Friday, May 30, 2008

Free Entry to NHB Museums this Weekend!


Have a heritage feast at IMD this year! (courtesy of Shaun Wong)


Ever wondered what a "Kamcheng" is used for? Wanna dive into more than 50,000 pieces of vintage toys across two centuries? How about flying a real rubber-powered aircraft?

Well, you can do all that and much much more at International Museum Day 2008. Yes, it is the time of the year again for all things heritage and museums.

This year's celebration is smaller and more compact, but promises to be as much fun with more than 19 museums churning out close to 40 activities and events over three days. Happening 31 May to 2 June, IMD'08 places special focus on the three-tiered family, with activities like a Viet Fest at ACM which promises performances, tasty treats and exciting games all the way from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh to Singapore. There will also be free heritage trails along the historically rich Kampong Glam area as well as a special fun-filled experience for the family at the Singapore Discovery Centre.

That's not all.

Entry to all NHB museums and most participating museums are FREE on 31 May (Saturday). To make heritage and nostalgia even sweeter to members of the silver-haired community, all NHB museums will offer FREE ENTRY to seniors (aged 60 and above) EVERY MONDAY, 52 weeks a year!

Its certainly a great time to encourage your parents/grandparents/aunties/uncles to visit Singapore's fascinating museums and relive the stories of their past.

For more details, do check out the official website here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Corporate Blogging Isn't Just Fun and Games


Hell Hath No Fury... (courtesy of Dinghy Blonde)

If you think being a personal blogger is difficult, wait till you try corporate blogging. It isn't just a walk in the park. Just ask Coleman (a fellow media socialist), who wrote this excellent post on making your corporate blogs succeed.

But then, isn't blogging just about shooting your mouth/fingers off and saying whatever you want to say. After all, it is the age of conversations, and everybody is a citizen journalist. Besides, people don't want to just hear the filtered, fluffed up, fantastic stuff from the gatekeepers (like yours truly).

Well, consider the following.

First, you have to show your boss that whatever you do is producing real tangible results. In a shareholder value oriented world, organisations are living quarter by quarter. Can your blogging endeavours bring in customers? Can you track the number of readers to your blog?

Next is the question of ability versus attitude. Sure, you are all raring to go in unveiling the lighter and personal side of your company. But can you write/produce/film/photograph to save your life? Will people be drawn to your content? With close to a gazillion blogs out there, the competition is tough as nails. And yes, sex does sell.

Third is the issue of attracting a crowd of believers/followers/lurkers. Would people be interested to read about the latest technology involved in precision manufacturing of part number 423A01 in a car? Or would they rather read about who you partied with last night?

Fourth is the challenge of being creative in your posts. When you are relaxed at home and doing your own personal blog, you can put up anything which your right brain so desires. However, if you are blogging on behalf of your company, it may suddenly be a lot less stimulating - mentally or otherwise.

There is also the problem with accountability in a corporate blog. Are you writing in your own personal voice or just being yet another mouthpiece for the corporate spiel? If what you do write just sounds like a mash-up of the press release, it may appear to be old wine in new 2.0 wineskins.

Finally, and this probably takes the cake for some, blogging isn't a 9 to 5 job. If you are the online representative for your company, people may want to comment on your post and expect a response 24 by 7. I don't think "Sorry, its 5.30 pm and time for me to knock off." is going to be perceived very favourably by your followers.

Does that mean that organisations shouldn't even consider corporate blogging? Certainly not. In my opinion, the higher the barriers to blogging entry, the more you should do it. The time is just right here in Singapore as there are hardly any company who is blogging here (save for a few odd start-ups here and there).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

China Conquering the Virtual World?



Following a tip-off from Jessica Greenwood at the recent Verge event, I went to do some online sleuthing to find out more about China's ambitious plans to create the world's largest virtual world.

In case you do not know, the number of internet users in China has already eclipsed that of the United States, and blogging has taken the huge country by storm. More and more Chinese are relying on online sources of information, opinions and news. E-commerce has also taken off with predictions that more than a million internet entrepreneurs may be born.

Another trend which is causing the huge growth in China's online forays is its one-child policy. Without siblings at home to interact with, more are spending time online and participating actively in social networks. People do need people after all.

