Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Nov-Dec 2017

Finding Nemo

How brands can shine in a VUCA world.

As a father of three young boys (the young boy inside me is forever alive and well), I watch a lot of animated movies; Finding Nemo is one of the all-time greats. In my opinion, apart from the entertainment value, its superior status in animated movies stems from it being a fantastic blueprint for young (and old!) minds to deal with their personal and professional lives!

The world has never been so uncertain, so divisive and yet at the same time, so exciting, as it is today. If you want to succeed – as an individual, as a brand or as a business – you have to find the conviction and the courage to take the plunge and go after your Nemo. But beware; unless you are prepared to go all out in search of your Nemo, success will always be dancing just outside the parameters of your comfort zone.

Although it is true that advancement in technology has shortened the distance between ourselves and the presence of ever-evolving information to a mere stone’s throw, the pace of evolution will never allow us the luxury of knowing what is coming tomorrow, forget next year! The speed at which currents change – be it social media, the path to convince your shopper/consumer of the superiority of your product or service, the change in consumer and trade trends, along with an endless array of other factors – is phenomenal and you must ensure that you are ready to ride it out.

But how to rock this tide? To ensure you stay afloat and not get lost in the undercurrent? Here are my humble submissions about how to navigate this new world order – or rather, a lack of it.

1. Don’t try and swim alone

Find a team of diverse individuals passionate about finding your Nemo and keep them with you. Akin to how it plays out in the film, it is not the most obvious superstars who will help you win; you see, the traditional definition of superstars is archaic. What you need is to keep looking for diversity in your team, so that it is reflected in your inputs and insights – the world isn’t black and white, so neither should your filters be. I have personally always been very vocal on this, and as an organisation (Reckitt Benckiser), in Pakistan or outside, spends a lot of time to ensure we do this; be it gender or experience.


In a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world, setbacks are part of the game. Factor them in. That old adage of ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ was never truer. Scenario the hell out of every big decision. But do it fast. Make assumptions and don’t fall into the trap of analysis paralysis. An imperfect but timely decision is much better than a late one.


2. Adapt. Adapt. Adapt

The currents are changing all the time, so keep your eyes and ears open! Understand the difference between fads and trends; so while our brand communication and advertising need to stay rooted to the fundamentals – the usual suspects in the form of the Marketing Ps – how we get to the consumer is anything but static. However, in this new world order, the ‘new’ P of Purpose is at the heart of the journey (for example, RB Pakistan has taken the leadership on Hoga Saaf Pakistan); those brands or businesses who fail to adapt in this regard will have to swallow a bitter pill as they are left behind. What remains fixed is the need to adapt to a world which is in a constant state of flux. To add to the complexity, your consumers don’t want interruption in their experiences; a need reflected in, for example, the ‘on-demand’ nature of media on Facebook and YouTube. Therefore, brand keepers and advertisers need to adapt and get innovative, knowing that the future is all about seamless ‘integration’ rather than ‘interruption’ – without losing ‘impact’.

3. Watch out for the jellyfish

Remember the scene from the movie? What an easy choice it seemed to Marlin – a shortcut through the jellyfish! Don’t ever be drawn in by false promises of a shortcut to success. Stop, take a step back and assess whether a particular course of action is apt for your brand or business. For instance, the successes of certain businesses going digital would not necessarily entail the same for you – you must think through the message, cost effectiveness and alignment with the overall business objective before you take such a step.

4. Persevere

In a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world, setbacks are part of the game. Factor them in. That old adage of ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ was never truer. Scenario the hell out of every big decision. But do it fast. Make assumptions and don’t fall into the trap of analysis paralysis. An imperfect but timely decision is much better than a late one. There is a shark (or an eel or a jellyfish) out there and if you are not clever enough, you will be beaten. Be better and stronger with your product or be the first. The latter is the key to survival for a lot of tech-based products and services, but shining examples such as Airbnb and Uber warrant a mention too – dozens more are offering or trying to offer the same services – but now the barrier to entry is HIGH. Moreover, never let failure get to you – while you may not succeed the first time, learn your lesson, internalise it and move on. The story does not end there. If you are determined enough, you will be able to come out at the top (of the aquarium!) in subsequent attempts.


In this new world order, the ‘new’ P of Purpose is at the heart of the journey (for example, RB Pakistan has taken the leadership on Hoga Saaf Pakistan); those brands or businesses who fail to adapt in this regard will have to swallow a bitter pill as they are left behind.


5. Let your brand be

Finding the right way to connect is hard, especially since everybody is telling you which is the right way to where you want to go. Digital is not for every brand. Nor is TV the default. Pakistan, like the rest of the world, is changing fast. However, the fundamentals don’t change – the execution does. We still need a product that delivers, advertising or communication that connects, and pricing and proposition that works.

6. Ask for directions

It’s always a good idea to identify a few anchors, stop in your tracks and ask for feedback on the direction you choose to take. You may choose a wisened, 150-year-old sea turtle to start the journey afresh; each choice will add to your overall perspective. Use your own intellect and wit to make your decisions and add the experience of others to your knowledge base; this will only make your decisions smarter.

7. Celebrate small wins

While keeping your eyes on ultimately finding your Nemo, ensure that you find small wins to celebrate with your team. These little moments go a long way in keeping you and your momentum going. Don’t let that passion be doused by a few obstacles peppered here and there and focus on these small wins; ultimately, it is your passion which will determine if you will or will not find Nemo!

I will leave you to it then with this last word of advice from the movie itself, as we all navigate the crazy ocean of a world we now live in... Good luck with finding your Nemo!

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!”


Shahzeb Mahmood is CEO, Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan.