Tipping Point Conference- The Social Media Event

It was supposed to be graced by Chief Minister of Sindh Qaim Ali Shah, instead came Shazia Marri the Minister of Information. It was supposed to start at 9.00 am, it started well after  10.30 am. And it had a few hiccups along the way. It was supposed to be jampacked and yet only 60% of the hall was filled.

This was the Tipping Point Conference organized by the Young Social Reformers at the Marriot Karachi on 6th June.

 Social media has become the new buzzword, and this conference was supposed to deal in depth with this topic. On that count, it failed to do justice. Apart from Badar Khushnood, the Google representative in Pakistan, no other speaker tried to address it properly save for a few perfunctory remarks.

But by and large it was a successful event. Why?  Because some of the speakers managed to enthrall the participants with some brilliant insights about marketing, even if they were not related to social media.

Here are some of the highlights of the event:


Masood Hashmi –CEO Orient McCann:

  • Talked about the power of brand equity – which essentially means the share of the consumer mind. Coke’s brand equity is a staggering  $92 billion plus and that doesn’t include the physical assets like factories, sales and distribution systems etc. Just the name Coca Cola is worth all that money.
  • Talked about the Trust factor. How we trust the brands we encounter on a daily basis blindly. How her daughter trusts Lactogen more than her mother-in-law’s advice for her 3-month old.
  • The stickiness factor. How Tracy Brown was able to hum a jingle for a brand that was decades old.
    • The dynamics of tipping point – how Sharp was struggling to make the facsimile machine click with the consumers in the 1980s. Then suddenly the tipping point was reached  and Fax machines became the darling of the consumers.

  • Instant coffee was rejected outright by the consumers. Reason being, brewing a cup of coffee for her husband was the most caring thing a wife did for her husband in the entire day. If she’s gonna use instant coffee, the husband would retort that now you just pour water in it, you don’t make any effort. Nestle changed the positioning with a new ad which said that the time you devote to your husband is more valuable than the time you spent brewing coffee. Instant Coffee became an instant hit.


Tracy Brown- BPAO – US Consulate Karachi

  • How the current US President came to power riding on the power of the social media.
  • Republicans have always been good at generating huge election funds. This time the Democrats were able to surpass them using the social media. For instance you could contribute even a mere $20 dollars online and that’s what most of the people did which snowballed to such staggering funds.
  • Hillary Clinton controlled her election plea to the voters by releasing it on the web instead of the traditional media. That way she had no troublesome journalists to interfere with her message or its delivery.
  • John McCain lost the fight on one decisive incident. A video leaked on the web showed him spending an inordinate amount of time on his make-up and fluffing his hair. That video made him come across as a shallow individual who was too consumed by himself than to think about the problems of the people. That shows the dark side of this new media.
  • Social media made the girl flogging incident in Swat reach the length and breadth of Pakistan within hours. Whether it was authentic or not is something we will never know.
  • Have started using Twitter. Next in line is blogging.


Shazia Marri – Minister for Information

  • The creation of Pakistan by Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a tipping point.
  • Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was an exponent of using new technologies for the betterment and made use of the internet for keeping in touch with her party people.
  • PPP was instrumental in digitizing the telecommunication in Pakistan, both in 1989 and 1993.
  • Differed with Tracy Brown about the girl flogging incident in Swat. Said it wasn’t hours but months-old incident that surfaced only now and doesn’t reflect the Pakistani society at all.

