Thursday, May 31, 2007

Just Play



Ethan recently had fun at our neighbourhood playground with two older kids Shaun and Amu who are brothers. Watching them leaping and laughing, slipping and sliding, and generally having a great time was pretty therapeutic for me too. If only adults like us can learn how to completely let go and have fun, I believe that the world will be a better place.

Here's a video of him with Shaun and Amu chasing each other around the playground.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

When PR Stops Working

Got this interesting post by Guy Kawasaki which explains why PR doesn't work in certain situations. According to the PRSite.com's Margie Zable Fisher, the top 10 reasons are:

1) The client doesn’t understand the publicity process.

2) The scope of work is not detailed and agreed upon by both parties.

3) The client has not been properly trained on how to communicate with the media.

4) The client and the PR person or firm are not a good match.

5) The client has not gotten results quickly enough and ends the relationship too soon.

6) PR people don’t explain the kind of publicity placements a client will most likely receive.

7) Clients don’t realize that what happens after you get the publicity coverage is sometimes more important than the actual placement.

8) Clients refuse to be flexible on their story angles.

9) Clients get upset when the media coverage is not 100% accurate or not the kind of coverage that they wanted.

10) Clients won’t change their schedules for the media.

(more details are in the link here)

Notice that most of the reasons above seem to point the finger back to the client, thus absolving the PR agency of most of the responsibility for PR success. While I do agree with most of the points above, one must also realise that there are two other parties in the equation: the media and the PR consultant.

Any effective PR strategy needs to look at the relationships, processes and dynamics that all three parties have with each other. Just pointing the finger at the client alone will not solve the problem if there isn't enough effort to educate him or her.

In addition, understanding and working together must be a two-way win-win thing. While publicity is good, it isn't the be-all and end-all in the business world. Sometimes, one needs to see if one's business strategy and tactics lends itself favourably to publicity or should employ other approaches instead.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Weapons of Mess Distraction

As I was walking back home, I spotted this incredible array of strewn flyers, newsletters, bills, envelope covers and goodness knows what else on the floor near the letterbox. Obviously, some of my fellow neighbours are waiting for the contract cleaners to pick up after them.

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Just outside my lift landing, I spotted these supposed tools to help clean up the mess which ended up being litter themselves! A very picture of irony wouldn't you say?

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Sigh.......

Saturday, May 26, 2007

NEWater's Nice and Neat!

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To celebrate International Museum Day which is also part of my work, I brought my family last week to the NEWater Visitor Centre, located at Koh Sek Lim Road off Upper Changi Road East.

In case you do not already know, NEWater was one of the great stories of invention in the time of need. Many would know that it is largely driven by Singapore's lack of this essential liquid resource. Its launch spun off many positive stories in the media, and resulted in water scarce Singapore producing companies like Hyflux, one of the leading players in the water industry today and a darling of the local bourses.

More recently, Newater Visitor Centre attracted their 500,000th visitor. According to the folks who run it, about 20 % of their visitors are tourists with another 50% students.

Here is a photoessay of our visit for your viewing pleasure. Drink it all up folks!

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Beautiful landscaping centred on the theme of water enhances visitor experiences. There were many brightly coloured koi in this pond outside the complex.

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Hmmm.... what or rather who are these folks listening to? (Notice the high proportion of families with young kids)

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The answer? A guide explaining the intricacies of various stages in the ultra filtration and reverse osmosis processes.

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You can actually see the "backroom" of the Newater plant which was located beside the visitor centre. Those pipes contain many straw like spaghetti shaped strands with miniscule holes where the water is filtered through.

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Interactive screens with 3D animation like this helped to explain complex water treatment processes. Here we see how UV rays help to zap whatever germs remain in the water post filtration.

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Multiple screens at the end of the presentation which show the importance of water in our daily lives.

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A gentle reminder from UN's Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs about the vital importance of water.

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Free newater for all! This was a crowd favourite. While it is not quite Perrier, it does taste pretty good especially on a hot day.

