Anand Halve

Call me sentimental but...

When a film like 'KICK' with no noticeable - or even token - evidence of logic, gets people to fork out over 200 crores in box office collections, all illusions (or delusions) that man is a rational creature can finally be put to rest. He isn't.

But I do not wish to sound elitist about this. There is no evidence that the appeal of the illogical is restricted to the fans of shirt-less musculoids. Take for instance the stock market analysts. Young men and women in this line, paid annual bonuses that exceed the GDP of several sub-Saharan countries, have no qualms about referring to the 'sentiment' in the market that is driving up stock market indices. In recent days, I have heard ostensibly hard-nosed businessmen too, speak about the new sentiment in industrial circles leading to an improvement in the investment climate.

If these movers and shakers of the world of commerce are quite happy to be driven by sentiment, it is too surely much to expect the average punter or housewife to be irrefutably Socratic in logical inferences and deductions, as they perambulate around the mall cheerfully picking up completely unnecessary items.

This has been a subject that has intrigued me for some time now: the assumptions of rationality we make as we develop marketing and communication plans.

Perhaps the times, when the models of communication were developed several decades ago, were different. Consider for instance, the irrefutable logic of an advertising model that postulated a sequential decision-making process that followed the stages of Awareness - Interest - Desire - Action.

Or the insistence that a product MUST offer a 'Reason-Why' to persuade customers about the superiority of one product over another. In categories including shampoos, skin creams, washing products and others, there are now more and more esoteric ingredients and actions (sundry -noids, -complexes, -busters, etc) that are touted as the evidence that the offering is better than others. Unless one is so close to such exercises that one cannot see it, these messages are being conveyed in a language that is dead.

A small straw poll among consumers suggested that these consumers neither understand nor particularly care for these 'rational' proofs. The problem goes further. Once a piece of communication has incorporated all the rationale for claiming superiority, it is put through research that again, is predicated on a logical model of consumer behaviour. Dangerously, research based on models of logical decision-making by consumers may lead to modification (or creation) of communication that overemphasizes the 'rational arguments' and consequently, make the communication logically robust, but boringly uninteresting.

All the recent anecdotal evidence around us suggests that barring completely insane claims, consumers are willing to go along with what a brand says. They know they will discover the truth of what you say in the experience with the product, and if you have lied, God help you.

And of course all the current discussion around brands reiterates how successful brands establish relationships with consumers based on an emotional connect. The consumer would rather engage with more INTERESTING communication. Communication that tells a compelling story. Communication that connects to an emotion or a sentiment. Indeed there are some delightful stories told by brands, that don't bludgeon you with rational argument. Examples abound. From the wonderful 'Hamara Bajaj' to the Havell's fans series of commercials to the Fortune commercial about ghar ka khaana.

I would like to suggest that we must re-examine our models of how communication works, if we are to avoid the pitfalls of excessive logic. And learn to accept that we need a new language for a new world of simultaneity rather than one that operates on linearity. A move to fuzzy logic, if you insist that I use the word 'logic'

Otherwise, we run the risk of trying to build an algorithm for attractiveness, when all that the pimply boy is looking at is a pretty dimple that makes his heart beat faster.

And now, if you will excuse me, I want to go watch 'Singham Returns'. Yes, I know it makes no sense, but hey, I LIKE the guy, and I am kind of sentimental about 'aata majhi satakli'.

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