Meet the Big C

A consultant: - An outside entity who is paid to bring objectivity, expertise and insight into a client's working. However, the only skill that he seems to employ is the art of collating comments made from diverse sources, processing and polishing then a touch and then presenting them as his own, with aplomb. This insidious transference of the source of an idea, many a times results in its full throated approval.

(For all those of you who make a career doing this, kudos to you, I wish I was in your place, and in case anyone is hiring I have my id at the bottom)

"Old Chinese Proverb, words spoken by someone who is being paid through your nose always sound better, though a little nasal," the hushed Chinese accent, the express delivery of the tea cup in Ram's hand and Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen tea boy) had vanished into the absurdness of his comment before anyone could pause to notice.

The agency team had gathered in the client's office to discuss the impending launch of a multinational competitor. Since this was typically the kind of news that sends thorn rimmed shivers down the spines of the marketing department, the client had decided to call in the cavalry. Word was sent out to the Big C, the clients marketing consultant.

The Big C was almost a reverential name in the industry. People swore by his name-at errant laser printers, red card happy referees and overindulgent accountants. His appearance was immaculate. He always seemed to have gadgets that were a few years ahead of everything else present in the room (a minor alteration on the system clock did help).

He was a master of business models and never passed up a single opportunity to know them better. This had resulted in three divorces at last count. He featured regularly in media. His opinions were sought after by all and sundry, whenever the economy twisted in its slumber. He was a man who had a reputation, which wasn't something that anyone from the agency team could honestly claim.

When the Big C entered, a feeling of awe swept across the room. Immediately the concept of the 'awe continuum' came to the fore. The clients marketing team, featuring Mr.Bose (the marketing head) and Mr. Lele (his external organ), stared tongue tied as the Big C strode to the head of the table. The agency's brand management team (Vikas, Dharti and Ram) were also awed, but to a lesser degree and PP (the creative director with the trademark moustache) was very low on awe. In fact he was staring with some amount of hostility at the consultant.

"Welcome friends, we have gathered here to discuss our future strategy, especially given the competitive scenario. Let us try and have a constructive discussion to arrive at a long-

term solution. I must thank the Big C also for kindly consenting to grace us with his presence and hopefully we will all get inspired to think better in his August company, even though this is September."

Mr. Bose paused to see if his wisecrack had gone down well; the Big C smiled back boosting his confidence multifold.

"And now let's just begin the discussion, let it be a free flowing exchange of ideas without fear of who is getting hurt by what is being said, let's be brave, let's think different. Let's question the conventions. Lets just pull out all the stops to finding a winning solution," he concluded red faced from the exertion of talking passionately, short of throwing down a blood stained handkerchief on the table he had pretty much set the mood. As it was wisely said it was too 'let' to turn around.

"I would like to hear what the agency has to say on the issue. They are after all your brand custodians. They will be in touch with the pulse of the consumer," began the Big C in a voice that demanded instant respect, attention and clearance of outstanding bills. He then unraveled a space age looking gadget that made the usual laptops look like elementary level slates. As everyone else looked on in envy he began punching keys with the ferocity of a circus clown going through his comic routine.

"Well, we believe that we really have nothing to fear," began Vikas, in his confidently cherubic tone, and then realizing he had hit a brick wall kicked Dharti under the table.

"The reason for that is that we have created new niches in the market and have sustained our value proposition across non homogenous audiences across the years, so we are prepared for any eventuality," Dharti, the agency's curvaceously crafted account planning head, chipped in while maintaining unwavering eye contact with the Big C.

The Big C met her gaze and a wicked smile began to form on the outlines of his lips that made Ram feel distinctly jealous.

"The only thing we need to do is keep advertising, so what is they are multinationals, this is our country, different rules apply here. We must increase our presence in India, possibly even create new more relevant communication that has international overtones" boomed PP, reaching decibel levels that rearranged data on Big C's wonder gadget.

The Big C was studiously at it on his machine when the others were speaking. From time to time he was checking the temperature in the room and was drawing imaginary triangles of influence across the various speakers in the room. He had an all knowing grin permanently plastered on. Ram found all this very strange.