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I was pleasantly surprised to see these recycling bins at the centre. They certainly do practise what they preach about saving the environment.

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Finally, a shot of the lovely fountain and water feature just outside the centre. With so much auspiciousness built into the centre, it is little wonder why its fortunes are flowing!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Blogout was a Blast!

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Blogging singer Genie sharing what tickles her fancy at Blogout

Just came back from Blogout which was a big social media bash at Geek Terminal attended by (who else) 2.0 geeks and celeb bloggers galore! The night was certainly interesting, with a veritable who's who in the blogging scene making their appearances including Tomorrow.sg's founder James Seng, STOMP's editor Jennifer Lewis, Ping.sg's creator Uzyn, Moblog's originator Yoke Chin, Global Voices' Preetam Rai, Kevin Lim of Theory Is The Reason and lots more members of the blogerati.

I certainly had fun moderating the panel discussion which talked about "A New Voice", though it did go a little chaotic at times. My conclusion was that the crowd seemed to have more fun chatting with each other! Well, I guess that's the spirit of the whole 2.0 movement, where EVERYBODY participates in the conversation. It's "All Star Anything Goes" (for those old enough to remember that celebrity slugfest).

A special treat for the evening was having upcoming blogging singer Genie treating us to a music video of hers, hottest mummy contestant eastcoastlife sharing what makes her so special, and also hearing from celebrity STOMP blogger Joe Augustin. Nice to also know that we have upcoming technopreneurs in Singapore making their mark in the web 2.0 universe. Finally, it was great to meet Veron, DK and Dr Leslie Tay of I Eat I Shoot I Post fame, all big-time bloggers in their own right.

Special kudos go to Estee for the fabulous organising and professional emceeing of this event, as well as other digital movers like Ming Yeow, Su Yuen, Swathi, Chern Jie and all the other hardworking folks at The Digital Movement who made this possible.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

One for the Road

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Science Centre's Roadshow on Chinese Inventions at Chinatown Point

One of the most common forms of events marketing are roadshows. These can be standalone affairs in shopping malls or be part of a greater themed exhibition and convention.

For years, roadshows have been used by credit card companies, insurance agents and real estate marketers to attract new customers. Often, the aim is to provide a "mini" experience-rich zone to interest potential customers who can then be quickly converted to sign up for whatever packages you have to offer.

I have done my fair share of roadshows and also observed how others do it. Here are some learning points for those who want to dabble in this without getting burnt.

1) Dress your booth to the nines! Your presence in any roadshow is symbolic of your brand. If your booth looks cheap and shoddy, guess what people's impression of you will be?

2) Provide an attractive bait to lure them in. The most successful roadshows often incorporate lucky draws, free goodie bags, ear-catching music and sometimes free food! After all these years, the word "FREE" is still the strongest word in marketing.

3) Make sure you sell but please don't hard sell. This is dilemma for promoters. Sitting there and looking pretty may attract oglers but it won't do nothing in generating sales. You need to speak and approach potential customers. At the same time, harassing them is a big "No no" and will probably piss them off more than anything else.

4) Location, location, location! The site of your booth is important but do not be too allured by the illusion that crowds = sales. I find that people in crowded situations feel more harassed and stressed, and this result in them wanting to leave quickly before concluding the deal. Find a space that has enough human traffic to make it worth your while, yet offers some room for movement. Of course, you should always avoid the spot next to the toilet!

5) Choose thy neighbour carefully. Being situated next to a "superstar" will just make you look dull and boring in contrast. At the same time, please do not go into a shouting match with a competitor and try to "out discount" each other.

6) Entertainment helps but do so with moderation. Like in any experiential marketing strategy, roadshows should be fun and enjoyable for your customers. Have clown giving out balloons, models hawking the latest IT gadgets, or maybe even a street violinist. However, remember not to overdo it such that people come to be entertained solely.

