Maria, the Greek model, I became friends with on my transit flight from Mumbai to Delhi in January 2014, told me that in Creta, where she is from, they use a lot of Turkish words in their daily language due to the Turkish influence on the islanders in the past. Among those words, Vegera was a popular one. I told her I had never heard of such a word before and asked her what it meant. In her thick Cretan accent, Maria said, " When people sit together all night, talk , dance, eat and drink, sing songs, until the dawn. When they have a good time together around a table, that's when we say we make vegera." There are certain words in almost every language that echoes the culture, traditions and history more than anything. You can almost visualize the word in action in that culture- if you know it well. Since that time, I decided that's what my blog should be named after: "Vegera." It brings as much happiness to me as the word Keyf-i Alem ! Even though my blog's initial name Entry Level Philly and its objectives will continue to resonate throughout my entries, I believe that Vegera is more appropriate for the way I live my life- at least at this point in my life. So, this blog will be about anything from restaurants and bars I visit across the world, especially in Philadelphia to my travels across the world and life adventures- which somehow make up a lot of crazy stories in my life and to Brand stories, aka advertising.
However, more than anything, and especially recently, I have been writing a lot more about branding and advertising. A print ad, a video, an inspiring story about a brand or a company. I write about those stories that inspire me and provoke me to think deeper into the matter. It is because I find the ad world absolutely fascinating, with lots of imagination and creativity but also strategic thinking. It is like watching a sci-fi show. I'm an aspiring advertising professional and more specifically an account planner. So in Vegera, you'll find plenty of ad related posts.
Lastly, who is the author of Vegera? She's originally from Istanbul, Turkey- trying to figure out where on earth she wants to travel next.Currently, In Philly, working as a communications specialist for a small medical supply company, located outside the city. I work with people-mainly athletes with disabilities. You'll also probably see some inspiring stories from my work life, as you read this blog. When busy saving up money for traveling/ or concerts, i.e. busy with stressful work life, I like observing people, their behavior, interactions with others and drinking wine.This should be enough info on the author now. You'll probably find out more as you continue to read my entries... There will be a lot of personal opinions, feelings and emotions articulated.. Hope you stay long to make vegera with me .. Ciao.
The other day, I met a girl from South Korea at a journalism event in Center City. She was, just like the 90% of the participants there was a freelance journalist, who had recently moved to Philly from NYC. As soon as i mentioned i went to college in Lancaster, she was excited to tell me a story about how she got to visit Lancaster recently to buy Amish products from Central Market for a wedding she attended in…. Turkey. Suddenly, my attention shifted from her visiting my college town in the US to her visiting my home country, Turkey. It was a coincidence that she even mentioned Turkey in this small talk we struck on the sidewalk in the middle of the pedestrian traffic. She was there so recently that it made me feel connected to her right away. One of her friends from the Columbia Journalism School had her wedding in Ankara, the capital, but her bacheloratte party was held in Istanbul- the right choice. She was so excited to meet another Turkish person in Philadelphia that she decided to tell me about her adventures in Istanbul but particularly one that stood out the most among all- the Turkish Hamams. At first, I giggled as I thought she was going to tell me about how awkward and funny everything was and how women working there were really rough on them while massaging and cleaning. Instead, what I heard was very positive, in fact so positive that it inspired me to finally write the long over due post about a unique experience i had during my visit in India this past winter, but I’ll get there..
The girl from South Korea started telling me about what a unique and fascinating experience the Hamam visit was, as her eyes glowed. ” if you are plannig to have a cool bonding experienxe with your friends at your wedding, you have to do this!!” i found it hilarious that she was giving me suggestions on a wedding that is not even in near future in a mystery location in the world - no, it’s most probably going to be Turkey actually. She told me about how all women sang Turkish songs, danced, ate snacks together. ”It was such a spiritual experience that I wanted to stop time form moving forward. I suddenly felt something deep growing inside me. It was overwhelming and soon i found myself crying. It was very spiritual.” When I asked what it was that really moved her so much, she told me it was a combination of the peaceful feeling of being away from her country, feeling completely immersed into a new culture and spending quality time with her friends in an enchanting atmosphere.
