Ikram Mohideen is the Chief Strategy Officer at Shift Integrated, an independent agency in Sri Lanka.

Listen on Spotify, Apple or YouTube.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why quant doesn’t tell you everything
  • The importance of testing and radical thinking
  • Focus on effectiveness
  • Marketing and advertising in a difficult economic climate
  • Lessons from judging awards
  • Does positioning exist

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Ikram Mohideen

Ikram currently leads strategy at Shift Integrated – an independent, fully-fledged creative agency based in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

At Shift he is the custodian of the “effectiveness culture”, focused on creating a culture that combines rigour, creativity, and data, to help make work that really works.

He previously worked at Nielsen in consumer insights, specializing in brand equity research, and afterwards at Leo Burnett, helping to grow brands in CPG, telco, banking, finance, and real estate.

Working together with clients and research partners, he is currently engaged in establishing a brand and advertising strategy practice built upon marketing science.

Find Ikram on LinkedIn

Strategy Sessions Host – Andi Jarvis

If you have any questions or want to talk about anything that was discussed in the show, the best place to get me is on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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Interview Transcription

This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.

[00:00:03.360] – Andi J

Right. Ikram Mohideen, tell me one thing you wish you’d have known ten years ago.

[00:00:10.410] – Ikram M

Wow, that is a tough one. Okay. One thing I had known ten years.

[00:00:21.610] – Ikram M

 I hope ten years ago, in 20, maybe 14, 2014. Even a little earlier than that, I had known that objectivity is overrated. I’ll tell you why. Because I come from a very strong applied economics and statistics background. And the background to that is the hard sciences, right? I did biology and the whole works. So then you come from a building and you do applied economics, and you’re like, there is one way to solve a problem, and economics and statistics can answer everything for you. I was a hardcore quantitative dude. I did my qualitative work, a lot of work, but it was hardcore quantitative, and I felt that it had the answers to everything. Right? I was open for different perspectives, but always, it was always economics, it was always statistics, and it had the answer to it, and methodology, and everything was focused. Ten years down the line. I still feel they have answers, but I feel much of the world is subjective. And in everything you do, subjectivity has overtaken that level of objectivity. And each time I look at a study and I’m like, early, it was always critiquing it from an objective perspective and saying, you know what?

[00:01:40.320] – Ikram M

The methodology is wrong. This guy’s got the statistics wrong. But now I come back and I say, like, yeah, I understand why it’s wrong, but I also want to appreciate why it has gone wrong. The rationale behind the wrongness softened up the critic, and more and more and more the work you look at. I hope ten years ago I had known that then I would have broadened my horizons to other perspectives of looking at stuff as well.

[00:02:07.350] – Andi J

I love that because my background is a bit more qual research.

[00:02:12.150] – Ikram M

Right? Fantastic.

[00:02:15.500] – Andi J

There was a phrase that Dave Trott, the legendary British ad guy, used once, which was, every number tells a story. And I always kind of what I would like to do in the next ten years of my career is to really dive deeper into quants, because I think it’s not a blind spot, but a weakness I would like to work on. I think that the power, as always in these things come when you put both of them together, when you find the numbers, but then you find the stories that go with them, and that’s where the power is. So here you got the Ikram Jarvis agency coming to you soon where we can marry together and we’ll take over the world.

[00:02:51.080] – Ikram M

Okay, so I had this post up on LinkedIn a couple of. Couple of, couple of days ago, maybe last week or week before, where I used this statistic that came from an actual research. I just modified a little bit and I wanted to get people thinking, okay, this number means something. The problem is you take the number and you report it. Consultancies do this all the time, right? 80% of people willing to pay for sustainable products, 85% of people want to eat healthy, but it doesn’t translate into behaviour. And all of a sudden you find a number and you get hooked onto that number. But the why behind the number is never seen for numerous reasons. You can’t go and ask a thousand people again and again. Why did you say that or did you do that? In behaviour, I feel there are restrictions as to how you can do it, but you get lost, you get enchanted by those hard numbers and then there’s nothing going beyond that. So fair enough. I do understand. You do love your numbers and you get stuck to it. But then the reverse of it is that the numbers might not be as useful as you think it is.

[00:03:50.820] – Andi J

Yeah, brilliant. I love that. What a start to the Strategy Sessions. So thank you very much for that. We already started. We’ve got. We’ve talked about the great debate between quant and call, which will rage for another thousand years anyway. So what a start to the Strategy sessions. Thank you.

[00:04:09.520] – Andi J

So, Ikram, let’s explain to the viewers and the listeners a little bit about you. You’re my first guest from Sri Lanka, so tell us a little bit about where you are, what you do, what your job is. Let’s dive into you a little bit first.

[00:04:28.850] – Ikram M

Okay, so I am the chief strategy officer at an independent agency called Shift Integrated, based out of Sri Lanka. So for all of you who know Sri Lanka, introductions are not needed. For all of you who don’t know, we are a tiny island in the Indian Ocean just off India. And as a country’s introduction, how people get really angry if you identify us as Indians when we do travel abroad, they’re like, oh, you’re from India. We are not from India. And people get all sorts of worked up around there. So I work for an agency.

[00:05:00.610] – Andi J

Canadians and Americans.

[00:05:02.220] – Ikram M

Yes, very much. Very much. But we are not. We Canadians are really good natured by where they are, but we get really angry about it. Okay, so, shift integrator, what do I do? We handle, let’s say, categories, retail. We have one of the biggest retail channels in the country, which is one of our clients, our main client. I handle banks, investment banks, CPG, personal care and so on. Whole range of clients are there. So what do I do on a daily basis is that I am responsible from, from the very bottom to getting the brief and the work sorted to all the way up to brand strategy. Right. Getting certain brands will require certain development. So I do the whole works comes under me. Previously, before joining Shift, I was at Leo Burnett. Leo Bernard, Sri Lanka. I was there. I started my advertising career there. Before Leo Bernard, I was at Nielsen. I was in market researcher, quantitative research, brand equity tracking. That’s what I was. So that’s hopefully that has been the journey.

[00:06:06.180] – Andi J

That’s why you started off loving the quant analysis first, because you studied that, went to Nielsen and then Leo Burnett tried to kick that out of you, by the sounds of it.

