The rain song

Rain is subversive. People pray and dance for it to to fall down in times of drought, but people wish it would stop falling when it’s in season. Rain is moody. It has temper.

Rain makes things grow; it celebrates life. The same rain can cause unwanted floods; it can even claim lives. Some myth says rain on your wedding day is a bad omen (and then, rain stoppers earn money from wedding organizers). Chinese culture believes water symbolizes prosperity so they expect pouring rain on the Chinese new year. Absence of it foreshadows upcoming financial challenge. 

Rain, your existence is a mystery.

If you were born in the 70’s or earlier, you may remember Rain Man. The 1988 movie directed by Barry Levinson revolves around the twisted fate of two brothers: Charlie, played by Tom Cruise, and his autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffmann). Raymond… or as Charlie mistakenly called Rain Man following an incident back when they were children, is considered liability because of his condition. Accidentally almost putting his baby brother’s life in danger, their parents sent him away to an institution. They grow up not knowing each other. Years pass and their father passes away, leaving arrogant Charlie a car and his collection of rose bushes, and Raymond huge portion of his fortune. Out of his greed to get their father’s inheritance, Charlie reluctantly takes Raymond out of the facility so that he can have full control of the fortune. His selfishness leads him to a deep sh*t. His debts are piling. What Charlie initially thinks as liability turns to be his good luck charm. Raymond’s ability to memorize hundreds of numbers helps Charlie get a big win in a casino. Their relationship changes forever. The story ends in a bitter sweet note. Nobody wins. Nobody loses. Everybody just gets by.

Rain Man is like an irony we have to live by: what we know we need, and yet at the same time, what we try to avoid when around. 

And then, there’s umbrellas. When we humans do not have power over nature, we create things to live in peace with it. I believe umbrellas serve that purpose. Rather than stop our activities because the rain has caused us inconvenience and discomfort, we keep doing what we normally do the best we can: we carry an umbrella in the rain. Or wear raincoats. There are things that the rain need to cool down or help grow. There things that we human need to do despite the rain. Umbrella is some sort of a peace maker between the two (not that they’re in war). It becomes a plain, uncomplicated symbol of harmony between nature and humans… within its limitation.

Lately in Indonesia, whether we realize it or not, we have witnessed how we are used to living in the irony of controversies and differences. Just like coping with the rain. We have learned to manage it, not with ease, but we get by.We carry umbrellas in the rain. #payungbiru, or the blue umbrella that the president carried last week at the Friday’s prayers, seems to represent this humble resilience. It may not easy to be an Indonesian living in Indonesia at the moment, but as long as umbrellas are compulsory items in all households, we always have a hope. ☺

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On flexibility & emotion

A week ago I attended a digital marketing seminar organized by Marketing Interactive, a Singapore based company. This was my second time joining their event in Jakarta. Last year, the seminar talked more about how customers’ behavior had changed in the face of the digital era and how companies of different industries turned to digital when it comes to market their products and services. It was also emphasizing the power of visuals. This year, the keynote speakers – that came from medium to gigantic scale corporations and startups – mostly focused their strategy to making engaging videos. Still visual, but moving. Brands move fluidly to respond to fast-pacing change of trends. Customers are hardly loyal. Generation Z are not a loyal group. Their attention needs to be constantly disrupted. Patterns need to be broken in order to get attention, let alone, go viral. Companies splurge on video making to project their brands’ images. Video making companies flourish offering customer behavioral approach at a skyrocketing cost, well seen from the perspective of a small company’s worker like myself, of course.

After Day One was over, I met with some friends at a bar not far from the 5* hotel the 2-day where the seminar was taking place. One of my friends works for a reputable travel magazine – one of a few print magazines that still survive in the wake of Β the ‘everything digital’ age. Newspaper and magazines met their dooms one by one. Only those that either have segmented readerships or have solid digital platforms keep thriving. Lucky for my friend, she works for the thriving one. It’s no secret that advertising in print media is expensive, thanks to… well, all the labor of printing! Businesses now turn much of their marketing budget to online advertising, simply because it is cheaper and more measurable when it comes to ROI.

It was just after 6 PM when each of us finished our second glass of cocktail. Tipsy and all, we started to strip off our surface gentility and reveal ourselves more true to ourselves. Turned out six of us (there was about 12 of us) were Javanese, so we took the liberty of mixing English, Bahasa Indonesian, and Javanese in our exchanges that night. It was so much fun. So fluid. Everyone was laughing. Nobody was offended. All felt good.

Catching up with friends and cocktail are two ways to good feelings!

Emotions. Those are what tie people together, whatever changes that may take place. Emotions are what people share and spread. Bad emotions: anger, sadness, anxiety, a loss of some sort. Good emotions: cuteness, silliness, the world-is-still-a-good-place-to-be kind of feeling. One of the keynote speakers from a company called Unruly at the seminar couldn’t stress this enough. Brands play with emotions these days. They can’t help that.

A room with a city view

I came to remember the day I checked in at a hotel in Jakarta; what I experienced was multiple disappointment. First, I had requested a smoking room, but I could not have it. “We are full,” the receptionist said. “But we can move you to a smoking room tomorrow.” How convenient it was to have an elevator ride to the hotel foyer every time I had the urge.

The next day at the hotel, I got most of what I’d wanted granted. I got a smoking room and my phone’s reception went normal. I didn’t have the city view like what I had in the first room, though. In fact, there was no view at all, but I did not want to fight for a view at this point. I guess the hotel had successfully played with this particular guest’s spectrum of happiness. By being flexible, they restored most of her good feelings. Emotion.

I understand not all business people understand the concept of flexibility and emotion. Like the other day when I gave a hotel voucher I had won in an event to a friend of mine because I thought I was not going to use it. Bad news was its validity would expire within days and my friend did not plan to use it anytime soon. Then she emailed the contact person who happened to be the hotel’s PR to ask if it was possible to have it extended. Good news: it was possible. BUT… here comes the bad news, she still had to mail the original physical voucher back to the hotel so that the PR could issue a new one. Small, but itchy inconvenience. Knowing her (the PR), I texted her asking if she would give some sort of leniency as to allow my friend to bring the invalid voucher upon check in. Her flexibility had stopped the moment she told my friend the voucher was renewable. My friend was disappointed. I was disappointed, not so much because of the fact that the hotel’s rule was different from that of my company when it comes to being flexible to business peers, but mostly because my collegue PR expressed her irritation over my friend’s and my queries. The exchanges between us ended up in somewhat ill feelings, but point was taken.

The whole thing got me thinking. If my brand is associated with being flexible in offering customers solutions to their problems, thus giving them good feelings at the end, the chance that they will return is better. Being rigid will cost a business misfortune in the (not so) long run. My brand has to respond to what the customers need. Their headaches should be lessened, if not made gone completely.

My boss loves saying, “My hires are the company’s assets. They are our investment.” I agree. Giving good feelings is also investment. Doesn’t matter if we’re in the stone age or in the Snapchat age.

Fingers crossed!