Thursday, December 24, 2009

One little, two little, three little India posts

[Editorial note: Black Sheep Leader of the Flock, Aimee Woodall, took a two-week trip to India in search of business inspiration and personal affirmation. Over the next few weeks she’ll explore her discoveries on Shear Creativity. Enjoy!]

I embarked on this trip with nothing but my die hard, love-and-live-what-I-do attitude and the determination that the next two weeks would be a completely profound experience. My 15-hour flight provided ample opportunity for me to contemplate the possibilities and make plans to seize every ounce of value from this exploration, but nothing could prepare for what would come. This account of my experience is a compilation of a complete absorption of a place I could have only imagined in my dreams – every observation – every sight, sound and smell (okay, I grew tired of the smells pretty quickly) is here, and I hope you gain as much insight as I did. Besides having one of the most incredible trips of my life, here’s what I learned:

My experience: It's the little things that count.
Business translation: Small, sweet gestures can make a big impact.

I knew going into this I would witness the kind of poverty I’d only seen in National Geographic magazines and documentaries. Yet, what I found was so much more than I expected. Street corners were filled with beautiful wide-brown-eyed children begging for food, and even as I acquiesced with rupees here and there, I knew I couldn’t rescue them all… or even one of them. BUT, what I could do was make them happy. So, instead of giving them money that they then passed along to someone else, I bought a bag of caramels and gave them pieces of CANDY instead. And you know what? I’ve never seen a happier child! I can’t imagine a more rewarding experience than bringing a moment of joy to a little kid who has seen so few times of pure exhileration in his life. I’ll never look at candy the same way.

LESSON: Give them cake. Or candy or maybe just a phone call or note in the mail to let them know how you care. I’m talking about clients. While we may get paid for our big ideas and grandiose presentations, it’s showing that we are aware of their feelings and share in their triumphs and letdowns that solidifies a relationship. Sometimes it’s just the little things.

My expereience: I’m not hungry, but I’ll eat.
Business translation: They don’t need it, but if it’s good, they’ll buy it anyway.

When I left for India I thought I was in trouble. I’d had Indian food in Houston a couple of times, but never really enjoyed it. And I love nothing more than food and eating. So how was I going to get along for two weeks? Would I enjoy the food – or have a constant rumble in my belly? Ohhh, quite the contrary. While some may have worshiped at the temple, I was worshiping the food. Even sitting here writing this blog I’m craving it and wondering if there’s anything on this side of the Pacific Ocean that will remotely compare to the things I devoured in the east. Parathas. Samosas. Biryani. Dal… I could go on and on. I ate (I guess this is not entirely unusual for me, but still) even when I wasn’t hungry. Just because the food was SO. DAMN. GOOD. My fellow travelers learned not to bother asking, “Are you hungry?” because the answer, I assure you, was always, “I could eat!” And I did. I’m pretty sure I should have been charged extra for the weight I carried home on the plane.

LESSON: The point is that a good product or service can become addictive. Maybe you don’t even NEED it, but it’s so freaking good you can’t pass it up. And that’s the goal of any good marketing campaign. Make them believe they need what you have to offer through expertly phrased copy and carefully executed public relations tactics and advertising, and your audience is sold. Conversely, it’s often a struggle to convince potential clients that marketing is necessary… many times they think they can handle it themselves or want to have total control, but in reality, it’s best let the professionals do their job. You’ll see.

My experience: I can now sing three songs in Hindi.
Business translation: Repetition creates memories.

There’s very little American television in India, which was probably for the best. I didn’t spend much time with the tube on. But, when I did… just for the sake of noise and “entertainment” while getting ready to leave the hotel, or while attempting to sleep off the jet lag… I noticed something. Indian producers (at least on the channels I was watching) run the same content over and over. And over. Whether this is their choice or the Bollywood folks’ footing the bill, I’m not sure. Probably the latter, but regardless… There are three Bollywood flicks playing (or soon debuting): 3 Idiots, Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year and Pyaar Impossible. And I know each of the trailers and music videos by heart – because I saw them probably close to 350 times during my two-week stint. I don’t speak a lick of Hindi (well, maybe six words), but I can sing you three songs and a recite a few catchy movie trailers start to finish. And, with my Texas accent, it was quite humorous for the locals. What can I say? I was meant for the stage.

LESSON: The obvious take-away is that there’s something to be said for repetition. I mean, I have no intention of seeing those movies, but I sure as hell can tell you about them. And, like it or not, that’s good advertising. Keeping it catchy… maybe even annoying and, if you’re lucky, funny… so much so that it sticks in their heads and won’t let go. That is the key to any great campaign. Go for it! Find something latches on to your customers, and repeat!

Next week I’ll continue with more of my India life lessons, but for now, enjoy the holidays and consider what I learned on my trip. Another lesson to keep in mind: hand sanitizer. Until next week, over and out.

1 comment:

Priya said...

Aimee - I thoroughly enjoyed this post and seeing India through your eyes, for once. I (Priya) was Aimee's little Indian friend that guided her throughout the trip. Even I had my apprehensions about whether or not she'd make it - and, to be honest, she was a better (MUCH better) sport about a lot of it than even me. Experiencing India with Aimee was a complete delight, if I ever get married there - I hope she'll be back for more =).
p.s. Pocket mein rocket hain!