting attention and converting potential customers. Clearly, Instagram and TikTok are leading in terms of short visual content. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic where everyone was confined physically yet their creativity roamed free. Both Instagram and TikTok have a world-wide presence with a ready-to-buy audience that is easy to market to. So the question arises, which should you choose for your business Go-To-Market strategy? Instagram Instagram was launched in 2010 and then bought by Meta (previously known as Facebook) in 2012. This app was originally made for photo-sharing, providing a stage for digital creators, brand ambassadors and marketers. Even though it was not intended, sponsorships and product integration became a huge part of the app. On top, Instagram is a great platform for creating groups and communities which makes it great for influencer marketing. Content engagement and follower’s loyalty makes Instagram an ideal channel for brands to market their products and services. TikTok Tiktok boomed in the pandemic, and now is known for being the fastest growing social media platform in the world. The platform started off as a short form video content, primarily comedic sketches, dance trends and lip-syncs. It has now become a home for world famous influencers, boasting huge followers. Influencers like Charlie and Dixie D’mello and Addison Rae rose to fame through TikTok and have increased their followers through the years. It is predicted that Instagram may be entering its flop era since tiktok rose to fame. Instagram has tried to expand its user base by introducing real time updates like Stories and video content through IGTV and Reels which is pretty similar to tiktok. This update along with statistics like hours spent on both the apps and the growing user base of tiktok may show that Instagram might be replaced by tiktok. A common man may believe it since both the channels offer visual content with similar demography and world wide presence. Though in my opinion, it is not that easy and simple. Instagram offers a good competition to tiktok, and both cannot be considered in the same field, since the content types are quite different from each other. While there are frustrations regarding the Instagram algorithm favoring reels over images, Static images and static content still is quite popular. It is because Instagram gives equal importance to the look and feel as well as subject of the matter; aesthetics are the king. Content creators on Instagram carefully curate their aesthetics and presentation. In fact, when visiting an account, the viewer can grasp its sense of style. This makes Instagram a great choice for curated design ads and marketing campaigns. TikTok has a more raw, lo-fi and unedited content structure where creators make and upload videos instantly. This makes it difficult to pinpoint the aesthetics of an account since it is all over the place. Another point of difference is the algorithms of both the platforms. In a recent article about Tiktok’s algorithm, Arvind Narayanan says that every video has equal chances of success; number of followers do not play a huge role when it comes to your feed and what content is being shown to you. This makes it easier to get viral and popular on TikTok, but the trick is to maintain that virality. According to the Wall Street Journal, people spend around 197.8 million hours a day on Tiktok thanks to the algorithm that shows new people and new content randomly on their feed, making it more engaging and varied. Instagram algorithm favours accounts and creators whose base is already strong and have a good number of followers. They also have options like save, share and reposts that give a higher credit to posts than likes and comments. The algorithm strongly favours the influencers and established content creators who have a good loyal base that follow their content. This might be a letdown when compared to the rate of original and refreshing content exposed on Tiktok. The basics of marketing tells you that you need to identify your target audience and curate your content which resonates with them or allows them to relate with your brand. While both platforms have a young audience, Instagram demography mainly spans from 25 to 34 years old and TikToks audience are largely GenZ followed by millennials and GenX. Tiktok's audience responds well to advertising but not the obvious ads, instead branded content and influencer partnerships. I mean, there is a video content type that is called “Tiktok made me buy it” which just goes to show the potential of marketing in this space. So what do you choose? Well that depends on your strategy. If you wish to communicate to GenX and Millennials then you should place your bets on Instagram. If you want to go viral and make sure that your content is reaching everywhere, then TikTok might be your go to. The key is to leverage on the strengths of the platforms. It also might be smart to combine and use both platforms that can create larger impressions and audience reach.

