Why you need design, not excel analysis -for business growth

A couple of days ago, I failed rather miserably to convince the CEO of a large diversified company that design is a badly needed investment for them. The company has been flatlining revenue and has seen a steadily eroding bottomline over the last decade. Market leadership of the past is no longer their reality. Competition, an ever more demanding consumer and not much new at their end has led to a steady decline in profits over many years now.

Now more than ever, the company needs consumers who PREFER the brand, are LOYAL to the brand and are also able to ATTRACT a new consumer base to fuel growth. Preference, Loyalty and Attraction are emotional decisions. Rational things like price, specifications, service etc – only ratify an emotional decision. The most successful brands in the world, the fastest growing brands in the world and the brands with the most loyal customer base- are all brands that trigger an emotional response from their audience. These decisions are made made in the limbic brain – the part of the brain that is responsible for emotions. Unlike the neofrontal cortex where language is processed, mathematics and logic reside, the limbic brain processes images, and other sensory stimuli.

For the desired outcome, the brand needs to connect with the consumer at the emotional level – not through words and bullet point rationale, but through sensory branding that delights and converts. And drives a new generation of customers to adopt the brand.

Design does not simply mean a pretty picture, aesthetically balanced. Rather, it is a specific solution that triggers affinity and adoption in the amygdala that resides deep in the limbic brain. Amygdalae perform a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making and emotional responses. To arrive at this incisive trigger, there is needed a tremendous rigour in decoding the visual world of a brand, category and consumers – understanding the role of color and fonts, and then creating a visual system that supports the brand.

Since this is not a measurable or quantifiable activity such as say a quantitative analysis, or even advertising that suggests an input -output causation, design is frequently seen as extraneous to a business transformation exercise. “Design is fluff. A visual ‘nice to have’ – not essential to the turnaround of business!!!”

“Can you give us the same at 1/4 the cost?”

“Our advertising agency will give us the logo for free – as a part of their retainer!”

“Why can’t you do this in two weeks?”

“Why don’t you take the color from option A and tweak option B?”

“This does not say anything. How do we know what consumers will think?”

These are common questions – and the design fraternity has done little to answer these persuasively and convincingly. Brand rejuvenation heralding new energy of the management, the new intent in product design and a new thrust towards innovations and new business areas is essential business strategy. It cannot be seen as a cost. It is an investment.

A logo is much like a bar code. All the perceptions about the brand attach themselves to a logo – and unfold when our brains scan it. Logos need to be powerful repositories of such information – at once both uniquely differentiated to be distinct from others, and also simple enough to be memorable.

Brands that leverage design can cut through clutter and establish their leadership faster. It is time that board rooms across the world woke up to the power of design.

Every reason you should have your eyes on China this fall!

As a kid, my life was tough. My parents loved both their children equally. Except the one that played video games. They liked that one less. My mother never saw any clear line between gaming and drug abuse. But I survived and this is my story.

I have been a gamer all my life but it was quite recently that I was introduced to the world of e-Sports. That’s when I started following the League of Legends World Series.
If I ask you which is the most watched sporting event?

You may say at once- it is probably NBA or NHL or Football! Actually it is that computer game that neighbor kid of yours keeps playing. Ask the kid what is he watching on his phone and he would tell you – e-Sports.

E-Sports is full of wow moments, where much like traditional sports- underdogs will steal a victory within a second, godlike figures are brought to tears on losing. This is basic human nature. It is emotive, representative of a player beyond just their talent and skill, which is why viewers connect a lot.

The world of e-Sports is a universe in itself and is suddenly all grown up. Your old-school die-hard football fan may roll his eyes, but e-Sports—professional video gaming is way more than just an activity, it is a full-fledged spectator sport now. Garnering ticket sales, attracting major sponsorships and grabbing a growing share of advertising money, it is directly eating into the share of traditional sports.


For one simple reason- it is the most attractive segment. 71% of people who watch e-Sports have a full time job and more than 50% of these are in the age group 21-35, which is often described as the most attractive target group in marketing. More interestingly, males between the ages of 18 and 25 in the United States already prefer e-sports over traditional sports. If this is not it, hear this- Watching e-Sports ranks second in preferred media after movies. There are so many gaming titles that now belong to the e-Sports league.

But my personal favorite is the League of Legends-for it has sheer number power. More people watched the League of Legends Mid-Season invitational last year than the Euro cup final or NBA final or any sporting final for that matter. There were 360 million such people. To give you a perspective, that’s more than 5% of the world’s population.

This year the Finals will be organized in a sold-out stadium in China. This is why I ask you to keep your eyes on China this year if you are a marketer.
Now at this point, most people would disagree with me and say- Well, this may be the case abroad, India is different. We only love cricket. According to ESFI (e-Sports Federation of India) – It is estimated that India has around 264 million online gamers. That’s 20% of our population! Are you surprised? So am I- but for a different reason


I am surprised because the market is so huge and purely untapped. Marketers simply ignore the existence of this cultural phenomenon. It is important that we acknowledge that Pop Culture also changes. As technology advances it regularly effects our culture. Increasingly, e-Sports events are being held at enormous venues and stadiums. It’s one of the fastest growing industries, growing at a rate almost faster than show business. The magic of e-Sports isn’t just in the gameplay itself, but in the personalities and culture. E-Sports has changed the world as we know it. So the next time you do your regular ‘TG exercise,’ don’t just look at movies, songs and TV shows.

Reaching gamers however, can be an incredibly difficult task given that these folks can be really nasty if an outsider tries to infiltrate their culture solely for monetary gain. That’s why an authentic approach is imperative. Many of the people involved in this industry also have a lot of passion for gaming and e-Sports as a whole. They want to see this scene grow and succeed because they see the potential it has.

The people who are pushing the growth of e-Sports are all really invested. They have been working towards making e-Sports recognized as a legit sport. So much so that Paris 2024 Olympic organizers are “deep in talks” about including e-sports as a demonstration sport at the Games. Not only this, competitive video gaming will also be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games.


The league of Legends World Finals will happen in China this year. And if you really want to know what your ‘TG’ will be doing this fall, keep your eyes on China.

The pride of brands

Muffled whispers have broken into a jubilant cheer.  The country has been rejoicing the constitutional acceptance and inclusion of a not so insignificant chunk of its population. On a daunting struggle at several fronts – from the self, to society, to legality, there’s a rainbow that refracted on the horizon.

And so did rainbow colours brighten up our streets, walls, screens and papers. Tearful celebrations broke out and social media feeds flooded with congratulatory pride colours. Besides the ones with pinned hopes, netizens en masse welcomed the SC’s verdict, including a host of brands and businesses.

‘Let’s get one thing straight, love is love’ was Zomato’s rainbow burger; and a smart ‘about time’ is Indigo’s pride. L’Oreal understands ‘we’re all worth it’ while Café Coffee Day knows ‘a lot could happen over coffee for everyone’.

Witty ad copies and even poignant communication such as Swiggy’s ‘it’s not been a piece of cake, but we got there’ have been doing the rounds on social media. While some of these brands focus more on metro city-millennial audiences, there’s also Zee’s ‘moment of pride for India’, Mother Dairy’s pride of diversities and ITC’s ‘nothing to hide’.

Even as most brands’ social media communications hinge on everyday news and popular culture besides planned campaigns, it’s a noteworthy shift. The shift is in recognizing queer and alternate sexuality as fast turning into dominant conversation themes, to which their consumers subscribe. It reveals much about how the hushed dialogue around LGBTQ, has gained confident decibels in larger sections of the society in recent years. And brands hanker to be as righteous and progressive as their consumers ask of them.

This also ends up moulding conduct within these organizations – brands and their agencies – employees, even if unknowingly, internalize a sense of inclusivity at workspaces.

The legalization-of-homosexuality-celebratory campaign, which brands ran on their social media, fosters positive loopback into the society, whom they want to please. In this double feeding cycle – they’ve added to the popular culture that will be consumed by thousands, and will eventually, change narratives and beahviours. Millions found solidarity with gay rights as they traced their cabs over rainbow marked routes on Uber’s app. Ola’s app taxis are still painted in pride colours 5 days after the judgment.

With Sec 377 in place till now, most brands underestimate the value of, what is popularly called pink money. With World Bank’s 2014 report suggesting that LGBT stigma and exclusion could cost us up to 1.7% of our GDP, it is in their interest to proactively harness inclusivity – as internal culture and consumer interaction.

Treading trends with social media posts must pave way for consistent communication and engagement. Taking the rainbow from one day post to a TV commercial spot is the next step. There’s a shift in the codes of pride!