Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Fashion is not life. Life is what you make of it

I'm not saying I'm a model, honest, but I remember seeing an article on Sikh models on a BBC website back in 2003.

A number of points should be considered:

1. Sikhs believe in equality as a human right.

2. In the case of the BBC article, are we being singled out with our religion being used for something that is potentially exploitative?

3. Sikhs are fashionable too and there is nothing wrong with wanting to look good as long as you are not using it to your advantage !

4. Bollywood has a bad reputation on disrespecting non-Hindu religions.

Interestingly, I came across a site called www.ratemyturban.com. In once sense this site could be considered as being exploitative but from a postive perspective, it is fun and also celebrates the turban.

However, during the Lakme Fashion Week in Delhi (April 20-26, 2005) there was an unfortunate episode where Sikh symbols were inappropriately used. Even the title of the line of clothing was blasphemous.

Fashion does have a habit of getting itself into trouble. Think back to the questionable United Colurs of Benetton advertisments. In my view they were just there to shock and had no real value! At the end of the day, Fashion to one person could be considered unfashionable to somebody else. In a world full of glossy magazines that are obsessed with positioning and glorifying people as celebrities, is it any wonder that there appears to be a boost in the cosmetic surgery industry and a negative influence on children.

The idea of fashion got me wondering about some of the modern icons of Fashion, for example, the T-Shirt.

The idea of the T-shirt came to the USA during World War 1 when US soldiers noticed the light cotton undershirts European soldiers were using while the US soldiers sweated in their wool uniforms. Since they were so much more comfortable they quickly became popular among the Americans, and because of their design they got the name T-shirt.

In the 1960s, the Ringer T-shirt appeared and became a staple fashion for youth and rock-n-rollers. People also started to tie-dye and screen-print the basic T-shirt and variants such as the tank top, "wife beater", muscle shirt, scoop neck and V-neck became popular.

Since then T-shirts have become a medium for self-expression and advertising, with any imaginable combination of words, art and even photographs on display.

Somebody bought me a T-Shirt the other day with the word 'REDEMPTION'. I have to admit that I had to look-up its true meaning... Wikipedia describes Redemption as being a religious concept referring to forgiveness or absolution for past sins and protection from eternal damnation. Redemption is common in many religions. In short it can be considered as a religious concept synonymous with salvation; or delivery from sins. Anyway, here is a picture of it!

Unfortunately, many people will 'judge a book by its cover'. For example, during the deposing of the Shah of Iran I was a young lad standing on a street corner in San Francisco. Suddenly a dark windowed metallic violet colured van spun around the corner. The driver poked his head out of the window and yelled, 'Iran sucks'! I was in shock as I did not have a clue about why he had associated me with Iran!!?

The media do not help with placing sterotypical images of communities.
There is a need to understand that fashion is distinct from identity.
It is not about the cover, it is about what we make of our lives.
Posing is not needed!

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Is RSS of value to Marketers?

It was interesting to see a recent article in a national daily that announced a grouping of new political bloggers.Cynics may suggest that this is an attempt to capture a growing movement of new political commentators.In 2002 approximately 100,000 bloggers toiled away at their craft. During the US election campaign (2004) it was reported the blogging (short for web log) phenomena resulted in the development of 8 Million (source: Pew Internet & America) of the 120 million adult American Internet users creating blogs, a 58% increase from the previous year.During the 2005 UK election campaign it was reported that even Michael Howard’s (opposition contender) wife was blogging daily while she was escorted him on his election trail.The growth in blogging statistics is also true for the United Kingdom - with the current number of bloggers reaching 30Million. The Guardian noted that they had achieved 2Million page prints in their first 2-3 weeks. The technology of Web 2.0 offers the ability to control content deliver for standard newsreader systems.

Is there a place for Corporate Blogging?

