Zero State Principle

We often wonder why, we are forced to do things that are ‘apparently’ good for us, but we feel that we don’t need them at all. For instance, after paying thousands and lakhs of rupees for education, most of it ends up in one ear and out the other. When we see some effort done by others to improve something, we dismiss it for their hopelessness. Allow me to introduce to you, the Zero State Principle, a way of looking at something to understand its full worth.

The Zero State Principle is something I thought up (hence the rather simple name), as a way of applying thought process to understand the Reason behind doing something. The logic of ZSP is simple: Whenever you see something being done, eliminate it completely, and then imagine the state of the environment (business, personal, political, etc). Then start building up to the current state, the process through which you will understand the full benefit or need of doing it.

For instance, Micromax, the Indian mobile phone brand, has been extremely aggressive in their advertising. They make low to high end mobile phones, which sell at almost half of what the current leaders, Samsung sells comparable products at. Meanwhile, Micromax is pushing ads on Radio, Television, sponsoring major events like the colossal Indian Premier League cricket event.

All this made me wonder ‘Why’? Surely, it would have enough to have TV ads and Radio. Why events so large? Aren’t they just over-doing it? I take this example, though there are countless others (spate of recent E-commerce TV advertisements should be an indication).

So I had to imagine what Micromax would look like in a Zero State of marketing. So let’s say Micromax has a perfect back end supply chain – excellent manufacturing, high quality processes, quick transports, and a well balance and distributed retail channel. So in this side, Micromax makes excellent phones, and you can buy one pretty much everywhere.

But with Zero Marketing. So now, who is going to try the first phone? Surely, someone who does not know the brand, and is looking at the cost/features alone. On a purely technical or objective note, Micromax might still be quite competitive (though facing stiff competition from clones). A few people might try it out, find it to be a decent find, and share amongst a few friends. Growth would probably happen, but a rather slow trajectory. Basically, Micromax would struggle to sell enough in volume to regain its investments in manufacturing, quality control and distribution. It needs to sell more. Zero State of Marketing isn’t enough. At all.

Now, from Zero State, let’s start adding elements.

So let’s start looking at mediums which India uses: TV, Radio and Print. Newspapers are still very well penetrated in India, and TV gives visual feedback and allows users to get a sense of the product in its ‘natural’ habitat (in some lovely looking damsel’s hands, or in the palm of smart executive with a suit).

Phase 1: Micromax rolls out TV advertisements (after hiring an Ad Agency of course. In this case, Lowe Lintas made those TV ads). Not bad, decent coverage – people are curious

Phase 2: Billboards, Print Ads, promotions and discounts, some Radio ads. People should be picking up phones with proper incentives, and finding that the phones are of good quality, recommend to friends. But some of those friends still haven’t heard of Micromax (“Microsoft?”) and  are not completely convinced.

Phase 3: The big guns – Sponsor IPL. This would be worth a lot of money, but wow, the visibility of it cannot be denied. As India’s favorite sport, it had a Cumulative Reach of 90-110 Million people, almost 10% of all of India? Now, as Tarantino’s character from D’Jango Unchained said “You had my curiosity, but now you have my attention”. If you haven’t experienced a Micromax yet – go out there and do it!

Phase 4(?): Now, in marketing, you toy with two basic parameters – reach and frequency. While all of the above media indicate different ways to get reach, the only way to get frequency is to keep pumping money (I shall not bore you with facts of how much each costs, but lest to say, its quite expensive to get footage in India, unless you really don’t want footage). Depending on how much money you have, you can theoretically keep paying up, well, forever – though one would argue that it wouldn’t make sense.

But let’s rewind back to the point. Micromax is spending a lot. If we ask ourselves why, go to Zero State – the Why Not? and see what would it do. Then build up back to the current state. Now appreciate what they’ve done. (On a note though, this a theoretical exercise. Micromax has been around since 1991, and is a major national and international player)

Switching examples to something more closer to us, consider education. We often give little regard to some of the classes we attend, fooling ourselves with the pride that ‘We know all of this already’. When working, there are training workshops which we half-heartedly attend for the sake of checking off the requirements.

But imagine it at Zero State. Most of us have completed a bachelors degree, and then many of us are on a masters as well. If you really knew everything that was already taught, then start skipping classes. Surely one class wouldn’t matter. We can skip this class on a whim, right?

Why not. Let’s go. Eliminate trainings at office. Scale back on each of the classes that you are forced to attend at masters/bachelors. Once you start eliminating each class individually, pretty soon you can imagine that you need not attend any class. Since you’re not attending any class, why do any exercise (on a slight note, its usually these forced exercises/submissions that require you to learn). But for arguments sake, eliminate higher education. Then secondary education. Then primary education. Ta-da you’re just reversed generations of fighting for right to education.

Now imagine yourself in a state where, by assuming yourself to be the beneficiary of a short term decision (like well, missing a class), extended the argument to Zero State – no education. For argument’s sake, let’s say you were given hollow degrees, so on paper you didn’t miss anything. Isn’t it likely, that in Zero State, you gain none of the wild skills that someone else gained by going through the grind?

Going to Gym, another example – you miss out on one day, fine, another day, also ok – but go to Zero State, and you’re stuck with a shape that isn’t shapely (Round is a shape isn’t an argument folks).

I think you get my point.

Zero State Principle. When in doubt of why you are doing something or asked to do something which value seems too minor in a small step, or when something seems too much and unnecessary, imagine a scenario where it doesn’t exist at all. Then keep adding elements to the state you are in, or where you want to be. Appreciate.

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