The Opinions

Simple stands out in a complex world.

Early on in Ideosphere, an advisor told me ‘if you can’t explain to me your business in two sentences, then you do not know your business’ I arrogantly brushed it off then. I agree our pitch was complex, but it worked. So what’s his problem, I thought. 

And, then you grow wiser or learn by fire. I grew wiser, after the fire. I realised that people find it difficult to talk about the brand if the pitch is complicated. A complicated pitch also hinders your happy customers from bringing more customers to your door. 

Getting your audiences to talk about you, remember you, recommend you, celebrate you, and love you is one of the outcomes of great branding. But, how will they ever talk about you if all of them are still trying to figure out what to do? Today the market has become even more cluttered, complex and nonlinear, making the need to be simple the reason you will win your market. 

But, creating a simple front end of your communication, requires a complex back end. You need to deep dive into the way your audiences think and what they really care about? Understand what is the pain you solve? How important is the pain? What are the choices they have if not you? Having the pulse of your customer is a tedious, and often, chaotic process, but once you get it, you will reach a higher level of clarity. And with clarity, your messaging will be simple, intentional, relevant and purposeful.You must consider three main elements in defining this simplicity in your message framework. It lies in the centre. Consider the brand to be your customer, and study it as if you are understanding it for the first time. Then, study your ‘customer’s customer’. These are otherwise known as the end users of the product, and then study your ‘customer’s customer’s choices’. 

It is important to note that your customer’s customer’s choices are different from only your competition set. It is all the ways the end user can solve their problems instead of coming to you. You will find this often goes way beyond our traditional competitive sets. The first step is to find and define overlaps in each of the elements. Between the brand and the user define the key pain you are solving, and ensure the pain you are solving is a pain the customer wants to solve. You will be able to define the journey of the user in selecting how to solve their pain as an overlap between the user and their choices. And, between the brand and the users’ choices help define all the ways they solve their problems without you. The definition of how they solve their pain with you is your right to win. 

The 3 key elements start looking different. They are now focused on the pain your brand solves, the pain your users have and all the ways they solve it. The overlap of these three will create the simplest messaging you can create. 

Message I: The pain I solve
Message II: The type of user personas that have this problem
Message III: The way I solve it better than everyone else

A great example of how to win the market with simple messaging is Airbnb. Book rooms with locals, rather than hotels. That’s it. It talks about a solution and why it is better than hotels, but what is the pain of the user they solve? It was missing. And then, they brought in with ‘belong anywhere’. Not being able to feel like they belong was the pain they solved. And they solved this better than anyone else. Here is what their Brian Chesky had to say about their messaging shift:

“It turns out the answer was right in front of us. For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong…And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere.”

This simplicity not only helped them build a strong, differentiated brand with a simple, intentional message, but also, build a strong, significantly profitable (something you do not hear with heavily funded companies)  business!

Change the way you look at your messaging from the solution you provide to the pain you solve. This change in perspective will not only simplify messaging, but make it relevant and easy to understand for the user who is paying the cost of not being able to solve the problem every day. 

Aniruddha Atul Bhagwat, Ideosphere.

The Opinions

Topic: Listen intentfully, respond purposefully

Digital makes it easy to listen, simple strategy should make it easy to refine and respond. Brands must stay agile, prepared and show intent to listen to endear themselves to audiences

We often hear that the advent of digital media has made it easier to consume and communicate information about any brand, business, or person. But we also know the digital world has become so cluttered that everyone speaks to everyone.

So how can one stand out? How do we ensure we reach the right set of audiences?

We can do this by listening – an extremely powerful tool.And how do we do this?The most straightforward answer to this will be to go digital. Yes, it is undoubtedly the first choice. However, should it be the only choice?

I believe listening is a culmination of all five sensory organs clubbed with human intellect. It means the rich experiences of human life – from traveling to reading to listening to music to eating multiple cuisines, interacting with different cultures, and much more – everything tells us something and stays with us as we evolve. Using such insights at the right time is real art.

In addition to these insights, knowing who to listen to is also important. Again, relevant audiences play a critical role here. If we tend to speak in English to a person who has never been exposed to the language, our message will end up hitting a wall. Hence, the primary focus should be listening to the relevant audience – customers, their customers, and other stakeholders such as employees, investors, and partners- to know their personality, needs and demands, things/thoughts/aspects they care about, and much more.

Listening helps us understand the ground reality, their pain points, and their user-centric lens to align with their perspective.

