Better advertisement

Talking about positive persuasive messages, I believe it’s fair to recognize when something good is done on the advertisement scene.

When companies use their creativity to combine their marketing goal with a bigger intention to make a social impact, and take action in spreading positive messages all over. The bigger the company, the stronger the message.

For example, I saw this campaign that Nike lately promoted in Sydney, hanging on a big building on a very busy highway. Playing with their slogan “Just do it”, they highlight our tendency to procrastinate hard things like exercising, and transformed it in an invitation to follow our initial plans. It works in line with the free running groups that most of Nike stores lead, encouraging people to go out together and benefit from training, fun and a lot of motivation.

I’m not saying that Nike is the best company in the world – even if it managed to change its reputation, some independent sources suggest that it’s worth being skeptical – but if you want to change things, you also need to recognize when someone do something good. Well done.

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Everyday marketing for self-help

“What you feed your mind, will lead your life.” Demi Sogunle

In a society where we are constantly surrounded by media and advertising, we should choose very carefully what we insert in our daily life. Some research on the matter shows that this is a very urgent topic at the moment, especially for parents. Kids start tapping on a screen before they are even able to speak and they use youtube from breakfast time to bedtime. And even we adults use a buffet of devices as extensions of our bodies. With an incredibly growing average of 9 hours per day in the Usa, digital media is the biggest issue to limit.

However, while it is quite common to speak and read about a more conscious media diet, we don’t pay too much attention to our intake of other purpose-driven messages. What about considering the marketing diet?

As we wait for the bus, we walk to work, we shop at the supermarket, we are unconsciously exposed to a lot of persuasive messages. The latest album of a famous singer, a glamour perfume recently released, the perfect body of a model wearing sexy underwear, a well known comedy at the local theatre, a new exhibition at the museum, the special offer on a new ice-cream, a dream holiday location.

Marketing permeates every facet of our lives. Companies try to convince us to buy their products and services. Nonprofit organizations try to promote their causes and encourage donations. Political organizations try to motivate people to vote for their candidates. They all want us to change our mindset and do something.

This exposure has been going on for so long that we don’t even feel it as a threat. We know from media studies such as the Uses and Gratification Theory that we don’t take everything that we receive, we are active interpreters rather than passive consumers, and most of our decisions are made with low involvement (Krugman). But what is the impact that those persuasive inputs have on our brains? What if we start to selectively compose our daily intake of messages?

Like at a happy hour buffet, it would be nice to be able to choose what we want to eat and what we can leave. There will always be the temptation to fill our plate with much more food than we need, but with time and practice we have the chance to learn how to handle it.

As we know from neurological studies and from centuries of oriental tradition, our mind can shape our thoughts and our actions. Most importantly, it can be shaped by our surroundings. People, ideas, places, messages. By changing the nourishment that we give to our brain, we can change our attitude for the better. Starting with words.

Words can shape our mindset and our life. So why not using marketing tools to target our future selves with empowering messages? It can be a simple wish for a good day, a positive thinking affirmation or something focused on a specific goal. It would be great to see people wearing t-shirts and clothes with happy phrases, advertisement panels in the streets with confidence-boosting words, songs that make everyone feel good, objects speaking about an easy, relaxed and confident life. It’s called Subliminal Self-Help.

How does it work? Keys in the process of persuasion are emotions, repetition and association. For example, let’s say we want to start a running routine. We could start with a few motivational post-it stickers waiting for us in the morning as we wake up, reminding us the happy feeling that we have after a run. We can schedule a reminder on our calendar about our daily run. Listen to the same music that we usually listen while we go for a jog. Speak to our friends and family as if this routine was already established. Act like we are runners. If processed every day, these simple tricks will help us to do what we want. Our mind is surprisingly powerful, let’s start pitching ourselves.

