Dawn and Aurora conference in Karachi

Hameed Haroon takes a stand against corruption
Irfan Mustafa:"Pakistan is a great product but a lousy brand

To Karachi for my second visit and a joy it was too. Pakistan has a culture of hospitality that makes others look shallow

Three contributions from Pakistanis stood out:-

Hameed Haroon, CEO of Dawn Media Group, berated the conference for not taking a firmer stand against corruption. Media owners and media agencies collude rather than operating in the best interests of their clients. Dawn has a firm policy of not giving backhanders in return for a place on the media schedule. He also pointed out that the system for measuring circulation figures had been corrupted.

Farhan Hassan talked about Pakistan as not being a discount economy but a Sachet economy-not just in the literal sense of for small sachets of detergent/other forms of single shot, but in the broad sense of low cost, small units that are easily transfered. Such as the pre paid phone card where you can sell on your unused minutes to a buddy ( from the Philipines) or the washing machine for small loads with a see through lid or micro finance banks making small loads to women to set up small business. Innovation would come from “sachet markets” rather than rich markets in all sorts of categories in future.

Irfan Mustafa upbraided the privileged few for failing to show confidence in Pakistan.He had the most memorable phase of the day- “Pakistan is a great product and a lousy brand”. He pointed out that you cannot just let Fox news do Pakistan’s PR you have to believe in the country and talk it up. He cited as evidence the fact that no multinational had left the country and it remained a good place to invest. Fox news may portray the country as a war zone -the American media did the same to the UK when the IRA were active-but the likes of Coca Cola and Pizza Express know otherwise. Interesting facts- Coca Cola per capita consumption in PK is 55 ml compared to 14 ml in India. Average weekly takings in a Pizza hut restaurant are  $28,000 in PK and $8,000 on India.The IMF loan to the country at $17.5 billion is peanuts compared to the Greek meltdown and had stabilized the finances

My overwhelming sense is that Pakistan really needs to tell new and different stories (otherwise the insurgency will continue to dominate the agenda.) There is great new writing and a thriving art scene. If India has Jaipur then Pakistan needs its own internationally acclaimed festivals. A concerted effort to create different story needs to be made. People can journey through the country and what a journey that can be in one of the most visually striking places on earth-why not run a competition for young film makers to tell the story of their own journeys through the country-a point of pride for young Pakistanis and perhaps at least start to break down the perceptions barriers of “the Pakistan brand.”

Great shop facias of our time

BIPA have several shops in Vienna-all have the same aesthetic if not the exactly the same design. The identity fills the front of the store resulting in the most distinctive shop front in the parade. A good example of challenger thinking. Take the conventions of facia design and bust out of them. But not  in a crass or domineering way. It’s inviting-you feel you are about to enter a wonderland of pinkness and femininity. Just had to go in.

Fantasy Austrian Clothing in Kitzbuhel

S&M meets Hansel and Gretel

The window display of Der Nacht Der Tracht. A destination shop if ever there was one with a style of clothing that you will not find elsewhere. It is as if Austrians had decided to dress up as milkmaids and farmers in a Hansel and Gretel story. If you remake The Sound of Music as an S&M movie it would be the ideal wardrobe.No Austrian seen wearing the garb or indeed going into the shop for a browse. One wonders what they had on display at the back of the store.

Data- a surprisingly interesting story

It has to be one of the most unenticing Economists front pages for a while -“The data deluge and how to handle it”.But it proves to be a right riveting read with some fresh jargon to enjoy. “Data Exhaust” is a my favourite-we all produce it and people are collecting it to see what i really like. The Digital equivalent of going through my garbage. why such a good read?

Data reveal patterns and those patterns are the stuff of human nature.Behind every pattern lies a story about people,government and business

Data offer glimpses into hidden behaviour only revealed by the data patterns.In Oakland California they looked at the arrests made in a particular area and found that the police were taking a sneeky day off on wednesdays.

Data has its dreamers: the open data movement believe that full disclosure will shine a light on inefficiency in central and local government in a way that calling in the management consultants never quite will. Fix my street highlights problems with the roads from citizen generated data

Data has its seeming good guys (who may turn out in the long run to be bad guys). Fill in the gap. But it may turn out to be Google. Data is their competitive advantage and you tend to guard that.

Data has its popularisers: click on the facebook advertising button and use their data to analyse target audiences. Data analysis made easy. Advertising targetting made cheap

Data has its conspirathy theorists: what is going on behind closed doors and will what Google collect be used to spy on us? It has already happened in mobile phones and News of the World has been caught red handed. What  happens if spooks get their hands on my Google searches and puts 2+2 together and comes up with 5. I am about to go to Pakistan (again) to give a talk to advertisers- my son is interested in the Middle East and Islam. We would both show up as searching from the same computer. Suspicious? No actually. But you can easily see how the data could be misinterpreted.

As a light is shined on Big Data-Google, Amazon and others-more stories will be revealed. Just as the Data Dreamers want “full disclosure” so there has to be full disclosure about the data that is held and who holds it and what protection there is. If not regulation will be stronger than it need be or should be, with unintended consequences. Expect this story to run and run. Data are not dull. There are lots of actors on the stage with their own story to tell. And big financial interests are being protected.It will  make the Tesco customer database look like innocent child’s play.

This will be the Decade of Data, with the Data analysts as the new Ubergeeks.

The digerati have reverted to sending out letters!

Print: it's interactive but in a different and perhaps more satisfying way from digital.

At the TFM&A conference I was struck by what Ashley Freidlein of Econsultancy said in his key note address.He started by holding up a letter from Google-the purest of digital brands admitting that nothing quite beats the offer you get in a letter

Ashley now promotes his training courses on all matters digital by sending out a brochure. After 10 years of saying “the future is virtual” he appears to be saying that nothing quite beats getting a brochure in your hands.
A DVD from Betfair comes through the post.-explaining how it works and with an offer ( strictly in the interests of research you understand). So we now know that the peer to peer betting exchange needs to use the post.
Other straws in the wind- Marketing magazine report that The Week is the publication that has most increased its circulation among ABC 1s-it says that its readers don’t want a website. (As a subscriber i can confirm that i don’t)
and Eurostar are trying to repair their battered image with a customer magazine-a lot more persuasive than gazing at a screen surely
For most brands, the physical ( ie a letter or a brochure ) and digital (eg an email or a tweet) are complementary and mutually reinforcing.
But nonetheless here is a mini counter trend. The digerati have had it all their own way for over 10 years-digital was the modern, paperless, low cost way to go and the mail oh so so old fashioned and sweaty and physical.

Now several digerati appear to be admitting that the best form of “interactivity” (a word digital folk have ’till now annexed) is physical not virtual. The dear old letter or lovely brochure that you tear open and read that is a more powerful and enduring form of interactivity. Why so?

Perhaps it is because it just counts a lot more if someone goes to the bother of getting your address right, printing stuff and posting it to you. It shows you care in a way that that the casual email ( lost among 100s of other) never can quite. ( or ever will).

It could be that a great piece of direct marketing will always feel like more of a gift than anything virtual ever can ( unless you transfer large amounts of cash to me – that would be a gift that does count). Gifts will never lose their power. Ask the Japanese or try forgetting to give your mum a Christmas present. Behavioural psychologists ( see Yes!) have also shown that if we give gifts people feel bound to reciprocate.