7) Have a good follow through strategy. Do not just aim to do the sales there and then, but see if you can get a customer's contact so that you can call him or her thereafter. Often, people are not in the right frame of mind to make a purchase decision on the spot. Allow for a "cooling off" period for those who may not be ready or are looking uncomfortable. Your customers will appreciate you for it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Service Excellence without Frills

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A contender for SPRING's Excellent Service Award?

Many of us would have heard about Singapore Airline's legendary service. Or how every employee at Ritz Carlton, from GM down to housekeeping maid, is taught to resolve any guest complaint. Must quality service only exist in premium establishments?

The answer is no.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I walked down to our neighbourhood provision shop to purchase some Magnolia fresh milk. As usual, they had the two packets for $5.85 offer on some of the packets of milk.

After searching for two with the latest expiry date (being typical Singaporeans), we went to pay at the counter. With a friendly smile, the shop owner gently pointed out that the packets we took no longer had the offer. Why don’t we take the slightly older packets of milk which still had the offer instead?

Sheepishly, my wife and I went to exchange the packets of milk for the ones with the offer. Feeling gratified, we decided then to purchase an additional box of tea bags since that was also running out. When the change was returned to us, I noticed that the owner decided to absorb the 5 cents so we only paid $5.80 for the milk instead.

Moral of the story? You don’t have to be rich to provide memorable service.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Right Stuff for Blogging

After a brief hiatus, I am back to my favourite subject which is blogging. In the true tradition of a marketer, ad man and publicist, I have coined my latest post as the "Rs" of blogging.

What makes a blogger effective? I believe there are a few basic "Rs" to take note of.

Relationships

This is probably the easiest to explain. You don't call it the social media for nothing. The blogosphere (podosphere or vlogosphere) exists largely because of the incredible opportunities to make friends with each other. Put in that extra effort to know people and it will pay emotional dividends in your blogging adventure.

Richness (content)

No, I am not talking about making money online (although that doesn't hurt). Rather, it is the age-old notion that content is king. Without having stuff that people are keen to read, view or listen, your blog will end up duller than plain old bread and butter. Invest some time and energy in making every post at least mildly engaging and you will be rewarded with a regular following.

Rhythm

You need to establish a certain flow in your blogging patterns. Some highly prolific bloggers can achieve about 5 posts a day, while others may put up a post only once or twice a week. Both categories of bloggers can probably still retain their readership base if they sustain their blogging speed. Personally, I find that a speed of about one post per day or two works best for me.

Reciprocity

Do unto others what you want others to do unto you. This rings more true than ever in the web 2.0 universe. If you would like others to read your posts, offer a comment and spread the word around, you should also do likewise. Its all about getting and returning favours and helping each other out.

Resonance

I have blogged about this topic before so I won't go into too much detail. Suffice to say, you need to be able to strike a chord with your audience, and blog about topics which they care about. Otherwise, you may end up talking to yourself!

Have you got any other "Rs" to share?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Museums Are Alive!


I don't normally plug my own events but I am making an exception this time around.
International Museum Day 2007 or IMD'07 was launched yesterday by MICA's Minister at the National Museum of Singapore. It is going to be a blast from the past with more than 80 activities across 24 museums for everybody! I am sure many of you would have seen the media coverage across all the dailies. Here are some highlights just to whet your appetites.
Indulge in a culinary adventure with HungryGoWhere's Eastern Surprise Food Trail, or dine amongst toys at the MINT Museum of Toys. Gain a fresh perspective of our history with Singapore's first museum tours or embrace a whole day of Koreana - includling lip smacking kimchi - at the Singapore Philatelic Museum.
Keen to invest in art? Why not attend the Art Market talk at the Singapore Art Museum and hear from prominent gallery owners as they share their secrets on art collecting. Lovers of architecture and street scapes can attend various talks on heritage buildings and design at the Singapore City Gallery or go on a tour of the National Museum's architectural highlights.
School holidays just around the corner? Don't know what to do with your hyper-energetic kids? Well, for a start, you can learn about healthy living at HealthZone, have fun at the Water Wally colouring corner at the Newater Visitors Centre, or learn about various currencies around the world at the Singapore Discovery Centre.
Cultural explorers can choose their own adventures too. You can hop on free bus tours along six different routes, compete against the clock at Memories at Old Ford Factory and Reflections at Bukit Chandu in a Heritage C-Race ("Amazing Race" style), embark on the Great Changi Challenge at the Changi Museum, or walk the colourful and charming streets of Keong Saik Road from the Singapore City Gallery.
With so much to see, hear, taste, feel or do, there really is no excuse to stay home this weekend. Or over the next week or so.
For more information, click here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Primitive Love