This idea to create the largest virtual world ever is created through a partnership between Entropia Universe, online company Cyber Recreation Development Corp (CRD) and the Beijing Municipal Government. Some of the numbers generated by this colossal collaboration are staggering:
  • Up to 7 million concurrent users logged in, with a target of 150 million users around theworld
  • Over $1 billion in revenue generated annually
  • Creation of 10,000 qualified jobs (ie close to the scale generated by our Integrated Resorts in Singapore)
  • About 100 square km just for server farms alone!
Called the Beijing Cyber Recreation District (CRD), this ambitious undertaking looks at creating a three-dimensional universe on the Internet entertainment, work, commerce, community building, culture, and much more. It will transform China from a "manufacturing superpower into an "e-commerce juggernaut".

One of the major premises behind this idea is that China is already the world's factory. By eliminating all middlemen - brokers, shippers, suppliers, distributors, dealers, retailers, licensees - costs could be kept extremely low and attractive for all users in the virtual space. Need a new pair of pants? Just click on, explore, purchase and voila! its at your doorstep.

Will the CRD take over eBay as the numero uno e-commerce site in the world? Only time will tell apparently.

First, they need to fix the issue of tweaking their factories to manufacture for niche markets in an efficient manner. Next is the challenge of delivering goods and services around the world in a quick enough fashion to make the business proposition viable. Most importantly though is the issue of service standards and warranties, which is almost a given in an internet-enabled e-commerce world.

I think what takes the cake is that the look, feel and user experience for their all-in-one portal must cater to a global audience. If you look at their existing website now, it will probably be quite a long shot if you ask me.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Future of Marketing in the Age of Social Media

I was invited yesterday to be a panellist in Verge (OgilvyOne's Digital Summit), along with Vanessa Tan, Nicholas Aaron Khoo and Professor Michael Netzley. It was quite refreshing to be back on the conference circuit after a hiatus over the last few months due to work reasons.

The speaker who impressed me the most was Jessica Greenwood, Deputy Editor of Contagious magazine in UK, who is all of 28 years of age I believe. She gave a great presentation on Digital Marketing Innovation, and generated a lot of case studies and ideas that I believe anybody can use. Here are some points which I managed to jot down.

Advertising is OK - If It Comes with a Useful Freebie

blyk is a service for 16 to 24 year olds in the UK, which gives away free mobile and SMS services. In return, it sends some four to six advertising messages to its subscribers, who number more than 100,000 in the UK. Apparently, interviews with the kids on this service show that they aren't even aware that the advertisements are marketing messages since they also offer something of value that is targeted specifically at them.

Another example is bebo, which is kind of like a one-stop entertainment/networking social media hub with subtle advertising and product placement.

In Your Face is Dead - Long Live Guerrilla Marketing!

As often cited, interruption marketing is no longer "IT", especially when consumers have a gazillion channels to choose from. In place of this is ambient or guerrilla branding, where product placement helps to engender positive awareness and perception. An example is the Toyota Yaris in the US, which offered a free radio station and used its cars free to ferry delegates to and from the SXSW (South by South West) event at Austin, Texas, earning a groundswell of goodwill.

There is no Business that isn't Show Business (aka Branded Entertainment)

This borrows from an idea that is also popularised by Bernd Schmitt which states that marketing is really all about entertaining your audiences. Also termed "Create Time" by Greenwood (because you don't feel like you are spending valuable time while being entertained), this concept has many examples out there. Some of the key ones cited include the famous Cadbury Gorilla (below):



As well as Ford Company's Where are the Joneses. This was a massive online/offline campaign by Ford which includes a whimsical and engaging storyline where a girl looks for all her lost siblings courtesy of her serial sperm-donating dad. Episode one is below for your viewing pleasure.



Of course, Coca Cola, the biggest brand on planet Earth, isn't far from the act with their Happiness Factory, as well as branding icon Nike with their Nike Football website. Another great example cited was Kate Modern, an online drama by Bebo which has apparently gone into Season Two (and note this - it costs only 6,000 pounds to produce per episode!).