 KEYNOTE- The State of Social Media

Badar Khushnood – Country Representative- Google Pakistan

  • Morgan Stanley Survey shows Pakistan on the 5th top spot for internet usage in the entire world – one spot ahead of India.
  • Pakistan is one of the top 3 countries for most mobile usage.
  • There were 184 million blogs in the world in 2008.
  • Two years ago, a survey done by Google showed 7 out of 10 searches emanating out of Pakistan were about Indian actresses. Today only Katrina Kaif remains in the object of the Pakistani searchers’ desire.
  • A story about a guy who made a video about how a bicycle lock from one particular company could be unlocked with a simple ballpen and uploaded it on his blog. The company ignored this video. Two months later the video had become such a hit that the company had to dish out $10 million in damages to the consumers and the stakeholders.
  • Businesses are not responding well to change especially the social media. Although Makro and Metro have opened up quite a few centres throughout each city, Agha’s is still stuck at one centre in Clifton.
  • Nirala heralded the branding concept in the Mithai category by coming up with a number of branches each projecting a consistently uniform image of the brand.
  • Democratice Web – how some Pakistani bloggers are earning huge profits from the new medium.
  • TeethMaestro – a blogger from Karachi who is a doctor and runs the Alvi Dental Hospital. He was voted the best political blogger of Asia. His blog is followed by CNN, Guardian and co, and journalists both foreign and local rely on his blog for their stories.
  • She’s a designer from Lahore with a two-year old daughter who designs cards for Hallmark and 123greetings. At night working for just two hours she is able to earn about $2,000 per month.
  • Haris Nadeem is a matric student from Lahore who’s earning on average $4,000/ month from his blog.
  • Another blogger Saad Hamid is earning on an average $9,000/month.
  • Both the above bloggers are not even18 years old and as such cannot have a bank account. They receive from Google via Western Union.
  • Both these bloggers have turned up at the various Blogger Meet-ups that are being held on a regular basis in the three major cities, and related their experience of how they were able to do it.
  • That’s the meaning of democratic web – anyone from anywhere can make a fortune – irrespective of age,country,class,gender or color. But all of them had to work at it to make it happen – no shortcuts.
  • The paradox of love – you won’t get it if you run after it – let it come to you – meaning if you create a blog just for the sake of making money – you won’t last long. Instead focus on the content and blog about something you’re passionate about.
  • Blogger meet-ups were only advertised on Facebook and related media and yet each meet-up resulted in an audience of 100-200. Not a single one of them was invited. Even an official from the Information Ministry turned up at one of the events to see how money can be made through blogs although he wasn’t invited. That shows how the power of the social media is combining with the word-of-mouth to deliver something more potent than the conventional advertising.


Social Media in the Economic Downturn

Naheed Memon –Director Medcom

  • Presentation was titled Blown to Bits– inspired by a book written by two Harvard students more than ten years ago on how the emerging media – the internet- was going to rip apar the traditional model of doing business.
  • Just ten years ago email was a big deal, today’s generation can’t even relate to that period. In today’s pace, ten years is equivalent to a century.
  • Last year $148 billion was spent on conventional advertising. Only 14% was trust advertising.
  • $.5 billion was spent on social media while 78% of people trust it.
  • Marketing has changed from industrial to web to social media.
  • Small companies who don’t have the budget for the traditional channels should focus solely on the SM.

Little Things Making A Big Difference

Anila Weldon – CEO Weldon BBS

  • Got the audience to stand up, stretch and come closer. Asked questions and gave gifts in return. Very Rahila Narejo-esque.
  • Thanked the two gentlemen for inspiring her whose conversation she overhead while waiting for her turn to come. They were talking about how the speaker was boring them to death.
  • Talked about her being the ‘Connector’ that Malcolm Gladwell is referring to in his book Tipping Point.
  • Her interests and businesses. Weldon BBS, Weldon Moms– two businesses and being a drummer.
  • Narrated stories showing how little things in marketing can go a long way in promoting your business. Two of the stories were:

1.    A businessman whenever he had to go through the toll plaza did one little thing. He paid his own toll tax as well as the toll tax of the next two cars behind him and told the man manning the toll booth to tell the drivers of those two vehicles that he had paid for them and give them his business card.

2.    A restaurant told a group of university students that it would offer them free food after midnight today if they would make a line at the entrance of the restaurant on the opening day.

