Extraordinary Men. Ordinary Wars.

Soldiers

I lay there in the bushes, waiting for the sun to come up. They say the average man can survive 3 days without water. But average men are not chosen to infiltrate enemy camps. No, it takes extraordinary courage to sit in these bushes. It takes sheer strength and will power to wait here until the right moment. You might get lucky and the right opportunity might present itself within a few hours. But I’m not known to be a man of fate. No, I make my own luck. From the colour of socks I will wear on a particular day, to the woman I’m about to marry, I choose each and everything. If I’m here, it is because I choose to be. I am not the dumb soldier I’m made out to be. I’m not simply following orders thrust upon me. I’m not merely a pawn in this bigger game of chess. I have reasons to do what I am doing, and these reasons can only be understood if you choose to see things the way I do. Whilst you sit on your sofas, comfortable, cozy and warm, wrapped in a blanket, contemplating as to how the bureaucrats and politicians make us fight the war they started, I sit here inside a bush, fighting for survival, 72 hours plus on the clock, scrambling to breathe. But do you ever wonder as to whose survival I fight for? Is it just mine? How the atrocities and attacks I face every day are just a news flash for you? And what does it make you do, but flutter words in favour of peace. But peace does not really seem such a viable option when you might just wake up among dead bodies the next day. Wars are not a product of the modern century. They’ve existed ever since man has. For it has always been a fight for what is mine and what is yours. And what is yours I will eventually try and take, by force or by words. If I fail to do my job, people die. If I continue to do my job, people still die. It is merely a choice between choosing to kill the people on the other side of the line, or watching the people die on this side of the line. And what is so moral about watching a man kill another man, whilst you have the ability and means to stop this killing. Is it more immoral to kill a man who is eventually going to kill another man? But how do we justify morality? How do we measure it? The walls created by society and strengthened by superficial laws are not a significant measure. There is good and there is bad. My actions do not justify what is what, neither does the outcome. It is the intent with which I kill. My intent can be viewed as that of a person killing people, or as that of someone defending people. I see it as the latter, and that is all that matters. Your view could be different, but then every action has multiple eyes scrutinizing it from multiple angles, but the action remains same, and so does the outcome. So what changes, if not the intent? And the intent is always mine; you cannot change or affect it. So what makes you judge my actions, when only I have the power to choose them, and only I understand the intent behind them. Don’t look so powerless now, do I?  But come tomorrow, and you will continue to sit on a chair, a fan over your head, and an air conditioner on the wall, and will continue to talk about peace, love, humanity and oneness. But what about me? I’ll be alone, in a ditch, or swamp, maybe a bush, or if I’m pushing on my luck, a jungle. But I don’t happen to be a lucky man. So I’ll be somewhere on the line, protecting you, killing for you, dying for you. Spare a thought for me, for I’m not the average man you believe me to be.
The clock on my wrist beeped. Average men cannot survive 73 hours without water.

 - The author does not promote wars. It is merely a piece of fiction.

FIFA World Cup 14: A Marketing Analysis

With all guns blazing, this year’s FIFA world cup has surrounded our lives in some way or the other, which makes this an opportune time to analyse as to what makes it tick and how other brands gain traction from it. Broadly from a marketing perspective, we have the capability to analyse how the Brazil edition of the world cup has marketed itself and then we can analyse how other brands have gained from it, either by direct sponsorship or just clever marketing, even though they might not be directly affiliated with the event.

The first and foremost task for an event of such a scale is to create a logo and a mascot which stays in the viewers’ mind. And for this edition of the event, this has been accomplished magnificently. The official logo is entitled “Inspiration”, and was created by Brazilian agency Africa. The design is based around a photograph of three victorious hands together raising the World Cup trophy and its yellow and green coloring is meant to represent Brazil warmly welcoming the world to their country. Also, the mascot is known as tatu-bola, an armadillo that defends itself from predators by rolling up into a ball.

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For the sponsorship of the 2014 World Cup, FIFA has created a three-tier sponsorship structure. The primary tier consists of the FIFA Partners, the second tier of FIFA World Cup Sponsors and the third tier of the National Supporters for each FIFA event. Sponsorship is an important tool for brands in growing awareness and product distribution and building relationships with its business clients. This 3-tier structure provides varied freedom to these brands in associating themselves with FIFA. The World Cup, being four-week frenzy, enables brands to fight for consumers’ attention. Only the brands in these 3-tiers have official rights to embed the FIFA logo in their ads and promotions. But this does not stop other non-affiliated brands from leveraging the opportunity to promote their visibility. Soccer being a world-wide phenomenon, allows them to use strategies such as ambush marketing to cash in on the football fever without having to pay millions to FIFA as rights fee. Many a times, the generic viewer is unable to differentiate between the affiliated brands and the non affiliated brands, in fact, they do not care. This gives the non affiliated brands an edge over the others as they are able to use the money they spent on rights fee, on having a bigger advertisement budget and creating more engaging and creative ads.

The fact that tournament’s official sponsors and partners have had to spend so much money on partnership, they want commensurate returns for it. Due to which they often gain exclusive rights and put a lock on what is put in front of consumers at World Cup venues and on TV. For example, fans hoping to enjoy a cold beer at the World Cup in Brazil will not be able to purchase local favorites thanks to a restrictive official sponsorship agreement between FIFA and  InBev, the world’s biggest brewer. This is the reason why many experts opine that companies would be well advised to consider eschewing official sponsorships in favor of emerging branding tactics that are cheaper, more innovative, and better able to connect with global audiences while respecting local stakeholders.

Although the World Cup is a big opportunity for marketers to innovate, there are inherent risks for brands too. There has been a huge uproar over the fact that a humongous amount of money has been spent on the World Cup so far. Many are of the opinion that this money could have been used to foster a better livelihood standard for many of the Brazil’s poor. Social unrest in Brazil has lead to a lot of blame being placed on the sponsors. For brands the question is whether to distance themselves from such controversies, or engage with the issues directly and take a stand. Rob Mason, managing director of sports and media business IMG Consulting International, argues that in most cases brands should avoid acting as the moral arbiters of wider issues and remember that they are ultimately “only sponsors”. If marketers can align creative and engaging campaigns with smart PR, their rewards from Brazil could be huge.

On the other end of the spectrum are other brands that gain mileage by somehow smartly incorporating the current events with their brand image to release an innovative advertisement/poster at the correct time to make hay while the sun shines. For example:

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All it took Bud Light and 14th Street Pizza was some wit and creativity to incorporate the Suarez incident into their posters, and the brand visibility they gained without spending any substantial amount, is immense.

Also, soccer players have a great opportunity to cash in on their popularity during this season. For example, US team’s break-out star goalie Tim Howard can make a killing if he decides to dive full on it into it, as products such as sunblocks and security agencies would be willing to pay him any amount of money to rope him in their adverts.

Finally, a lingering question that is in one too many minds is that is sponsoring the World Cup worth it?  Are the millions of dollars spent by the sponsors returned in sales growth?  The answer is a bit complicated as it requires consideration of uniqueness of each of the industries. While ROI can be difficult to measure for major Sports Marketing investments, some directional results can be surmised. FIFA partners such as Coke, with immense scale and global presence, are likely benefit both in the short term and long term. The smaller, local organizations will likely find strong returns harder to attain as they do not have the scale to drive the sales necessary to recoup their investment.

The System

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Imagine. You were born in front of this computer, an old school personal commuter not a laptop, of which you can only see monitor, keyboard etc but not the CPU, you don’t know how it works, it just does things, you don’t even need to know, do you? There is just this, the computer.

Now, every other person has the same kind of PC and everyone is told to just make PowerPoint presentations. Well, a little twist, the person with least number of presentations will be removed from the system everyday. So you HAVE to make PowerPoint presentations. When you are done, after 16 hours, you can relax by listening to some music, but only pop music, all other types of music are banned, again… you ‘ll be thrown out of the system. But look, you can choose ANY of the pop artist you wanna listen to, that’s not bad, is it?

In every few years you are given a chance to change the operating system, what will you choose? Windows 7? 8? Vista? XP? Or are you a radical, Mac? But Linux is not an option. Are you crazy? Linux? Its just too damn complicated for you. And there is no need, all you have to do is make PP presentations and listen to pop music.

It makes some people angry, they want 8 hours day for PP presentation makings, not more than that. And they wanna make Excel sheets or use Words or what not, but, NO. You are out of system. Then after few years you are given options to chose any program you wanna chose from MS office catalog. But still person with least presentation or sheets will be kicked out of the system. And, obviously no metal music.

Some people might try to check out some rock songs every once in a while and some of them might get caught and get kicked out of the system. So are you brave enough? Eh? But why? Just make PP and listen to pop music why would you wanna do other stuff? Are you crazy?