The Power of the Panopticon (or Being Transparent 24 by 7)

The rise and rise of Facebook (and the earlier Myspace) points to an interesting phenomenon exemplified by the idea of Foucault's Panopticon where you can gain omniscience (sounds a little 1984) into a person's lives. There is an increasing merging of the online and offline selves, and people are increasingly open to sharing more of themselves everywhere. Social networking platforms like flock.com which integrates your twitter, facebook, hotmail, gmail and other accounts help make it all simpler.

Blurring the Lines between the Virtual and Real

I liked the example of how The Dark Knight was advertised with a "I Believe in Harvey Dent" campaign. What happened was that posters were put up everywhere prior to the movie launch, which called for the public to "vote" for Harvey (a fictitious character) to become a District Attorney. The campaign also had a website, an ongoing series of videos, and a developing blog that slowly unfurls as the day approaches. Reminds me of another online/offline campaign approach called The Art of the Heist by Audi/Mckinney.



Another case study was Wi-Fi Army, a cellphone camera zapping game with a real world gaming component which was so successful that it garnered a million participants in just two weeks!

Interactive World - Physical and Not Just Online

This concept veered a little into futuristic ideas like skinnable buildings, Camp Nou (by renowned architect Norman Foster), and Emotional Cities. The key idea is to customise and tailor-make your physical environments and buildings to suit a particular mood or preference. Mini's personalised billboards which can show a personal message on a public board (based on an RFID chip in your car) is another such innovation.


The new Camp Nou at Barcelona

Branded Utility and the World of Widgets

Some of us may have heard Newsweek declaring that 2007 was the year of the widget. To ride on this growth, one should create something useful, like Volkswagen's Rabbit, UPS's package tracker, and Nike Plus. Other connected products include the O2 Cocoon which functions as an alarm clock and is GPS trackable, Dole's Bananas, and the buy-a-drink-plant-a-tree social marketing model of Innocent Drinks.


O2 Cocoon is a truly connected product (Courtesy of Route79)

I think what takes the cake for me is the idea of user-generated utility, and this example of how the Nintendo Wii and its remote could be used for something like virtual reality 3D . Now this is a case of building believers and innovators amongst your customers.



The long and short of marketing in the future is that it should no longer just be a "One Night Stand" (ie Mass media advertising) but a "Long-Term Relationship" (ie Online, offline, continuous). In other words, it isn't just a one-way thing but an engagement, a dialogue and high levels of participation and interactivity. Personally, I question if I ever wanted to be married to my shampoo or ceiling fan but I guess there may be a greater role for marketing to weave itself into various parts of my life in a less intrusive manner.

Monday, May 19, 2008

We Are Still Living in a 1.0 or 0.0 World

Got clued in to this brilliant revelation by Steve Rubel on how most of us are still living in the Jurassic Age when it comes to staying constantly connected via a myriad of digital tools and networks. Yep, that's right, according to the chart below (courtesy of Nortel), only 16% of us are truly hyperconnected and about 48% are either passively online or hardly at all.


Source: IDC/Nortel White Paper - The Hyperconnected: Here They Come!

This shows that despite what some of the pundits say, we are still living largely in an old-fashioned, traditional media oriented, physically based world.

One needs to still do some good ol' "First Life" marketing over and above creating all those snazzy social media marketing strategies, hopping from platform to platform, podcast to podcast, network to network.

In the words of Steve Rubel himself:

"The takeaway for marketers is to utilize all of the relevant venues/tactics as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy (the same goes for PR). Ignoring something because it's old school doesn't always make sense."

That certainly rings oh so true.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Laughter the Best Advertising Medicine?

Is humour in advertising overrated? Or a fundamental element of attracting customers to your brand? Well, it depends on how they are applied.

Anybody who has watched the following VISA commercials would agree that they are highly entertaining yet memorable. It helps that they have a sterling cast and a certain style which makes them unmistakably VISA.

An example is this one with Catherine Zeta-Jones...


...And of course, more recently, two of China's most famous global exports.


However, there are some advertisements which may be funny, but does absolutely nothing for the brand. Like this one here:


Creative Technology tries to tickle the funny bone with this one, but somehow or other, I still don't quite get what they are doing here. It isn't quite consistent with the Zen's brand message, and I don't understand what a Panda has to do with a made in Singapore MP3 player. Does anyone know?


