“The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.” — David Ogilvy

“The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.” — David Ogilvy

“I just sit at my typewriter and curse a bit.” — PG Wodehouse

The first quote is from one of the world’s greatest copywriters, and the second one is from one of the world’s best humourists. They are both talking about the same thing — writing (or in Ogilvy’s case, thinking) comedy. And yet, see how differently they think of the same thing. For Ogilvy, a man who thought of comedy as a means to an end (writing great ad copy), the process seems…


Photo by Leonardo Toshiro Okubo on Unsplash

“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” — Frank Smith

Introduction

Language education is an opportunity magnifier — not just professionally but also socially. A shared language brings people together, especially if it’s a language that’s different from the others spoken around them. There’s an intimacy that instantly develops between two Tamilians or two Frenchmen who run into each other during an African safari. Such an intimacy is hard to replicate in their own home states. Once you bring individual dialects also into the mixture, the level of intimacy multiplies. Imagine…


A flashback:

12-year-old Sandeep: “Dad, can we get cable?”

Sandeep’s Dad: “Why?”

Sandeep: “Some of my friends have cable at home. They get to watch WWF matches and MTV. Then they come to school and discuss the latest fights and song videos, and I feel left out. I also want to watch those shows.”

Dad: “Who are these friends of yours?”

Sandeep (naively): “Arun, Pradeep, and Najaz.”

Dad: “Right, stop hanging out with them tomorrow onwards. Problem solved. End of discussion. Cable, huh? I never even had a radio while growing up.”

I didn’t have access to cable TV for…


In the 1700s, three great empires fought bitterly over the resource-rich region known as Carnatic in South India. Carnatic stretched from East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh in the North, to the Maratha fort of Ranjanagad in the South and Coromandel coast in the East to Western Ghats in the West. Between 1690 and 1801, Nawabs of the Carnatic ruled over this region. These Nawabs were the vassals of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Their biggest threat was the Marathas to the North. The French, based out of Pondicherry, completed this triangle. …


Artist’s impression of view of Fort George
Artist’s impression of view of Fort George
Artist’s impression of view of Fort George

In 1781, an illiterate, impoverished youth, twenty five years of age, deserted from the British Navy at Fort George, Madras. Given how the British East India company was strengthening its position in the South of India at the time, any deserter alone and without knowledge of the language or the land could expect to survive for a year at best. However, not only did this youth survive, he went on to become one of the most extraordinary characters in late eighteenth century India.

Our hero’s name was George Thomas. George was born in Tipperary, Ireland, to a poor Catholic tenant…


It was the year 1500. Vasco da Gama had just returned to Portugal with the grand news of the discovery of a European trade route to India.

Although da Gama didn’t leave India on the best of terms, Portuguese king Manuel I was hopeful of continued trade. After all, it was the beginning of a new century. New century, new hope, and all that.

So, Manuel I ordered a second Portuguese India Armada to be assembled. Since da Gama had by now lost favor at the Court, Manuel needed a new commander.

And he found it in Pedro Alvares Cabral…


… and what we can learn from it.

Photo by Charles Gao on Unsplash

“If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” — Steve Jobs (Walter Isaacson, 2011)

Every brand manager who has worked on a new product launch has faced that dreaded question from the finance team during launch meetings. “What’s the cannibalization assumed for this launch?” This is often the point in the meeting when the conversation can derail into a tangential discussion altogether, with different camps arguing whether an assumption is right or wrong. I have seen cannibalization discussions come back to haunt the brand multiple times throughout the life-cycle of the launch.

What exactly is cannibalization?

Let’s assume a shampoo brand launches a sub-line…


What to do when your ad goes horribly wrong

Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

Singapore has a gambling problem. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), almost half of adult Singaporeans gambled at least once in 2013. By 2014,1.4% of the population were classified as “pathologically” addicted to betting.

At the same time, the two big casinos in Singapore are major revenue sources for the government. These casinos have been accused of exacerbating an already prevalent gambling problem among the citizens.

Within these constraints, the NCPG does a commendable job of trying to solve an intractable problem for a nation. At least on most days.

In 2014, they felt particularly creative.

Singaporeans…


This post is about a British-Indian spy who, according to all sources, was eminently unsuitable for the job, and yet turned out to be a poster child for the profession posthumously.

A shy, sensitive young woman who wrote children’s books

Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan, also known as Noor Inayat Khan, was born to a Sufi musician father and an American mother. Born in Moscow, she lived for some time in the UK before eventually settling near Paris.

A shy, sensitive and dreamy girl, she studied child psychology at the Sorbonne and music at the Paris conservatory before beginning a career writing poetry and children’s stories. …


I see you rolling your eyes.

“Yet another COVID-19 story,” you tell yourself. “Isn’t there anything a bit more cheerful?”

I hear you.

I promise I won’t mention COVID-19 again. Pinky promise.

Instead, I will tell you why India, the second most populous country in the world had to go into full lock down mode during these trying times, thus creating the BIGGEST lock down ever in history. Why couldn’t plain old social distancing work?

The short answer — because Indians believe personal space is negotiable.

Personal space is negotiable

It’s not a reflection on our lack of etiquette, but simply an evolutionary necessity…

Sandeep Nair

Brand marketer with delusions of humour. History buff. Loves psychology & consumer behaviour. Once played Bassanio in Merchant of Venice.

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