[00:06:17.530] – Ikram M

Leo Burnett was very good. My boss at that time, he wanted, he was expanding his planning department and he wanted someone from a research background. So when I applied, he was like, yeah, we need you in there as well. So it was a good mixed mix of people. So he was more hands on, very focused, creative strategy kind of person, human kind. Leo Burnett trained and my colleague was from brand management, account management. She was very call, very human focused kind of thing. And we had a good mix of the other person as well, was from brands, but very much more focused on getting strategy. So it’s a good mix of people to work and a good mix to learn as well. Publicis was a good place to learn, learn the stuff, the fundamentals you can learn with the tools available. So that’s very. So this one at shift, they wanted to establish a more, let’s say, more focused planning function. They felt they needed that. So that’s what I’m trying to do here, getting it off the ground and building it. And we’re focusing on effectiveness more.

[00:07:16.170] – Andi J

If we can start, if you don’t mind, just with a little bit about Leo Burnett, because I’m always fascinated in the sort of global agencies and how that works on the ground. Let’s be honest, Sri Lanka globally is a relatively small country and Leo Burnett has offices, I’m assuming they’ve got probably offices in Mumbai and a number of. Yeah, they’ve got Mumbai sort of global headquarters all over. And I’ve worked in an island which has similarities with Sri Lanka in that it’s not a huge place. So a lot of the stuff we used to get from when I worked on global brands, Budweiser and Corona Expedia, a few people like that, you’d kind of get stuff sent from the centre and you’d almost just sit with your head in your hands. Who, what is the. You know, like, we had basically, Corona is a mexican beer brand, and we got this St. Patrick’s Day stuff that we’d been sent from New York, and he was just like, we’ve spent the last two years telling everybody how mexican this brand is, and now you want us to start telling everyone it’s a St. Patrick’s, their brand.

[00:08:23.740] – Andi J

It’s like, this is Ireland. No, you can’t. So, you know, did it work like that at Leo Burnett? Did you spend half of your time with your head in your hands going, oh, or was it a little bit better than that?

[00:08:37.660] – Ikram M

It was way, way better for two reasons. Number one, at Leo Burnett, here we had Leo Burnett and there was publicity agency, and they had MSL and they had ARC, the activation and the PRM. Everything was there. So Leo Bernard did not have any globally aligned accounts when we were working. So Samsung was aligned with both the Stockholm, the media agency, MSL, and Digitas Digital. They were completely aligned, but the creative wasn’t with us. A lot of the adaptations they were doing with another agency, but we used to get onto the global calls and everything for the sake of other teams. We were there on the calls. Publicis. Yes, publicis used to handle. So the planning was a common function across all agencies. So Publicis was aligned. So what you said about head on the hands on your head for Publicis was very valid. So used to get stuff from there and they’re, like adapted to here. This is the brand strategy. But there in a game, what we did was some of the brands, they a lot of room to adapt for the local market and the local Nestle office. Nestle was the main agency.

[00:09:44.370] – Ikram M

They were able to. Nestle was the main client and they were able to tell, like, okay, fine, we know the global mandate for this brand is this way, but locally we can still play on with it. So that issue was there. We did have a clear advantage. And Andi, I think this was a bit of a. We were a bit of a outlier in that instance. Was that a lot of the stuff, like humankind, the trainings, all that used to get earlier than the other markets in the region?

[00:10:12.440] – Andi J

Okay.

[00:10:13.320] – Ikram M

Yeah. So that was, I think, because of a personal connexion between the agency founders here and Leo Bernett at Chicago. So a lot of the stuff, even humankind, we were trained first when it was being rolled out, so then more so than India and Pakistan, all that. So the regional markets, Bangladesh, we were trained for. So people here were then taken up to train others as well, which I think was a great advantage. And I really enjoyed the culture, I understand, from the apples to the Leo Bernard coats to reaching for the stars, everything was ingrained into people and you had to leave it and you had to make it work. But I think both at advantage and a disadvantage. We did not have any globally aligned accounts here because P&G wasn’t operating the way it operates in other markets. So we didn’t have the brand here. So we were all with the local brands. We did have multinational brands, but they were not the aligned brands. It was all big local brands that we were handling. So in the case, it was much easier. But we were also a little bit of an outlier in the way that we were able to.

[00:11:13.040] – Ikram M

We got out of the first stuff first, which I feel was good.

[00:11:16.400] – Andi J

Yeah, excellent. Okay, so then you’ve jumped from, you know, sort of big global agency, Leo Burnett, publicist, into an independent. So that must have been. Was it a bit of a gear change? There’s a terrible shift pun there, isn’t there? Shift. Sorry. Forgive me. Forgive me. Was it a bit of a gear change? Sort of coming out of a global network into. Into an indie?

[00:11:41.330] – Ikram M

Uh, okay, so from. From a personal. From a personal plan, as a plan here, it was a massive, massive gear change. I’m going to go with that pun again because now I come in and all of a sudden you don’t have access to walk, you don’t have access to IPA, you don’t have access to any of the global resources. Now, when you are there, you get a brief immediately on walk, looking at the case studies, you have shot out mails to other agencies and asking, are you guys have handled telco? I used to send emails to Sachi and Saatchi and said that we are having a pitch for the local telco giant. You guys handle british telecom. What are you guys working on? Can you please send it to us? And when I see a good campaign, you’re already emailing the planner there and asking, none of that is available. You’re completely alone and as a small agency, you can’t afford the subscriptions that is required at that level. So you don’t have access to any of the databases, you don’t access to any of the case studies. You’re building everything from scratch. So as a plan, as an individual, it’s very very difficult to get things going, number one.

[00:12:38.250] – Ikram M

But I think from an individual, from an organisational perspective, it was, it was a good challenge to have. Now I get to try out some stuff that I’ve been wanting to try out for a long time, bringing a bit of perspective that I feel like might not go astray. So, like I said, publicis is a very strong format. How things are done, especially with the clients, the format, the briefing, everything is structured. So here I can create my own structure and try out some of the own things. So I hope we’ll talk about this. But you know Julian Cole, right? The planner?

[00:13:15.690] – Andi J

Yes. Yeah, I don’t know him personally.

[00:13:17.860] – Ikram M

Yeah, but yeah, you know him. So. So one day, I hope Julian doesn’t get pissed off when he sees this. So one day Julian on Twitter makes this fantastic suggestion. He says, you know what, guys? I’ve been reading up on category entry points and I think it’s a fantastic way to look at it. What we should do is we should remove off the audience section from our creative briefs and replace it with category entry point. Every brief you give to the creative team is just, this is the category entry point we’re talking about. That’s it. But that’s a radical suggestion. That’s a radical suggestion. And people just went mad and they were like criticising him. And to a certain extent, if I remember, Professor Byron Sharp had to come and reply and say, this is not what I want you to do. Right.

[00:14:06.000] – Andi J

So.