I didn’t need to ask anymore.. I knew that feeling. I felt similarly in India in December. I was with my friends and visiting one of my closest friend’s hometown, got a chance to finally meet all her famy and friends and the city she was born and in love with: bombay. On my very last day in Bombay, Right when i was getting ready to say goodbye to everyone to catch my flight back to the US, Dadi, Aradhana’s grandma , grabbed me and Disha by the hands and took us to her mandir, the family temple for us to prayer. As an atheist, I felt weird about it but thought it was all part of the cultural experience and was ready to embrace it. But What I ended up experiencig in that small room was far more than cultural. Dadi told us that in that room she had a representation of all Gods in Hinduism, because “one most learn to respect all gods and should not prioritize one over another. ” We were in a very small room in Aradhana’s apartment, with marble floors and nothing else muc. There were picture frames of Dadi’s deceased husband along with the God ornaments or statues. The simplest religious place I have been to in my life.
Nevertheless, I felt something so powerful growing inside me in that temple as I breathed in the fresh odor of the oaky scents burning there. It was as if The gods were welcoming me into this holy place. Dadi encouraged us to say a prayer. In any other circumstance, I would have felt uncomfortable, but that moment I felt like I had a burning desire to express myself right there. I thanked gods for having an incredible and supportive family and a fantastic group of friends in many parrts of the world who are there for me no matter what. I thanked for having the opportunity to travel around the world despite so many complications I encounter. I felt an overwhelming and powerful feeling inside me while I was saying my prayer and realized that tears were flowing down my face. I couldn’t stop it. And I didn’t want to stop it..
The South Korean girl and I had simliar experiences during our travels felt both emotionally overwhelmed and empowered by some force in an environment so different from our usual surroundings. We both found spirituality in a foreign country around foreign people. The reason why some people take time off in certain stages in their lives to travel the world in order to find peace and love suddenly made sense.traveling and spirituality really are interconnected.
While I was reviewing my notes from the recent focus group I had a chance to organize and moderate, I noticed a pattern in responses. It was not necessarily a groundbreaking idea but a repeated notion that I had heard from a few other consumers in various other circumstances. Most importantly iI realized that I have been involved with this idea/notion through wheelchair sports for the past 2 years but never been able to connect the dots until now. In one of my earlier blogs I wrote about my insightful conversation, a mini focus group I got to moderate where the girls kept going back to the idea of “how cool the wheelchairs have become in society” thanks to wheelchair sports and “how uncool and taboo catheters still are - even talking about catheters”. Here is the link to that if you want to check that out. From that conversation I went ahead and organized a relatively larger focus group with 7 people this time, asking them questions regarding their first thoughts on the word catheter. I also asked their opinion on wheelchairs. Very different answers for each medical product. Why is that the case?
One participant added almost in protest, “Catheters should be made mainstream. We should be able to discuss it openly!”
I started thinking of our new ad campaign based on the ideas generated in this focus group.I imagine It capitalizing on the contrasting emotions experienced by both wheelchair users and catheter users towards their medical products. According to the participants, whose average age was about 22 , the word wheelchair reminds young adults of independence, freedom, fast-pace; whereas catheters remind them of infection, antibiotics, healthcare.. And healthcare in its most negative connotation. One participant finally added,”hey i think we should look at catheters from a liberating standpoint too. For instance, I’d say independence because thanks to catheters we are able to go out and do what we want to do.” Very valid points!
These 2 focus groups gave me some solid ad ideas which will probably not find the right segment to enter the advertising world, because of the budget constraints in our company. As I was developing my ideas around this new ad campaign, I stumbled upon a video that I instantly felt connected with. A short cliip from this year’s Lions Health in Cannes, @InterbrandHealth’s Executive Creative Director R. John Fidelino speaking on “healthcare and cool.” #chasingcool
"The trouble with healthcare and cool is that we don’t often think of those words together,” he opened his speech. He gives example images of stents, a waiting room and even a catheter. “Your Catheter is so cool!! “ even to me, as someone who spent 2 years in the urological supply industry that sentence felt awkward. He explains why he thinks we don’t use the word cool in healthcare. First, because healthcare is serious, you don’t joke about someone’s health.”Cool just doesn’t seem to fit.” Second, I’ll quote Fidelino here, “healthcare and health matters so much, so deeply and so profoundly that trivializing it with a word like cool just doesn’t do it.” Third, the word cool in the concept of healthcare and health isn’t professional enough.
At the end of the short clip, Fidelino closes his introduction by powerfully stating the following: “ I think healthcare is cool.”
I tried to find Fidelino’s entire speech at Lions Health on Youtube everywhere as I was so excited to hear about what he was going to say next. Unfortunately, Lions Health seems to have strict privacy rules on these videos. What was great about finding this video was that I suddenly felt connected with a world beyond the walls of my small office in the suburbs of Philadelphia. A world that’s trying to transform healthcare through technology and through powerful patient insights. What I have been trying to achieve by myself or with very little support didn’t matter anymore to me.
If more people from agencies and employees working in healthcare industries went in front of patients and spend some quality time with them, industries one by one would go under massive transformation and that would come naturally through marketing and advertising strategies built upon these ideas. These changes will then ultimately affect the way we perceive certain things and react to them. Yesterday’s taboo will likely become tomorrow’s conversation topic. And, I think that’s what we have been seeing in healthcare communications. It just needs to branch out to other subcategories that are underrepresented in the market. At the end, we will be able to say “your catheter is so cool” or “that stent is cool” without any hesitation. Thank you Interbrand, Lions Health and R John Fidelino for leading the way.
it’s time for a change in spirit, to free your mind, set sails to the endless sea, and to vegera.
I’ve been reading a lot about building strategies and how focus groups constitute an important element of it- if not vital to that process. The books and blogs I read are mostly written by strategists at agencies who moderate focus groups to get a better understanding of their clients' needs/ anticipations/ desires/ daily routines. Then their job is to share their results with their clients and discuss how to best come up with a strategy.
Today, I had my first official focus group that I moderated. “If your career doesn’t take you where you wanna go, you take it.” I have been passionate about my job and helping people with disabilities, but I feel that as a company we need a change in our communication with our consumers as we’re hitting some road blocks-especially as a team not necessarily as a company- yet.
So, I presented the luncheon series to our management team with the purpose of bringing some accomplished young folks in wheelchairs in our area together and have them say what they wanna say about catheters, living with a disability, medical supplies, daily issues. These students/ recent college grads had so much to say and I felt privileged to be there at that moment for over an hour.
We were about 6 people and I had about 10 written questions to ask even though I knew as conversation flowed, I’d be asking other follow up questions. One of my hesitations from the very beginning was how to present myself and my boss, who is there to make money but also excited to hear what these kids had to say. I was first reluctant to even mention I was from ABC. But then my boss introduced himself that way and I felt like it would be hypocritical to not mention where I work and what our ultimate goal is. At that moment I realized that I was not only marketing the least marketable product in the world, aka catheter (YET, soon it will change i strongly believe!) and I was also moderating an in-house focus group with my boss wearing an ABC Medical shirt on. From another perspective, I thought that it would be beneficial for not only us but for the participants to know that we are indeed from ABC and were taking the time to meet these individuals because we care and value their opinions. Soon my reluctance turned into pride. Then, 2 participants kind of revealed they were with ABC medical, not in a very explicit manner but still sort of… One of them asked, “i guess I’m with you guys for about 6 months now? ” I tried to make a point that it didn’t matter at all, we were just interested in learning more about her. Then, towards the end, I was pleasantly surprised to hear them giving suggestions on what we can do that’s different from competitors. and those suggestions were quite big and worthy of planning well to pursue later! A few self-criticism both positive and negative
1- I could have introduced myself a little better ( again I think I was somewhat confused as to how to present myself still that’s why!)
2- the setting of the room was ok. next time I wanna make sure we’re more of a round table as opposed to a long rectangular.
3- It was great we had pizza and beverages!
4- I didn’t have a recorder but i think I did a great job taking notes, same with my boss.
5- Questions were definitely thought provoking.
6- I let them spend too much time on the first few questions and didn’t havee enough time towards the end.
7- The purpose of the focus group could have been made a little bit more clear. I really wanted to have them sign a consent form, which i had actually prepared. But my boss said he’d have to run it by the attorneys to get their blessing on it. It was too late and therefore we decided we won’t do it.
8- huge dilemma although I knew the answer: so there were 2-3 people who use supplies through a different company. At the end of the group, I did take their contact information to follow up. How appropriate is it to ask them whether they’d consider switching on a follow up email? Yes, Huge Dilemma! I run into this regularly as I befriend people and then feel super awkward to ask them to support my company. I shouldn’t though! I know I shouldn’t.
Overall, especially for the first big focus group that I had to moderate in my life, It was a wonderful experience. The best part was to get feedback from the participants at the end that they enjoyed it a lot and found it very informative. If participants can take something out of a focus group too, then I say we’ve succeeded! I personally took my notes and learned my lessons. The next one shall be a lot better, more organized and structured! Can’t wait!