“It’s all about reprogramming our minds to focus more on what brings us joy.” Alaric Hutchinson, Living Peace

 

Cambogia, Karma bucolico

Un viaggio tra vita rurale e luoghi mistici alla scoperta del “sorriso della Cambogia”. Lontano il più possibile dal turismo di massa, un sogno ad occhi aperti alla scoperta del patrimonio inestimabile di questo Paese dal passato tragico e dal presente in fermento.

Il Paese è ormai una consolidata meta turistica e aggiornata agli standard d’accoglienza internazionali di qualsiasi livello. Le protagoniste per la maggior parte dei visitatori sono il famoso tempio e patrimonio UNESCO Angkor Wat e la zona circostante Siem Reap, la caotica e suggestiva capitale Phnom Penh e la località marittima Sihanoukville, ma al di là di queste icone turistiche, c’è tanto altro da scoprire. La Cambogia fuori stagione si rivela in tutta la sua autenticità, nel bene e nel male, per chi la sa apprezzare. Foresta pluviale e risaie a perdita d’occhio fanno da sfondo a templi millenari, piccoli villaggi fluviali abitati da instancabili contadini, il tutto incorniciato da cieli tropicali che rendono le giornate più saporite e affascinanti.

Capoluogo dell’omonima provincia, Siem Reap è situata nel nord-ovest del Paese tra le rovine di Angkor e il Lago Tonle Sap. Già negli anni ‘30, con il sontuoso Grand Hotel Angkor, la città attirava le prime ondate di viaggiatori che furono poi bloccate durante periodo buio dei Khmer Rossi. Negli ultimi anni il flusso di turisti è aumentato nuovamente e ora la città si  presenta come un’accogliente base di partenza per le escursioni da fare in zona ed è dotata di ogni genere di struttura ricettiva: hotel, ostelli, spa, negozi e ristoranti. Vale la pena visitare il Museo Nazionale di Angkor, la scuola e il mercato dell’artigianato, e passeggiare tra le bancarelle del mercato serale. Per gli amanti della vita notturna, Pub Street è la via dei locali e dei ristoranti più frequentati, ma i migliori in cui si può assaporare la cucina khmer si trovano nelle vie secondarie e più nascoste della città.

Dopo un lungo viaggio in bus da Bangkok con tappa alla memorabile dogana di Poipet, Siem Reap accoglie con una festa di clacson e voci. “Hi! My name is Rà, nice to meet you!”, dice con aria lieta il ragazzotto tarchiato sulla trentina. Ha un viso simpatico e un sorriso abbagliante e la sua passione sono i percorsi meno battuti. Pacifico e amichevole, Rà è la guida perfetta alla  scoperta di Angkor, il parco archeologico più grande ed eccezionale del Paese costituito da un Grande Circuito di 26km che comprende, oltre ai più celebri, la Città del Tempio Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom, Angkor Thom e Bayon, il tempio buddhista-hindu Phreh Khan e il sontuoso Neak Poan.

Nome originale di Angkor era Yasodharapura, ovvero città di gloria, costruita all’inizio del nono secolo per celebrare la ricchezza dell’Impero Khmer e dell’imperatore Yasovaraman I. Appena qualche secolo dopo, al momento del suo apogeo, sotto la guida dell’Imperatore Javaraman VII, era la città più grande del mondo e copriva un’area di mille chilometri quadrati. Visitarli oggi, dopo che la storia e la natura li hanno coperti e trasformati, è un’esperienza mistica. Un sogno a occhi aperti che proietta in un’era lontana. Passeggiando in una nuvola di vapore condensato, ci si addentra nella foresta accompagnati dalle voci della natura e dalla delicata cantilena di Rà che introduce la storia dell’Impero Khmer. Una teoria di regnanti dai nomi impronunciabili, guerre lontane e successioni di civiltà antiche portano in un passato fatto di prosperità economica e magnificenza architettonica, ottimi raccolti, feste popolari e celebrazioni buddiste. Lungo il tragitto a piedi compaiono templi e rovine antiche che si fanno largo tra rami e foglie della foresta tropicale. Enormi complessi religiosi e torri maestose sembrano nascere spontaneamente dalla natura.