[00:14:06.450] – Ikram M

But I welcome that radicalness. You need to try out stuff. There is stuff being done already, right? I told you this, we have got. Academics have done their job and shift. It gives me an opportunity to try stuff, break stuff, experiment with stuff, and I’m open with the clients as well. I think I feel like we can try this out a little bit and maybe we know we do research in this way, you do your research in this way, maybe we do the research in this way and we try to plans also bit of open and I’ve been bit more freeway to try out the stuff that I want to and probably build a kind of system and structure that I want to would not be able to build anywhere else. So it’s a great period of trial and error and success and building something on my own.

[00:14:47.630] – Andi J

Because you said something right at the beginning when you were describing, excuse me, your time at shift, and you said that you focus on effectiveness, which it’s so very simple and sounds like it’s really obvious and everybody should be focusing on effectiveness, but we both know that’s not the case. So what does that mean to you? You know, and you mentioned Professor Byron Sharp already. You know what, when you say you’re focusing on effectiveness, what do you mean by that? And how do you go about trying to achieve that?

[00:15:19.630] – Ikram M

Okay, so we, again, I need to dial back to shift. So when I came to shift and I was asking these guys, you know, what do we have? Like, I know we don’t need our proprietary models and tools and all that. That’s not the point. But what is our agency philosophy? What is the one thing that people need to come and talk to us about? And I went back to a quote, I can’t remember who said this, if I think it’s Faris Yaqub who runs genius deals with Rosie Yaqub. He made this mention once. I should have a screen grab of it somewhere. He said, agencies have proprietary models, proprietary tools and everything, but all of them are the same, because a guy working in Ogilvy this year would next year be at BBDO, and then he would be at RGA, wherever. So people are moving around. You don’t just get stuck to one philosophy. So why do you have all these proprietary tools, proprietary methods is that when you go for a pitch, there are ten agencies pitching. You want to leave behind something distinctive, something that they will remember you for. That’s why agencies participate in awards.

[00:16:17.000] – Ikram M

That’s why agencies have proprietary tools and so forth. So I came and told these guys, we need to have something that will set us apart. I’m talking about something distinctive, not something that might be, that might be differentiated to us. So we’re thinking, thinking, thinking around it, and I said, you know what I feel right now there is a gap in the market where we might be the agency that’s focused on effective work. Then, like what you said, everybody said, no, no, no. Everybody has to focus on effectiveness. Everybody has to focus on effectiveness. But nobody comes openly out and say that they’re focused on effectiveness. So we’ll be the agency that focus on doing work, creating work that works, you know, making work that is all about being effective. So that also means that we as an agency trains itself on one set of lingo, right? And I’ll tell you why that becomes important for me. Effectiveness is all about number one. First step to effectiveness. I would like to go minus one is about you and me having the same lingo, same understanding of the words you are using. Client comes, gives me a brief.

[00:17:13.470] – Ikram M

We need to crack our unique selling proposition. And then that’s the moment in which I, I hold my hand and I’m like, I thought we killed unique selling proposition about 20 years ago. You’re still there yet, aren’t we? I have not, it’s not dead yet. I’ve been in a meeting where a client turned and asked, okay, so you tell us, what is our unique selling proposition? And at that point in time, I wanted to demonstrate violence. So you have, linguist, that is all over the place. People have certain understanding of what the words are. So first step, get our words right. So when we get a brief, we are very focused. What exactly is the task to be done? Advertising can’t do everything. And I’ve brought this set of objectives from Leo Burnett and told these guys, communication can only do this, this, this, and this. Increasing market share. No, we can’t do it on our own, but there are some things we can do. What are the comms tasks we can do? Tick that off with the client first. Then we work on the campaign initiative, whatever you want to call it. And then we evaluate ourselves on trying to achieve those objectives that were set in the first part.

[00:18:11.670] – Ikram M

That is effectiveness. So if your effectiveness is all about, you know what, I need to get my numbers up, fine, we’ll work towards it. But advertising will not increase the numbers overnight. So it’s a long term game. Right. But we are focused on getting your numbers up. So this also means that we are starting. Malaka said, step one, getting the lingo right, getting the terminology right, and then once the terminology is right, getting the objectives right, what exactly are the aims of what I communicate? That’s what I spend a lot of time on. What exactly are we doing this for? What is the outcome? What will demonstrate success or failure? And then once that is sorted, everything else falls into place. I know from a creative strategy perspective, you spend time on the problem and the insight and all that. For me, I’m trying to figure out the first part in itself. What exactly are we trying to do with this campaign? Why exactly are we doing it? And then once it is clarified off, it becomes apparent that this is a route to be taken. So that’s kind of what effectiveness is for me at the moment, and that.

[00:19:05.600] – Andi J

Is, to me anyway, is at least half of what strategy is, is getting some really clear objectives that are going to help your client’s business. And again, it sounds some people will be listening, and especially if I know business leaders listen to this podcast sometimes not just marketers. And I can sometimes imagine business leaders listening to marketers talk about what does marketing strategy mean? And say, well, it’s about setting objectives and deciding your target. People going, yeah, yeah, that’s really obvious. But so much of this gets missed, doesn’t it? Especially with when creatives involved. Because creative is just fun, right? Creative is great to be involved with. The client loves it. The agency loves it.

[00:19:51.040] – Ikram M

Yes.

[00:19:51.420] – Andi J

You know, you’re making magic there, aren’t you? You know, you, you’re going to it. You’ve got the creative process, the client buys it, then you go off and shoot it, and then you see it all come together and this, wow, this is amazing. And you’ve got guys like us going, no, let’s get back in the room and agree what the objectives are. Let’s get out on the shoot. You guys are boring. The reality is you got to nail that first, haven’t you? Because the creative can look wonderful, but if it’s beautiful but not effective, then it’s useless, isn’t it? That’s it.

[00:20:24.270] – Ikram M

If you can solve that first part of the problem, then every process, throughout the process, you’re just coming back to that one question. What is the expected outcome? What are we expected to do from this? What is expected to happen in the market? Then you come back to it and I tell these guys, you know what? Okay, I can show you. I can share with you an example that is without the brand. So we are, the objective right now is to increase sale of a product, right? So the product sales has flatlined or declined by example. And I said, okay, fine. Look, the reason I would rather spend a lot of time, you have set me a very broad objective. I can’t do that in terms of a creative campaign. I would like to break it down into what I can work around with. So we went down, broke, broke, broke, broke, broke it down. And we found aspects that we felt like from a creative communication aspect that we can start tuning in a little bit and then running back by the client. And the client is like, okay, fine, now I understand what you guys can deliver, what will happen out of this?