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Female fly: "Hey there is this kid pointing at us at the playground. Errr.... don't you think we should be more discreet?"

Male fly: "Who cares? I don't think they are old enough to understand!"

Female fly: "Oh man.... the kid's daddy is taking photos of us now! Aarrgh... we will be all over the National Enquirer, The Sun and other gossip pages in a jiffy!"

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

8 Ways to Advertise Outdoors

In my recent series of posts, I have blogged about the increasing prevalence and popularity of outdoor advertising in Singapore. As cited in a recent survey, both taxi and bus advertising are on the increase. The growth in outdoor advertising has in fact led to the creation of its own awards - the Singapore Outdoor Advertising Award. It has also resulted in media behemoth Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) acquiring Media Box Office in 2005, allowing it to provide an integrated media solution to advertisers covering print, radio, online and outdoor channels.

As an advertising space, outdoor media opportunities have their pros and cons. I firmly believe that they do a lot of good for branding and positioning, as well as create greater consumer awareness. After all, most outdoor displays are highly visible, brand-driven, and specially designed to capture your attention. They are what I would call the widest end of the funnel - the first stop if you may to pique customer curiosity and generate interest.

The flip side about outdoor advertising is that it may be less effective in tactical and short-term campaigns. When you have a time-limited offer or promotion, TV, newspapers or flyers still work better. Often, the best integrated marketing communication campaigns employ a mix of outdoor, mass media, and on site marketing to generate the best response.

How does one venture outdoors? Here are 8 ways to do so, depending on your budgets and purposes.

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The first is to occupy a prominent billboard at the side of a building. Obviously this works better if the building is beside a busy road like Eu Tong Sen Street. This advertisement's use of bright lemon yellow and light blue catches the eye. Unfortunately, both the copy and the graphics aren't very memorable.

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Lamp post banners have also grown in popularity in recent years. Here is one on Hill Street beside the colourful windows of the MICA building. Does this one catch your attention?

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Bus stop poster advertising is also on the rise, and they are especially popular with FMCG brands. No prizes for guessing what or rather who catches the eye here.

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Colourful and eye-catching artwork sometimes help in branding an otherwise staid and boring product. I wonder why this should only be limited to postboxes? Why not entire buildings?

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Roller blinds and shutters can be pretty effective advertising and branding platforms, as my earlier post alluded to.

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Of course, creating a brightly coloured physical structure, like these Chinese dragons along South Bridge Road, seldom fail to grab people's eyeballs. I hear that they are "teasers" to a Vesak day event when the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple will open.

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Just like these mirthful cardboard cows standing pretty on empty fields around Singapore.

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The ultimate expression of outdoor advertising with unparalled brand visibility is the DHL Balloon operated by DuckTours. Even my toddler son knows about this brand, with its striking red and yellow colours and unmistakable logo.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Secret Chemistry between Kids and Animals

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Ethan petting Coffee and Sugar, two absolutely adorable King Charles spaniels.

Two weeks ago, we visited our favourite outdoor haunt which is the Botanic Gardens. While I went jogging around the tranquil park, my wife and son met this friendly couple who allowed Ethan to walk and play with their two toy dogs “Sugar” and “Coffee”. From the word “Go”, it was obvious that kids and dogs have a natural bond with each other as you can see from the photograph above.

