Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Don’t drink Coke. It’s killing you and your family – says Coca Cola

Coca Cola got the web hot up by releasing a video affirming that it makes you obese. It is not somewhat that is ‘just out’ for the globe as it is a well-known phenomenon that use of sugary beverages can eventually jeopardize our weight concerns. Neither a thought to communicate its negative points by a brand itself is a revolutionary one to the world of advertising. Call up to your mind the warnings written on every box of cigarette, “Smoking kills”, “Cigarette cause lung cancer”, “Tobacco smoke can harm your children”, “Smoking is injurious to health” etc. Many of them print gruesome pictures on their pack too. Still, it’s hard to pick out ones who were addicted to smoking and then quit because of these warning labels conveyed by cigarette makers.

Aged 125 years, Coca Cola beverages are now a permanent part of many of our lives. Coke is privileged with a wide loyal customer base. It has always positioned itself on the platform of happiness. However, saying “If you choose to live a healthy lifestyle then you should not be drinking any of our products” seems sprinkling more pepper to the company image. My mother always says that never forbid a child strictly to do something, it will create more urge to do the restricted. Have you ever observed so?

“Overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global deaths”, says WHO. Having an excess amount of fat in your body increases the risks of diabetes, cholesterol, heart diseases and even cancer. Over the past decade, U.S. and UK are ranking high among countries with larger sphere of obese citizens. Sniffing the aroma of the issue, Coca Cola has introduced many no or low-calorie drinks too.

Though Coca Cola has made an attempt to appear as a caring and a socially responsible element but its portfolio of 16 billion dollars brands can keep the balance of the boat. Eventually, demand of Coke brands with no or low calories will begin to rise as consumers are hardcore users of these beverages and it will not be easier for anybody to quit drinking Coke. Although changing the face of the products is far more challenging, what is to be seen now is how Coke will address the cloud it has created around itself.

Some health conscious lads and lasses may get worried about the calories they have consumed on the name of “Happy calories”. Someone in their nightmare may sound like this “If you drink Coke, you will get fatter and fatter” Hah!

Well now, a layman may ask; why aren’t they going to wipe out their products from markets that is contributing a major health issue in the world i.e. obesity? Do they have that much courage to prove their honesty? Or it was just another marketing trick to unfold new chapters? Whatever it is, now the ball is in your court. Will you drink Coke now?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Accessibility - Plugging Wheelchairs to your Website

In an endeavor to create a site unique, might make it “inaccessible” to a large audience. Alas! Most of the websites in Pakistan are not designed in accordance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), leaving out a large bracket that is impenetrable for web access.

Just imagine, your boss is staring at your screen and you have to guess warped CAPTCHAS to proceed. It can be a horrible story for me as I am so pitiable in guessing CAPTCHAS. I usually get closer to the screen to understand these coiled and curved letters or take help from my fellows. I wonder how they can serve to ensure that a “human being” is generating the response (BTW, I am cent percent sure that I belong to a family of species who are Human SapiensJ). At last, one day I was given an assignment to do some research and send a comprehensive report on “Web Accessibility”. Phew!!!

“Thank God, I am not an alien!” I whispered after reviewing the statistics. In US, 20% of the citizens (equates to about 54 million) are facing trouble, in one way or other, to understand the website content. It is a common phenomenon and it can be found associated with the people around you, even in yourself (just consider my example). Remember, only four kinds of disabilities are associated with web access; visual, hearing, motor and cognitive. Unfortunately, I did not find much authentic statistics for Pakistan but one thing is for sure, if your website is not playing nice with the above mentioned impairments, you might get losing a big chunk of users.

A big question mark may follow what are the tricks to use then. However, the good news is that Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are available on W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) website to keep in consideration while developing and designing a website. WCAG 2.0 is based on 4 basic principles known as POUR; Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust. Widening the arms surrounds more people around you, which will surely help you in not only reducing bounce rate to your website but also making it more accessible for search engines too. All this may sound like a long way to cover up, but in reality it is not. Keeping in view some basic and simple ways can list you among websites with accessibility.