[00:21:17.140] – Ikram M

And then we are in agreement. Otherwise, if we don’t set the objectives properly and the sales doesn’t pick up immediately after the campaign launched, I’ve had clients call me, not me, the account management team. An hour after the Facebook post went up saying that, you know what, nobody’s visiting our website yet. And I’m like, do you have your product on the website? No, we don’t. But it’s the store. But we just launched it. No, the post just went up about an hour ago. I know they should be visiting us right now. So we. You need to set. I understand there’s money involved as investment involved, but you get calls like that.

[00:21:51.120] – Andi J

Yeah, no, absolutely. And it’s good to know. Reassuring to know that here in Ireland and working across the UK and a little bit in America and all the way over there in Sri Lanka, that clients are exactly the same.

[00:22:06.240] – Ikram M

There’s no difference.

[00:22:07.320] – Andi J

Yeah, that’s good to know. And I think one of the things to talk about fairly regularly is that I think that the reasons people buy products, broadly the same in all markets. Right. You know, you’re selling, you know, personal hygiene products, CPG stuff, and people are buying them for the same reason. You know, toothpaste sells for the same reason in Sri Lanka as it does in England. Correct. And, you know, the, you know. So tapping into what people think and feel is actually an important thing. Yes. There’s market nuances. Of course there is, but the reality is the reason to buy. It’s exactly the same, isn’t it? Almost exactly the same, yeah.

[00:22:45.450] – Ikram M

You have universal drivers of behaviour, which I feel. I know research agencies might not. Might be saying, no, no, there are cultural nuances and we have got the different cultural domains of the different countries, which I’m in agreement with, but there are certain universal drivers of behaviour. Otherwise, I’m not quite sure otherwise. How would global brands have been successful? The need is always there. Deodorant, for example. Right. The need is. Is the category, need is common. You have created the need or created awareness of the need or made it an essential need that brands have come and tapped into that. So it’s universal. Some. Some are universal. You have them there.

[00:23:28.340] – Andi J

Yeah.

[00:23:29.010] – Ikram M

Entertainment, for instance.

[00:23:34.380] – Andi J

Yes, yeah, no, absolutely. I think I’ve spent. I think I spent a month in India and I know you’re not in India, just to be clear to the Sri Lankans listening, but when we. And I’m a huge cricket fan as well, so I tend to watch a lot of, you know, IPL and other things. And as you move downstream from strategy into sort of media execution, I do see differences there, certainly culturally. Like, I always find the indian media market really busy. So I know when I’ve watched cricket there weird things happen to a british audience anyway, like at the end of an overall and then the end of every over. I think that the picture of the game moves up slightly to give you this sort of shape around which it. Yeah. Which is then just plastered with ads and you just look and I’m stood there going, I don’t remember any of these ads and I’m looking from a marketing perspective, I don’t remember any of them. There’s hundreds of them. You know, they’re just bombarded with messages all the time. And then when it goes to a commercial break, I don’t speak Hindi or anything like that, but there’s just hundreds of ads coming at you really, really quickly with just all.

[00:24:41.880] – Andi J

With bright colours, all looking the same. Back to the cricket, more ads. And I just remember thinking, going, I mean, this must work in a media market the size of India, but I’ve no idea how. So, you know, and because if you watch british tv, there’s much sort of less competition and the ads seem to be for longer and, you know, they all look a little bit different compared to that. So I know you do have different cultural delivery points, but the starting point of the rationale for people buying the product is broadly the same. It just gets culturally different then. So what are those sort of, you know, does Sri Lanka follow the indian market in that sort of very busy tv delivery type of approach or is it very different?

[00:25:23.910] – Ikram M

It is a sort of a very busy delivery approach and I just hope my sri lankan creatives won’t get angry with what I’m about to say. But we are a very boring market in that instance. Right, okay. Very boring. The reason I’m calling it boring is I’m going to give two examples. One is the indian market you spoke about. Another one is the advertising style of Thailand, the thai style of ads. Very bold, very humorous, very risky. And India, it’s all very loud, noisy, very emotional. You get the whole spectrum of emotions from crying at one moment to laughing out loud and then discussed. Everything is there in this whole ad break. In Sri Lanka, you won’t have that level of flavour. It’ll be. It’ll be. The palette of emotions would be much more limited the way you do with it. But yes, the noisiness and the loudness, the clutter is still there. We use the crawlers for cricket and every cricket break there’s ads. And the prime time tv Times loaded with ads one after another after another. If my memory serves me right, in british tv you have restrictions as to the number of ads that can be played or the length of the break.

[00:26:28.040] – Ikram M

Right here, we don’t have that.

[00:26:29.790] – Andi J

Yes, both of those.

[00:26:30.790] – Ikram M

Yeah, yeah, we don’t have that here. So the same principles of loading things apply people here. I feel like there’s lots been a lot of learning in terms of creative styles. You look at indian ads and you emulate the styles. You look at thai ads very difficult to emulate. So you look at the closest market and probably because of cultural similarities, you will find that a lot of the ads and styles would be similar, but India is much more wider palette, much more diverse in terms of the advertising offering there.

[00:26:57.350] – Andi J

Yes. Okay. But let’s talk a little bit more about. Let’s dive into Sri Lanka a little bit, because we talked previously when we did the. We did a little call in advance of this, but we talked about the economic climate in Sri Lanka, which I think from memory. I was whinging about the inflation in the UK at the minute and how expensive things are getting. Inflation was at one point running close to 11%. It’s certainly peaked and come back down from there. But that was one of the cases where Sri Lanka just went 11%. Hold my beer. Look what we’ve got going on here. So tell us a little bit about the economic climate in Sri Lanka first, because then I want to come back and then sort of connect that back to marketing and how do you do your job in an agency? But tell us about the background to where you are at the minute and what’s happened.

[00:27:42.230] – Ikram M

Okay, so this is for people who might not be aware of what happened. We had one crisis after another. We had terrorist attacks. 2019, then we had 2020, was COVID, complete lockdown. In addition to that, to make matters worse, there were some really, really bad policy decisions that took place. Most of this have a historical perspective. We have not done proper government financial reforms over time. But in 2020, as we were, 2021, as you are coming out of the financial crisis, the government took some really bad additions. Number one, import restrictions was one because our foreign currency reserves were running low. And then immediately the government decided to ban chemical fertiliser, saying that we are going to shift the entire agriculture system in the country into organic. It will go down in the history books as the worst decision ever.

[00:28:42.930] – Andi J

That feels like quite a major, and you might say a very good idea, but it feels like a major shift in how agriculture is.

[00:28:50.700] – Ikram M

Yeah. People who were, people who were campaigning for, or people who were campaigning for organic agriculture turned and told them, please don’t do this. This is not how change happens. COVID made matters worse. We had tourist arrivals crashed. And when your organic fertiliser is only way to cultivate, our tea harvests crashed as well. So your basic foreign exchange earners were basically down. And then your foreign exchanges, foreign currency reserves are running low. So all in all, we were.

