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Sourabh Mishra
Sourabh Mishra

The Age of Now

"So, what's new, young people?" That's how one of my first bosses used to greet us, a bunch of fresh faced trainees many, many years ago.

Today if I were to ask the same question, a trainee is likely to tell me that as we talk, the new is already getting old and the 'new new'is being created, which will be old by the time he starts telling me about it!

Welcome to the age of NOW. In the flurry of 24X7 activity, where someone, somewhere in the world is adding to your to-do list round the clock, the finish line has been erased. An age where everything is in constant beta. As Kevin Roberts (CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide) puts it, "In the age of now, execution is the killer app." And the much talked about poster from the Facebook campus acknowledges, "Done is better than perfect."

New is no longer the way through. Businesses have to be faster than that today. Because our consumers (yes, even the Indian consumers) are getting much faster than us. With Facebook, Google and Wikipedia on their side, their expectations are being reset right now by what is changing in some part of the world even as we catch up on some much needed sleep.

As marketing and advertising people, our role was traditionally evaluated by our ability to pump the markets for our brand and products. Our success in the age of now will be equally measured on our ability to create movements. Movements that will involve people, making the measurement metric bigger than just 'return on investment'to include 'return on involvement.

Creating involvement means we will have to start thinking beyond ideas that just grab consumers'attention, to ideas that encourage consumers'participation. For only then will the consumer start owning the idea, and the brand. And the most successful brands in the age of now will be owned by the people. Lao Tzu could have been talking about leader brands when he defined the best leaders in the Tao of leadership as, "A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves."

Participation will be driven by the power of the idea to inspire and not merely inform. By its ability to allow for interaction and not just its potential for effective interruption. And only then will we have truly powerful ideas to drive our brands in the age of now. Ideas which will evolve in constant beta in the very able hands of our consumers, who will be co-owners of the brand.

How do we know when we have hit upon good ideas? First, check if people want to experience (not just 'see or read or hear) the idea again. And again. Then, are they inclined to share the idea with people they know? And finally, do they want to improve upon the idea? If the answer is yes to all three, then we have a potential winner in the age of now.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of the afaqs.com.

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