Saturday, June 27, 2009

From Excellence to Evidence

Newspaper reports add credibility to one's business (courtesy of Matt Callow)

With so much information easily available at the click of a mouse (or the tap of an iPhone), consumers are becoming more enlightened than ever before. As Mulder and Fox would have told you, "the truth is out there", and it is now showing at an Internet-enabled screen near you. With so many websites, forums and blogs established to conduct independent consumer and product reviews, people will no longer take your word for it.

What can companies and businesses do to ride this trend? Is it enough to claim that you are able to make them taller, smarter, cleaner or more relaxed than the competition? No, it isn't.

To succeed in an increasingly sophisticated consumer society, one needs to not only provide a Unique Selling Proposition (or USP) but to back it up with the facts. Don't embellish the truth merely to win over the hearts of your customers and end up breaking them later. In business, you cannot afford to have "loved and lost, than not to have loved at all"!

How does one authenticate one's claims?

1) Collect testimonials and feedback from one's customers. Make it a habit to seek inputs from your customers and get them to either write it down on a form, email it to you, shoot a short Youtube video, or tell you verbally so that you can scribble it down.

2) Look for authoritative and credible sources of information about your company's products and services. The media is an excellent resource if they have ever conducted reviews of your brand, and make use of newspaper clippings or news broadcast footages in your marketing kit.

3) Participate wherever possible in the various product awards and certification schemes available. In certain businesses like F&B, it is almost mandatory to get yourself "accredited" by an "official" food guide or certification scheme.

4) Ask an expert for his or her opinion and use it. If you are a supplier of toothpaste, get a dentist's endorsement - both Oral B and Johnson and Johnson have used this strategy to much success.

5) Tap on the collective wisdom of the prosumer, especially those who are actively blogging, facebooking or twittering. If possible, invite them to sample your products and services and use their independent reviews to your advantage.

6) Statistics can be your best friend. Make use of the latest figures and numbers available from credible studies and independent research to back up your value propositions.

7) Be sincere, transparent, and willing to admit your weaknesses if they are important to your customers. Nobody can be all things to all men and still remain cheap and affordable. To be believable and trustworthy, be open about what your product or service can do, and what it cannot do, before your competition does so.

In the age of consumer enlightenment, it is no longer enough just to blow your trumpet as loud as you can. You need to provide evidence and proof that you are overdelivering on your promise, and the best sources of information are no longer your own. By tapping on the credibility of others in your communities and networks, you are able to stand out from the plethora of competitors who are shouting themselves hoarse but attracting nobody.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Charming Creatures of Cleland Wildlife Park

Located just a short drive away from the Adelaide City Centre, Cleland Wildlife Park is a haven for native Australian wildlife in South Australia. Nestled within the sprawling Cleland Conservation Park area in the Adelaide Hills region, the government operated attraction is spread over 35 hectares of pristine bushland. All the usual marsupial suspects like the kangaroos, koalas, wombats, Tasmanian devils, and echidnas can be found here, as well as native reptilian and avian species. What's great about this sanctuary for beasts is the painstaking attention it pays to keep its surroundings as authentic and natural as possible.

This photo at the entrance of the reserve was taken by our little explorer Ethan himself.

As in all tourist attractions, the souvenir shop is a mandatory feature.

A map and signages like this help to direct one to the various enclosures housing the native creatures.

Perched on a hill, the vast estate offered a scenic stroll through the Australian bushland.

Our first "sighting" of the day was a male Kangaroo Island kangaroo.

Here are more of them, huddled around a feeding tray and enjoying a crunchy lunch of carrots and corn.

Soon, they were "joined" by a slightly less herbivorous visitor.

Where shall we go next? Hmmm....

Unlike the earlier kangaroos, this red kangaroo here was more keen to feed from Ethan's brown bag of goodies.

As was this large grey kangaroo, who appeared so tame that...

...even my wife Tina dared to give it a stroke or two, albeit in a gingerly fashion.

Other than the 'Roos, we viewed other furry marsupians like this relatively inactive wombat...

...a rather frenetic looking Echidna, which was pacing restlessly up and down its enclosure...

...and a fast moving Tasmanian Devil or two. Unfortunately, these cute critters are in danger of extinction due to an infectious cancerous facial tumour.

More hopping marsupials greeted us, this time of the wallaby variety. At first, they were a little hesitant to accept food from us.

However, after some gentle persuasion, our little "Dr Doolittle" managed to coax one into eating from his palm.

Of course, all visits to an Australian wildlife park isn't complete without paying homage to the cuddly (and quiet) koalas.

Here's a family shot of us with a rather active little fellow who was grazing on the aromatic Eucalyptus leaves.

We also spotted another "koala" on the log fence, this time of the Homo sapiens variety!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Are Flash Mobs Useful in Marketing?

Participants of one of Singapore's first Flash Mob (Courtesy of nuffnangsg)

By now, almost everybody would have heard of the phenomenon of flash mobbing, which is essentially involves an orchestrated mass activity where people congregate in a particular location to perform a specific act. According to Wikipedia, flash mobs are normally mobilised through social media channels like viral emails, SMSes, social networking platforms (especially Facebook and Twitter) or other social media channels.

The most famous Flash Mob group on the planet is probably Improve Everywhere based in New York City which is founded by Charlie Todd in August 2001. With more than 80 missions under its belt, the worldwide group is probably the most prolific flash mobbing organisation on the planet.

Some examples of its brilliantly choreographed mass acts of performance include "Frozen Grand Central" below, where a group of over 200 "agents" suddenly froze in the middle of busy Grand Central subway station in New York. The video for this can be found below:

Another well-known example was the "Food Court Musical" where 16 "agents" suddenly broke out in song and dance, much to the amusement and chagrin of patrons:

Naturally, it wasn't long before the commercial world hopped onto the bandwagon of mass performativity for promotional purposes. Saatchi & Saatchi in London helped put together the famous Liverpool Train Station dance for its client T-Mobile. 350 dancers broke into a "spontaneous" dance routine as song after song blasted from the PA system of the hallowed train station. Apparently the station had to close for 90 minutes due to the uproar caused by the performance which attracted more than 13,000 people!

Here's the clip below for your viewing pleasure. The last I checked, it had close to 13 million views and is still rising.

By most measures, the Liverpool campaign managed to achieve its objectives. In the words of Saatchi & Saatchi's client, T-Mobile UK's Head of Brand Communications, Lysa Hardy, said: "Our new brand position ‘Life's for Sharing' is an exciting move for T-Mobile and ‘Dance' captures this perfectly." The campaign is also in the running for the prestigious 56th Cannes Lions advertising awards and touted as a potential winner.

Somehow or other, Flash Mobs appear to be more successfully executed in Western societies than Asian ones, at least based on those that I can suss out from the Internet. Here's a pretty funny one originating from Japan where a mass of people run, huddle and squat much to the horror or surprise of their unsuspecting victim, which was done for a TV show:

Another more recent Asian example was held right here in Singapore. Nuffnang, a blog advertising network, got together more than 200 bloggers and social media users to participate in a Pajama party outside Heeren Shopping Centre along busy Orchard Road. Touted as their first blogger flash mob, this mass event featured heavyweight bloggers and was held to publicise the upcoming Singapore River Festival. Celebrity bloggers like Xiaxue and Sheylara rose to the occasion in their nighties, and a pillow fight ensued amongst participants during the activity.

A clip of the event can be found below:

There were apparently quite a few reports on it, some positive, some neutral while others offered suggestions for improvement. While the effort was certainly laudable, one can't help noticing that there was a certain amount of randomness in how the event was perceived. You can read some of them here, here, here, here, and here. You can also read about TNP's take on this event here here.

Will flash mobbing work in the long-term? Apparently, Improv Everywhere is still thriving despite being in the business for close to 8 years now.

Getting it to work as a marketing strategy however may be more challenging as people tend to be less forgiving of big businesses taking advantage of their naivety for commercial gains. Mobilising a huge group of people isn't easy, especially in the more conservative Asian societies where people tend to be more inhibited. You have to reduce the degree of "squirming" which is inherent in any mass activity involving a large group of mostly amateurs who aren't paid for their efforts.

A successfully executed Flash Mob event also requires a fair amount of coordination, choreography (right down to rehearsals) and a sufficient amount of "shock and awe" element. There must be enough movement and surprise to make people turn their heads rather than carry on minding their own business. Flash Mobs should also work towards building up the positive image of one's brand rather than diluting it.

Having said that, Flash Mobs as guerrilla and buzz marketing techniques can be pulled off successfully if enough planning was done to ensure that execution is smooth and flawless from the word "Go". T-Mobile's earlier success has spurred yet another stunningly executed campaign, this time in the form of a mass karaoke in Trafalgar Square. What took the cake for this one was the "suprise" appearance of Pink which took the crowd by storm.

Do you think that Flash Mobs are a good way to generate publicity for a brand? How should one organise such an activity to generate positive word of mouth, long after the event is over?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Do We Really Need So Many Options?

One of the greatest contradictions in life is that "the more the merrier" isn't necessary true when one is swamped by choices. In fact, having too many options open to you could lead to an analysis paralysis and a freeze in decision making.

So having one hundred different flavours for your ice-cream, a thousand different blog templates, or 10,000 different pantone shades to paint your wall in may actually work against your business rather than for it.

Don't believe me? Just watch this engaging presentation by Barry Schwartz, a well known psychologist and academic at Swarthmore College who spoke about the paradox of choice. His central thesis is that having a greater variety of options needn't necessarily improve the quality of life. In fact, the plethora of choices that we have in this Internet-fueled day and age may actually lead to lower satisfaction levels and discontent rather than hyper delighting one's customers.

Speaking of choices, I just realise that this blog has qualified as one of the 10 finalists for the Most Insightful blog category for the Blog Awards. Apparently, my blog is one of the 100 which has been shortlisted from 1,500 blogs submitted.