"Why should we advertise? We should just stop and see what they will do." That was Madhur Lele, first name courtesy parents, the last endowed by the general public.

"Absolute nonsense," exploded PP.

"That's completely short sighted," exclaimed Vikas.

"Such mediocre thinking," commented the receptionist (though outside the room and in a completely different context)

"Lele you better clear your marketing fundamentals," ended Mr. Bose, relishing the opportunity to make his subordinate squirm.

The Big C remained silent and did not raise his eyes above the wonder gadget.

"We need a promotional scheme to keep the consumer loyal initially," murmured Mr. Bose, "the propensity to switch might be high initially."

"Yes that's true Mr. Bose, research shows that if morality is falling, brand loyalty is never something that should be taken for granted," cooed Dharti in a manner that immediately made her appear intelligent, or was it the lighting in the room?

"Well, what do you have to say?" The Big C suddenly asked Ram, emphasizing on the underline. To say that the question had caught Ram in the cold would be detrimental to the idea of an understatement.

In his bewildered state he glanced down at Vikas's cell phone and drew inspiration from the logo.

"Maybe we need a motto," he said with uncertainity.

The rest of the room erupted in laughter, the loudest guffaws emanating from Madhur Lele who was thrilled to get the opportunity to mock someone for a change.

As the mirth subsided, Mr. Bose asked the Big C the inevitable question.

"What do you have to say, sir?"

The Big C motioned him to be silent and upped the tempo of his interaction with the wonder gadget, lights were flashing and techno sounds were squealing in digital agony. Finally he triumphantly raised his eyes and looked at the room. He paused for a full minute and then stood to his full height. He casually sauntered around the room in a manner that made everyone uncomfortable. Then he stopped dead center.

"This is an interesting and challenging problem, luckily my years of experience and cutting edge technology have enabled me to come up with the right tool that we must follow for success," he paused briefly to caress the wonder gadget almost sensually.

"The tool is my trademarked model ACPM, a brand defense module against aggression in the marketplace. This is inspired by the ICBM, which famously formed the bulwark of the security programs of many nations around the world." He paused again drinking in the awe, for those who keep status; even PP was jumping up in intensity level on the 'awe continuum'.

"A stands for await. Wait and watch first what the competition will do, C stands for Counter or make our approach more Contemporary and relevant. P stands for Persevere with this strategy and if in doubt fall back on Promotions and M stands for motto, we need something that will drive morale within and outside the organization, a kind of rallying call that will inspire people to greater things. Something that the agency will surely develop given their expertise."

He concluded as he triumphantly scribbled the acronym on the board, adding the trademark symbol almost mechanically.

There was a hushed silence in the room as everyone sat transfixed taking in those alphabets. They seemed to have hypnotized the room.

Mr. Bose was the first to recover, "Thank you sir that makes so much sense. We will all get down to it. That was truly inspiring, ACPM, such a brilliant model. We are very keen to apply it from today. You have given us so much hope."

The agency personnel grudgingly admitted that they were floored by the new strategic initiative.

"We will start work on the slogan," offered Vikas helpfully, knowing full well that his remark would cause PP's blood pressure to rise like a salmon out of water.

Ram excused himself to leave the room, he deliberately walked behind Big C's chair to sneak a peek at the wonder gadget and what he saw made his jaw drop beyond the confines of his face. There was nothing on the other side of the impressive shell. It was just a sophisticated game of '0's and X's' that the Big C had been playing all along. The Big C caught him looking at his little secret and shot back a refined but decidedly dangerous glance that made Ram scurry to the men's room even faster.

Back in the office, Ram sat stooped in his chair. Trying to write the minutes of the previous meeting, still feeling slightly robbed on the whole.

"Your ideas make for meaningful meal, but if you aren't careful someone will steal," the high pitched cackle, the express delivery of the tea cup and Chai-La disappeared in the words typed out in bold on Ram's screen. ACPM

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