Cats are no exception too. Ethan has started to grow fond of a neighbourhood cat who lives downstairs near the lift landing area. He even gave her a name - "Patty" - and they seem to have a bond with each other from day one. Just today, he asked me to take a photograph of the cat too.

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Crouching toddler and un-hidden cat.

I only hope that he doesn’t start clamouring for a pet of his own soon!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pippin’ Hot Porridge

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After visiting her regular TCM practitioner at Yishun last Saturday, my wife Tina and I decided to drive along Upper Thomson Road to have a late dinner at this cosy little porridge place located at Springleaf Estate. We ordered a couple of dishes to go with our bowls of steaming sweet potato porridge and had a pleasant meal.

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The kangkong tasted fresh with a slight crunchy texture, while the fermented bean sauce provided a nice balance to the white porridge.

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We were a little disappointed with the fried clams in soya sauce. They were really tiny. Some of the slivers of meat looked like strips of ginger!

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This dish of almost raw cockles with oyster sauce and freshly squeezed lime was my favourite. Yes, I am a raw foodie who also relishes sushi and sashimi. My Tina looked at it with disgust though.

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Another all time favourite of ours is minced pork with soya sauce. These are usually perfect with plain white porridge. Unfortunately, I found the sauce on this one a little too salty for my liking.

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Well, this tastes exactly how it looks, which provides a slightly sweet and bland counterbalance to all the heavily seasoned meats and vegetables above.

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The spread was so good that my wife Tina had two bowls of porridge at one go! Maybe she was hungry too as it was approaching 9.00 pm then. Of course, looking at her size, she can easily afford it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I Can't Believe It Yet Again!

Cheers!
Let's toast to more blogging successes!

Dear readers,

Thank you so much for your support, links and visits. I just found out that this blog is ranked 9th according to the Buzz Bin's list of Top 15 Independent PR Blogs. While I do sneak in some personal bits here and there, my chief intention is to share my thoughts and those of others on PR, marketing, branding and social media issues here since I first started about a year and a half ago.

Oh yes, since we are on the subject of accolades, I do invite all of you to visit my other pet project yesterday.sg. That apparently is ranked the 5th museum blog in the world (out of 100 museums blogs) according to this list from Museums and the Web 2007.

Looks like its time to pop the champagne and celebrate! Definitely couldn't do it without all of you!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Putting the Spin on Classical Music


Classical music never looked this good (Courtesy of www.tangquartet.com)

As a marketer for the arts and heritage, I am often faced with a conundrum when promoting culture. How far should we go to attract the masses? Is there a way to balance popular appeal with artistic finesse?

For the purposes of this post, let me focus on classical music which is a request by my heritage kaki Oceanskies who plays a mean double-bass. How does classical music, long considered the poorer cousin (at least in album sales) of other genres like rock, pop, jazz and electronica, make the mark with the masses?

Let me hazard a few guesses and let me know if you agree with me.

Firstly, it needs to bring down the "intimidation" factor. Have you noticed how classical music performances are usually done in grand and imposing concert halls? Resplendently decked in the finest wood and leather, these venues usually come with great acoustics. Most of its patrons and guests are dressed to the nines, in their suits, evening gowns, Manolo Blahniks and Pradas.

One way to make classical music more accessible is to perhaps to groove in the ghettoes. Go to where the people naturally are - HDB heartland malls, neighbourhood centres, and maybe even playgrounds and basketball courts. Think street magician David Blaine as opposed to David Copperfield. That will bring you greater affinity to the people.

Classical musicians should also show some skin.... flesh and bones. They need to unwind, get rid of that stiff upper lip and party. They need to develop fun and friendly personalities which can connect with your average Joe. In Singapore, Tang Quartet (above) has done a wonderful job in this area. Few would dispute that they are critically acclaimed musicians winning rave reviews, yet it is their unique sense of style which captures people's attention.