[00:29:21.990] – Andi J

Sorry, sorry. Two big industry. Tourism is a huge industry in Sri Lanka, isn’t it? And export agriculture. So they’re the two biggest industry, export agriculture and tourism. Right. Okay, so your two biggest industries have taken kick in?

[00:29:34.050] – Ikram M

Yes, two have taken a hit already. Then COVID has brought down others to a down as well. So because of COVID and everything else is happening, garments, other exports have already got impacted. So you are basically facing crisis. But then what the government did was it started printing money. So you’re printing money. Printing money. Printing money to make things worse. And when you print money, what happens? And what’s the fundamental thing that happens?

[00:29:56.620] – Andi J

Inflation. I haven’t studied economics since I left school in 1998, but printing money has never worked. Well, from Zimbabwe to Nazi Germany to pre Nazi Germany. Sorry. Every time you print money, you just make.

[00:30:10.740] – Ikram M

You give the best examples. Argentina, whatever, all the typical examples. Then we were. We were keeping our currency rate fixed. We were not allowing it to float. Then once you allowed it to float, basically just depreciated and the dollar just went all the way up. So everything was a very, very complex kind of situation. So at one point in one month, inflation was 6% and then it just went up to 70%.

[00:30:38.250] – Andi J

Sorry, I shouldn’t laugh because people have.

[00:30:40.320] – Ikram M

To live through that, but I know, I know.

[00:30:41.820] – Andi J

It’s just ludicrous.

[00:30:43.730] – Ikram M

I know it doesn’t sound. Doesn’t sound right.

[00:30:45.970] – Andi J

70%.

[00:30:47.190] – Ikram M

Yeah. I just kept on. I’m talking about just kept on jumping, jumping, jumping. I just over. I just kept on jumping. So between one year, between, let’s say, February of 22, 2022 to February of this year, the cost of living is 1.6 times higher.

[00:31:07.300] – Andi J

Wow.

[00:31:07.900] – Ikram M

So it’s very, very difficult for us to. For someone to perceive how difficult it is. It is to basically make sense because salaries have not.

[00:31:18.500] – Andi J

Inflation cannot inflate in line with that sort of.

[00:31:21.590] – Ikram M

You can’t. You can’t. It doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t work that way. So I really loved some other. I know it’s wrong and I know people and everybody is in this together, but I love some other data that was coming out and people are trying to research and find out what people are doing. One of the core things was 80% of people you survey say that I have cut down on my non essentials. Right. The number of people saying that I’m buying new clothes is 0%.

[00:31:52.890] – Andi J

Wow.

[00:31:53.400] – Ikram M

If you are, I have a client who basically is into fashion. I have two fashion brands that I manage. So when people say that only 0% to 1% of people say that I’m going to buy new clothes this month. What are you going to do?

[00:32:06.810] – Andi J

And there’s no way you can sit with that client and say, okay, we’re going to. This is our new creative for your ad campaign. People are choosing between. Yeah, people are choosing between essentials. You know, heating, washing, cooking.

[00:32:21.310] – Ikram M

Yeah.

[00:32:21.970] – Andi J

They’re not going out to buy a new jumper. No, you don’t need a new jumper in Sri Lanka. It’s very hot. But you know the point, Stanton.

[00:32:28.490] – Ikram M

Yeah, we had. But right now, let’s say we are in April 2024, things have come back. Inflation has come down, the exchange rate the European has appreciated. So things are much better. Things are much better, but still prices are still way, way high up. So that doesn’t mean we don’t have deflation. So the prices that have gone up are still staying the way they are, but the rate of increase has basically slowed down. So we have a minute, like, let’s say something that was maybe is now like thousand rupees, like 100 rupee decrease, decrease in price. I was giving like a basic example, but things are much more stable and we are hopefully in a process of recovery, is where we are right now. But this is election year, so anything can happen.

[00:33:17.350] – Andi J

Yeah. And we won’t get into the. Because I know there’s problems with the president or the prime minister and then somebody took over and we’ll not get into the political problems. Are more interested in what impact that has an independent agency. Because you got two fashion clients. I’m going to guess that those two fashion clients decided they weren’t going to spend much on advertising over that period of time. And my question, the two questions I have is one, do you think that was the right decision? I saw a story recently that Wrigley chewing gum, had to stop making chewing gum during the second World War because they needed the factories and the raw materials and the people for other things. Things. But Wrigley’s advertised all the way through the war. They spent money on advertising for five years even though you couldn’t buy their product.

[00:34:04.700] – Ikram M

Wow, that’s good.

[00:34:05.450] – Andi J

The thing that happened when, when they came back, their sales were higher than they’d ever been before. Partly because I think, you don’t call it the double jeopardy thing. Nobody else was advertising, so they were getting all of the answers. And people, people, they just had this recognition all the time. I’ve not investigated if that story is true, but I kind of read it on a relatively good source and it was like, okay, you know, so do you think, did that client keep advertising? What do you know what were they doing during that time when nobody was looking to buy clothes?

[00:34:36.410] – Ikram M

Okay, I’m going to talk about in terms of rupee numbers. And I want you to think before I go for the answer. There are one product was, let’s say rs4000 was a shirt.

[00:34:48.230] – Andi J

Okay.

[00:34:49.000] – Ikram M

Okay. Rs4000 was a shirt. By the time the crisis has hit, or even right now, that shirt is rs8000, it is basically doubled in price.

[00:35:01.670] – Andi J

What would be the average. Average salary in Sri Lanka?

[00:35:08.710] – Ikram M

A starter, let’s say, would. Let’s. Let’s say he earns about rs50,000.

[00:35:15.020] – Andi J

50,000. Right. Okay.

[00:35:16.260] – Ikram M

40,000.

[00:35:18.540] – Andi J

A week or a month?

[00:35:20.000] – Ikram M

Month.

[00:35:21.900] – Andi J

A month. A month. So rs8000 for a shirt is quite a lot of money.

[00:35:28.900] – Ikram M

That’s one of their premium range products. Anyway, my point is. Okay, when you are. When. Because why has this price increase happened? Because they have to import the raw materials. Dollar is extremely. Because rupiah is depreciated and all of a sudden they are taxed and all sorts of problems. Everything has happened. So now the question for the client and what they did was they did continue to advertise because for them, they were all, we all hope. I think that’s a level of optimism that was there. Yes, there was extreme cuts in spending, but they did continue to advertise. And now this year onwards, or last year onwards, I don’t think their market has come back to the way they want to, but they’re still thinking of advertising.

