Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ignorance is Bliss - Cronulla Riots

I just recently found out about the Cronulla riots and events that took place in Australia in 2005. Yes, 3 years later.

I have wasted my day reading about hatred... hatred towards my beloved country and its people. How is it possible that I didn't know? Never could I have imagined that anyone could hold anything but admiration towards Lebanon.

This is my heaven, the land where 18 religious communities live side by side in 10, 542 km squares, the land where almost everyone is trilingual, most people are in private schools, the place where everyone is welcome with open arms... where you would find the world's most beautiful women, the friendliest and most life-loving personalities. We created the alphabet, the first boat and the first law school in the world. We are known for our unmatchable services, our business skills and strong banking system. This is the Lebanon I know, nothing but PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE!

This is the country where more than 40 newspapers are published daily and where universities abound, where everyone aspire to be a lawyer, a doctor, an architect or an engineer. To the point where we have one doctor for every 10 patients! PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE!

However, what really characterizes my country is its Holiness. Lebanon is the only country in the world that has kept its original name since Biblical time, that has resurrected after wars, and regenerated to bloom again and again. Lebanon is first and above all IMMORTAL.

Its very own Byblos is the oldest city in the world, the very same city that gave its name to the Bible (since the papers that were used to produce the book came from this town). Lebanon was mentioned 75 times in the Old Testament, same goes for its symbol, the Cedar, it was mentioned exactly 75 times as well. Coincidence? I suppose it is true what they say, that every hair on our head is counted... Not to mention that the first miracle Jesus Christ ever made was in Lebanon. PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE!

What's more is Lebanon's historical wealth. Lebanon was occupied by more than 16 countries. It has witnessed the rise and fall of the biggest civilizations. It is the most crowded country in its archeological sites... and yet it still makes it on the top of the world's headlines for war and destruction. Do you still wonder why?

Today, Lebanon has one of the world's best night lives. It offers the Middle East its finest singers, businessmen and writers.

It is true that Lebanon has been a nation where major terrorists originated. This is the Lebanon you know, the one you read about and see on the news... But did you know that it has generated and raised even more SAINTS than terrorists? Have you heard of Saint Charbel, Saint Rafka, Saint Hardini... and many others are still on their way to pontification.

I suppose where there is good, there is evil. Could it be the reason for all the wars? The fact that there's a God goes without saying in Lebanon, no matter our religion... Our soil has a sky.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Second Life: Networking and Marketing

In the life we are familiar with, companies go where the consumers are likely to be found to market themselves. In the life we are familiar with, marketing academics study existing trends. However, in Second Life the world operates upside down and it troubles me!

How is it that a company that was established so long ago suddenly gained popularity? It had been launched before, why did its use peak now?


I am a graduate student in France, the second most popular location for Second Life, and the first time I heard about this “world” was through a teacher intrigued about this new scope of retail and finance possibilities. No, that’s not my main concern. What puzzles me is that I since heard a lot about Second Life, only it always came through academics! 100% of the Second Life users I know are either teachers or encouraged by their teachers to open an account; and I can’t help but wonder why.

Why is it that so many reputable universities and big renowned companies jumped on board an online application that has yet to prove itself? Why is it that the teachers are studying a “consumer” phenomenon when the consumer is not there yet? Why is it that the most important part of the equation is left out? …Is this part of a marketing strategy scheme?

What is this application that even my brand new Apple cannot support its graphics? How do they expect it to catch on, when it requires so much effort from the part of the user? All the new internet successes focus on ease of use, simplicity, speed and accessibility. The world is moving away from downloads and installation. Video games are now played live online. Movies are viewed directly… Everything is live and requires minimal effort from the user… and while the internet is undergoing such a movement, those big names disregard the possible failure of Second Life. Thus I got curious!

I wanted to know who was behind it. Searched the creator. His history. His life. Could he be part of some network that encompass all those powerful company leaders? I am thinking free masonry…. I don’t know what I am thinking. I found no clues.

However what I did find was the CEO of Second Life on Facebook and LinkedIn; and my thoughts drifted away from my problem: If I was to contact him through a conventional company medium, it would be almost impossible… while in this new world, everyone’s only one click away.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Marketing Madness (Politics in Lebanon)

I live in a country where every family has a political history. Every family has a martyr… or a victim. Every house has been damaged, at least once, by war. I live in a country where you cannot get to power unless you are politically supported by a party of some sort; and this even applies at university levels.

It is in this atmosphere, under this sky, that tensions started building up.

Here, everything is political; and everyday some new event drawing speculations takes place, leaving evidence free for interpretation since no “facts” are ever revealed or proven! Everyone’s an expert and each has a different opinion… even a 5 year old voices his comments confidently and holds his political party at heart.

Democracy at its best!

However, Lebanese are good businessmen… a bit too good for their own sake. They excel in commerce, even when the product is intangible; and so the insanity begins!

Every political party has its color; orange for the Free Patriotic Movement, military green for the Lebanese Forces, yellow for Hezbollah, flashy green for the Marada, darker green for Amal, light blue for the Future Movement, red for the Progressive Socialist Party…and the list goes on. “Beautiful!” you may think…. Well, not so much when you start being judged and labeled by the color of your clothes. Try any of these colors on Election Day or any other day where some leader has called for a political statement (they abound around here), and you’re sure to get hurt.

If this is not enough, what if I tell you that the way you honk your car could get you into trouble? Yes! Honking CAN and IS a political statement…. Since, believe it or not, some parties have their own “combination of notes” that makes them recognizable.

That, aside from the political songs and each party’s anthems and slogans… at some point, when political enthusiasm rises, they get played in night clubs! Not to forget the mobile ringtones…

Not crazy enough? Well check this: every single political party has a single leader they swear by; one, which can never be nor do wrong. Our entire history has been rewritten to fit each and every party’s point of view; now there’s so many versions that no one can guarantee any aspect is true! People argue on contradicting “facts” they feel strongly about. Our history book at school stops before 1975 since, starting that date, we failed to agree on a single version of the truth.

Of course we have each party’s logo, their own website; but one party even has its own product line to finance its activities (everything from pens to umbrellas, to bottled water and fuel!)

Ok, so this is not so bad… Let’s talk about propaganda! Freedom of the press! Every newspaper or television station has its political stand… talk about brainwashing! We’ve reached a time where everything you hear or read is biased and you have to interpret it in accordance to its source… but how did we get here?

Consider this; you had a percentage of neutral individuals in Lebanon. These were your guarantee. These were the reason for all the marketing effort. They were the people who shifted the balance from side to side. And so the fight had begun!

Speeches, poetic and patriotic statements; stereotyping and labeling events and people to promote certain ideas and turn the neutrals to your advantage… That’s sales. Associating adjectives or facts everyone repels to your enemies and you’re winning, it doesn’t matter if you’re mistaken as long as the trend catches on and everyone starts using your expressions.

However, they didn’t stop here, songs and video clips to support political views proliferated; but my favorite marketing tool remains the billboards. The more a political party advertised and showed its presence, the more its partisans and that of the opposing parties got attached to their beliefs. What people didn’t get is a fundamental lesson in marketing; when you already feel strongly about a product, advertising only makes you feel stronger about it.

The jackpot was the neutral cluster. Soon, the first advertisements attracted counter-advertising efforts and the madness took place. Marketing mayhem was a personal enjoyment. The Lebanese economy is barely striving to survive and political marketing is booming!

Shortly afterwards, no one was neutral anymore. For stupid reasons, everyone had unwillingly taken a side in the conflict. As it goes in social psychology it is easier to sell something when the person in question already made a pro-statement or took action to defend it. So the brother turned against his brother and the mother against her son, the husband disagreed with the wife and suddenly watching the news at home or talking about politics became unbearable.

Today, my country is agonizing from democratic overdose and political poison: an attestation to the power of marketing.

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