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The Year of the Dragon & the Mayan Prophecy

The Year of the Dragon & the Mayan Prophecy Sailesh Wadhwa
[Appeared first in Marketing Magazine Malaysia]

The Mayan ‘World coming to an end on 21/12/12’ prophecy kept the doomsday theorists, scholars, meta-physicists, astronomers and scientists from across the world both divided, and in debates in the year of dragon. Interestingly enough, the Tourism department of Mexico had a rather ‘Bold, Unusual & Super Spirited’ take on the prophecy.

‘End of the World’ Tourism

They decided to both celebrate and market the apocalypse instead.

A first of its kind marketing initiative that expects to clock about 52 million international visitors to the Mayan heartland in Mexico. The campaign kicked off with the installation of a gigantic digital clock to help everyone count down to the end of the world day 21/12/12. The campaign offered visitors a cultural immersion based experience into the ancient Mayan way of life. Besides bringing on-board some of the most acclaimed international artists to perform in the ancient Mayan historical sites. The neighbouring countries of Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and El Salvador added momentum to this global campaign.

An Opportunistic Point of View, or a Pragmatic way of life

The puritans might argue that campaigns such as ‘End of the World Tourism’ borrows its inspiration from the conventional marketing school of thought of cashing in on a populist sentiment.

But the reality is, today we live in the ‘Times of Apocalypses’, both of natural and economic proportions, where issues of life, survival and re-building/re-habilitating take precedence and attention over ‘Marketing and Advertising’ stories. Times like these make us marketers realize that ‘Life comes first, Marketing follows’. So we can either continue to stick to the ‘fatalistic’ point of view on life and toe the line, or embrace ‘realism’ and infuse the world with pragmatism balanced with a healthy dose of optimism.

Interestingly enough the Chinese school of thought presents a picture of hope vis-à-vis their Mayan counterparts for the year gone by and the one that is approaching fast. They believe that the world is transitioning from the ‘Lucky’ water Dragon to the ‘Wise’ Snake, which marks the start of an era of higher order awareness, spirituality and wisdom for our beloved earth.

The Best is yet to come

And ironically for once President Obama agreed with the Chinese on the future of the world, as he echoed the sentiment ‘the best is yet to come’ in his re-election victory speech.

Brand Obama without a doubt has emerged as perhaps the most successful brand build in the times of Apocalypse, from 2008’s campaign slogan ‘CHANGE’ to 2012’s promise of ‘FORWARD’.

The revered Bloomberg Businessweek magazine celebrated this unorthodox campaigner’s victory in an equally unusual and telling fashion, with its cover showing Obama turning older, wiser and the weight of what’s in store for him over the next four years reflecting on his face.

So while the world continues to decode the success and best practices of Brand Obama in times of natural, political, financial and economic apocalypses., following seems to be key themes emerging for brand marketers for ‘the world in 2013’.

Marketing in the times of Apocalypse: Beyond ‘21/12/12’

1: Real Issues, Real Promises:

The world has moved on from ‘Feel Good‘ Facebook Activism based marketing to more ‘Do Good’ on-ground actions, as consumers are becoming more pragmatic and voting with their wallets.

In fact it is real people [and not typical celebrities] like Michelle Obama & Indira Nooyi who are leading change in business thinking when it comes to food products, be it QSRs like McDonalds or Food & Beverage multi-nationals like Pepsi.

2: Owning Mistakes & Accepting Responsibility:

Social Media has compelled brands to behave more ‘real people like’, always vulnerable to real time public scrutiny and backlash. And at the same time given them a platform to own-up mistakes, accept responsibilities and seek forgiveness from people. A culture that is gaining currency and compelling brands to act more humane in their everyday dealings.

‘Your customers would forgive you and respect you if you show character’ was a sentiment that Domino’s Pizza revival story demonstrated to the world. Or for that matter how CIMB Clicks twitter platform addresses customer negative experiences with the bank almost on a real time basis.

3: Not shying away from expressing genuine love:

2013 would be the best time for clients and agencies to demonstrate ‘I love you, I care’ to each other. A time for courting real business issues, a time to confront challenges hand-in-hand. Sure ‘marketing in times of apocalypse’ would put most agency-client relationships through the ‘Compatibility Torture Test’ but those who are honest, genuine, wise and don’t shy away from expressing their love for each other should survive.

Hope the Chinese prophecy over rules the Mayan, here’s wishing you and your brand a ‘Wisdom’ filled year of the water snake.

Sailesh has over 10 years of advertising, consulting and marketing experience. Having worked on over 40 brands across 18 product categories, he brings with him a combination of left brain-right brain thinking. His considerable years in brand...

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