This goes on forever and ever and ever and no one, NO ONE will ever wonder how does the system work? Where is the CPU?

Blinded by your needs and greed most of us never question the system, we don’t know that it’s based on violence. “Violence you say? Are you crazy? How?”

So now answer these three basic questions, alright? (Or else you will be kicked out of the system)

  1. Where were the cloths you are wearing made?
  2. What will happen if start living in a house or just a room and don’t pay your taxes or rent?
  3. What will happen if you walk into a restaurant without any money?

The answers are most probably the following:

  1. Some place like Bangladesh, Thailand, Korea or any other place with cheap labor under worst-than-dead conditions. Or maybe in Ludhiana or some other place in north India with virtually same conditions.
  2. You ‘ll be kicked out of the house and system, by police.
  3. Again, the same cop will come and arrest you, that bastard.

Maybe I am exaggerating a little bit, but you know its true. Violence is the CPU.

Is there a God?

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Am I an atheist? Am I an agnostic? Or am I a believer? To tell the truth, I have no clue at all.

I often tell myself whatever happens, happens for the best. And there have been many instances that do support my belief. But when I sit and contemplate, I have no scientific explanation as to why that would be true. We have a tendency to attribute whatever happens to us, good or bad, to a mysterious being looking upon us all from somewhere above. And that subconsciously affects our decisions.

At times I will stand before the idols in my home and pray for what I desire. And at times I will wonder how absurd it is. Believing that a mass produced industry product is capable of being the abode for the one that supposedly the creator of this universe, seems whimsical. Though, I do understand that it acts just a proxy for Him; but shouldn’t a representation of such a being be a little more, umm, amorphous? Believing that we are mere puppets of a higher power but still capable of representing him with a fair amount of unanimity among us seems contradictory to me. I cannot comprehend that how although we as humans are a fairly homogeneous race when seen through the lenses of biological anatomy, but still can have thousands of different higher powers in every different sub section of our society.

Yes, I do have many ambiguous thoughts and this is not an attempt to either resolve them or seek answers. It’s just an outlet for venting them. Like every other thing that makes me a human, this is one of them. Raised in a fairly normal Hindu family, I never questioned the existence of god. But in the last one year or so, specially after reading “Sophie’s World” and few other articles, my perspective on how I view everything around me, has changed.

I once read someone saying in an article that the most sensible thing to do if you are religious is to question the existence of god. Blindly believing its existence is against everything religion stands for.

On the other end of the spectrum , there are many who do not believe in a higher power, and science is their advocate for it. They will vehemently propose its pragmatic and arguably gospel nature. And I, in part, stand by it. But I also believe that science is not infallible. It is on a learning curve as well. Everything we know now is not everything we will ever need to know. Our existence is just a speck in the multidimensional progression of time. And what follows our existence and inevitable death will definitely falsify many of our beliefs which we today hold as gospel. History is testimony to that fact. So to believe that everything we now know is definitely everything we need to know, is a naive assumption to make.

Before I part, I will take a leave by giving words to a thought that has been on my mind for a while.

There are some perceptions and ideas in our everyday life which somehow we chance upon, and they consciously or unconsciously stick with us. Gradually we start designating them as our own thoughts, and we start to believe in them. In fact, every person is shaped by their experiences. To believe that you, as a human, are a single entity is a farce. We are ever evolving and the most explicitly obvious yet the least commonly understood fact is to accept that you change, your opinions change and that gives you credibility as someone who can understand himself on his own rather than someone who blindly accepts what others have told him about himself. I believe such a self-realization brings us somewhat closer to whatever we are supposed to learn in life, about life.

Bouncing Back

She lay still. Almost like a corpse. Suddenly everything stopped making sense to her. Her entire life was now meaningless.
He was just a part of it. But the naïve person she was, she thought her world revolved around him. She thought he was her world instead. Oh hopeless romance.

She had been a drama queen. Until then she blew little things out of proportion and laughed off the attention she got. But now, she had witnessed a big event of her life. She was not sure if she wanted to keep that as a memory.

It was three in the morning. She wanted to talk to someone, but the voice seemed lost. “Hello, hello.” She did not reply. She hung up the phone and lay still again. It kept buzzing. But she was unsure of what she would say now.

The call was from the person she built her world around. But its funny how trust once broken can make you dumb. It was like reality had slapped her so bad. Even the spirits in the room, if they could talk, would mock at her and at the same time pity her.