  • Left Brain vs Right Brain Marketing

    As readers of this blog might have noticed, I prefer crafting narratives. I think this comes naturally to me in my role as the Chief Creative Officer, but as I transition to a larger more important role of the Chief Executive Officer, I am starting to see that I do have some prowess in my left brain too. This was extremely odd to me, because I grew up with the narrative of the Left-Brain vs Right-Brain marketing and thinking. A for a large segment of my life, I have been a conventional Right-Brain thinker. Or at least, that's what I have been told. Now for people who are strangers to this theory, let me summarise down below: Left Brain vs Right Brain Marketing To start off with let's clearly define the two camps. I would say the Left-Brain type people resort to systems thinking or theories, whereas the Right-Brain type of people gravitate more to storytelling. I love the concepts of storytelling and will veraciously defend it till the day I die. I believe, and have some measure (I hope) of factual experience that storytelling helps us better make sense of the world we live in. You disagree? Well hear me out... Storytelling is as old as culture. And almost every society in the world has established a strong storytelling tradition. You know those Christmas, Eid, Passover or Diwali stories with friends and family, where you have your elders retelling you, stories of their life and their wealth of experiences? Well, that is a clear-cut tradition of passing down the wisdom, through Anthropology, Sociology, Religion, Social Studies, or just plain storytelling. It's as universal and as ancient as mankind is. From the cavemen who told their stories and left remnants for us to see on the cave walls of ancient human civilisation to the Sistine Chapel Ceiling paintings by Michelangelo, and more recently to Banksy murals on street walls the world over, stories are there for us all to see. For me, this fascination is more professional and somewhat personal. I want to find ways to improve at both understanding and telling stories better. And the only way to improve is two ways: theory and practice. But before we get into the nitty-gritty and try to understand how to better utilize these two instruments (theories and/or storytelling), let's try and figure out commonalities between the two. Or in storytelling form, let me set the stage for you. Both stories and theories are our way of understanding and representing the reality we live in. With theories its more straight cut, but stories - even the wilder imaginative Sci-Fi ones - are representations of reality. For a story to connect, it has to represent some level of truth, or it would be alien to us. Its either characters should be human-like or relatable that they go through some sort of emotion, elements of time, space, objects and events should be representative of a reality that we recognize. This boils down to a simple fundamental fact, stories and theories are always derived from first-hand experience. Our MO as humans is participation, and it's through this that we have our fundamental understanding of reality, and this is innate, implied, sometimes contextual, but always intimate and deep. The many facets that we use to construct our stories are the raw materials from which we connect to on a deeper, sometime inexplicable level. Stage set let's get on with the show. Stories Why are stories such powerful tools in understanding our world, after all philosophers from Plato to Dewey, and every human after and to come will have been arguing on these ideas, and these concepts I am presenting to you. Enter the human condition - emotions. First stories are engaging, ever so often even captivating. A great story enthrals its audience in a drug like vice, enamouring them, captivating them so they can absorb the sordid details, and decipher as much information as humanly possible. Second, stories are great at inciting empathy. Simply put, its putting yourself in someone else's shoes, in order to understand what they feel. This is decisively a human trait. It liberates us from our often-chaotic lives, to make us understand how different the world is through someone else's eyes. And stories connect us with a myriad of characters, suddenly we now see the world from a multitude of perspectives. But dare I say it, reality is highly engaging too (though subjective in most cases), and your own personal reality gives you ample opportunities to empathize with countless humans. So why turn to stories? A couple of reasons, but let's start with scope. This wide all-encompassing experience, that stories deliver to us, could never be reached by ourselves directly. We see every facet of every human condition, from the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows. Stories show us what it's like to be male, female and transgender, what it's like to be rich and poor, brown and red and all the colours in between, on the good side and on the bad side, to live in Kampala and to live in Dubai, Mumbai and Tokyo, Singapore and Kabul, to the past and somewhere in the very distant future, to live through wars and agonizing famine, to live as a Viking and as a Mafioso in the 1930s, to experience births, deaths, and various levels of life in between and a million other things. Stories focus on what's exciting and what's different, and on rare ambitious occasions, a story will even cover what it's like to be without senses, floating in a sensory deprivation tank. They give us access to hypotheticals. What if Christopher Colombus actually