Friday, September 28, 2007

Is Toyota Diversifying into Food?

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Spotted this advertisement at the regular bus stop which I take. Hmmm... notice the (R) - ie registered trademark - next to the words LEXUS? Does this mean that the world's number one automotive company is now going into cream crackers?

Notice how closely the font of the biscuit brand emulates that of the luxury marque as seen below:



I wonder if the biscuits are as silent as the Lexus cars when you bite into them? :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Farming Fun at Warrook

Regular readers of this blog would probably know by now that my kid Ethan loves the rural life. This was why we had to make a farm stop during our recent Melbourne trip, at the widely acclaimed Warrook Cattle Farm. A charming 100 year old homestead located South East from Melbourne City, the rural attraction conducts regular tours for "city tortoises" like us. The sprawling estate boasted of many different farmyard residents and is a real life working farm yielding animal products like milk, meat and wool.

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A metal crafted signboard at the cattle yards. Reminds me of Charlotte's Web somehow.

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Three naked apes and a cow kangaroo striking a pose in front of the homey restaurant. The food was fabulous and so was the wine!

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All aboard the Warrook Express, sitting on bales of hay.

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These calves were really big babies, and they certainly behaved that way.

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See what I mean? Milk being fed from one baby to another.

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These massive bovine with equally enormous mammaries stood quietly while the farmhand explained the fine art of milking a cow.

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Naturally, our great lover of milk had to get his hands onto some of the squeezing action. He even drank some of the warm milk, which tasted fresh and...err... milky.

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A rare sight of emus and goats feasting at the same yard. These were later joined by bleating sheep. Talk about inter species bonding!

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This canine friend was one of two sheep dogs who proved their mettle later.

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See what I mean? It was quite amazing to see how the dogs can handle the sheep so efficiently and effortlessly.

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Sheep shearing 101. Just hold the sheep back and it will keep absolutely still. Going...going...

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Gone!

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Our farmhand showing us how to crack a whip. Apparently, you have to whip it fast enough to break the sound barrier.

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Ethan had to give it a try. For once, he gets to do the whipping... (not that he gets any caning anyway)

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Feeding of the sole kangaroo in the farm. The fat marsupial seemed content as everybody rushed in for the action.

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Ethan later decided that it was more fun feeding this bunny sitting forlornly beyond the fence.

Monday, September 24, 2007

VISA's Celebrity Ads

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Celebrity endorsement in advertising (and sometimes PR) is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Since time immemorial, companies have relied on the household recognition, reach and popularity of movie stars, singers, TV actors and sport heroes to gain mileage in the marketing game.

Of all the celebrity commercials out there, the most memorable in my opinion belong to VISA. Few companies have managed to do it with as much style, panache and class as the world's largest payment processor. And I have seen plenty of poorly conceived celebrity ads in my lifetime, especially those slimming ones by whats-its-name beauty parlour.

What strikes me most in VISA's effective use of stars is how they are always portrayed in character, yet with clear visual clues that it is the VISA credit card which "saves the day". Of course, the brilliant cinematography (many of their ads are shot on film), authentic sets and clever acting also helps to move viewers. After all, advertising is all about making an emotional connection.

The most recent example is of course Jackie Chan, whose appearance is linked to VISA sponsoring the upcoming Beijing Olympics in 2008. Here is a television/ movie commercial featuring the world's most famous kung fu star together with Yao Ming, who is probably the most bankrolled Chinese sports star.



Another memorable one is this playful ditty featuring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond as well as Zhang Ziyi, with a tuk tuk rider from hell.



My personal favourite is probably this one featuring Richard Gere in India. It has a nice moral ring to it while being true to Richard Gere's own philanthropic nature.



Have you seen a good celebrity commercial lately?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Great Way To Drive

Almost everybody we spoke to about Melbourne gushed about the Great Ocean Road. Stretching over more than 400 kilometres, it was widely regarded as one of the world's most scenic drives. Famous landmarks (for those who went all the way) include the Twelve Apostles, Otways Rainforest, Bells Beach and Skenes Creek. Naturally, we had to give it a try during our recent vacation there, and it was certainly fun (albeit a little tiring).

Here are some pictorial highlights of our journey along the Ocean.

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The first stop at Torquay, which is regarded by some as the centre of the surf world and the official start of the Great Ocean Road.

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There were actually some surfers in the ocean when we were there, though you can't really see them from this photograph. I hear that they were at it even in winter, where temperatures can drop to 5 to 6 deg C. Brrr....

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A shot of the beautiful landscape near Skenes Creek from a lookout point about 300 metres above. Notice the wind-blowing-in-my-hair effect.

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A view of the Southern Ocean (which leads to the Antarctic) in the region between Lorne and Apollo Creek. I believe they call it the Otways?

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Yet another view of the same area, this time from a lookout embankment in the area called Big Hill.

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A contoured map with the relief of the Great Ocean Road area at the view point.

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More shots of the ocean (ok, it isn't called the Great Ocean Road for nothing), at the region nearer Apollo Creek. Of course, there were other highlights too...

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Like these cattle serenely grazing in the miles and miles of farmlands which stretched as far as the eye can see.

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A lunch stopover at Lorne helped to perk us up after a long drive. Note the highly nutritious looking greens.

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Sooner or later, I had to get into the action too. My brown sweater kind of blended into the beach sand actually.

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On our way back (yes, it was getting cloudy and rainy, although nothing like our thunderstorms), we managed to get this lucky shot of a rainbow.

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All good things must come to an end. Good thing that we managed to sustain Ethan's interest (amidst stretches of snoozing) for a pretty long time.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Too Much Love



This follows an earlier post on Love Trails, which spoke about allowing your customers to create their own paths and destinations. Perhaps the occasional path beater tracing his or her way to your organisation's products and services would be fine. After all, this is the age of individuality where every customer is unique and different.

What happens though if one bends over backwards to one's customers so much that the following start to suffer?
1) Employees
2) Profit Margins
3) Systems and processes
4) Long-term sustainability

Would it still be catering to the customers every whim and fancy, or allowing customers so much leeway that it leads your business to the road of destruction?

Perhaps the answer is somewhere in between. While we can allow more freedom for our customers to chart their own paths, we also need to be mindful of our cashflow and resources. Products and campaigns should not be too boxed in by age-old stereotypes for sure. However, you will still need some semblance of order, market research and categorisation to make things work.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wildlife Wonder at Werribee

To satisfy my child Ethan's creature cravings, we decided to drive up to nearby Werribee at Melbourne to check out their famous Werribee Open Range Zoo. Modelled after an African-styled savanna grassland, it offered a different wildlife experience for those keen to see more animals in a natural habitat beyond your usual marsupial suspects.

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Look out for hippos up ahead!

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Entrance to the Werribee Zoo beckons visitors to walk in. Definitely a lot simpler than our own Singapore Zoo.

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A throng of primary school kids having fun at the playground.

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Quirky signages like this "snake" add to the charm of walking in the well manicured landscape.

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Just like these thematic warning notices. Actually, one needn't be afraid of the lions and hippos as they were safely enclosed. Instead, the real danger came from...

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...This free ranging, vicious, man-eating rooster! Believe it or not, it followed us for at least 100 metres pecking furiously.

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A map of the reserve tells us where the different animal highlights are.

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Yet another funny sign.

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We were supposed to take this safari bus for our tour originally, but somehow one of the windows were broken. Gulp.... don't tell me the animals are that wild?

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Fortunately, our fears were unfounded. Here's a hippopotamus happily grazing. Do you know that they are more deadly than lions in Africa? Those huge jaws can do real harm.

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Handsome herd of Mongolian wild horses standing serenely.

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A one-humped Dromedary camel having its lunch. In case you do not already know, that hump is actually full of fat and not water.

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A family of rhinoceruses striking a pose.

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Not to be outdone is this young giraffee enjoying the cool morning weather.

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Of course, them pesky humans also need to get into the act. Say Cheeseee!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Marvellous Melbourne Museum

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One of Melbourne's foremost cultural destination, the Melbourne Museum is both an architectural icon and a wonderful repository of natural history. Located next to the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens, the museum is part of Museum Victoria which is Australia's largest public museum organisation. Touted as the biggest museum in the Southern Hemisphere, the museum was housed in a modern monolith of massive proportions.

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Built in the 1990s in the modern style, the museum was designed by Denton Corker Marshall and constructed at a cost of A$250 million.

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This huge whalebone measuring 18 metres from end-to-end belonged to a pygmy Blue Whale washed ashore.

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Ethan posing with an Australian dinosaur skeleton (Amargasaurus cazaui) at the entrance.

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More dinosaurs at the Evolution Gallery of the museum. I believe they include a Tarbosaurus (a theropod predator similar to T-Rex), Pteranodon, Diplodocus, and a duck-billed Hadrosaur.

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Stuffed critters never looked this good. This display came complete with lighted panels that explain the origins of the various native animals.

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One of the most fascinating galleries was the one on insects. This panel shows how they truly rule the world rather than us!

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Giant blow ups of a spider fangs help to illustrate how different invetebrate mouthparts work in their feeding process. Hairy!

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Some of the exhibits were alive too, like this real live bee hive complete with buzzing bees and dripping honey.

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Of course, Ethan had to get into the action by trying out this bee dance complete with step-by-step instructions.

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Interactive panels like this revolving display at the Marine gallery help to engage little fingers and minds.

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Every shark has its day, and here's an exhibit showing how different their jaws can be. "The better to eat you with my dear...."

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A giant squid lies placidly in its watery grave with an interesting caption on top. No prizes for guessing that its the Sperm Whale (nothing to do with err... you know) that was its chief predator.

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Kids could mix and match different parts and organs of the human body here. An excellent educational tool which captured Ethan's attention.

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Large backlit panels help to bring the Australian forest vividly to life.

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What's even better is that the museum has a real forest - right in the middle! Now this is what I call a Living Museum!

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One of the highlights at the museum was its Children's Gallery. This tall giraffe shows the scale of sizes.

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More taxidermised animals on display. This one had them chirping, growling, and squeaking at the press of a button.

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Soft toys like these help to delight a 3.75 year old toddler...

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... as do these giant-sized Lego bricks in the outdoor play area.

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Finally, our intrepid explorers decide to do some fossil searching themselves. Now who says that museums are boring?