Once the insights are gathered from all forms of listening, strategy becomes a cakewalk. However, here are some core tenets of strategy that can act as a guiding rule –

  • Simple to adopt
  • Impactful
  • Measurable
  • Purposeful
  • Long-lasting
  • Easy to scale

While the above needs no explanation to know what it signifies, this ‘Simple’ approach is undoubtedly not as simple to execute. However, the strategy starts shaping up with a razor-sharp focus on the end outcome that aligns with both the brand’s objectives + the end user’s expectations.  

Although here’s another important note to bear in mind. If listening can happen from sources beyond digital, so can communication. And hence, it is essential to look around and define the communication mediums + messages accordingly. Because everything from action to even numbers communicate –

On one of my recent work-travel trips, I hired a cab. 

On our way, the driver excitedly screamed, “Madam, see that car going by. It’s from my hometown.”

At first, I wondered what led him to say that, but the next moment I realized. It was surprising to see how the smallest element, a number plate, could make such a personal connection.

It got me thinking. We often look at creating fancy roadmaps, selecting communication mediums (often digital), creating message strategies, and finally, going all out to shoot. But we must remember that communication is about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. And hence, it becomes important to note that even the simplest mode of communication (as simple as a number plate) may result in a more significant impact. 

Purposeful communication is about connecting the right dots for meaningful action, and this can be achieved through mediums as tiny as number plates that we may never think of.

Gulshan Kaur Batra, Ideosphere.

The Opinions

1:1 or 1:Infinity

As messaging evolves beyond spray and pray, sharp-shooting to a hybrid approach that toggles between hyper-personalization and hyper-tribalism is required. Leadership is often the trigger or messenger


Religion’s Playbook For Brands

One of my favourite movies is OMG – Oh My God. It’s a low-budget sleeper-hit movie with Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar. The film talks about how some aspects of religion, God, and the people behind it exploit human fear for profit! Paresh Rawal, an atheist, shows us the true meaning of religion. Be God Loving and not God Fearing! 

It made me think of religion as a brand. That got me wondering – is there anything religion can teach us branding folks?  

Although it’s difficult to determine the exact revenue generated by religions of our world, as much of it comes as donations, tithes, and private offerings, religion is estimated to be a multi-billion dollar industry. Most religious organizations have annual incomes of hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, the Catholic Church has an estimated global revenue of over 170 billion dollars annually, while the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) generates around 40 billion dollars. Similarly, the Hindu temple economy in India is worth billions of dollars, with some of the largest temples receiving tens of millions of dollars in annual offerings and donations. In addition, the Hindu festival industry comprising the sale of religious goods and services generates significant revenue.

Religion offers high revenue, unique offering, high loyalty from followers, deep emotional connection, and multiple products to offer – everything a cult brand needs. Including a charismatic leader that everyone looks up to. Jesus and Mary. Durga, Ram, and Krishna. Buddha. There must be lessons in communications from such successful brands that we can learn and apply to other brands. After all, both religions and brands have a set of values, beliefs, and distinct identities broadcasted to their followers or customers. Both aim to build a community and foster relationships with their followers or customers. Both use various channels and platforms to communicate their message and reach a wider audience.

Looking closely at religion, we can see a clear pattern emerge: one-to-one communication followed by one-to-many communication. Often with the leader being at the center of it all. Take Christianity, for example. Jesus first spoke one-on-one with his early followers (the early adopters of brand language) and then addressed mass gatherings. And it worked! Today it is one of the most profitable brands in the world. 

So how do brands adopt this? Well, it is not something new. Some of the most successful brands have already used this approach. Take Apple as an example. It had a charismatic leader like Steve Jobs. Jobs was a genius at selling the dream to his colleagues. His one-to-one conversations almost always resulted in people being convinced about the idea. Jobs then took his one-to-one communication game and started speaking to mass gatherings – at product launches, developers’ meetings, annual business updates, and more. The brand built itself an almost religious/cultish following. People queue up to get their hands on the new releases. The brand is the religion. The stores are the temples/churches. And everything else is the same. Apple has even more similarities to Christianity! It even has the crucifixion of Jobs and his return, post which the brand became unstoppable.

The list is endless. Ferrari. Dollar Shave Club. Tesla. Facebook. Religion and brands share many similarities in creating and maintaining a distinct identity, communicating their message, and fostering a sense of community and loyalty.

So how can other brands use this? Here is a use case to explore. 

Startup Founders

Let me summarise this with one example – The Wolf of Wall Street. Jordan Belfort’s story is a simple example of how a leader can use one-on-one communication to ignite an idea. And then use one-to-many communication to spread it like wildfire!  