With the current growth of those reliant on RSS technology running at 6Million per week, the question to ask is whether there is sufficient interest with corporations to pursue web-blogs / blogs. One of the constraints is the potential breach of confidentiality.There is some good news, http://www.backbonemedia.com/ suggests that there are many positives to be achieved by corporations adopting the ‘art of blogging’. Their report was written by Stephen Turcotte. They asked hundreds of companies to participate in an online survey and also conducted in-depth interviews with leading individuals from six corporate blogs - that were selected as representative of the diverse spectrum of the corporate blogging world. What they discovered was that for the majority of our survey sample, corporate blogs are living up to all the hype. They discovered that corporate blogs are giving established corporations and obscure brands the ability to connect with their audiences on a personal level, build trust, collect valuable feedback and foster strengthened relationships while and at the same time benefiting in ways that are tangible to the sales and marketing side of the business. Just like in other aspects of life, success breeds success. What we see with successful blogs is a chain reaction that starts with a sincere interest on the part of the bloggers to provide their audience with great value in terms of useful and engaging content in the form of information, help, discussion and ideas. If a company can harness their customers’ knowledge and ideas, a company will find better ways to satisfy their customer’s needs and wants.Listening to customers and acting on their suggestions is one of the best ways to build a group of customers who are committed to expressing their goodwill to their community. It is a common practice in blogging to provide a link back to a thought originator, which is valuable because backlinks are a way that search engines distinguish the order of the editorial rankings. When customers start commenting, posting or tracking back to their blogging community it can have a viral effect - spreading the word through other blogs. We discovered that it is a company’s blogging strategy that will produce the strongest community goodwill, and that goodwill brings the most marketing and sales returns.

Can Marketing companies even those already active with the Internet gain any advantages?

Forester Research, in its RSS 101 (One to One) Market report suggest that RSS is a powerful tool, albeit for the technologically advanced today. They also suggest that marketers should test and deploy to proactively maintain relationships with their customers. It currently appears that RSS is morphing into an individually targeted marketing channel capable of off-setting many of the downsides of other channels. This technology allows companies to target, segment and personalise communications, much as the way email does today. Individualised RSS recipients receive text, images and promotional offers uniquely matched to their interests and desires. The individualised feeds enable marketers to communicate with subscribers based on demographics, past behaviour or any other segmenting attributes. Recently it has been suggested that podcasting could be a useful tool, effectively contributing to an ‘attention economy’. Audio on the move that is subscriber based is a powerful ‘tuned’ medium.

What next ?
Forester’s research reveals that 57% of marketers are interested in adding RSS to their marketing mix. A related reason may be the demographics of those who are online today. Marketers are excited by the possibility of a 100% message deliverability to a desktop via an RSS feed rather than email. There are no email maintenance issues with RSS.
Maybe the potential of RSS is only restricted by our imagination to apply it to commercial contexts.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Stereotypes need to be challenged

Whilst reading a few Blogs I came across a fascinating one regarding personal identity. It reminded me of the time a few years back when I attended a meeting in Poole (Dorset, England, UK) - Probably in the mid 90s.

Just some background, I was born in London and my father was one of the early migrants to the UK in 1958. I am a Sikh.

Back to the story - I had spent 2 hours in the car from London. I parked in the giant car park of a bank I was attending to talk to this potential client about an international project.

I proceeded to the main desk situated in the middle of a giant glass roofed atrium. The receptionist turned to me and asked me who I wished to see. I replied with her name. Her expression suddenly changed to a shock or alarm or wonder. She suddenly declared – ‘You're not supposed to talk like that!’ - She was implying that I should have spoken in a stereotypical accented manner – not that there is anything wrong with talking with an accent – the ability to communicate in any tongue is an accomplishment. My only reply was to explain that quite a few generations were now in the UK and that Peter Sellers, the comedian had not done anyone any favours by planting an unfortunate vocal stereotype.

The story shows that unfortunately in this day and age assumptions can be made about a person just on first glance. I have a Sikh friend who has an amazing broad Glaswegian (from Glasgow) accent - although since being in the South of the UK for a while he had lost some of it.

Since 9/11 much has been done to address the need to respect all communities. After 6 years we still face the challenges of ignorance. When you look at the unfortunate events of 9/11 there were so many international victims – I remember a picture of the wives of many of the victims. They were pregnant at the time of their partner’s death but had since given birth. They were of many different denominations. I just feel we need to remember that we are one world - we may all look different but our hearts beat to the same beat - to life - to live and to support each other.

Fighting Stereotypical attitudes:

Use of language is not just refined to audio, as the written word is something we must also be aware of. How many authors are there that can reflect the true sense of real-life? Often we have to put up with some cravers of sensationalist headlines. We need to be aware that language can also be institutionalised, for example use of adjectives and assumptions of society view-points. Visual stereotyping is something that I have also written about in the past (Bollywood betrays). In many cases TV and movies do not help.

There are some solutions but they need investment with commitment. We need TV, radio and newsprint channels that seek to bridge communication lines (Developed by Sikhs). They need to be distinct, accurate and politically free. We need to respect our heritage and communicate its lessons. We need good role models. We need clear and concise commentary – showing intellectual debate on issues. We need to show the essence of what Sikhs really are – Believing in our fundamental principles, for example: Human Rights, Equality, and Honest living…

Building such a communications environment is a strong contributor to destroying stereotypes and establishing truth.

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