The other point is that classical musicians need to look at multiple channels – especially online ones – to get their music out. A good source of reading is The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. Explore ways and means to get your music online, through music e-tailers like iTunes, Soundbuzz or Amazon.com. Offer listeners a little sample of your music to reduce that psychological barrier before they make a purchase.

Being bold and experimental also helps. Look at the commercial success of Vanessa Mae Nicholson and Charlotte Church, both of whom are classically trained yet wiling to explore new ways of making their music relevant to the masses. Just today, I read about the Singapore Festival Orchestra which will be playing to sell out crowds at the Singapore Arts Festival. While they are undoubtedly a professional orchestra, part of their success is due to the fact that they will play music from video games like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros.

Finally, classical musicians should focus on their unique selling points. The more different and special you are (in a positive manner of course), the better. Is there a signature touch which each group embody that can be played up? How different does Kanon in “D” sound when your quartet plays it compared to a run-of-the-mill group? Give it that personal twist and spill the beans to your listeners and audiences so that they know what makes you special and distinctive.

Of course, you need to be prepared for flack from the traditionalists. They may claim that you are selling out, dumbing down, and pandering to the lowest denominator. However, the reality is that one does need to step out of the boundaries and take some risks in order to be famous. Ali should go to the mountain and not the mountain to Ali right?

You will be surprised how such little touches add marketing magic to music.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What Monster Lies Within…

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… the shutters of this vacant shop outlet at Central ©, the spanking new Japanese themed shopping centre along Hill Street?

Hmmm, anybody want to guess? Is it…

a) The spectre of poor sales.
b) The beast of bankruptcy.
c) The creature of customer indifference.

or

d) The demon of “don’t know about this place”.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Extreme Branding or the Battle of the Cans

Driving along Victoria Street after a meal at the famous Jackson Kopitiam at MacPherson, I spotted this anomaly right smack in our city area just outside Bugis Junction.

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Yes, your eyes ain't kidding you. We do have a Wholesale Centre just outside the city called the Victoria Street Wholesale Centre. Apparently, they have 41 units of tenants who specialise in all manner of dry food supplies and special ingredients that you can't get elsewhere. Now aunties and housewives from every corner of Singapore have a place that they can go to for that extra "lemak" curry!

What especially amazed me however, wasn't so much the assortment of traders in the wholesale centre. Rather, it was the example of all out in-your-face branding taken by Skylight Abalone's parent company Kwang Yeow Heng International as you can see below.

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All the canvas shades surrounding the four sides of Victoria Wholesale Centre carried the brand logos, images, red colour and cans of Skylight Abalone and its sister seafood products (Buddha Jump Over the Wall, Sharksfin, Limpets etc). If I didn't look closer, I would have thought that this was the abalone HQ of Singapore! Unfortunately, some of the colours were fading and this made the "cans" of abalone look less appetising on the canvas.

How does Kwang Yeow Heng's largely below-the-line advertising strategy (which are mostly on site through the use of banners, posters and flyers) compare with that of its chief rival Goh Joo Hin?

Unlike the former, Goh Joo Hin embraces a largely above-the-line advertising strategy coupled with massive doses of celebrity endorsement. The parent company of brands like New Moon Abalone and Mili Mushrooms advertises heavily on mainstream media like television and newspapers. It also employs A-list celebrities like Fann Wong, Kym Ng and Stefanie Sun to grab your attention and get the message across.

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In my view, I feel both approaches have their merits. Skylight's effort is probably more grassroots oriented and aimed at its existing pool of customers. On the other hand, New Moon is likely to attract the first time and occasional purchasers of fine canned seafood products.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Separated from Birth?

As I was flipping the newspapers today, I spotted this pair of uncannily similar advertisements from two beauty establishments. See if you can spot the difference between these pair of "identical twins".

Twin Ad 1
New York Skin Solutions touting miraculous cures for all kinds of skin ailments.

Twin Ad 2
The more famous twin Yun Nam Hair Care offering all manner of panaceas for the follicularly challenged.

There are a few elements in both ads that are similar:
1) Both have exactly 8 "before and after" testimonials.
2) Both have "Beauty Experts 2 Success Stories" - whatever that means.
3) Both have a starburst offering a FREE gift.
4) Both allow you to call or SMS to book your spaces.
5) Both have treatments have offers "exclusive for new customers with skin/hair problems" that costs only $18.
6) Both establishments have 5 outlets at various shopping malls in Singapore.

Upon further investigation, I found out that both companies belong to the same HQ company which is Euro Group. There were also lots of online chatter about them which you can read in some of the forums here and here. Most don't seem to be very flattering, unfortunately, and hard sell tactics seem to be a common problem. I don't think its unique to these establishments though as the beauty trade in Singapore is a hyper competitive one.

What are your experiences like with beauty salon treatments? Do they live up to their promise on advertisements?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Marketing Public Services

Came across this interesting post by Seth Godin on his experience in applying for a VISA at the Indian Consulate. Totally agree with Godin that little touches like this make a world of difference to the way people perceive a country before they travel there for whatever purposes. I guess this is why in branding and marketing, every single customer touchpoint matter, right from the start (warm welcome) of the experience till the end (fond farewell).

"..Many of the chairs are broken, leaving sharp steel platforms on which to crouch. And there aren't enough chairs, broken or not. The signs are confusing, the two clerks are protected by a sheet of glass a full inch thick (which is twice the thickness of a typical bank's) and the little machine that dispenses deli-style tickets is broken.

Fixing the consulate would be easy. I'd start by putting in phone lines to a call center in India and making it easy for anyone waiting to get questions answered by a helpful person with plenty of time to invest in the conversation. I'd buy some comfortable chairs. I'd invite airlines and hotels to have brochures or even better, a booking agent right there in the waiting area. I'd hire seven more clerks. And I'd definitely lose the glass.

The more important issue is this: this is a business. They take in more than $20,000 a day in fees, but even more important, the way they market themselves has a direct and important impact on travel decisions. No visa, no trip. Big hassle, no trip. Given that every single person traveling to this vast country must deal with the consulate first, think of the leverage... Just a small influence on the quantity or quality of travel to India would be huge."

Link

Thursday, May 03, 2007

My Pop's Birthday Bash at Broth

Last Saturday (28th April) we celebrated my dad's 67th birthday at Broth, a charming Australian style restaurant along stone-cobbled Duxton Hill. For the unitiated, Duxton is a charming little neighbourhood of clubs and restaurants sandwiched between the financial district and the more boisterous Chinatown area in Singapore.

Good things come in small packages, and this boutique restaurant never failed to live up to its promise. After reading several rave reviews here, here, and here, we decided to give it a try. I worked with its owner Steven Hansen before on an event at a museum and it went pretty well. A nice and friendly chap who came here from Melbourne a couple of years ago, Steve also runs River Cafe located at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute at Robertson Quay, another quality Aussie style dining joint.

The overall ambience and food quality was superb. We gave a thumbs up for most of the dishes, including the lamb loin, steak, pork chop, salmon and starters. Of course, the dessert of sticky date pudding literally took the cake!

Unfortunately, my food photographs didn't turn out well so I will skip posting them here as they may do injustice to our splendid dining experience.

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Stone cobbled path of Duxton Hill adds a unique old world charm to this creative neighbourhood full of advertising agencies and design firms.

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A view of the restaurant from outside.

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Happy diners chatting and making merry in an al fresco manner, with a big fan keeping them warm from Singapore's tropical heat.

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Numerous awards and accolades bear testimony to the pleasant culinary experience which we were treated to.

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Simple and tasteful decor with rich wooden panelling adorned the restaurant's interior. Most of the staff were young, enthusiastic and helpful too.

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My family enjoying their meal. From clockwise: my dad, mum, son Ethan and wife Tina.

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Ethan obviously enjoying his soup and bread, while cheerfully greeting fellow diners.

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My dad (whom I call Pop) blowing the candle on his sticky date pudding with me, my mum and Ethan looking on.