This one is my favourite in terms of humour, and the message is definitely very starkly and clearly communicated across! Unfortunately, the emphasis seems to be more on the product category as opposed to its brand name.


What are your views like regarding television commercials? Do they have to be funny to win hearts, minds and most importantly, wallets?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In Media Relations, Timing is Everything


The horrific Sichuan Earthquake left many dead or injured (courtesy of szbluewater)

The recent spate of cataclysmic events happening around our region is simply awful. To date, more than 50,000 people in the Sichuan area are either dead, missing or buried, and Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar has left more than two million homeless and tens of thousands dead. As we flip the papers, page after page describes the sad story of human tragedy caused by these natural/ manmade (some say that the cyclone is due to global warming) catastrophes.

From what I understand, both incidents are still unfolding. In other words, they will continue to dominate media spaces for quite some time.

So what do international disasters have to do with your public relations efforts? A lot actually.

First, you need to decide if you are still going ahead to issue a press release on your new product launch or whether that can wait. Sure, your competitors are lying pretty low now, and the Great Singapore Sale is just around the corner. People have also just got their bonuses, and the time is ripe for the harvest.

However, do you think the press will bite? Even if they do feature your new fancy shmancy thing-a-ma-jig, will people actually notice it?

Second, you have to decide if there are some guerrilla tactics you can employ instead. If your company has been harbouring a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy for some time now, this is the moment to go out there and show what you are doing to help make the world a better place. Of course, this should be genuine and heartfelt (but I am not going to go into a debate on ethics here).

Therein lies one of the universal laws of PR, which is the Law of Timeliness. As much as possible, try not to move too vigorously against the tide of public opinion or a tsunami of earth shaking news. Your PR efforts may end up bloodied after that.

So what should one do when faced with such a situation? Should we just cancel everything, go home and sleep?

The first thing you need to do is to inform your key stakeholders and manage their expectations. Let them know candidly and honestly that you have done whatever you could, but Mother Nature/Al Qaeda/ NKF/ etc is just up against you.

Next, you should try to cut your losses. This is probably difficult if you work in a large organisation and all the plane tickets, hotel rooms, and meals have already been booked to fly in the global HQ team. Well, perhaps you can trim some of the highlights of that big media do a little and see if you can do more things inhouse.

Finally, you should try to look for the next available window of opportunity. Normally, news cycles do not last forever. People do tire of hearing the same news over and over again, no matter how sordid the new developments are. Look for that glimmer of light through the clouds and use that for your publicity. After a bout of particularly bad and nasty news, both reporters and readers are ready for something more uplifting and positive. That is when you strike.

You can have the best laid plans of mice and men, but things may (and will) go awry. And very often at the last minute too. However, don't just be a victim of Murphy's Law. Instead do something about it and turn it in your favour.

(NB - I have just given to the Myanmar Cyclone Relief Efforts and am considering giving to the Sichuan Earthquake Disaster. Do help if you can too.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Running Up Those Hills


Henderson Waves Bridge courtesy of chooyutshing

After viewing the launch of the Southern Ridges by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night on Channel News Asia, I felt an inner voice tell me that I need to run up those hills. Stretching across from Alexandra Road (Gillman area) to Telok Blangah Park and Mount Faber, there were three new linkways stretching 1.3 km long which range in height from three to 18 metres high. At the highest point across Henderson Road, it is about 36 metres above the road.

From my home at the Bukit Purmei area, I ran this morning along Telok Blangah Rise, all the way to Henderson Road, and then through Depot Road till I reached Alexandra Road near the old Gillman Camp area. Gazing upwards at the Alexandra Arch, I felt an great attraction in scaling up those heights, even though I knew that it wasn't exactly child's play to run up those steel structures. I wasn't alone though as there were many families, silver-haired folks, and youths up there enjoying the breathtaking view of lush forests and beautiful landscape.

As I ran up the Gillman Hill area across to Telok Blangah Park and the awe inspiring Henderson Waves (which is the tallest point), I felt a sense of elation and exhilaration which appear to have eluded me for many months. Along the way, I jogged along the Forest Walk, sprinted across the Hilltop Walk, and crossed the above bridge from Telok Blangah Park to Mount Faber Park - my usual running territory.

