Sunday, March 16, 2008

Are You Cleaning or Dirtying Me?

One of the things which irk me each time I return home is to see this.

Dirty!

I know that you are trying to clean the common stairwells of my flat, and I am eternally grateful for that. However, must you leave such a spotty and blotchy messy at my door? I don't think it would hurt to bring along a cloth and wipe the exterior of the doors which you dirty while cleaning the stairs would it?

Of course, nothing beats this eye-sore which I spotted at a common recycling bin just a block away from my home.

P1100375

I wonder if one should be deliriously happy that the oft-ignored recycling message has finally hit home - to overflowing effect - or sob at this monstrosity of mankind's messiness.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hopping on the eee Wagon


Courtesy of fellow asus eee fan jaaron

Ok I have succumbed to the lure of the most talked about ultramobile PC on the planet - the Asus eee. Yep, I just bought myself one of them cute li'l critters in pearly white.

In order to aquaint myself with its miniscule charms, I have decided to blog about it using the very same object of desire. So how does it fare and is it really as good as its hyped up to be?

First, you need to be fairly conversant with handling different interfaces as the GUI which is LINUX based is quite different from Windows. Some of the familiar short cut buttons and yellow balloon like prompters have disappeared. The use of the ultrasensitive track pad also requires getting used to, as are the smallish keyboard buttons (which thankfully has good tactile feel). I am still pretty much a mouse person so I may get one of those tiny ones to supplement my surfing habits here.

I've got myself a slightly souped-up version with 2GB RAM so surfing the net was a jiffy. Switching between different applications was also generally a breeze once you get used to it. However, you do need to surf some of the forums on asus eee to really learn the best way to manage this affordable play thing.

While the screen size is pretty lilliputian at 7", it was bright and clear enough for me to see without having to take off my glasses. Yes, I have reached that uncomfortable age of going into the bifocal zone.... The useful Fn hot buttons on the device also helps one in navigating, although I wished that they had dedicated buttons instead.

One thing which you need to be mindful though is that this baby is HOT! By that I mean that you should try to get a cool, hard and flat surface to rest the thing instead of your lap, as it can literally cook you alive. No kidding.

In terms of specs, the processor speed is definitely good enough for a tiny device like this. Most activities take place speedily without any hesitance at the tap of the buttons. It may be good though if a touch screen version could be created as that would help speed up navigation significantly, although the minuses of such a feature is the greater power consumption which it entails.

Battery life wise, the device seems pretty fuel efficient, and is touted to last as long as 3.5 or even 4 hours, depending on its usage. One thing which I love is the super quick boot up time thanks in no small part to the Flash Solid State Disk and far nimbler Linux OS.

Overall, for the price that I paid, I will say that I am pleased with it (so far).... I will be putting this midget to the test over the next few days and will let you know if it is going to be taking over my Nokia E61i as a constant mobile companion.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Help! My Agency is Killing Me!


Stop fighting with your agency! (courtesy of edpeach1969)

While reading Vivienne's post on high and mighty advertising agencies, I reflected upon my own years of experience in dealing with agencies both big and small. Yes, there has been lots of blood, sweat (often cold), and tears throughout the process. However, you do also encounter gems in the business and artwork plus copy that makes you smile.

As a client, how does one ensure that a Return On Marketing (ROM) is achieved without stifling the creativity and effectiveness of one's hired advertising help? Here are some ideas to start the ball rolling:

What Agencies Can Do

1) Lay out all the cards from the onset. Mystery and secrecy may work in a suspense novel, but not in a client-agency relationship. Manage expectations, timelines, and deliverables from the start and let the client know what to expect. This should include the degree of freedom given in areas like design, copywriting and so on.

2) Take some time to understand the client's business. Selling coffee powder is substantially different from pushing cosmetics. Similarly, a B2B outfit would have far different concerns from one that hits out directly at end consumers.

3) Impress and wow them from the word "Go" but don't stop there. We all have encountered pitches by creative bosses which sparkle and stun, only to be let down by inept interns who handle the rest of the design and copywriting process. Be consistent and be realistic about what your team can do rather than go all out to dazzle but fail to deliver eventually.

4) Involve them in the process as much as humanly possible without compromising on deadlines and deliverables. Enlist them in the brainstorming process, ask them many questions and date them out for lunches. The initial part is probably the most painful. However, it pays dividends in the long run when you gain a deep and intimate understanding of your client's ideologies and idiosyncrasies.

What Clients Can Do

1) Be prepared to take some risks and to lose some control. The whole idea of hiring an external agency versus recruiting an inhouse designer is to trawl for ideas. Don't always insist on getting the last word in or making the final amendment (easier said than done!).

2) As the Guinness Stout advertisement or Sun Tzu would have said, "Know thy self." Be honest about your own levels of competence in the various disciplines involved in advertising - photography, design, media placements, copywriting - and enlist professional help when needed. Be willing to listen to them and be open to fresh ideas without losing sight of your end objective.

3) Offer as much information as you can muster. This will mean allowing them to take a peak at your production shopfloor, your back of the house processes, as well as the various outlets. Let them chat with your customers and suppliers. Make them part of your team where possible.

4) Work in collaboration rather than competition. There is no need to show who is smarter, wittier, savvier or wiser. Remember the adage "lose the battle but win the war". Learn to admit when you are wrong and follow what your hired creative suits advise - if there is a grain of truth in what they say. After all your job is to win customers not arguments!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Getting Past The Social Media Hype


Courtesy of butler.melvin

This article first appeared in Marketing magazine in February 2008. I thought it would be useful to share it with you here. And yes, I am back to blogging again after a super long hiatus!

By now, every publicist worth his or her salt would have heard of the wonders of new media. Anything imbued with the word 2.0, social media, conversational marketing, blogosphere or peer-to-peer is laden with the Midas touch. Want to access the 80 million blogs around the world?

Just put up something within the next two hours on Blogger, Wordpress or Movable Type. Presto! Your blog ranking will hit Technorati's top 100, and a gazillion citizen journalists will hungrily chew over every sacred word issued from your online altar, propelling you to instant worldwide fame.

Yeah right. If only it is this easy.

After dabbling in various social media platforms for close to three years, I learnt certain principles needed to thrive (or at least survive) in this space.

First, grow your grassroot groups by adopting a bottoms-up approach. A-list bloggers and blogeratis (blog celebrities) have huge readerships. However, are they the right target audiences for your corporate messages? It may be more prudent to cultivate your own niche community of raving fans who are users that endorse your products and services.

Second, do not fire your PR folks. While social media is largely dependent on the efforts of individuals in cultivating bloggers, there is still a huge role for mainstream media. Newspapers, TV, radio and magazines still capture a vast amount of eyeballs and audiences.

Third, be religiously regular in posting content but don't kill yourself. The online race is a marathon - not a 100 metre sprint! If you are starting a blog, publish posts on a regular basis which your readers are comfortable with. If you are putting up podcasts, ensure that you are able to pipe in compelling content that listeners can appreciate and enjoy. Silence isn't golden in cyberspace.

Fourth, establish yourself and your company as a thought leader. Blogging, podcasting or videocasting gives one an incredible opportunity to showcase intellectual prowess in the subject matter while gaining fans. Credibility is important so show your stripes in social media spaces.

Fifth, complement your online marcom strategies with offline ones. I am a firm believer that branding and integrated marketing communications should apply in the social media universe. Of course, it doesn't mean that you have to slap your logo everywhere or embrace the same colour scheme throughout. What it does mean though is that your approach to engaging bloggers should be consistent with your brand values.

Sixth, get your hands dirty, roll up your sleeves, engage in online conversations and blog away. The best way to understand the new digital domain is to become one of them. Mingle freely way before delivering your first "key message". It is back to Relationships 101 all over again.

Finally, be realistic about what you can or cannot achieve in the new media arena. There are certain topics and subjects that just won't cut it online, regardless of the amount of cultivation/friendship/bribery that you have done. Be happy with little successes in the initial stages and build on to bigger and better things in time to come.