Check contrasts between your background and foreground, add a symbol and not relying solely on colors, stay responsive to screen-reader software, use captioned or transcribed videos, support simple keyboard access, avoid too many complex options on a single page with no hierarchy, avoid movements that can be distracting, availability of changing the text size, speech enabled website are few of the most simple techniques to grab more market.

Are you ready to afford losing a fraction of your web traffic? Avoid the complexities and enable your website accessible to your every potential customer. You must be intended now to melt the whole ball of wax. There is no single rationale behind not opting for Web Accessibility.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Pasung in Indonesia

Enchanted with its unique structure of Islands, magnetized for tourists with sailing events, traditional festivals and cultural heritage, Indonesia has become a high spot for the globe. Turning the coin, human rights activists are more concerned with a severe issue prevailing in Indonesia which is restraints or confinements for the people with mental disorders, affecting nation’s beauty depressingly.

“Pasung”, a confinement for mentally ill, is awfully common in Indonesia. Being a developing country, a large chunk of less privileged families do not find a better way than chaining mentally ill people or hemming them in somewhere for an unknown time span. Another issue identified was that it’s also sometimes considered as a punishment from Almighty due to lack of education and awareness. Statistics on Pasung are astonishing, 11 percent of the whole country, making it one of the most serious health issues to be considered critically.

Unwanted behavior towards these deviants leads to increase mental illness that could be cured far more easily with a positive attitude. So many cases are reported every month in Indonesia where people with mental disability are kept far away from homes putting in their ankles in iron shackles or wooden stocks, locked in cages, huts or boxes or are immobilized for many years. According to mental health workers, this discrimination actually worsening the mental order of patients, reported in two surveys for Health Education Authority (HEA). These practices contribute to a great stigma in society for the people with mental illness.

Here a question arises, why families practice restraints for their beloved ones with mental disorders? Major reasons identified being chance of harm by the psychological patients to themselves and to others, un-affordability of treatment and deficiency of care and love. In actual, psychological patients are more vulnerable to the emotional reactions they receive from surroundings that include strange, mysterious and dangerous perceptions. Families communicated that cost need to incur on the treatment also includes cost of travel as medical centers providing psychiatric assistance are less being only 33 in number for whole nation.

Let us see now what Article 4 of Declaration of Human Rights and Mental Health states about the rights of mentally challenged people:

“The fundamental rights of persons, who are labeled, or diagnosed, treated or defined as mentally or emotionally ill or distressed, shall be the same as those of all other citizens. These include the right to coercion-free, dignified, humane and qualified treatment with access to medically, psychologically and socially indicated technology....”

Despite of the declarations and principles lay down by human rights organizations at global level, such stories come into light so religiously. Horrendous tales about abusive behavior towards these psychological patients, which is destroying mental well-being of patients too strongly, must be reported to human rights activists and international forums. It will help the country to deal with the gloomy state of affairs with more professionally sound individuals and foreign aid because a developing country is naturally unable to do so at an effective scale.

In a research, it was identified that main reason for increasing pasung in Indonesia must be referred to lack of governmental interest in this regard and must not put all of the burden on the shoulders of communities and their lack of entertaining psychiatric assistance. But we must not ignore the initiative taken by Indonesian government to eradicate pasung by 2014. This is the first observance ever from any developing country towards elimination of abuse with mentally ill patients. Though legislation and budgetary allocations are still questionable in this regard, still a hope arises for those who own soft hearts.

Started from collecting facts and statistics regarding pasung all over the country, Indonesian Director of Health Ministry Dr. Irmansyah took an initiative for “pasung free Indonesia”. They also focused on extensive campaigns to educate health workers and general public about pasung treatment. Role of mental health workers must be emphasized remarkably to increase understanding about downbeat consequences of pasung among masses. Unless proper training given to them, right facilities provided, and empowering a say in policies to abolish pasung, this issue cannot be scaled on a precise direction.

As human being has accessed most of the knowledge about human body and nature, anatomy and physiology indicates “partial insanity” since in most of the cases only a part of a brain is damaged and not the whole one. What is in need then is to reach to the working part of the brain that could help to repair the damaged one. This scenario surely encourages moral treatment of patients. Asylums with right environment are then needed to be developed rigorously in Indonesia to provide protection and fair treatment to the people with mental disorder.

We have had many examples in past where dreadful diseases that were considered as uncontrollable were managed to be controlled. Tuberculosis in India and Polio in Pakistan are dramatic examples from under-developed countries. Indonesia can also handle this health related severe issue by having a suitable strategic plan and proper implementation with potential task-force.

If we end up by saying that more hospitals treating mentally ill patients are required to eliminate pasung by 2014 in Indonesia, then an important curve is still left out. Are we going to create a new pasung for psychological patients with a label of hospital? Only a proper atmosphere in line with rights of mentally challenged people can bring some difference. We have an example of New York State where mental hospitals are replaced with prisons. It is not that strange, if you are going to leave the deviants in the middle of the treatment or releasing them without proper assistance with them then they may end up in filling out prisons. It is a delicate matter and necessitates to be handled with sound planning and strategies created in collaboration with affected families, psychologists, governmental bodies, health workers and human rights associations.

Whatever the strategy adopted, incarceration cannot be a solution to help mental illness. Pasung or confinements for mentally ill people are a source of biggest shame for the country. It may be gripped by uplifting know-how of the matter in consideration, training health workers and enhanced governmental support in form of subsidies in hospitals and development of asylums with appropriate environment. Magnificence of Indonesia will then be retained and appreciated more wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Celebrity Endorsements – panacea for all barricades?

 Advertisers are constantly in hunt of a striking point to hit consumers. In this quest, celebrity endorsement is not a novel idea. I can still remember TVC of Naz Pan Masala as the oldest Pakistani brand which was endorsed by Arifa Siddiqui (no doubt with a powerful recallable jingle too). Notably, last few years have seen a glut of celebrity endorsements in advertisements. But I don’t understand why it is so? Have you ever thought to switch to Jazz just because it is endorsed by Atif Aslam? Don’t you think that Akshay Kumar’s recommendation for Supreme Tea is just because he is being paid? Can you deem that Hadiqa Kiyani is ‘actually’ using Pel Refrigerator at home?

Apparently, endorsement by a celebrity seems as an absorbing way to leverage your brand from competitors. But viewing keenly the advertising scenario of 2013, fresh ads do not relying more on famed faces to promote their product. Even if they do, some loopholes can be picked in their steps. Lux has been the most prominent out of all beauty soaps. It has positioned as “soap that filmstars use” and thus continuously approbated by top female celebrities. We can now clearly feel the fraction of ad focusing on Katrina Kaif rather than Lux itself. Introducing Shahrukh Khan and associating his personality with Lux was also somewhat questionable (at-least for me).

Felicitous choice of celebrity appropriate with a product and matching its characteristics too are some prerequisites to adopt this strategy. Do not give a chance to others to carp you. For instance, it is not justifying at all when Reema endorsed a Cooking Oil, Meezan Cooking Oil (endorsed by Amir Liaquat in Ramazan) showed dancing family just after Ramadan, Pakistani Mr. Bean using HBL services, Chef Shai telling us how to make ready-to-cook Knorr soups etc. On the other hand, a sound fit between the product and the celebrity can hook customers e.g. Kurkure and Nadia Khan, Qmobile (She) and Imaan Ali, Pepsi and famous cricketers etc.

Brand managers must be vigilant while using multiple celebrities in a TVC, hiring a face that can overshadow the brand, risks associated with negative publicity of celebrities etc. In addition, cost to acquire a celebrity is considerably high and thus ultimately increases the per unit price of your brand. Spurring some successful ad campaigns, I would appreciate some brands promoting values (Pampers UNICEF campaign, P&G Taleem), bringing into play animated characters (Dura Cell, Ding Dong Bubble, Safeguard), telling stories (Olper’s, Chocolate Chip Cookies), innovating humorous ideas (Halls, Ufone) etc.

If we study human psychology especially in face of marketing, we will come to know that consumers are more skewed to relate those ads with their lives that represent people similar to them. Unknown faces with well-delivered attributes of the brand may become more helpful in keeping the brand under a consideration set at purchasing point. After all, the main intention for a company is to sell the product rather than just keeping a space in audience minds through celebrity endorsements.

“Any brand can get a celebrity. That is easy. But getting a celebrity consistent with the right brand, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way... that is not easy.”