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November 19, 2020 Thursday 01:05:53 PM IST

How Ants Inspire New Flesh and Blood Theory in Marketing Management!

Hans Braxmeier for Pixabay

Once in a blue moon, it is joyful to get a call from somebody who hasn't called or met you for a while. The other day I got a call from Mohammed Riyas who was my college mate for graduation. We were also family friends as his mother was my mother's colleague too in State Government service.

He had landed from Dubai a week ago and was having important webinars on a new marketing theory he had developed and was being discussed and shared actively in social media. He had named it the 'flesh and blood theory '. He asked me about my media activities and even had some piece of advice after hearing me. "How can you be innovative if you keep on writing about what other people do or say?" Indeed, I thought he may be right, as a journo we often end up reporting what others do or say!

But I was indeed wondering about the change that had taken place in Riyas. I recalled his school and college days, being an average to below average student and his parents had no big hopes on him. They only wanted him to get a secure government job in central or state service.

After being unemployed after graduation for some time and heated arguments over it with parents, one day he quickly left for Abu Dhabi on the insistence of his uncle working there. He initially worked at lower admin jobs for over ten years before becoming an executive assistant to the CEO of a major company. While posted in Singapore for a few years, he managed to take a management degree too. Now he is management consultant and brand advisor for leading companies worldwide!

Hunting Down Mosquitoes

"So what is this new theory that you have created, it looks something related to crime than markets? Can you break the suspense?" He said he will complete the important webinars he had that day first. Since he was out of quarantine, we met that evening at his home and he talked about how he developed this theory. "On a previous visit last year to my ancestral home in Kollam, I had nothing much to do there. I was simply sitting on the verandah with my parents. It was rainy season and there was this mosquito menace. After hitting a few with my hands, my mother said a mosquito bat was available." He started hunting them down.

No sooner a crowd of ants had gathered and started pouncing on the flesh and blood. Till some time back these mosquitoes were live over the place on the floor, pillars, walls but these ants didn't come at all. Now the mosquitoes were dead and it was food for them. To begin with a few ants came. They usually leave a chemical mark called 'pheromones' for others to follow. This is perhaps the best example of community living with no selfishness at all. Human beings first take care of themselves before thinking of charity, he observed.

"So what is the relation between this incident and the theory you developed?," I asked. "Yes, I'll come to that." Basically, any new product in the market needs to have two qualities just as the dead mosquitoes have- one is flesh, the other is blood. The blood is the taste and flesh is the substance. Once you give this you will have takers for a product and a market place will evolve for it." When a marketplace evolves there are opportunities for branding and promotion. "If you want to expand your market place, put these dead mosquitoes in different places separated from the other."  Yes, that requires finance and logistics power.

Branding Substance

But I was surprised- when I was a trainee business journalist, I had argued with some experts over why spend so much money on advertising when a good product should sell by itself. I remember I was ridiculed and even told to read some fundamental books in advertising and marketing.

“I am not saying advertising and marketing are not relevant but it works only if the product has meat (substance) and blood (flavor),” Riyas quipped.  I was still surprised and asked him to tell any real world examples. “Google for one. It has never advertised since inception but people are flocking to it.” Many of the mobile apps that we use now aren’t advertised at all or many of the unbranded products we buy from the market. They sell because they have substance and value or ‘flesh and blood.’

“Wow, great! But are all your theories developed like this?”  He said in most Western universities, new management systems or scientific breakthroughs happen through observation of natural phenomena.  A logistics company had observed how ants search for food and that led to the development of a modern logistics system that cut away redundancies.


Today morning as I was sitting idle in the verandah, mosquitoes started biting me. I took the electronic bat and started hunting them down. Indeed the ants flocked very soon to relish the corpses. My daughter Diyah was observing and asked what is amusing in it. Then I told her my friend’s story. I also got another insight that big hoardings or banners (advertising opportunities) arise only where there is a large gathering in one place, basically the marketplace. Simple truths and we can learn a lot from ants beyond logistics!



Sreekumar Raghavan

Sreekumar Raghavan is an award-winning business journalist with over two and a half decades of experience in print, magazine and online journalism. A Google-certified Digital Marketing Professional, he specialises in content development for web, digital marketing and training, media relations and related areas. He is the recipient of MP Narayana Pillai Award for Journalism in 2001 and holds a bachelors degree in Economics and Masters Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kerala University.





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