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Blog Action Day & Age of Conversation 3 – Two great online causes for the win! October 15, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Books, Branding, Conversations, Digital, Marketing, Social Media.
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Today is Blog Action Day, an annual event where thousands of bloggers around the world unite to talk about a common issue that impacts the lives of people around the world. This collective buzz sparks online discussion, awareness and action. This year, Blog Action Day is all about WATER.

Why Water?

“Almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s one in eight of us.

Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies aren’t strong enough to fight diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses. The UN predicts that one tenth of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply and sanitation.

But, water moves beyond just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue, an animal welfare issue, a sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, deserving a global conversation.”

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Here are some WATER facts that I picked up from the Blog Action Day website:

  • 40 Billion Hours: African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink. More Info »
  • 38,000 Children a Week: Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions. More Info »
  • Wars Over Water: Many scholars attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. A report commissioned by the UN found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa. More Info »
  • Cell Phones vs. Toilets: Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets, but many more have access to a cell phone. More Info »
  • Food Footprint: It takes 24 liters of water to produce one hamburger. That means it would take over 19.9 billion liters of water to make just one hamburger for every person in Europe. More Info »
  • Technology Footprint: The shiny new iPhone in your pocket requires half a liter of water to charge. That may not seem like much, but with over 80 million active iPhones in the world, that’s 40 million liters to charge those alone. More Info »
  • Fashion Footprint: That cotton t-shirt you’re wearing right now took 1,514 liters of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 6,813 liters. More Info »
  • Bottled Water Footprint: The US, Mexico and China lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled. More Info »
  • Polluted Oceans: Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year. More Info »
  • Building Wells: Organizations like Water.org and charity: water are leading the charge in bringing fresh water to communities in the developing world. More Info »
  • Conservation Starts at Home: The average person uses 465 liters of water per day. Find out how much you use and challenge your readers to do that same. More Info »

Living in Oman for a better part of my life and now based in the UAE, I have been lucky to enjoy access to clean, safe water. However, I am also aware that water is a scarce commodity in many parts of the world. Hence, it is my personal commitment to reduce as much wastage of water as possible.

That personal commitment apart, one of the ways I’m contributing this year is by joining the Age of Conversation Bum Rush.

THE AGE OF CONVERSATION 3 for the WIN!


Considering the fact that social media has gone all mainstream now, Age of Conversation is a global initiative started by Drew McLellan in Iowa and Gavin Heaton in Australia, two marketing whizzes who were savvy enough to see the emerging possibilities of social media-driven online collaboration, crowdsourcing, creativity and online publishing to create the world’s first marketing ‘blook’ ‘The Age of Conversation’, 3 years ago!

Every year, AOC brings together the world’s sharpest marketing and creative minds who publish a chapter each, promote the book and the co-authors in their online community and use proceeds of book sales to benefit a charity. This is my 3rd year in the AOC adventure and being a part of this rockstar community has only benefited me, personally and professionally.

This year, Age of Conversation 3:  It’s Time To Get Busy! brings about 171 leading marketing bloggers from around the world who capture the distinct shift from social media as a hypothetical consumer loyalty tool, as it was considered only a little more than a year ago, to its current state as a staple in the modern marketing toolbox.

Although the book covers more than just social media, the topic is ubiquitous among the book’s 10 sections: At the Coalface; Identities, Friends and Trusted Strangers; Conversational Branding; Measurement; Corporate Conversations; In the Boardroom; Innovation and Execution; Influence; Getting to Work; and Pitching Social Media.

THE AGE OF CONVERSATION 3 – Official Charity – charity: water

The first Age of Conversation raised nearly $15,000 for Variety, the international children’s charity, and the Age of Conversation 2 raised a further $10,000 for Variety.

This year, all benefits from AOC 3 sales will go to charity: water. charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. 100% of public donations directly fund water projects.

Age of Conversation 3:  It’s Time To Get Busy! is available on Amazon in Kindle, Paperback and Hardcover versions. So don’t forget to get your copy today. The book is great mind fodder if you are passionate about communications, marketing, digital strategy, branding, PR and social media, plus they make great gifts for your agency, partners and clients, and you also do your bit for charity!

And do remember to read my chapter: Who is the real social media influencer – my take on identifying the real stars in the social media space.

Amazingly, just $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years. An average water project costs $5,000 and can serve 250 people with clean, safe water – so purchasing a copy of the Age of Conversation 3 really can make a difference to someone’s life!

Happy reading AOC3 & happy Blog Action Day!

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Book Review: Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity May 4, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Books, Conversations, Marketing, Social Media.
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When you hold a book titled ‘Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity’, you know you are in for something special.

And if the author happens to be Hugh MacLeod, it’s time to dive straight in.