Altra perla della zona di Angkor è Kbal Spean, un’alveo fluviale interamente scolpito e immerso nella profonda giungla del Phnom Kulen National Park a 50 km da Siem Reap. La fauna è molto ricca e rende l’avventura ancora più selvaggia, mentre l’umidità al 99% copre i colori di una luce bianca come in un sogno. Destreggiandosi tra liane e formazioni rocciose simili a meteoriti, si arriva al “Fiume dei mille Linga”, sul cui affascinante letto abili mani hanno scolpito centinaia di immagini di divinità Hindu, rendendolo un capolavoro indimenticabile. Così bello che un gruppo di placide farfalle variopinte ci si posano sopra, scatenando giochi di colore e pensieri magici. Seguendo il letto del fiume per tornare verso valle si incontrano grotte decorate con antiche incisioni e piccoli laghetti e cascate, dove ci si può rinfrescare e nuotare per concludere l’escursione.

Il modo più autentico per scoprire il meglio del territorio è nutrirsi dei consigli di chi si incontra lungo il percorso, per poi seguirli. Dopo aver ascoltato storie, leggende e informazioni pratiche, decidiamo di lasciarci consigliare dal nostro amico Rà:“Go visit floating village and then all the way to north-east… the heart of Cambodia!”. Così si prosegue verso uno dei luoghi più caratteristici e bizzarri mai visti: il villaggio galleggiante di Kompong Pluk, in cui vive una delle comunità fluviali più remote. Palafitte alte fino a sei metri sorreggono le abitazioni caratteristiche cambogiane. Costruite in previsione d’inondazioni durante la stagione delle piogge, queste architetture danno al paesaggio un alone surreale. L’alternativa per chi vive qui è trascorrere giorni e notti in una sorta di house boat seguendo il flusso vitale del fiume e del vicino lago Tonlè Sap. Nella maggior parte dei casi la barca è anche il luogo di lavoro: vendita del pescato locale, ortaggi e frutta o piccoli ristoranti casalinghi dove si assaporano le ricette locali preparate con i prodotti della comunità. Il mezzo di trasporto più efficace da queste parti è una bellissima pagoda in legno decorata con colori sgargianti, con la quale muoversi per il villaggio che si estende anche dentro una foresta di mangrovie. Scaldati dai sorrisi della gente e dai saluti di bambini incuriositi, si ringrazia la sorte di essere capitati in questo posto speciale, prima di proseguire attraverso il lago Tonlè Sap fino alla cittadina di Battambang. Si tocca poi la città di Kampong Cham, sul grande fiume Mekong, fino all’estremo nord-est del paese, sulle orme della Cambogia più autentica.

Gli ultimi giorni sulla costa, nel sud-est del Paese, segnano la fine di un mese tra luoghi apprezzati da turisti di tutto il mondo, natura incontaminata e preziosi patrimoni artistici e architettonici. Ma il vero tesoro della Cambogia è la sua gente: il popolo Khmer è stato all’inferno, ha subito massacri, miseria e instabilità politica per anni, ma ottimismo e tenacia sono riusciti a mantenere vivo quel sorriso irresistibilmente contagioso.

Articolo pubblicato su Latitudeslife.com con le foto del mio amico Andrea Zanaboni

The magic outside the comfort zone

Let’s face it, nobody exits his comfort zone for fun. Every single person is somehow attached to things that are familiar, set, easy. We tend to be conservative, we love to know exactly what’s going on around us and how to handle situations. Our house, our friends, our work, our routine.

But what happens when you get bored? Sometimes you don’t even realize it until one day comes and you can’t stand it anymore.

Suddenly, your life feels too small, too limited, wrong. You wait, maybe it’s a temporary situation. You try to change things from the inside, hoping that soon it will get better. And it doesn’t, until you make a choice.

Changing is not easy, but for some people it’s the only way to shine. I call these people “nomads”. Not everybody is the same, of course. There are some humans that are perfectly fine in the comfort zone, or that choose to stay there because they need a cushion of certainty. I call them “settlers”.

The problem is when nomads and settlers want to live together. It took me a lot to understand that we can’t change our nature. If a nomad tries to live as a settler, he won’t be happy. Similarly, a settler would freak out when pushed to live in a completely new environment. No matter if the nomad puts all his enthusiasm and good will in describing all the beauties that are outside the comfort zone.

This is why it’s better to understand the inner you and make decisions for yourself. If you are a nomad, don’t try to fight against windmills. Go deep into yourself, follow your instinct and find your path. If you feel bored, unsatisfied, meaningless, then leave. It takes courage, self confidence, a bit of selfishness, but it’s what you need to live a life without regrets and create your own happiness. It’s the most precious thing that you can do.

This doesn’t mean that you will be alone. Someone told me “If you want to be something, surround yourself with people that have your same interests”. You can’t change the mind of whoever is around you, but you can build your life with people that share your same values.

Like trees, we have roots that make us stable and give us nutrients, strength and balance. We have branches that grow to reach the sun and the sky, branches that work constantly to produce shiny leaves, beautiful flowers and juicy fruits. But also, we can move. When the terrain is not fertile for us anymore, we can look for one that will suit us better. In that case, our body will work even better if we walk away from our physical roots. As long as we stay true to ourselves, we’ll be fine. We’ll create new roots and our flowers will be nicer than we’ve ever imagined.

Outside the comfort zone, you will see the magic happening. Instead of being more vulnerable, you become stronger and more able to run towards your goal. You will meet amazing people ready to share experiences, ideas, solutions, smiles. You will feel that the universe is helping you, all doors are open, your way is full of brightness, energy, possibilities, and it’s just awesome.

“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” Roy T. Bennett

The mirror proof

One day I had a cold shower. I looked at myself in the mirror and I couldn’t recognize the person I saw. I was grey, empty, blocked. One year in a new city and I had created nothing meaningful. A work that wasn’t enough, relationships that didn’t go much further than the surface, habits that were already boring. Love was leaving space to routine and call of duty. Life was easy, too easy, and the plans that everybody expected from me felt wrong. That was not me, not the life I wanted.

Where was that happy extrovert that could speak to anyone in the street and was able to become friend with young, old, animals, walls? Where was that restless human always striving to be the best version of herself? Where were my joy, my drive, my dreams?

My personality was hidden somewhere, I knew it, but I couldn’t find it. I immediately started to plan a way out. I was itching, I wanted to be myself again, that was my challenge.

Days passed and my brain never stopped to scan my last years. Eventually, I understood. Expectations shaped my behavior and transformed me into that quiet and passive being. Or, better, my calm and compliant side let others to determine how I should be, and changed. But you can’t change your nature.

Day by day, I let go every weight that came from the outside, every thought, belief or habit that wasn’t mine. I started to attend yoga classes, work on my spirituality and body. I started to explore the city by myself as a tourist. I let my thoughts and creativity free to wonder. I stopped looking for the perfect job and apples for a low level part-time that would challenge me to go back to my origins. Speak with strangers, in the streets, with a purpose. And this is how I ended up fundraising. And it worked.

Alive again and excited by this journey towards the real me, I left for Australia and I haven’t stopped removing layers. My life changed completely and unexpectedly, and I’m still on the way.

Expectations can come under different forms. They can be evident like plans for the future, but also subtle like little shifts in behavior, that eventually lead to big changes. Getting rid of all this heavy stuff is a long process, full of discoveries and little moments of personal glory.

So, if you don’t want cold showers like mine, do a simple thing. Stand in front of a mirror, look closely and intensely at yourself and answer this question: would you like this person if you could meet him/her in the street or at a party?. I call it “The mirror proof”. It sounds stupid, but it can lead to epiphanies. Be true to yourself and give the world the chance to meet the best version of you, every single day.

“Live the Life of Your Dreams: Be brave enough to live the life of your dreams according to your vision and purpose instead of the expectations and opinions of others.” Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart