Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sach ka Samna / Moment of truth
While I was flipping channels yesterday I came across an interesting program. Sach ka Samana aka Moment of truth.

A game show where one has to face 21 questions about their life; I should add, uncomfortable, disturbing, revealing and rather personal questions, at the end of which they would stand to win Rs.1cr (Rs.10 million). Quite a sum of money.

Basically before one qualifies to sit on the ‘hot seat’, he is put through a polygraphic machine (lie detecting machine), the one which Robert De Niro subjects Ben Stiller to in ‘Meet the Parents’; and are administered 50 questions that are quite personal.

While I tuned in, there was this fat north Indian guy, typical Mumbai middle class businessmen type, gold chain on wrist, double chin, paan stained red teeth, overflowing stomach flab, sitting on the ‘hot seat’, a thin bead of sweat on his brow, answering questions like:

1. Do you have a secret in your life, which could potentially break your marriage?
2. Have you ever suspected your wife of adultery?
3. Have you been unfaithful to your wife?

Well if you are wondering what the answers to the above were, then I should say at this point that you have a Voyeur hiding inside you (though you would never admit it). Let me relieve you of your curiosity. The answers, were YES, YES and YES. And the answers were all TRUE.

If it brings you any relief, I will accept I am a voyeur too, because I continued watching the show and derived pleasure out of it too. Not the kind of sadistic pleasure you derive out of torturing people you hate, but the kind of curious pleasure you derive, when you see a horrific road accident but just ‘tut tut’ your way as you pass by the hapless victims and the blue and red sirens of the police cars and hospital vans and then shamelessly brag to your friends later that you passed by that accident, while they have just heard of it on the radio.

Then I came to know that this show was popularized in the US (Moment of Truth), though roots were in Colombia. It’s got very good TRPs by the way. Now, why am I not surprised?

And guess what, the guy in the hot seat has to answer all the questions in front of his family and friends, who are given a front row seat to see the tamasha.

While I was watching the show I was wondering is this all really worth it? I mean I wouldn’t reveal the dark secrets of my life for Rs.1cr (probably Rs.10cr might convince me otherwise). Imagine you win Rs.1cr, but you are mentally scarred for the rest of your life. Your friends, your family, your neighbours, the whole frigging country knows everything about your life! Is it really worth it? I guess that question would be best answered by the contestants.

And you know why I think this show will succeed? Because inside each and every one of us, there is a voyeur hiding. An innate quality we are all born with. And one which the media guys have scented, salivated on the thought and capitalized on.

After the show my wife asked me “Sweetie, would you ever participate in this show?” I said “Would you?” Both of us didn’t answer the question. We just gave that smile to each other. After all, life isn’t worth spoiling with 21 truths.

What about you? Would you?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Product or Brand? I think Product.

I was sent this wonderful article written by Al Ries a few days back. It makes great reading. Read the rest of my blog, after reading that article.

You know why Sachin Tendulkar, Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher, Roger Federer or Maradona are legends in their respective sport? Before they became icons, before they became brands, before they became legends, they were and continue to be THE BEST in their respective game. Period.

When competition came, when competition sometimes got better, these sportsmen always made a comeback because their foundation was excellent. They dug deep, corrected their flaws, bettered their technique and came back hard on their competition.

Everything else followed. Money, fame, them becoming brand icons in their sport. Everything. They became great brands, because fundamentally they were great products.

You can have the best marketing team in place, you can have the best advertising agency doing your ads, but in the end if you don’t have a good product, then it will all fall flat.

GM does not have good cars. Period. Their cars are not fuel efficient, neither are they stylish and nor are they as reliable as their European counterparts. And this is not perception. Its simple hard hitting reality. Their competition is better in at least 2 of the 3 above mentioned parameters.

Marketing is not going to help and neither is advertising. First build a reliable product which can stand up to competition. Once a good product is in place, everything else will follow. Their story, the brand, the marketing, the advertising et all…

The best brands are the best, because they have fantastic products to begin with. The brand, the perception about it, the advertising etc helped build it into the giants that they are today.

So I grudgingly disagree with Al Ries on only one count. To me the focus on product should be more important than focus on the Brand. People might buy brands, but if the brand does not live up to its promise or their expectation from the product then they will switch loyalties to a brand with a better product. (Note that I acknowledge that they will buy a brand and not a product).

It might sound like I have gone back 50 years in my thinking, but come to think of it, sometimes going back to the roots is probably for the better.