The same is true for modern startups. Mark Zuckerberg’s dynamic one-on-ones with investors and inspiring town halls with his employees created a company that finds staunch support even during the most challenging times. Many companies follow this pattern even today. 

Startup founders use one-on-one communication to build their founding teams, get investors on board, and create a support framework. They then use one-to-many communication to hire, sell, and generate revenue. The same applies to the startup’s business communication. Generally starts with one-on-one communications with people who can be early adopters through customized sales pitches, followed by one-to-many communication with possible new customers such as social media marketing, influencer marketing, PR, and more. 

Mayur Milan, Ideosphere.

The Opinions

Do the basics right

A simple strategy abets simple execution. The focus can therefore be on the audience and outcomes. Communication levers are many but the choice should be easy and objective.


What is a brand? 
A brand isn’t what the company says it is, but it is what the customers say it is.
What do you need to build the correct perception of your brand? 
A simple brand strategy
How to develop a simple brand strategy?
A simple brand strategy is hard to define, but it should answer these questions – 
Who is it for?
What is it for?
What difference does it make?
What value does it create?
But is it that simple to answer these questions? 

A straightforward response to these questions will get you nowhere, and you’ll just be another faceless player in the category. Hence it is vital to ensure you have the essential elements covered.

Key elements required to build a simple strategy:

A brand story:
We need to think of our brand strategy as a story we are telling. A good brand narrative/story is not just something you read in an article or a book; it needs to catch the right pulse and connect to the right audience. It also needs to identify and promote a problem.

How is this relevant for a B2B brand? 
Well, the more complex or techy your brand is, the more you need storytelling. Else you will keep focusing on features or services rather than invoking the right emotion in your audience to believe in your brand.

A purpose:
A brand’s purpose is the reason it exists beyond making money. No, it goes beyond figuring out your CSR plan to coin your purpose. It’s for consumers to believe in more and come back for more! Every marketing activity, HR process, stakeholder communication, company culture, or CSR plan will revolve around that purpose. 

The personas:
You can only have an impact if you know who you are trying to connect to. Your target audience’s fears, triggers, motivations, and medium usage will help you send the right message at the right time and place.

Once the key elements are covered, it is easier to define the brand – vision, mission, values, positioning, archetypes, and tonality. And when this is set, it becomes a guide for every decision you make for the brand – whether it is launching a new website, brainstorming on a tagline, releasing a commercial ad or entering the media.

PaperBoat is one of the brands that caught my attention with their clear, authentic and effective strategy. Their tagline is ‘Drinks and memories,’ which tells you that this drink will take you on a trip down memory lane. You don’t need more than three words to convey your brand message. 

What are they essentially selling? 
Memories in a juice pack! 

They built the brand around their philosophy – Life is still beautiful. Everything from flying kites to trying to reach for a jar full of treats from a high cupboard to making paper boats became a point of conversation. Games from one’s younger days, such as the desi versions of cops and robbers in the form of Raja, Mantri, Chor, Sipahi, hopscotch and the all-time favorite classroom game, Flames became a point of fond memories. 

Indirectly, Paper Boat let the boat sail on the waters of nostalgia, encouraging sharing and exchange on bygone eras. And this wasn’t just limited to their marketing campaigns. It was carried across their product range, packaging, website, and games. The brand had a solid story to tell, it had a purpose of reconnecting people to their childhood, and it tapped consumers born in the 80s & 90s when they were bored of the usual futuristic non-insightful communication. This was a refresher, and this simple strategy made them the category disruptor.

Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple Inc., said it best: “Simple can be harder than complex. You must work hard to keep your thinking clean and simple. But it’s worth it in the end.”

Reema Desai, Ideosphere.

The Opinions

Masks Off

Enterprises and leaders need just one filter – authenticity – in thought, action, and reaction, to break silos and the ‘us versus them’ narrative with their audience.

We’ve all seen it.

Companies pretending to be something they’re not, leaders who say one thing and do another. 

In today’s fast-paced, hyper-connected world, it can be tempting for brands and leaders to try to please everyone, to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. But this often dilutes the message and leads to a failure to connect with anyone. 

Whether it’s a company claiming to be environmentally friendly while secretly engaging in harmful practices, or a leader who talks about equality but doesn’t walk the talk, it’s easy for audiences to spot insincerity. 

And when they do, the result is a breakdown in trust. They become more likely to turn away from the brand or individual and more likely to spread negative word-of-mouth.

Vladimir Putin’s leadership as the President of Russia is a stark example of the dangers of inauthenticity in leadership. 

