Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Youth or Nanny Marketing?

As I was taking the bus to work this morning, I spotted this poster announcing a special promotion for students.

Bright coloured with black shadowy figures (inspired no less by Apple's famous iPod ads), they were clearly targeted at teens taking public buses. It had all the supposed ingredients of a youth marketing campaign, namely:

1) Cool handphones for prizes (though not exactly the latest models)
2) Mobile games that you can redeem with e-Tokens
3) A website where you can register and play
4) A hip sounding acronym - TITO

Upon closer inspection, I spotted something unusual in the copy of the ads.
Each and every step of the promo mechanics came with a word of advice. First, a clear warning that you should not eat or drink on public transport vehicles...

...followed by a gentle reminder to give up your seat to those who need them more...

...and ending with a note that you should still study hard even after downloading these awesome mobile games.

I was so stunned by this that I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. Now, what would you make of the above efforts at advertising a promotion if you are a student taking public transport?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Branding Non-profits

The Salvation Army is one of the world's most recognised non-profit brand.

In this day and age, non-profit organisations like charities, trade associations, special interest groups, and clubs can ill afford to ignore branding. To reach a critical sized audience and membership, you need systems and processes to be in place. You need to also market your organisation for it to gain greater clout and reach so that it can better achieve its purpose. Just passion alone would not cut it.

Branding Insider, one of my favourite references for branding thoughts, highlighted 7 points of branding non-profit organisations. Here are the key lessons:

1. The name.

A rose by any other name smells just as sweet. However, using too general a name for your non-profit reduces its effectiveness in differentiating itself. This is the first and most important decision any non-profit has to make.

2. The spokesperson.

All brands need a spokesperson, but it is incredibility important for a non-profit. Ideally the founder is the best person to take on this role. He or she has a powerful connection to the brand and can sell the story to the media, donors, volunteers and supporters.

3. The position.

Every brand needs a focus. For a non-profit that wants to be as inclusive as possible, this is a very difficult task. But the only way to get your brand into the mind is with a narrow focus. In a sea of multiple competing causes, the greater the focus, the better.

4. The enemy.

Every strong brand needs an enemy. This is something non-profits by nature tend to avoid discussing. But strong brands are built by figuring out who the enemy is, what the enemy stands for and then building a brand that stands for the opposite.

5. PR, PR, PR.

Not much to say, except that PR builds brand. The spokesperson need to spend the majority of his or her time doing PR for the charity, leaving the managerial duties to someone else.

6. A signature event.

All charities, schools, clubs and teams have endless fundraisers. Hardly a day that goes by when some organization isn’t trying to shake me down for money for some good cause. Instead of a non-profit spending thousands of hours on multiple new programs every year, a better strategy is to focus on one or two big events and do them every year forever. Consistency is the key to success.

7. Colour and logo.

Any brand can benefit from the use of a strong singular colour they can own in the mind. Pink and Breast Cancer is the best example of this. You see pink and you know what it means.

Perhaps I would like to add another 8th point above which is Integrity. Nothing can shake or rattle a brand more than seeing a non-profit betray the trust which its donors and supporters have given to it. We don't need another NKF saga, Youth Challenge conflict or St John's Home
shenanigan to remind us about this.

Have you thought about branding your non-profit today?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Blast from the Past

Just returned from the Sound Stories Concert, a celebration of old-time bands from the past at Zouk - the icon of cool in Singapore. Held in conjunction with the Singapore HeritageFest, the bash brought back many vintage acts like Max Surin (of Tokyo Square fame), Matthew and the Mandarins, Vernon Cornelius, Jive Talkin', and Robert Fernando.

Hosted by the ever effable Brian Richmond, the concert certainly rocks (especially for the...umm... young at heart). As I swayed to the beat of some of the numbers, I realised too that - gasp - I am getting on in years too! This, plus my latest inclination towards listening to Gold 90 FM.

Our party began at Singapore's number one nightspot of the year. Of course, as it was only about 9 pm when we went in, the regular party-goers hadn't quite gathered yet.

Matthew and the Mandarins doing their retro ditty and charming the crowd of largely baby boomers interspersed with the odd Gen X and Gen Y-ers.

Brian Richmond was all smooth schmooze and charmed the crowd with his knowledge of heritage happenings.

Jive Talkin' with the cross-dressing lead singer Jeffrey took the stage next. I recalled that they used to be one of the headlining acts at Hard Rock Cafe.

A special guest start for the evening, Robert Fernando, wowed the audience with his rendition of oldie goldies like Frankie Vallie's Can't Take My Eyes Off You. Apparently, he is going to kick off a solo concert in September this year.

Another nostalgic favourite Vernon Cornelius, also known as the "Peter Pan of Singapore Pop". He certainly played to the crowd with his antics and charisma, plus rendition of favourite songs from the 1960s (which unfortunately I can't recall as they...err... are not really in my era).

A shot of the mostly mature crowd mesmerised by the magic of musical memories. Most would probably not be your regular Zoukettes.

The final act for the evening was a contemporary band playing heritage hits. I can't remember the name of the band but it did bring the evening to a nice close.

Thereafter, Zouk went back to its regular programming of progressive house, hard trance, tribal, garage and other genres of electronica. The crowd was also noticeably younger as the night passes.

Still, it was a night to remember for those of us old enough to swing to those sweet sweet sounds of yesteryear.

Friday, July 27, 2007

It's TigerLIVE Time!

Give that man a beer. Make it at TigerLIVE!

If you are a fan of heritage-worthy brews, you should check out TigerLIVE. Recently opened at the ultra-hip heritage clubbing venue St James Power House, TigerLIVE opens from 11 am to 8 pm daily and charges an admission fee of S$18 for adults and S$12 for those below 18. Now, before you go "So expensive!", do note that this includes a glass of Tiger beer (what else?) plus an exclusive limited edition Tiger souvenir per person. Minors will receive a soft drink (of course).

Offering a "multi-sensorial journey into Tiger Beer's rish past all the way to its innovative present", TigerLIVE marries state-of-the-art technology, vintage beer bottles, local celebrities and a whimsical twist to provide an alcoholic buzz. Here's some photos from my recent visit there as a member of the Association of Singapore Attractions.

Here's the entrance to the various thematic zones within. Your journey begins by tracing its roots at the World of Tiger which takes one through its humble origins in 1932 to the present status as a world-famous award winning brew. Thereafter, a "pepper ghost" special brings you back to the Beginnings of Tiger Beer, followed by a trip down memory lane from using lighting and video technology in Tiger Nation. The climax is the Grain to Gold 4-D show which looks at how two wheat grains come to life through state-of-the-art animation.

I enjoyed myself throughout most of the presentations, which were done in a light-hearted and humourous manner. No photos were allowed but fortunately you can enjoy a virtual tour here.

Merchandising provides revenue which is the life blood of attractions. Here you can see Tiger Beer themed T-shirts, mugs, key chains and masks offered for sale.

Displays like this helps recapture some of the past glory of the golden brew. On the left side is an early version of the "uniforms" which Tiger "girls" used to dorn while serving customers.

Another exhibition panel on display, this time with several vintage photographs and a Tiger beer draft tap on the bottom right corner.

Glass display cases showing various shapes and sizes of beer bottles on the wall. Some funky old retro posters and mugs were also exhibited. "88 bottles of beer on the wall...."

Some of the various beer glasses that you can bring home, catering to your whim and fancy.

A huge glass of beer - the ultimate alcoholic fantasy - stands at the middle of the Tiger Den. Notice the smiling, happy faces.

More T-shirts and merchandise on the wall. Yep, these guys never miss an opportunity to make a couple of Tiger dollars.

The museum includes a large cavernouse "disco" which can be used for functions. Here is ASA Chairman Francis Phun addressing members of the ASA Champions Club- a new set up for service supremos in the attractions industry.

After a hard day's tour, give that man a beer. Make it a Tiger...or two... or three...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

7 Steps to Great Writing

Copyblogger, one of the world's most popular for writing aficionados like yours truly, featured this excellent post on writing effective copy by Brian Clark. I have read plenty of copywriting tips in my lifetime, but this is probably one of the best I have come across. Read it, apply it to your writing, and voila! Watch those customers come queueing at your doors.... (if only it was this simple)
  1. Beneficial Topic

    Is what you’re writing of interest to the reader? Does it solve a problem they have and add value to their lives? If not, nothing else you read here matters.

  2. Magnetic Headline

    Likewise, nothing else matters if your prospective reader never makes it past the title or headline. Your content could be amazing, but if no one is compelled to invest the time to read based on a boring or vague headline, all is lost.

  3. Strong Opening

    The purpose of the headline is to get the first sentence read, and each subsequent sentence needs to keep the reader rolling towards to the close. The momentum you create with your opening can make your job easier the rest of the way.

  4. Helpful Structure

    Are your transferable lessons easily digested via bullet points and numbered lists? Are you providing compelling subheads that act as encouraging signposts for the diagonal reader to dig in deeper?

  5. Smooth Transitions

    Good writing uses transitional words and phrases to help the content read more smoothly. But good copy also uses psychological connectors to persuade and keep the reader engaged. We’ll talk more about that soon.

  6. Instant Understanding

    Orson Scott Card once said that metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space. The same is true of stories, and being highly specific facilitates understanding, holds attention, and enhances credibility in ways that general assertions cannot.

  7. Actionable Close

    How you close a piece is determined by what you are hoping to accomplish. If you’re not sure what you’re trying to accomplish, you might ask yourself why you’re writing it at all. That actually helps you to determine whether to revamp the content or to put it out of its misery.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How to Brand and Market Yourself

Richard Branson's personal brand is synonymous with that of Virgin.

Was reading Steve Rubel's post about The Golden Age of Individualism which pointed to this decade old gem by management guru Tom Peters. In Tom's article on the "Brand Called You", he wrote about the need to establish oneself as an authority on the matters which one is passionate about, the importance of influence and visibility, and the need to have BOTH style and substance.

In the age of social media and the democratisation of information, all of us become more important than ever before. I am sure everybody would have read or heard about Time Magazine's Person of the Year : You. Everybody's vote now counts more strongly than ever before in the world of business and commerce.

How does one market oneself? Can we all "Brand it like Beckham"? Well, here are some ideas for a start.

First, establish yourself as an expert or authority on a subject matter. Are you an expert on collecting stamps, a health freak or a marketing maven? If so, look for opportunities to showcase that wisdom by giving talks, writing articles, or publishing books on that area of expertise.

Second, identify and build a community. In the new world of social media, it is as much about who-you-know in addition to what-you-know. Identify like-minded folks and spread your ideas or thoughts amongst them. Don't just be a wallflower!

Third, look for opportunities to learn and deepen your knowledge. Rome wasn't built in a day and so will brand YOU. Find ways to sharpen the saw constantly so that you are on the cutting edge of that area - be it knitting, dog training, cooking or playing football.

Fourth, tell everybody about what you do. Don't be shy! The more people you tell about your expertise and experience, the better. Do it through all available channels of communication - the media, Word Of Mouth, blogs, articles, wikis, publications, emails or just plain coffee shop talk in First Life. Of course, this doesn't mean that you should blow your trumpet repeatedly (which can irk people too), but you should at least be transparent about your triumphs.

Fifth, you need to be unique and different from the rest. As Tom has said, establish your own style and let it exude through every pore. Search deep inside and find out what makes your so special. Do you have a fascinating story to share whom others will be keen to listen? The more unusual your tale the better!

Sixth, and most importantly, persevere. Personal branding is a life-long affair, which follows you from cradle to grave. Our lifelong principles, values, ethics and eccentricities will establish who we are in the eyes of others. Make sure they count not just for today but the longer term.

Finally, check out this slideshare presentation on Brand Madonna. It's pretty neat and encapsulates lessons about personal branding on one of the planet's most recognisable stars.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Viva Las Vegas!

Marketed internationally as "The Entertainment Capital of the World", Las Vegas is a modern day miracle in the state of Nevada, a hot, arid and almost desert like region. By now, almost everybody in the world would be familiar with how it reinvented itself to attract some close to 40 million visitors a year.

What are the secrets of its success? Well, it isn't just about striking that pot of gold.

The first is Fantasy and Image. Everything in Vegas is larger than life. When it had a countdown party on New Year's Eve, the total bill was US$5 million for the fireworks show. Iconic casino resorts like MGM Grand, New York New York, Venetian, and Bellagio dot the landscape and provide a form of escapism beyond compare.

This leads to the next two related points. "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" or WHIVSIV (its acronym) alludes to the above factor. This is related to the "I can't see or do this at home" factor which I am sure befalls everyone of us now and then when we itch for a holiday. Incidentally Las Vegas is also known as the Sin City.

Being uniquely One of a Kind also makes it stand out. Few places in the world have differentiated themselves in such a way. Las Vegas is about gaming, entertainment, food, shopping and spas. Nothing else.

Continuous Innovation and Reinvention is another strategy. In other words, "If its old, we blow it up". Las Vegas is a city that is always a work in progress. Casinos and hotels are being built, torn down and rebuilt. Each successive effort is louder, more vulgar and brash than the last. It redefines itself constantly to keep abreast of global competition.

Another competitive advantage is its focus on Service Excellence. Las Vegas doesn't "nickle and dime" its customers and "no" is not an option. Many of its resorts and attractions mine customer databases very well to suit individual preferences (especially the high rollers or whales). In fact, this is why there are some 3,500 to 4,000 cameras in a typical casino or resort - to catch cheaters out to spoil the experience of others!

A final point related to creating hype is Celebrities. No other region in the world (perhaps except tinseltown Hollywood) has such a strong line-up of movie stars, singers, comedians and sport heroes. The glitz and glamour of the high-life adds to the image.

The numbers for Las Vegas certainly look good in the last 13 years or so.


- 75,000 hotel rooms
- 22 million visitors
- Gaming Revenue: 80%, Non Gaming Revenue: 20%

NOW IN 2007

- 140,000 hotel rooms
- 40 million visitors
- Gaming Revenue: 40%, Non Gaming: 60%

What's especially telling is the shift towards non gaming revenue which many see as a more sustainable and socially acceptable way to make money. Hotel occupancy rates are also higher than ever before, averaging some 90% which is 30% above the US average. The city also hosts more than 25,000 conventions and meetings a year.

What will the future hold? Well, despite the opening of a lot more casinos in almost every major city in the US, Las Vegas still holds its ground and grows from strength to strength. In a way, being first to market has also given it a firm advantage.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Are We Chasing Bright Shiny Objects?

Read this brilliant post by Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion fame. The main thrust of his post is that it still all boils down to understanding good old human behaviour as opposed to simply chasing the latest, greatest and coolest out there in the planet.

Quoting from him:

"...Every day it seems there's a hot new Web 2.0 site that captures our attention.

In 2003 it was
Friendster and Linked In.

Then in 2004, thanks in part to the election, blogging began to get really big.

The year 2005 brought us photocasting (Flickr) podcasting (iTunes) and vodcasting via YouTube. By the way note the headlines "Internet craze" headlines listed here circa 2005.

In 2006 we saw a big revival in social networks with MySpace (a client) as well as the virtual world boom.

This year it's all about micro - Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce plus little web apps everywhere, on widget platforms, Facebook, the iPhone.

All of this leads me to the photo above. The Web 2.0 construction boom is bigger now than it ever was. Techcrunch, Scobleizer and Mashable leave me all breathless. It's like watching the cranes of Dubai rise. We're a million monkeys running on treadmills, chasing the latest banana. Myself included! The breathing apparatus in the photo above reminds me of my Google Reader stream!"

As a media socialist and an advocate for new ways of marketing and communicating, I wonder sometimes if we are going overboard with this obsession with new media. Certainly, the web 2.0 movement (or rather social media movement as Jeremiah Owyang would call it) has led to significant changes in the way we work, live and play. We should still remember that the core of any tech-enabled channel is the value that it brings to existing patterns of human interaction and behaviour.

This brings me to an old saying that technology should support business rather than the other way around. Of course, there are examples of how technology has revolutionised behaviours like the Internet for instance. However, attempting to change people's natural behaviours to fit a new fangled social media platform isn't going to cut it over the long haul.

I may have a gazillion contacts on my Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter, Mybloglog etc, but I am only likely to interact frequently with a much smaller group of people.

Friday, July 20, 2007

6 Reasons to Buy This Book

Here are six reasons why you should get a copy of the above book "Horse-powered & Man-powered Transport: a philatelic excursion":

1) It is authored by three dear friends of mine, namely Victor, Wee Kiat and Noel. I hear that it is Victor's maiden effort.

2) It is a labour of love done with much blood, sweat, and tears (of happiness).

3) It is a limited edition which perhaps may be worth a lot of money in future. So hurry before they are all gone!

4) It is "officially" endorsed (haha) by the Friends of Yesterday.sg. In case you do not know, yesterday.sg is Singapore's leading heritage and museums blog.

5) It is being sold exclusively at the Singapore Philatelic Museum, which is a charming boutique museum tucked away at Coleman Street. And please visit the museum while you are there for a wonderful exploration of Singapore and the world through stamps.

6) It provides a fun and jolly romp through the past, in the good old days when transportation doesn't add to the carbon crisis which we are now facing.

Check out these posts on the book too:


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Get High on Heritage!


Back again for the fourth year in a row, the highly popular Singapore HeritageFest 2007 (SHF 2007) is a key event on our cultural calendar. Happening 18 to 29 July at Suntec City Tropics Atrium and multiple venues around Singapore, the theme of this year's celebration - "What's Your Story?" - looks at getting everybody to think about the memories, stories, traditions and cultures that make us Singaporeans.

Last year's extravaganza attracted more than 1.1 million participants. With so many things to see, do and experience, there are no reasons why this year's event can't match that. For newbies to heritage, I recommend you to check out the 10 things that you can do at the festival.

Here are some snapshots of the official launch which I attended this morning.

An overview of the exhibition area at Suntec Tropics Atrium (Tower 2).

Guest Of Honour Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts giving his address.

In true heritage fashion, Dr Lee and NHB CEO Michael Koh cranked an old gramophone to launch the festival.

These three boys played a couple of terrific pieces on the tabla drums, guzheng and sitar respectively. What's amazing is that the tabla and sitar were played by chinese boys while the guzheng was played by a malay kid.

The boys were joined later by a professional ethnic musical trio E-Tree and Maniam...

...followed by participation from the audiences. Oooh boy what a terrific din we made!

Later, I had the chance to catch the exhibit "Unique Memories, Unique Stories" at the festival hub.

Here's a display of retro fashion from the past, complete with olden day drink bottles.

An old scout's uniform handsomely displayed with badges to boot.

Nostalgia meets New Media with terminals sponsored by Acer. You can submit your stories to the My Story portal here and stand to win cash prizes.

Speaking of which you can learn about the evolution of writing from ye olde graphite pencils to ...*gasp* iPhones!

Can you guess what these are? No, they are not edible sweets but a toy called kuti-kuti which we used to enjoy playing with.

"Let's brush our teeth together now! Hold your toothbrush against your teeth and brush away from the gums..... 1,2,3,4,5,6.....1,2,3,4,5,6"

Here's how we used to "tar pao" our lunch in the old days. Speaking of which I did blog about super efficient tiffin carriers before.

Aaaah.... "Four Seven Elevennnn... Ice Eau De Cologne"! I will never forget that advertising ditty...

And of course, everybody's favourite must be this Milo Tin used to contain spare change in provision shops. An early example of recycling at work.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Niagara Windfalls

Niagara Falls Photo courtesy of Laffy4K

I recently attended a talk on Casino Marketing by Daniel Shummy, a Las Vegas marketing veteran. One of the most interesting topics he shared was how Niagara Falls transformed itself.

Think of Niagara Falls in Canada and what crosses your mind? Great lakes perhaps? Holiday destination? How about those great iconic waterfalls and rapids often seen in movies?

How about slot machines, card tables and blackjack?

Established in 1996, Casino Niagara is a government-owned project set up by the Canadian government to boost tourism in the Niagara Falls area. Before the casino and resort was set up, the main attractors in that region were the falls themselves, Skylon Tower, daredevils, Maid of the Mist, jet boats, a butterfly museum, festival of lights, and for honeymooners, the romantic ions in the air.

In a desperate bid to stave off falling tourism arrivals, the Canadian government back in 1995 decided to invest about US$150 million in the casino. A team of Las Vegas veterans were roped in to convert a defunct old amusement hall to a gaming facility in 100 days. When it first started, it only had one snack bar.

This yielded positive results. In its first year of operation, Casino Niagara reaped US$500 million of profits. It also boosted Niagara's regional tourism efforts as seen below:

1995 Before Casino Niagara

- 10 million annual visitors
- US$1 billion in sales
- 4,000 hotel rooms
- 30% hotel occupancy (yeah its that bad!)
- 20,000 tourism employment

2006 After Casino Opened

- 20 million visitors annually
- US$2.2 billion sales
- 8,000 hotel rooms
- 60% hotel occupancy
- 49,000 folks employed in tourism

Apparently, there were lots of positive spillovers from this endeavour. Surrounding retail, F&B and attraction businesses were not cannibalised. In fact, they benefited from the redemption of loyalty points gained by the casino and slot player's club. Generally, fears of rising crime and vice were also unfounded although this may be debatable.

Hopefully, Singapore's experience with our two upcoming Integrated Resorts will be as sweet as Canada's experience! Next up - The Las Vegas Experience.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Fiery Legacy

Check out this funky red spiral stairway at the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery

Do you know that the Central Fire Station was once Singapore's highest lookout point? Back in the old days, fire fighters would climb up the tower to look out for fires in the city using their naked eyes. That was one of the interesting facts I discovered recently at the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery, which is opened by the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

A member of the Museum Roundtable, this boutique attraction shares the story of Singapore's excellent fire services (they are a Singapore Quality Award winner) as well as some of the major crises which they handled. Located along Hill Street, admission is free to the public.

This pair of statues show how firefighters were like in the past.

The red and white doors which open up for fire engines and ambulances to cross are an iconic sight at the Central Fire Station. I remembered how fascinated I was as a kid (still am) whenever the fire engines rolled out in full force to do their heroic deeds.

Fire hose attachments and helmets through the ages. Essential tools in the war against fumes.

Toys and collectibles for young wannabe fire fighters (or the young at heart). As highlighted before, merchandising is important in gaining revenue in any attraction.

A first generation fire engine which is pulled along by horses. I wonder how stable it is when the stallions are galloping along at full fury?

In the past, policemen used to wear shorts. However, fire fighters wore long pants, boots and a strong protective helmet - just like now. Of course, the materials are a lot more comfortable and advanced nowadays to protect our men in blue from the blazing heat.

Another blast from the past with a vintage fire engine. I like the gold trimmings and wooden walnut finishing. Must be worth a fortune!

Our little fire fighter rushing to save the world, furiously turning the wheels and wondering where the water will be coming out from.

Life-sized dioramas like this help to convey the tension and trauma faced by our brave fire fighters. No prizes for guessing which hotel disaster incident this portrays.

Even the gloves worn come in different shapes, sizes and textures for different purposes. So Michael Jackson isn't the only one with a glove fetish?

Does this come from a Science Fiction movie? Nope. Its a special heat and chemical resistant hazmat costume worn by our fearless fire fighters to deal with hazardous situations.