[00:36:14.670] – Andi J

Yeah, brilliant. I mean, that’s a good. Not a good client, but that’s a good business decision, because that’s a tough decision to take when your market is collapsing. To keep investing is a hard decision to make, but it feels like the right decision to make. Did you have some clients who. Who pulled back a lot that, you know, because money was tight?

[00:36:36.760] – Ikram M

We had a lot. 2022. I don’t think any of our targets were met. We were starting there with great optimism. COVID was done. Lockdowns are done. Two years are done. New year, new breaks. Everybody was like, yes, 2022 is going to be the year. And then everything just went sideways. So I don’t think nobody was spending money. Power carts. So basically, one important thing that happened, Andi, was that because we had regular power cuts and all the primetime tv spots were stopped, so nothing was on. Media clients asking, why should I be on tv, radio and print when there is no power for people to watch tv? So basically, they stopped all their media scheduling. That’s the biggest impact. So that went on for weeks. And months that went on for weeks and months till we got power and everything settled back. And then brands wanted to be back on tv. There were clients who had plans by Jan, they had a lot of plans, but once crisis was in full swing, they’re like, we’re not going to spend any money. That definitely happened. But what’s interesting, and I think in a way, in a way it was important for us to look at it, is the way they had to adapt.

[00:37:37.510] – Ikram M

A lot of the stuff that had to adapt, the way they had to change and evolve, that was more interesting. But yes, there was definitely pullback and there were a lot of people who are not on. Yeah, they basically started on a spend money.

[00:37:48.860] – Andi J

Dear me. So one of the problems I found this is rolling back a few years to COVID times was talking to people about strategy, which we can argue about this all day long, but to most people, when I talk about strategy, they think a year at least ahead, or maybe one to three years, maybe three to five. I tend to talk only in year increments when I’m talking about marketing. But still you talk about strategy, people think long term. When COVID hit, everybody’s timeline changed. So when people started thinking, because nobody knew what was happening and government decisions were changing everything on a day by day basis, long term planning for many companies felt like anything that happens next month is classed as long term. And I was talking about, so what are we going to go next year? And they’re like, we don’t care. We want to just be here tomorrow with customers and paying our staff, and if we can be here the day after, that’s a victory. So that COVID was a real challenge for me in terms of having to regear what I was doing and all sorts of stuff. But was it that sort of, did it help almost that you just come out of that type of challenge for COVID, that you kind of almost had that muscle memory to go, okay, we need to be nimble, we need to be quick, we need to react, because as an agency, if we don’t, this could kill us.

[00:39:06.790] – Andi J

Was it almost the benefit that it came so soon after COVID?

[00:39:12.830] – Ikram M

I’m not quite sure. I’m not quite sure whether there was a benefit that it came after COVID, but that aspect that you said, I agree with that nimble and agility and that muscle memory really helped. We had to adapt, and that’s the crucial part of it. So all of a sudden, the clients won. Tv and radio and print. Print basically died in 2022 in Sri Lanka. Basically, circulation just crashed. There was no paper to print newspapers. That was the reason. Not because we didn’t have readership, we didn’t have paper to print newspapers. So then print died. Print is still there, but basically died. So then all of a sudden, you have to tell your clients, okay, fine, you are now not going to be on tv because there’s no power. Let’s shift this to digital. Let’s keep the conversation going. So we had to adapt. And I love, and I love how some, this is not us. And I want to share this as an example. I hope if the actual client and the agency listen to it, they won’t get really angry about me. You know this product called Purit water purifiers from Unilever, you have it there?

[00:40:20.300] – Andi J

Yep.

[00:40:21.060] – Ikram M

Yeah.

[00:40:22.340] – Andi J

Sorry, my earphones just died as we were talking. Sorry.

[00:40:25.940] – Ikram M

To puree the Unilever’s water purifier, philtre kind of thing.

[00:40:30.420] – Andi J

I don’t think we have it. It’s not products I’ve heard we’ve got here. I’ve seen it advertised on tv when I’ve been watching stuff, but I don’t think we’ve got it here.

[00:40:38.260] – Ikram M

Right, fine. So we have, we have, we have the brand here. So the brand product is a little bit premium. How is it advertised? You know, clean water for your family and, you know, like purified water. It’s almost good as boiled water and it’s very premium and there are different variants towards it. So Sri Lanka is a funny market, Andi, and in that this is a bit of a trivia. Most of the water you get from the tap is soft water. Don’t get hard water. You have hard water only in a little bit of part of the country. So now water is just the. From the tap you can drink. It’s perfect, it’s safe, it’s purified. So for a brand to come and say, I’m selling you a water purifier is going to be a big challenge anyway. And it was always, I’m sure it was some numbers. As soon as the crisis hit, the brand basically changes entire messaging. And they came and said, there’s no gas, basically. We didn’t have any gas in the country. It was completely out, you know, power. So you can’t have boiled water, but purity is there. You don’t need gas, you don’t need electricity, you can still have clean water.

[00:41:38.340] – Ikram M

And that just changed the game. And it won an Fe award last year. Fe’s for the change of message. They changed the entire tonality from being this good to have product to becoming this essential household item almost. And that was an adaptation I really, really appreciate and how they did it. And I want to cheque whether they’re continuing with the same strategy but all of a sudden a product that was I don’t need it in my home, they pivoted to being a product that is right now for that crisis. No power at home, no gas. How are you going to get, how I’m going to boil your water. I want to clean water. We got to change it, make it happen. Which I think was a brilliant way of how market has even adapted and you change your entire brand strategy overnight to adapt to that thing.

[00:42:20.210] – Andi J

Yeah, great. And I like that you mentioned because it was a perfect segue into my next question as well, that they won an Fe award because I see from LinkedIn you do some awards judging as well, don’t you? Yeah. So what awards are you? Is it the fees you’re involved in judging or is it a different bunch.

[00:42:38.550] – Ikram M

Of awards, sri lankan fees? Last year I was involved in judging, yeah.

[00:42:42.640] – Andi J

Okay. So the question is, because I know everyone in marketing loves an award and if you were sort of sat through last year judging the effies, what are you looking for? What stands out in a good award submission? Because look, there’s so many great campaigns out there, but sometimes it’s often about how the submission’s written. Maybe that helps. So what are you looking for when you’re judging those submissions? And did you enjoy the process as well?