  • Logos and Slogans. How crucial they are. Told a story about how a friend of hers wanted her to come up with a slogan for his brand Gravity. She came up with, ‘Gravity, there’s no such thing, it’s the earth that sucks!’. He hasn’t talked to her since.
  • Went to a dinner where Pervez Musharraf was there as President. He asked her if she would like to give some advice. Replied she only had one suggestion. Change the national anthem of Pakistan to Dil Dil Pakistan song. Reason being no one understands Farsi, and a country’s national anthem should be in a language which the majority understands.
  • Pissed off a snow-haired lady with her remarks about changing the national anthem of Pakistan.
  • Antagonized a man with her subtle indication that Olper Milk may not be real milk and Nestle ‘Dahi’ may not be real yoghurt  just like Walls ice cream is not actual ice cream.
  • The man pressed on, but she refused to give a clear-cut answer lest she land in hot waters courtesy these brands.
  • Got the copies of her presentation distributed to the participants.
  • Ender her presentation on a high-note by telling the audience she had a gift for them pasted under their chairs – a Chocolatto ticky pack with her business card attached to it.


Remarkable Marketing

Shoaib Shamsi – Assistant Professor Marketing-Greenwich University

  • The blind man story. A man passed by a blind man who had  written on a cardboard , ‘I’m blind, please help me’. There was only coin lying there, no one bothered to help. The man changed the sentence and went away. When he came back a couple of hours later, he saw several coins lying there. He had written, ‘It’s a beautiful day, but I can’t see it. Please help me.’
  • A change of perception is all that is needed to make your marketing work.
  • The old marketing model was based on making money on people’s ignorance.
  • Today’s companies like Google and Co operate on the opposite premise.
  • Showed a number of ads each intended to describe one of Seth Godin’s seven Cs of marketing: Creativity, Compelling, Connecting, Contextual, Collaborative, Credibility and Cultivating.
  • Showed a video of a fat guy dancing to a song in front of his web cam. The video was uploaded on Youtube and got a whopping 28 million views. Moral of the video: Anyone can become a star on the internet.
  • Social media can sometimes be horribly wrong for you. Showed a webpage where an article saying that coffee can cause cancer had an ad for a coffee brand. The system responsible for placing the ad just picked up on the word coffee in the article and place it there, not knowing that it would have negative connotations for the brand.


Faisal Qureshi  Anchor Ankahi Samaa TV

  • Delved into the meaning of Surah Asr and how it pertained to social media.
  • Wanted a visa for US.  Sent his father’s driver to submit the application and got the visa on spot. That was 1982. Today, Pakistanis can’t get a visa to even Singapore and Sri Lanka.
  • Most Pakistanis don’t have the courage to travel by road from one metro city to another.
  • What happens when 170 million Pakistani flush in the morning? Where does it all go?

 The sour highlight of the day was the treatment meted out to Qashif Effendi – the CEO of 180 degrees. After having called him on stage to deliver his presentation,  one of the announcers suddenly said that the conference was being concluded. On hearing this the brand veteran headed for the door. After much coaxing from the organizers especially Shoaib Shamsi he came back just to say how bad he felt about this episode and that the presentation he painstakingly had made and delivered successfully at other forums, he won’t be doing it here.

It is pertinent to mention here that Qashif Effendi  is one of  the brand gurus of Pakistan’s brandscape, having build brands like Tapal from scratch to the towering giants they are today. Considering this, his refusal to share his insights on this platform was a big loss to the participants.

The reason this incident happened was probably due to the fact that the Marriott was pressurizing the YSR people to wrap up the event as it had exceeded the time limit alloted to it. And the reason it was running late was because it had started way too late. This would give the Youth Social Reformers something to think about.

 And now, here’s my two cents worth:

  • Good food. Loved the salads. But Marriott should do something about those indestructable barbequed chicken botis. This is the third event I’ve attended at Marriott where I had to wrestle with some tough chicks. Growing weary of it.
  • Shahi Tukray for dessert are a definite no for such an event.
  • Know your speakers inside out. At least know which ones would put the audience to sleep and which ones could wake them from the slumber. Then arrange the schedule accordingly. Placing the ‘Sleep Arousers’ earlier in the day and the ‘Alarm Clocks’ later.
  • Shazia Marri is one feisty and graceful lady if there ever was one. She knows how to talk down some one. And she speaks immaculate English, an amazing feat considering the rest of the government.
  • Umair Mohsin who writes for different IT publications like Spider and Dawn Tech and has gained considerable expertise in this area ought to have delivered a presentation especially since he was already present there. He would have imparted something to the participants. more valuable than what many of the speakers could not.