It has been a long time since I felt this charged up after my regular (or rather irregular jogs). The last time I experienced this was probably more than 13 years ago back in university when I did the regular South Buona Vista/ Pasir Panjang/ Clementi route through NUS. I loved the endorphin rush which comes with long distance running, the immense sense of satisfaction, as well as the afterburner effect which takes place hours after that experience.

In fact, I was so charged up after the exercise this morning that I went to buy a new pair of running shoes - the New Balance 768 - and am all ready to test them out tomorrow morning first thing!


Gentlemen, start your engines......

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Shutdown Day @ Singapore's Largest Primary Rainforest

As a botanist by training specialising in tropical ecology, I have always harboured a deep interest in nature. One of my favourite haunts was the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve - a small 410 acre area of lush primary rainforest, and probably the only place in Singapore where you can see tall towering dipterocarps in all their glory. Housing over 840 species of flowering plants and 500 species of fauna together with the Central Catchment area, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was established way back in 1883 by the British Straits Settlement government. Dr David Bellamy, a renowned conservationist, once pointed out that the number of plant species growing in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is more than that in the whole of North America! It is indeed a green jewel in our concrete jungle - a natural oasis in the hectic city.

To celebrate Shutdown Day (yes I switched off all computers and did not SMS or call for 24 hours) last week, I brought my wife and kid to Singapore's highest hill (at a grand 164m tall) for a couple of hours in the morning.

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Greeting us at the entrance was a visitor centre, which has fascinating specimens of animals, birds and plants on display.

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An age-old plaque detailing how Bukit Timah was the site of a ferocious battle during the Second World War.

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On your marks, get set, GO.....

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Captioned boards like this were very helpful in rejigging my rusty cranium on the different plant species. Here's one on Screw Pines which belong to the Pandan family.

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A shot of the Merombong tree, which is easily recognised by its gnarled, hole-filled bark.

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These mycological members look like bracket fungus, but I dare not hazard a guess. Does anybody know? As saprophytes or saprotrophs, they play an important role in restoring balance to the eco-system by returning organic matter and nutrients to the soil.

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The mighty Pulai, which is one of the tallest species of trees in Singapore. Speaking of height...

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...we finally reached the summit of the hill. Here's a victory shot of father and son.

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Ethan savouring a biscuit after much action. What's amazing was that he was smiling throughout most of the walk/climb.

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On our way down, we decided to take one of the long winding trails.

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This one wove through patches of secondary forest, which comprise early successional species of plants such as ferns, macarangas, dillenias and so on. Notice how much denser the undergrowth is here, as well as the higher levels of illumination.

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Well, one needs to take a break after all that heaving and ho-ing through the hills.

My eagle-eyed wife Tina actually managed to spot various animals like a butterfly, two monitor lizards, a grey squirrel, and even a sun bird. Unfortunately, my photos had too much fuzzy logic and couldn't be shown here... ;)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A New Marketing Idea

In the age of increasing emphasis on individual preferences, coupled with the prevalence of social media, the traditional rules of marketing would need to change. We are no longer talking about market segments that aggregate themselves neatly into discrete demographic groups, or consumer preferences that follow neat patterns. Information is available fast and free, and the general levels of trust in advertising has descended to an all-time low.

How do marketers hope to thrive in this landscape? Enter the concept of I-Marketing.

I-Marketing (or iMarketing if you prefer) is centred on the inherent quality of social relationships and consumer culture in the age of new media. The word "I" represents a clear focus on the singular person and what makes him or her tick in this day and age. It also reflects a sea-change in thinking, and moves away from the mass-produced age of television commercials and newspaper advertising to strategies that are more natural and organic, which flows better with people's behaviours and wants.

Most of the ideas behind this isn't new. Readers of Marketing 1to1 (a great idea by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers) would be familiar with some of them. In fact, they also have a 5I, although the emphasis is slightly different.

What are the dimensions of I-Marketing?

Individuals
Marketing 101 tells us that ultimately, the buying decision is largely made by individuals as opposed to groups of individuals. Tailor make your strategies and tactics to the level of the person that you envisage will buy from you as much as possible, and get under his or her skin. Map out how such a person would live his or her life, and the occasions where he or she would have a chance to interact with your brand.

Interestingness

People are not going to move in unison in a singular direction. They are increasingly going to pander to their whims and fancies, preferring to take a serendipitous, disorganised stroll through a garden as opposed to a purposeful drive from point A to point B. To cater to this trend, marketing must make allowances for individual idiosyncrasies, and have the flexibility to accommodate our messiness.

Involvement
Why do more and more steamboat restaurants pop up in Singapore? Why do "Operation Raleigh" type travels gain increasing traction? The answer is involvement. People want to be a part of the action and are not satisfied with becoming a mere bystander. Satisfying customers may mean getting them involved in the building and creating process before your product rolls off the line.

Influence
Influence boils down to gaining one's respect and trust, and it involves achieving some degree of authority in a specific subject matter. With such an ever increasing diversity of choices, price or product features alone isn't going to cut it. You will need to establish your credibility as a leader in your market space, no matter how large or small it is.

Intrigue

An aura of mystery and a veil of secrecy never fails to stimulate interest. Far too many marketers adopt a blatant, in-your-face approach in advertising, which does hardly anything for their brands. Bring back some romance and enchant your customers, because they will love you for it.

Infection
Ok maybe this doesn't sound good in the age of HFMD, SARS and Bird Flu, but you do need your customers to pass it on. The greatest form of marketing is actually in your customer's hands, not your own, and you need to be so remarkable that they will tell others about it. You also need to equip them with the tools for this.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Horrors of Sherman Definned













Cartoon strips courtesy of Sherman's Lagoon

Kudos to my good friend Siva for this fabulously assembled series of Sherman Cartoon strip which remind us - with much humour - how disastrous the act of shark finning can do. It is rather scary and sobering that my favourite Sunday newspaper character would also end up as a victim of our greed for a gelatinous substance that have almost no nutritional value. Incidentally, Sherman is supposed to the a great white shark, the almighty hunter from the sea who is hunted to vulnerable levels.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Childlike Marketing (No Kidding!)

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Child's Play or a Lesson in Marketing?

As I was going for a run this evening at the neighbourhood park, I noticed how kids have this boundless energy aimed at the sole purpose of having non-stop fun. Jumping and skipping from one activity to another, they appear not to have a care in the world, and are focused on their agenda of having pure, unadulterated fun. While watching them play in glee, it hit me that perhaps there are lessons there that we can learn from in the realm of marketing.

Indeed, some of the traits of childhood - especially at play - are invaluable to us jaded marketers. They include the following:

Being Lithe, Lean and Lightfooted

Notice how fast kids can be in adapting to their circumstances? Agile and unencumbered, they sprint from activity to activity, determined to make the most of their limited playtime. In the same light, marketers should manoeuvre their marketing measures to adapt with fast changing consumer tastes and desires. Don't keep using the same old tactic when it reeks of stagnation!

Wide-eyed Wonder and Awe

Ever observed how kids tend to be more easily impressed with stuff compared to the typical cynical and battle-scarred adult? Well, perhaps one could take a lesson or two from their expressions of wonder, and see how this sense of wonderment and awe could be woven into one's business. I think what you need is an active imagination, a sense of stretching oneself beyond the confines of tradition, and an ability to go beyond the call of service. Don't sting on making your customers open-jawed as it pays tremendous dividends over time.

High Degrees of Spontaneity and Improvisation

Have you seen how quickly kids can think on their feet and come up with a story or scenario that is wilder and taller than anything you can ever conjure up in your boardroom? What's even more impressive is that they can do it in a jiffy. Being quick-witted and responsive is a trait that we should learn from kids, and a very important skill in the often unforgiving marketplace. See what's needed and act on opportunities as soon as they arise rather than wait for a 100 page report from the market researchers or analysts.

Being Transparent and Straightforward

Kids are generally unpretentious, frank and forthright in the way they communicate with others. They are clear and coherent in what they want, and seldom take a long-winded convoluted route in moving from point A to point B. In the same spirit, it may be useful for us to be more transparent and upfront in our dealings with our customer - assuming we have their best intentions in mind. Let us be honest from the onset about what's possible and what's not, and be sincere in our dealings with our clients. You may be surprised that the cliched aged-old saying of honesty being the best policy do work.

A Generous Dose of Creativity without Thinking

Most kids are born creative and innovative. What happens over the years is that us adults slowly but surely suck every ounce of original thinking out of them. Similarly, one could think like a child and be open to all kinds of wacky and controversial ideas in marketing. Why should one call a spade a spade when it could be used as a spoon for example? Stretching one's mind and expanding one's horizon is a good exercise to embrace when challenging the norms of convention.

Lots of Humour and Cheekiness

This is probably the most important rule of all. You need to have fun in your marketing. Don't ever dismiss the might of mirth, and bring a smile or laugh to your customers. They will love you for it. Notice how kids are always smiling or laughing over the smallest matter? Copy them! Bring joy to your customers - and colleagues - and make your marketing materials enjoyable to your consumers.

Hmmmm....Perhaps it is time once again for us to rediscover our inner child? At the same time, would adopting a childlike stance make us too naive and open to the evils of this world though? What are your thoughts on this matter?

...."I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 18:3

Friday, May 02, 2008

Social Media in Singapore - Sizzle or Fizzle?

Kudos to Daryl Tay of Unique Frequency for addressing an issue which many know but few seem to want to bring to the forefront. And that is how the social media scene is performing in Singapore. He also highlighted an inspiring example on how Sea World uses social media marketing to its advantage. As one of the early purveyors of a corporate/ special interest blogs (namely Yesterday.sg), I tend to mirror some of his thoughts on the limitations of pure social media marketing (or PR) as a viable strategy in Singapore.

Here are my thoughts on why social media doesn't quite go the full distance in Singapore. Well at least for now.....

1) Entertainment as opposed to edification. The huge majority of bloggers in Singapore tend to use them for fun and leisure, as opposed to education. Most of the popular blogs here are light-hearted and mirth-filled affairs which tend to dwell more on the adventures (or misadventures) of their creator rather than a step-by-step guide on a specific topic. Which brings me to my second point.

2) The paucity of thematic blogs. Well, maybe except for food, which would make an interesting case study for topical blogs in Singapore. Some fashion-based blogs have also emerged, but these tend to be few and far between. Increasingly though, I do see more blogs focused on PR and marketing, or the social media arena, and that sure must be a good sign.

3) Lack of online trust and commerce. This is a legacy from the old dot com days, and it looks like people are still not willing to transact extensively online. The short distances between our homes to shopping centres could be a reason (plus the sweltering heat of staying cooped up in a flat!). Without a means to capture sales, social media then becomes merely a means for awareness.

4) Lack of support from mainstream companies. While some government agencies have experimented with social media, I do not see any major retailers, service providers or manufacturers doing so here. We do not have an equivalent of Walmart, Dell, Ford or Marriott Hotel blogging here. From what I see, most forays into corporate social media are done by technology start-ups, and their blogs tend to be more focused on what the founders do as opposed to establishing thought leadership.

5) A more acute generational gap. One thing which strikes me is how American bloggers come in all shapes, sizes and age groups. Many of the most popular bloggers are men and women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Contrast that with Singapore's social media landscape, where the majority tend to be folks in their teens, 20s, and maybe early 30s.

6) Corporate head honchos are still not doing it. Apart from Tan Kin Lian, former CEO of NTUC Income, I have not seen many senior management types spilling their guts out online. Well, maybe Facebook does have a wider spectrum of folks embracing it, but most use it more for personal and social reasons rather than commercial ones.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

What the Fish!!

On my way to lunch today at the Jalan Besar area, I spotted this eye-catching sign which loudly declared that no aquatic and finned organism being served smelled fishy. Or that you wont' find them deplorable anyway.

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Upon closer inspection, I realised that the shop actually serves Nasi Lemak. This put to rest my initial thoughts that an ultra-enthusiastic and confident fish monger has set up shop at Jalan Besar.

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Well, I didn't quite feel like Nasi Lemak that day but if I do, I will certainly share with you if their claims to fame are as "fresh" and robust as what they make it out to be. Anybody with a positive piscean experience to share?