[00:43:11.530] – Ikram M

So I did enjoy the process. Lot of good learnings and especially because it was a local FE awards and it just came after the two years of crisis, a lot of the adaptation, even the example I spoke about, a lot of how marketers have adapted their offerings, their value proposition made sense. So last time I was looking for like basically three things. I’m looking at objectives. Has your work answered that objective and your results answering for that? So like you said, yes, it depends on the way it’s written. A lot of thing might be reverse engineered. Things are never linear. The way it’s written in entry form and you’re jumping up and down, you’re running around and the creative says, you know what, you’re going to go and do it this way, maybe do it the other way around. The messaging changes and products evolve as the process goes along. So we do understand the process is messy and the messy product is then written to show as if it’s a linear process. So we are all aware of it. But even the way it’s written. Are you clear on what you want to achieve versus the results?

[00:44:06.600] – Ikram M

That’s something I always spoke about. Even the edging process. First thing I’m looking at is objectives. Next thing I’m looking at is results. Do those two things tally and the work is the one that should bridge them together? You can have some objectives and you could have re achieved that objectives. But if the work doesn’t tally, like, it’s like the feeling of a sandwich, right? There are two pieces of bread. What is in the middle needs to bring them together. Otherwise it’s just two pieces of bread. Wrong metaphor on a fasting month.

[00:44:31.710] – Andi J

Now, that is an analogy that I really like.

[00:44:36.830] – Ikram M

If it doesn’t, it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense.

[00:44:40.410] – Andi J

But it’s interesting. The. Sorry, I was gonna say there’s a guy who’s on James. I don’t know. I’ve already recorded it, but I can’t remember if it’s coming out before this episode or after. But James Hayhurst runs a company called Magic Sauce and he talks about. He helps agencies and clients have better relationships. One of the things he talks about, you mentioned the same thing there, the linear word. When you read award submissions, it always seems to be quite a linear process. This was the problem. They did this. This thing happened. And these are great results. It’s never like that in practise, though, is it? That beautiful linear process doesn’t work like that in practise.

[00:45:21.010] – Ikram M

No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t work like that in practise. That. It never happens. I feel, and a lot of people, even. Even for creative awards, even for effectiveness awards, a lot of marketers. When I say marketers, I’m talking about agency folk who are the most cynical on LinkedIn. All they’re like, yeah, awards process are written. It’s reverse engineer. It’s written after the work. I do appreciate the effort put into writing it because these people have taken a very messy process and are making sense for a person to learn out of it. Hundreds of. Hundreds of people have learned by looking at the IPA cases. I have. I look at the case study on little, how little went from, if I remember the title right, how little went from this to this and made a lot of money. There’s a fantastic case I got downloaded from work when I was at Leo Burnett, and it’s a brilliant example of how little everything it did, all the steps it took in terms of extra share of voice to the campaigns, what did on digital, what did it on activation on social media, around it and the process would have been messy as hell.

[00:46:25.550] – Ikram M

I agree. But the reading through it, now I’m using that as an example to help another client of mine. I’m just going to share that case study with them and say, like, here is something inspiration for you. You might not replicate it, but we do need inspiration. We do need learning. And you do keep them jealously apart. I’m not going to be mixing this up with marketing science, which I know is what works. Inspiration is on one corner, these are another corner. And I do keep them jealously apart because I know that they have their own roles in how they work. Make it work. You have to, Andi, otherwise you can’t survive. You might not believe in positioning, but your client brief is all about, I need to position the brand. You can’t spend the next three weeks, explain to the client why positioning doesn’t exist. I would rather take that and then take it forward. Awards are just like that. It’s a means to an end. And every case study for me is a learning opportunity.

[00:47:14.880] – Andi J

So I’m interested in positioning now. You’ve got me now. So April Dunford was one of the very early guests on this podcast who spends a whole life talking about positioning. And I’ve heard a couple of people mention that they don’t believe positioning exists. But is that some, is that a belief of yours or is it just kind of, was it just a point for that? Because it’s an interesting debate and I love the debates about it.

[00:47:42.070] – Ikram M

Okay, this is going to be a little bit here, and I just hope people don’t get angry with my answers. And I just hope it. But I hope it helps people understand, make some sense of what’s happening. And I’m going to ask you a question, okay? And I hope you can answer me. If I ask you what is Ireland, will you be able to give me a definition?

[00:48:03.820] – Andi J

Is there a country that is wet and cold and full of lovely people? That’s probably the best definition I can give you.

[00:48:12.030] – Ikram M

Fine. If I wanted a more objective definition, you can say in the world map law, latitude, longitude, this is where it is. You can give me exact shape of the country. You can give so many different parameters.

[00:48:20.670] – Andi J

7.5 million people, so on and so on.

[00:48:23.620] – Ikram M

You go to the doctor, you feel you have a pain in your arm, right? It’s paining, unable to work, you’re unable to operate. You go to the doctor, the doctor takes a looks at, looks at it. He says, okay, fine, we’re going to do some tests and then diagnosis. Doctor comes and says, I think you have this condition. It’s not dangerous. But 50% of doctors in the world don’t agree that this condition exists or they have a different name for it. So I’m not quite sure what to write on your diagnostic card. So I’m going to jot down a few things here with this x stroke, Y stroke, z. So when you do go to another doctor, he will make sense of it. Will you be okay with that?

[00:49:03.300] – Andi J

No.

[00:49:05.780] – Ikram M

Medicine as a profession runs on exact terminology. A doctor in Sri Lanka, they go for UK for their training, and they’re able to do that because the terminology is the same everywhere in the world, even if that is translated into Mandarin or whatever it is. The terminology is the terminology, the definition is the definition, and they have a universal agreement to it. There’s this famous scene from the drama suits. The law is a precise endeavour. Lawyers are able to function worldwide because law is a precise endeavour. You can debate on those points, but the debate is guided by a precise endeavour. In marketing, we don’t have that precise endeavour. Maybe because you’ve got so many experts to so many different books, you’ve got the people who are with Seth Godin and the purple cow and have a certain definition of what positioning and strategy really is. And you’ve got the David Akers who have studied his work and said, this is what it is all about. And you’ve got Kevin Lane Keller, who comes and says, you know what? This is what positioning. I see the way it is. You’ve got Kotler who comes and says, one way.

[00:50:02.770] – Ikram M

There’s a lot of similarities and there is minute differences to major differences. I, for one, use it as a tool to help my work. If client wants to position their brand, I say, okay, fine, let’s see what it is all about. But one thing I do help make them work is I sit with them and I figure out one terminology we’ll all use. When you mean by positioning, what is it that you exactly want to do? Right? And then if they don’t have an understanding, I’ve got one or two. Two tricks that I use. And the best trick is I play Mark Christian’s Apple video on feature. Have you seen that? I just play that eleven minute video for them and I sit back and I make them watch the entire video and say, this is what positioning is. Since you guys don’t have one, agreed Lingo will agree to this. It’s a 304 words whose permutations will help us make it work. Can we figure this out? And they’re like, all in agreement and we come to one understanding. Makes life easier. But I feel like where we get lost is that a lot of the debate is because we can’t agree on one terminology.