reached India? What if we were living under the Third Reich? What if you lost everything you worked so hard for? What if we are living in a computer simulation? We can understand reality in different speeds and humongous scales. The storyteller's lens can record any type of video, be it high-speed, slow-motion, wide-angle, or time-lapse. It can zoom into the tiniest, relatively insignificant details like an ant walking down the road, carrying a morsel 5 times its weight, the most minute smirk that a serial killer gives just as he's about to get bail. Or it can zoom out and in a 15 second segment take us through the rise and fall of an entire civilization, spanning multiple centuries and trillions of lives. That's not all, it's not only about the breadth of the scope, but how deep it is. It's almost eerier how small simple phrases can channel so much emotion. It can take you inside someone's head in a way no experience can, enabling sympathy for a seemingly horrendous individual, but illustrating the hell they came from as a child. The final thing that stories provide is legibility. With the world being so chaotic and hard to decipher, stories simplify reality, presenting it in a way anyone can understand. Characters are more evocative, action punchier, cause and effect more pronounced. Legibility is amazing, but it's always in tension with something equally bloody important: realism. Legibility and reality aren't always diametrically opposed, but they aren't always complementary either. The more a story tries to paint a very matter of fact image, the less realistic it gets, but the more it sticks with realism and ignores the drama, the more boring it gets. Remember stories have to omit details, but as the saying goes, the devil lies in the detail being omitted. Legibility casts the environment in easy perception, enhancing the details while omitting the ones that distract. But oversimplification, that's leaving out the essential. Legibility is a balancing act, its a delicate art. Theories Another way of making sense of this world that we all live in, is theories. Theories take the cumulative approach, looking at systems of groupings, individuals, cultures and behaviours to identify patterns within a system. By the way, stories can and often do inform theories, and vice versa, but they are fundamentally different, almost diametrically opposite ways of understanding our world. We know why stories are powerful, so let's approach why are theories so powerful? Now forgive me, we might have a bit of repetition here, but as I mentioned the devil is in the details. First off, is again scope. While the scope of stories is humongous in comparison to your direct experience, the scope of theories is vaster, perhaps infinitely so. Theories provide perspective-shifting, mind-altering shifts in understanding reality. You now can think of smaller and larger objects, at smaller and larger time scales, in ways that defy personal experience. We can theorize about the tiniest particulars (quarks), a billion times smaller than anything visible to the naked eye, to the size and the grandeur of ever-expanding universe (which we in scale are a relatively insignificant part off). We use theories to understand how we evolved from Neanderthals to the earliest seconds of the Big Bang. Theories help us understand how the space dust combined to make the planet we live on, and how through a not-so-distant connection, we share commonalities with every fungus, bacterium, plant and animal. It shows us our deepest motivations, how our brains work, and how our social systems function (or fail) at gigantic scales. It hypothesizes how we could use a nuclear bomb to terraform planets, using a destructive tool to probably seed mankind as a space faring civilization. Stories lets us see the world through many lenses, but they are all human eyes, human perspectives. Theories show us reality as it actually is, and its ultimately powerful because it allows us to make predictions. Predictions are great because they are specific in telling us what's going to happen, before it actually does. Stories in retrospect are just case studies, they can help us reason about the future, but only if it is by means of a theory. Predictions are great because they help us go back and check if a theory is true or not. And this is the fundamentals of all scientific discovery. Falsification. All knowledge, all progress, all inventions are dependent on falseability. Remember the tension between legibility and realism in stories? There is no such tension with theories. While some do admit to a greater or lesser realism, they can be false, or oversimplified. But weak theories, more often than not are always exposed, when they make bad predictions. Theories are legible by construction, but as Dreyfus has pointed out, theories need not be explicit to be powerful and useful. Theories though have their space and domain in Science and Technology, but in marketing and with anything to do with the human emotion, stories reign supreme. Deconstructing a narrative and breaking it down into smaller segments to understand the emotion that you want to evoke is a prime directive of any good story. Storytelling has and always will remain on of the most universal human experiences, and the rare chance to look through new lenses, and new perspectives are what makes stories a fundamental tool to enable a more human-centric experience. You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built in the human plan. We all come with it.

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