Putin has been accused of using propaganda and manipulating the media to maintain his hold on power. He has also faced criticism for suppressing dissent, cracking down on political opposition, and his involvement in conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

At the heart of these allegations is the charge that Putin is not transparent or accountable and appears to prioritize his interests over those of the Russian people. 

This lack of authenticity has seriously affected the country and contributed to a lack of trust in Putin and his leadership. 

Inauthentic leadership can have far-reaching adverse effects, whether at the national or corporate level. 

Authenticity is not always easy; it means being genuine, taking risks, and making difficult decisions. But in the long run, it pays off.

Use case:

One brand that has exemplified authenticity in recent years is Nike.

In 2018, the company released an ad featuring former NFL player Colin Kaepernick with the tagline, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” 

This ad sparked controversy and backlash, but Nike stood by its message and values, even as some called for a boycott of the company.

As a result of this authenticity, Nike saw a 31% increase in online sales in the days following the ad’s release, and the brand’s reputation and brand loyalty only grew stronger. Nike took a stand, which paid off because it was true to itself and its values.

Authenticity is the one filter that brands and leaders must embrace to build trust, break through the noise, and truly connect with their audience. 

By being genuine and transparent and taking a stand on issues that matter to them, they can break down silos and the “us versus them” narrative and create meaningful connections with their audience. In today’s divisive world, authenticity has never been more critical.

Siddharth Vaze, Ideosphere.

The Opinions

The Consequence of Message Timing

‘The diffusion of good content’ graph (for enterprises, good = business impacting) follows a similar curve to its older sister graph – the diffusion of innovation. When OpenAI (in production for over a decade) released ChatGPT, it took the first-generation internet gatekeepers by storm. Many sleepless nights later, the verdict was unanimous – the phenomenon was here to stay. Future generations may wonder how we survived before Generative Pre-trained Transformers came into our lives and lifted us from the dark ages when we had to do stuff manually. You cannot spend 15 seconds on your timeline without thousands of self-proclaimed AI prompt experts who want to make you believe that without AI, you are falling back in your career, not being a good parent and are about to get replaced by everything—much yawn. 

Timeline of Diffusion of Content Model:

Every day, consumers demand more, and brands are presented with opportunities to deliver. The exaggerated and hyperbolic timeline suggested in the content graph is designed to help readers of multiple generations reach orientation faster. 

Think of any recent digital content trend that every brand jumped onto. Still, from the PoV of the consumer –  The Zomato Blinkit hoardings (cringe), we envisioned the future of our industry with Dall-E (every picture looked like Skynet had taken over) or looked at our cute avatars in our metaverse (glitchy). Now, chart your journey from the first sighting to when you wish you could erase them all and not see one more post about it – content relevance is a cruel mistress—brand managers who are accustomed to the challenge of getting the content timeline right – iykyk.

The 3-Pinch Content Model:

I make an assumption we all have used maps on our phones. It takes us three ‘pinches’ to get our bearings right – door address > street > locality. With each pinch on your screen, the complexity of information increases, but you get more information, direction and context. 

In the era of fast-moving digital timelines, the format of storytelling can make all the difference. The content equivalent of the 3-Pinch Model works similarly – tell the story in 3 words, 3 paragraphs or 3 pages. Let’s see how:

3 Words:
Be the first to tell it immediately – worry about the consequences later. The limited word filter is all about the urgency of the moment. Did you see Apple’s new store facade in Saket, Delhi? Are we rewriting history? The magnitude of the milestone should match the frugality of the message. 

3 Sentences:
Give more context. Early customer communication, reporting of news that goes beyond the obvious, and a chance to add meaning to the dialogue are apparent benefits. A bit of planning, brainstorming, and original design go a long way toward creating dialogue and context with your audience, irrespective of the adoption curve. 

3 Pages:
Not literally content over 3 pages—the idea here is to use the longer format to its full force. The extended format content manifestation possibilities are the best for a well-worded CEO blog or a full-length feature with an influencer. However, with today’s decreasing attention spans and higher mobility ranking, long format need not be a one-time exercise but the continuation of a deep-rooted brand thought.

So, how do we solve this content conundrum? 

By viewing Content as a Parallel Product, your company is building. A hyper-inflated content economy can be toxic to brand value very quickly. Keeping pace with a generic audience is easy, but not with the demanding customer. Brands that help the audience view the product’s promise in the shortest time possible will win. But before that happens, only those brands that make the audience find relevance easily will even get a chance to tell the product story.

Shoebahmed Shaikh, Ideosphere.