  • The representatives of the media partners Dawn News and FM107 were conspicuous by their absence. At least Dawn News was thoughtful enough to give a nice mug to the participants.


  • The youngsters at YSR ought to learn that if a person is sporting a Shariah beard doesn’t mean he cannot be an expert in a field other than religion.
  • Drop the dignaritaries next time. They don’t add any appreciable value to the event, instead make it start late. Also because of them, a larger hall has to be booked lest they feel small and inconsequential, even if the strength of attendees doesn’t justify it.
  • Arrange a smaller hall next time, just enough to accommodate the participants.
  • All such events should be held at inexpensive hotels so that the cost factor could be controlled which in turn would lower the price tag for the participation. Rs.3000-5000 is way too much for such an event when Blogger Meet-ups are being held with free participation for all. The attendance at this event would have been much lower had many people not been allowed to attend for free. Most of these free  participants were students of Greenwich University who had been coerced into attending the event as an assignment by their professor. 

  • The national anthem should not be changed. Not because of any emotive reasons on my part but because of basic principle of branding.  You see, every  brand gets etched permanently in the mind of the consumer for better or for worse. Then if you try to change even one aspect of the brand, whether superficial or otherwise, the consumers react violently.  There have been innumerable instances in the brandscape, the most popular being the case of Coke when it tried to launch New Coke in 1985 to counter the Pepsi onslaught. They launched the new product after conducting a staggering 250,000 taste tests all which pointed to the new product being preferred by the consumer for its taste. What happened? The product flopped big time. People refused to let go of the brand they had come to love over their lifetime in spite of the fact that the new product was better. In short, brand affinity has nothing to do with the physical characteristics of the product behind the brand. And National Anthem is a brand. People have got a lifetime of memorable memories associated with it. You may find a better national anthem that people understand better, but it won’t get accepted for the same reason New Coke failed to click with the consumer.

A good effort which should be followed by a number of sequels soon enough. 


  • WOW! Wonderful coverage of the event.

    Thanks are in order for the wonderful compliment you’ve given me, however I don’t write for SPIDER. 🙂 I write for Aurora and Dawn’s Images (Sci-tech page) where i do gadgets & bytebacks. 🙂

    Secondly, just a correction. Qashif (to the best of my knowledge) has never worked on Tapal. He was the brand manager of Supreme after which he moved to Tetley Tea and was the head for the entire APAC region.

    Anyhows, amazing effort you’ve put in.

  • Also regarding the ‘Numa Numa’ video (fat kid dancing), it’s not 28 million, the video has been viewed over 900 Million times on YouTube. It’s the second most popular video in the world after ‘Star Wars Kid’.

    Also, Shoaib Shamsi’s assertion that the kid was banned holds no water. He (now a grown up) just did an ad with GEICO’s Mascot the Gecko. GEICO is one of the largest insurance companies in USA.

    Thirdly, do watch ‘An Anthropological Introduction To YouTube’ at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPAO-lZ4_hU. What ‘Numa Numa’ did was flame a revolution which we call ‘User Generated Content’ today. This is why i was thinking these speakers have no idea about social media or what they’re talking about.

  • Thank you Umair for your appreciation of the coverage!

    I devour all the three publications, so sometimes get confused as to who writes for which one.

    It amazes me to no end that apart from you and me, there’s not a single review of the event, at least in the Google top 30 search results. Even the YSR website has not been updated to include this event. And this in spite of the fact that the media people were present. Am I missing something here?

    Checked out Qashif’s linkedin profile. Yes, it’s my mistake. He hasn’t worked at Tapal.

    There you go again, churning out fascinating facts about how the emerging media is being used to tremendous advantage by lesser-known entities. You really need to stop sitting on the sidelines and enlighten marketers like me about how to take advantage of these nifty tactics.

    Just finished watching that youtube anthropolgy video. Blown away by it. Do let me know if you’ve more of that awesome stuff.

  • Wonderful coverage indeed.. i so wanted to attend this informative conference but could not. your writing gave me a good idea what speakers talked about. well put! but can we get more info in visual form? these three images did not do justice to an event like this. i’d like to see how the event took place, in other words, what did i miss 🙂

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