[00:51:03.780] – Ikram M

When Professor Sharp and people from Nahrenberg Bus come and say, you know what? Differentiation doesn’t exist, or they’re not saying that. That’s not the point. They’re saying that differentiation that is coming out from advertising might not be possible. You can’t just differentiate based on advertising alone. They are not saying the differentiation doesn’t exist. There is a difference between a Merc and a beamer. Obviously, they’re two different brands. But the fact that advertising will create this differentiation that doesn’t exist in a product or at a very sensible level, at a sensory level, might not be possible. And it is. Might not be a way for you to go towards it. But we are mixing everything together and there are debates about distinctiveness as a differentiation. You need both. And there’s positioning in the mix. And people have got so much of terminology, we don’t have an agreed lingo. And I feel like it’s important. You can’t go and change the industry. But each time you have a client brief, I sit down with the client. Okay, you want a positioning exercise, fine. What exactly do you mean by a positioning exercise? And then we have a conversation.

[00:51:59.660] – Ikram M

I say, like, look, I. I feel this is the way it’s done. This is an example of how it’s done. Do you want to do the same way? And then we start off from there. So that’s where I am right now. But there’s one person, and I’m not sure. Can’t remember whether I didn’t mention it for you, who makes a lot of sense. Faisal Siddiqui. He runs a consultancy firm. Yep. Yeah, I think I did mention him. So he has. He does a lot of how he uses positioning to make things work. And I feel like it’s a lot. It’s an approach that makes a lot of sense. And I think he comes from a consultancy plus background, and now he’s trying to help brands and develop communication, all that. It makes a lot of sense from a practical perspective. He uses those tools and terminology to make things work. So there are people who are trying to make it work in the way they can. But I do understand the debates are there because we can’t agree on terminology and we can’t critique them as well because we’ve got all. Everything is getting confused.

[00:52:54.940] – Ikram M

We need to resolve that part off.

[00:52:57.560] – Andi J

And I know JP Castlin, who I know you follow on LinkedIn, he came on this podcast many years ago, a couple of years ago anyway, because I’d read an article of his own in marketing Week about this very subject and I think it’s titled the language of marketing is so imprecise that it is almost useless. It’s a great, I’ll put it in the show notes. It is a great thank you piece. Just on, on how, because he’s got a legal background and he moved from law into marketing and he’s like, yeah, in law everything has a definition. Murder is murder, assault is assault and so on. In marketing, positioning is, oh, well, I think it’s this. I think it’s that and strategy. Well, it’s this to me and it’s that to me. Yeah. And he gets really annoyed about it, which I also love. So yeah, look, I’ll put that into the show. Show notes, JP Caslin’s piece from a few years ago. So excellent. Listen, Ikram, I, we’re coming towards the end, so I always like to ask people if they have a book recommendation or a resource that they should recommend. You’ve mentioned a few already with kind of walking some case studies and JP casting I’ve just mentioned, but is there anything you think people should read?

[00:54:12.960] – Ikram M

Okay, so, okay, so you got, you got the usual suspects that have helped me make sense of it, but I felt, I thought, I thought it’s important look at some references and recommendation that I feel like marketers need to know and probably will improve their work. One such book, and it’s one of the usual suspects, is good strategy, bad strategy. And I’m thankful for the people who recommended that online because it has basically changed the way I do work. I’ve taken it and I’ve given it to clients telling them, you know what, just putting down objectives is not a strategy. We need to get strategy out proper. Just having like a big motherhood statement or a goal is a strategy. And that book has helped make sense to a lot of clients and different aspects of it. I used and it always makes sense. But there’s one book in particular I feel like a lot of marketers need to read, and that is social class in the 21st century by Professor Mike Savage and colleagues. Professor Mike Savage is a professor of sociology at the London School of Economics and Social Class is very, is a very interesting topic for me.

[00:55:18.430] – Ikram M

I have a masters in sociology, so. So it’s something that I’m really interested in and how it happens and all that. But that book is the book is written for great Britain, by the way. It’s not written for the world. So it’s. Yeah, social class in the century. And he uses the great. You remember this great british class survey that went viral some time ago. There’s an online thing you go and fill and you find out what class you and people. So basically, these are the guys who, who did that. And it’s a very small book. It’s a pelican introduction book. It’s very small. It’s very, very insightful. And I feel like a lot of the marketers, even in, even. Even in Sri Lanka, it’s the same situation. You are in an urban area, you are inside the city, you’re with very similar looking people. You are based. You are basically the fringe. And it’s very difficult for you to understand that the mass is very different. I’m sure it’s the same there as.

[00:56:02.180] – Andi J

Really hard for everybody to understand wherever they are in the world, that their view is not the same, same that everybody shares. No, it’s not.

[00:56:08.160] – Ikram M

It’s not. It doesn’t work that way. So I feel like this is a great, great book to understand social class, the different way the class has evolved. And he’s writing it for the British, writing it for Great Britain and the old elite versus the new elite and so forth. But it’s a fantastic book, and I feel like it’s an interesting book to do it. And I hope one day that I can replicate that approach for Sri Lanka. That’s kind of the one, one hope that has always been there to see, see it work. The other book recommendation or a series recommendation that I would love strategists, if they have not discovered, to go and do is Nasim Nicholas Taleb’s the Black Swan, the whole inserto series. So Black Swan is what I read first, and I think it, remember, I spoke about this whole holy grail of statistics and economics being his way through, and I hope his writing has been helpful in seeing the lighter than the light beyond that, the stacked way. So I feel like those two books, three books would be my recommendation.

[00:57:13.480] – Andi J

Yeah. Fantastic. Some really good strategy, bad strategy has been mentioned before, but the other two are new, so that’s great. And there are links to those books always in the show notes. So, Ikram, thank you very much for your time. It’s been great to hear, you know, how that a lot of things in Sri Lanka are the same as they are in the UK and that some things are different. It’s been brilliant to talk to. So thank you very much for your time.

[00:57:37.180] – Ikram M

Thank you. Andi, thank you for the opportunity and thank you for having me.

[00:57:41.340] – Andi J

The pleasure. It’s all mine. It’s been great to be able to pick your brains and continue to follow all the good stuff that you see on that I see of yours on LinkedIn.

[00:57:49.590] – Ikram M

Thank you. Thanks a lot. And hopefully this will have something to inspire and something useful for your listeners as well.