But then there are always chances that you will ask ‘Hugh Who?’.

In that case, I recommend that you browse the Contents page and read gems like:

  1. Ignore everybody.
  2. Good ideas have lonely childhoods.
  3. You are responsible for your own experience.
  4. If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.
  5. Merit can be bought. Passion can’t.

And more.

And then it hits you that this is a unique book. Especially if creativity matters to you, irrespective of your profession. If making a difference is important to you. If you feel you are yet to fulfill your true potential, but want to get there. If you are waiting for that AHA moment in your life when you realize your true calling. ‘Ignore Everybody’ is for you.

This book is based on Hugh’s life experiences in his inspiring journey from a struggling copywriter at Madison Avenue to a successful entrepreneur straddling the worlds of art and new media.

Those in the creative arts will easily identify with Hugh’s thoughts and ideas; many of our pains, pangs, joys and jubilation are echoed in his words, which is why I would recommend this book to the creative tribe.

I wish colleges gifted ‘Ignore Everybody’ to students because they can learn so much from this book and be better prepared for the curve ball that is life.

I love the bit-sized chapters of the book. And most importantly, the amusing yet thought provoking biz card size cartoons that introduce and conclude each chapter of wisdom.

There are cartoons on relationships that appear in between chapters that I found a bit jarring and out of place. But then I think Hugh is trying to make an important point – As we go about the business of changing the world, it is our relationship dynamics with ourselves, our good soul, our inner demons and those who matter to us that hold the key to how we get to bring about the change.

There will be several points during the book when you will feel both Hugh and you talking in the same voice. That I think is the greatest compliment the author can get.

Dear Hugh: Thank you for sharing ‘Ignore Everybody’ with the world.

As he says:

“Work hard.

Keep at it.

Live simply and quietly.

Remain humble.

Stay positive.

Create your own luck.

Be nice.

Be polite.”


Outliers, Who? November 21, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Books, Social Media.
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Success
, originally uploaded by aloshbennett.

So, what connects smart marketers, great doctors and super sleuths?

The uncanny ability to observe the hidden side of everything, which gives them a unique perspective to understand the often subtle yet radical, plausible yet disconnected causes of what drives certain behavior, events, trends and happenings.

‘Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything’ by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner & ‘The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference’ by Malcolm Gladwell are two classic books which challenge our thinking by exploring what lies beneath.

While ‘Tipping Point’ explains how minor changes in ideas and products can increase their popularity and how small adjustments in an individual’s immediate environment can alter group behavior, ‘Freakonomics’ shows that economics is, at root, the study of incentives – how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing.

In his new book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’, Gladwell features “outliers” – the super-successful men and women of the world who have “been given opportunities, and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.” Example: Bill Gates.

He also connects success to nationality and cultural contexts with the example of how Asian kids perform better in Math when compared to their Western counterparts and says that the answer may lie in a cultural legacy – that of the agricultural tradition of rice farming!

Other central ideas in the book are:
1.    How being a member of an apparently distressed minority can sometimes be advantageous. Example: Jewish lawyers.
2.    You are what your community is. Example: the super-healthy community of Roseta in Pennsylvania.

So is Gladwell right when he debunks what he calls the “peculiarly American” belief that character, intelligence and hard work determine success?

I have been thinking quite a bit about Gladwell’s reasoning and applying it to a few examples around me. Surely, character, intelligence and hard work are invaluable character traits to possess. My belief is that success is a lot determined by being the ‘right person’ at the ‘right place’ at the ‘right time’ doing the ‘right thing’. And, working smart gets you farther than working hard.

During my 16-year stint in Oman, I have noticed that it is the migrant entrepreneurs who mostly came to Oman during the early 1970s or before who made it out biggest here. One of the reasons could be that they started enterprises that were a part of the massive development and modernization of the country which started in 1970 with the current ruler’s reign.

Non-migrant workers who came in during 1980s and stayed over till mid 1990s before returning to their respective countries would probably have much better savings compared to workers who came here in the early 2000s.

As cost of living skyrockets across the Middle East, specifically the GCC region (UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait), the saving potential of most expats is eroded, unless they come with skills that fetch them fat paychecks. This means that the GCC region is not the golden nest it used to be 2 decades ago, especially for blue collar workers.

Today, as the GCC economies and states race to further modernization and development that is at par with the West, the job market is more in favour of super-specialists – top experts with a wealth of experience in banking, finance, marketing, e-governance, health, safety & environment (HSE), engineering and real estate.

Back to ‘Outliers’, this  book might stir controversy for its generalizations on success vs. culture and ethnicity. But like Gladwell’s other works, it will change the way we see and understand the world. This is one book to grab right away.

From the book:
Outlier, noun.
out•li•er
1: something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body
2: a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample