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Creating brand’s cultural relevance through contradictions
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Why creative briefing doesn't work
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Accidental brilliance? Looking at #Dhara Jalebi 20 years later
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The clash of Indian masculinities
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Is the future of big brand ideas dark?
(Posted 5th September 2017)
Isn’t it time the hotel industry borrowed a trick from Airbnb?
(Posted 29th July 2018)
A different kind of a hero
(Posted 8th March 2017)
Gol gappas or gold medals? Which side of #Dangal are you on?
(Posted 1st January 2017)
Strategic importance of vulnerability
(Posted 28th June 2016)
Anushka’s trolling comes from innate cultural belief
(Posted 15th May 2016)
Goose pimple stuff: All time awesome campaigns in India – I
(Posted 15th May 2016)
Well played sir!: All time awesome campaigns in India – II
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Mobiles, mobility and the importance of guilt
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(Posted 12th February 2014)
Return of the angry young man
(Posted 4th January 2015)
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(Posted 18th December 2014)
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Are we falling in love with Samsung`s geeky authenticity over Apple`s hype?
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Is your brand missing in your brand’s social media strategy?
(Posted 15th April 2014)
Brand rejuvenation: is your brand trapped?
(Posted 27th March 2014)
Aren’t the new age brands being outdated in their brand thinking?
(Posted 12th February 2014)
Why brand managers should spend more time on jokes and cartoons…
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Why the cricket team’s loss bothers the parent in us
(22nd January 2012)
Shallow shlacking: why Hindu’s campaign gets the buzz
(Posted 1st February 2012)
Shall we stop targeting our audience now
(5th February 2012)
How do you sleep at night?
(17th June 2012)
Is there a problem in your insight?
(25th January 2012)

Strategic importance of vulnerability


Strategic importance of vulnerability

Almost a decade ago, I was working on communication idea for a mid-premium formal shirt brand. We had agreed the brand would broadly operate in the ‘confidence’ space and needed a more specific, ownable perspective on it. We met our target audience and got them talking about their confidence stories, looking for insights.

There was an interesting pattern that seemed to emerge. The best stories almost always referred to moments of nervousness, self-doubt. Overcoming daunting, tough odds is what made for sweet success stories for people. It appeared to me that in the world of plasticky confidence portrayed by most apparel brands, a brand acknowledging nervousness would strike a chord. ‘Confidence is not the absence of self-doubt, but about overcoming it’

We presented the idea with much passion, only to be shot down. Today’s brash, cocky youth did not seem to experience nervousness to our client, so they felt it would not resonate with them.


It was an idea I had much conviction in and so I nursed my wounds, looking for validation all around, till about five years later, Mountain Dew’s Darr ke aagey jeet hai and ICICI’c Hum hain na redeemed it.

Over time, the importance of identifying the vulnerability has become central to our approach to working on insights. However, one tricky challenge crops up each time. Does the brand’s story telling acknowledge and portray the vulnerability? Or does it simply solve it, keeping the vulnerability as a back end understanding between the brand and its audience?

In most cases, we have not had the stomach to deal with the former (honest confession) and so have struck to the safer, latter option. Deep down, one has almost always felt, far greater possibilities lay in the trickier, but bolder approach of looking at the vulnerability in the eye.

On reflection, the reasons are evident. Whether you mask your vulnerability and present a near perfect façade, or you let your guard down is a clear indicator of the quality of your relationship with someone. Sharing a vulnerable moment is not merely a sign of deep relationship, but often the catalyst for building one.

It is in this context that the another interesting idea was mooted a few years back. Of brands expressing their own vulnerability to the consumer, rather than present the perfect world devoid of any chinks. This has been best utilised by celebrity brands, Kangana Ranaut and Alai Bhat in recent times being best examples of leveraging vulnerabilities.

Stories of some brands sometimes deliberately slipping up and then overcompensating to make for interesting stories also do the rounds every now and then. Vulnerability can be strategic.

This is what makes Airtel’s new campaign (Airtel open network) interesting. One is glad they acknowledged the growing clamour of call drops and poor network rather than brazenly continue with their best network campaign. Endearing as it was, in light of the mounting customer impatience with poor experience, it threatened to be insensitive.

Have you had a look at your brand and consumer connection? What opportunities in expressing vulnerabilities have you been exploring?