She took out a sleeping pill, popped it in. And God, she was wrong. The void in her made the pill ineffective. That was the first time an empty mind had caused her a headache.

Empty mind. But only one thing bounced back in her thoughts again and again. “How could he cheat on me?” Tired of thinking the same thing she slipped into a nap, also hoping she would feel better when daylight struck and birds chirped.

A fine beam of the sun pinched her in the eye and to her shock, everything was as still as it was four hours back. She was a morning person, but what was unusual about this one? The void. She was reminded of it again.

She clinched her fist and struck her head with it, once twice thrice. She wanted to cry. But she could not. She wanted to eat but this was a depression. The worst part was that, she went the same way for the next fortnight.

Until when she stood on the terrace that night, the wind brushed through her hair. She was forced to feel her breathing. She closed her eyes. It was dark. Usually she saw two faces happy. But this time, it was pitch dark. Suddenly, she saw a face, trying to make its way like the sun on a cloudy day.

It emerged clearer and clearer… and it was her face. She was smiling, in that short dream and in reality. She did not expect to see herself like that again. Two drops from each eye rolled out. She was crying. Usually one would call it mixed emotions, but she knew she was happy. She howled, she allowed all the negativity to drain out form the abyss of her soul.

She knew this would be the first and the last time she would cry over this. The future would only have her thinking of this as a lesson. And just then she realised how everything really happens for a reason and for good.

She had had a closure from a dead relationship which was only alive in her mind. Alive until he cheated on her. And now there she is again, telling everyone how she is happy about that unfaithfulness,and that she could see the reason for his infidelity.

I told you she is a drama queen. Now she says “Cheating is good, it frees at least one bird from the cage every time.”

Our Very Own Superpower!

Everyone has his or her own personal fairy tale. Some are inspired from our very own Walt Disney popular style, some from the super hero stuff (flurry with happy endings). Sometimes our real life comes close to it and at other times we strive really hard.

Someone told me we all of have undiscovered super powers. I asked how one could find what really is the super power? And I do not remember the answer honestly. Or perhaps there is no answer at all.

Imagine if we could find what really is our super power. Imagine yourself playing in the field with your power and your friends with their own. Imagine how you could experiment with it. Find how it is fearful for your own self, and then you would find ways around it, recover and explore an absolutely new side of it.

Imagine you have been clumsy all your life. People laugh at you as you call for social embarrassment when you fall into the unnoticed dustbin, or drop an orange juice on your white top or slip by the pavement as you notice someone awesome cross paths with you.

And then imagine if you realise that could be your strength. You suddenly realise how you carried your luck unknowingly through things. Like when you fell into the dustbin, it was because you were saving yourself and so many others who could get hit by a fast moving car in the campus, but because they all were busy laughing at you, the car passed away. And hello, they did not even notice that and thank you!

Or when you dropped that orange juice on you white top, it formed an amazing pattern and it suddenly became the new hot summer trend for your peers too, and you could see all those people in the canteen dropping different juices in different pattern (I apologise if it sound inappropriate).

And that time when you slipped on the pavement, I am sure you would refer to that as unwanted attention from that person. But you know how they say someone who can laugh off the pain in the ass (literally here), can attract the best attention ever. That ways, it is easy to be spunky, cool, jazzy, and funny and guess what… great easy attention transferred all at the same time. Just smile looking straight into their eyes; you never know that person might just fall too.

I know this lies in the category of easier said than done. I do not really know what fits right for me. I am the clumsiest person you will ever come across. I dropped an entire tray of food in a dark theater hall as I tripped off a stair and by the end of that millisecond thanked God that no one saw. I do not know how I could fix that. The food was spoilt and a lot of money wasted. But then when I came back to my seat and thought about it, I realised how I was standing on the cash counter and thinking, “What if just happen to drop all of this while entering?” And that happened, for real.

It struck me how my thoughts manifested into a real action, involuntary though, but it did. So I am now discovering how I can transform my thinking into positive, constructive yet involuntary action and perhaps that is my super power. (Sounds absolutely bizarre, I know)

I have read a lot of motivational books and read about how the universe manifests your thinking into real time result for what you direct it to be like. I don’t know if there is universe listening to me, or a genie waiting for my command.

But I do understand that thoughts must come big as life for good reasons. We do not want to be harmed and we do not want to be hurt. So why not strive for positive action and let the power lie in it. That might just be this humanity’s biggest super power ever.

“For my personal fairy tale, has good in store for all.”

Happy Reading.

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