Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Six Years Of A Dream

Scene One, Act One. - The Pledge
Setting: Two 11th grade boys standing on stage compering the annual farewell of The Mother's International School. 30th of January, 2007.
Compere One: "I have a playing card in my hand. Hocus Pocus. See.. it vanishes." (nervous laughter)
Compere Two: "Ummm.... it's still there, in your right hand."
Compere One: "Oh well, I hope our in house magician Karan Singh will be able to do better."
And then I stepped on stage. Walking towards the edge, looking down at my feet, remotely aware of two hundred and fifty pairs of hands applauding and five hundred eye balls of my seniors and teachers looking up at me, waiting in anticipation for what was going to be my first ever performance on stage. Quick deep breathes and I looked up, my hands started trembling because of stage fright. Thoughts of every thing I'd planned to do going horribly wrong started entering my head. The next seven minutes on stage felt like the four years of practicing magic prior to that all coming together.

Scene Two, Act One.
Setting: Applause from two hundred and fifty people as they see a skinny boy of 16 taking his first ever bow.
Applause. Wonderful, all consuming, beautiful applause. Seven minutes were enough. Enough to make me realize that I'd be willing to spend the rest of my life on stage, entertaining people, performing for them. Because like Hugh Jackman said in The Prestige...
"The audience knows the truth. The world is simple. Miserable. Solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, and if you can make them wonder, then you know, that you've achieved something really special. It was the look on their faces." 
It was the look on their faces. That look of being fooled and entertained. That look of wonder, that look of wanting to know how something is done, at the same time not wanting to know how it's done. That look that's been driving me on and on and on for the last six years and counting.
Scene One, Act Two. - The Turn
Setting: Spread across 6 countries and 13 cities in India.
The last six years of my life have been undeservingly beautiful. I've performed for more people than I can remember, I've learnt an awful lot from exceptionally talented people and I've spoken to a Broadway performer who said these words to me, these exact words. "The life of a performer has more highs and lows than a girl on a period."
I've come across people who can't stand the sight of me and I've come across people who want to get a picture clicked with me. I've gone wrong on stage in front of 300 people and I've got a standing ovation from close to 1,000 people. I've gone three years of doing magic and not getting paid a single rupee for it and I've been paid by the minute by various companies for the last three years of my life. I've had people telling me not to dream of a career in magic and I've had random people stopping me on the streets and asking me to perform. I've stood alone in front of a mirror hoping for an audience to magically appear in front of me and I've had one million people watch me perform on national television.
Having said all that, the negatives don't seem to matter. The lows of being a performer fade away because of the high of being on stage. The rejection and the dejection of performances act as an injection for motivation to do better each and every time.
And then, there is silence....
Scene One, Act Three. - The Prestige
Setting: Backstage
And as I sit here on the 30th of January 2013, six years from my first stage performance. As I sit here, backstage, sipping on coffee, writing this post and waiting for a couple of non 11th grade women to introduce me to my audience for tonight. I wait, I take deep breaths. In a moment I'll hear my name and I'll begin to walk towards the edge of the stage, looking down at my feet, taking in the applause of two hundred and fifty pairs of hands, feeling the gaze of five hundred slightly nervous excited eyeballs looking at me and then I'll look up.... and I'll smile.
(Somewhere in the distance, a voice says, "Give him 30 seconds of your attention, and I assure you, you'll be hooked on for the next 30 minutes. Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Karan Singh Magic)
                                                            *Karan Enters*

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Marketing Psychology Of Apple.

"I don't do market research. The consumers aren't supposed to know what they want." - Steve Jobs.
If you're reading this through a laptop or a computer, look down at the keyboard. If you're reading this on a phone or a tablet, picture your keyboard in front of you. Think of the top row, see all the F1, F2, F3 etc keys? Back in the 1980s, only Windows computers had these not Apple computers.
The moment Steve was fired, the board of Apple introduced Apple computers with those keys on them. And on a sunny afternoon in 1987 a kid studying in Stanford University asked Steve to sign his keyboard. Steve looked down and it was one of the newer versions of Apple with the F1 etc keys on them. Steve asked him, "If I'm signing them, I'm guessing you don't need the computer anymore?" The kid replied, "No, I got an IBM PC." Steve plucked out all 12 keys and signed it as, "Changing the world, one keyboard at a time."
From then to now, Apple hasn't only been admired for it's products but it's widely praised for it's marketing strategies, even by it's competitors.
Let's rewind. 29 years ago, in the year 1984, Apple launched the first ever Macintosh. The ad that ran out just once on that year's superbowl was rated the best ad ever made in the history of advertisements. Why? Because it didn't talk about the product directly. It didn't talk about the company making the product. It didn't even talk about the competitor (IBM) which was mocked by Apple without mentioning the company at all.
Fast forward to 1997. Steve Jobs iconic return to Apple. The ad "Think Different" got people talking all around the world. They still do so, 16 years from that ad. What was so special about that ad? It didn't talk about a single product. It didn't talk about the company. It just spoke about people. People who've made it. It wasn't even directed towards the consumers. It was directed towards the people working within Apple. To make them realize that they were working in a company that was on the threshold of changing the world, many times over. Below is an image of a note that's stuck onto the desk of an employee the day he joins work.
Let's fast forward to today. Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world. It has more cash reserves than the US government. But more than that, it is probably the most "desired" company. People WANT Apple products. People associate Apple with awesomeness. Well at least most people. Why? Because Apple induces us to want their products by being in places that we like.
How many of you watch Sherlock? Or Suits? Or Two & A Half Men with Ashton Kutcher in it? Sherlock Season 1, both Sherlock and John Watson were seen using a Blackberry and an HP laptop. Season 1's rating were sky high, what does Apple do? It realizes that Sherlock is getting cool. Come Season 2, in come the iPhones and the Macbook Airs, and a certain scene in Season 2 also shows John Watson reading a newspaper with an iPhone ad on the last page. Not a coincidence. 
Suits season 1. Mike Ross uses a Blackberry and then an Android in the later episodes. Ratings go through the roof. What happens? Come season 2, Mike Ross has an iPhone in every episode. 
Two & A Half Men went into some losses after the ever so awesome Charlie Sheen left the show. How many of you noticed Ashton Kutcher using a Mac and an iPhone with the Apple logo blurred out? Ever wonder why it's blurred out in that show only and not in the shows mentioned above. Same goes for How I Met Your Mother.
 Apple is in all big budget movies around the world. It's at cricket matches, football games, NBA seasons. Oh it was also given to Felix Baumgartner. Why would someone need a phone in space? Well he did apparently. He even had to get a picture clicked with it the moment he landed.
Why does that happen? Simple. We as people are always looking for inspiration. Something to get us going, something to make us seem better in the eyes of the world. Even people who say that they don't care what people think of them want to be liked by people. And to be liked we do what people think is smart, awesome, creative, "cool", desired and I could go on and on with the adjectives. And the moment people see characters from TV shows, sports starts and admired people around the world using a particular product we have a general need to be like them. We get "products" that they use. We think WE become them.
Mr. Jobs, you clearly never did market research, but you sure did know how to get people to lust after your products.