Do participate in this by registering as a member on and casting your vote. There are lots of attractive prizes to be won so don't give up this opportunity.

Voting commences today and will end on 31 July, 2359hrs SHARP. Voters will stand to win a total of 5 Creative Vado (worth S$169) and 5 ST701 Portable External Hard Disk (250GB).

Naturally, I am delighted and honoured by this. And if you view the video above, the choice is actually quite simple and straightforward. =)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Once Upon a Brand...

Make your company a living fairytale through storytelling! (courtesy of armadillo444)

Since time immemorial, mankind has always relied on stories to transmit information, values and ideas from generation to generation. Who isn't captivated by a compelling tale, whether sitting by a campfire or behind a computer screen? While the advent of social media has helped to enable conversations, the core of those discussions often revolve around stories.

The importance of anecdotes in branding is simply and elegantly captured in the book Branding Through Storytelling by Klaus Fog, Christian Budtz and Baris Yakaboylu from Sigma, a Danish firm specialising in brand building and cultural business development. According to the authors, storytelling helps companies to communicate the values of their brands and to reach their stakeholders in an emotional and deep-rooted manner. Through vivid and image-laden stories, employees, customers and partners are better able to appreciate and connect with lofty company visions, missions and values.

The book describes the following four basic elements of a good story:

1) Message - This is the whole purpose of telling a tale, and it forms the premise of the story. It is "an ideological or moral statement that works as a central theme throughout the story".

2) Conflict - Any story worth listening to will often have the classic battle between good and evil. Without this cliffhanger, people are less inclined to follow a story. Various levels of conflict can be woven into one's narrative, but it must be challenging enough to create that "WOW!" effect to listeners, viewers or readers.

3) Characters - These are the various personalities and factors in a story, which in a fairy-tale model could take the form of:

- The Benefactor (the King or the Company) who is the enabler of that dream or vision.

- The Goal (eg The princess and half the kingdom, premium customer service) which is the end objective to be reached.

- The Hero (eg prince on his white stallion, employees of the company) who needs to fulfill the quest or goal.

- The Supporter (eg good fairy or faithful squire, quality processes) who is a person, process or organisation which assists the hero in his or her purpose.

- The Adversary (eg dragon or evil witch, competitor companies) who is the negative force against the goodness and values embodied by the hero.

- The Beneficiary (eg the prince on his white stallion, the customers or stakeholders) who is the entity that will benefit by the hero achieving the quest.

4) The Plot - An essential element of any story, the plot is what keeps an audience interested in following a tale as it unfolds. This flow usually starts fairly quickly with a strong opening, the introduction of conflict, a seeming "point of no return", the mounting of conflict reaching a heightened climax before the "battle" is done and the story ends with a moral tale for everybody.

Following this "fairy-tale" model, company stories could various guises such as:

1) David and Goliath - How a small and delicate enterprise can beat the 800 pound gorilla.

2) Hare and Tortoise - How steadfastness and determination helps a small company to win the race.

3) Dennis the Menace - An unconventional and sometimes controversial approach (eg Virgin Group) which surprises and helps to win hearts.

4) Robin Hood - How the company acts as the bastion for all things good, fighting for justice despite its relative obscurity and powerlessness.

5) Ugly Duckling - How the "black sheep" which nobody thought would ever be outstanding proven to become a major force to be reckoned with during the passage of time.

To develop a story, one needs to look for suitable "raw materials" which can be found either from employees, the CEO, the founder, opinion leaders, working partners, customers, the product itself, or critical milestones in the business. As a branding tool, stories can be used both for internal and external brand communication. It can be used as a management tool, advertising tool, media publicity tool, and a relationship building tool with one's customers.

In fact, the most important tellers of one's story is probably one's customers. Through the conduit of Word Of Mouth channels like viral and buzz marketing, great stories are easily transmitted from family to friends, gathering speed as they go along. By letting a third party tell your tale, you are able to generate greater trust and assurance in your products and services as they are seen to be more objective than one's own employees.

Not all stories should have a happy ending though. Negative ones can sometimes be used to showcase mistakes and how one could learn and adapt from them.

Citing numerous examples of companies which have used storytelling to great effect like 3M, Apple, SAS (Scandinavian Airlines), Motorola, Kelloggs, and of course Virgin Group (through the lenses of its irrepressible founder Richard Branson), the book offers lots of useful and practical ways to make storytelling not just a myth but a reality. I particularly liked how it ended with the example of the Blair Witch Project.

The Blair Witch Project is one of the most creative approaches in executing a pre-publicity campaign for a movie. It resulted in a 34,000 Euro movie generating a worldwide sales of more than 135 million Euros. What appeared to be a "true story" of three college students disappearing in the woods of Blair in Maryland, USA, while making a documentary about a mythical Blair Witch turned out to be an elaborate effort in "mischief marketing". Through various news stories in the media (including covers on Time magazine and Newsweek), an internet website ( and the appearance of various "witnesses", "police officers" and "relatives", an elaborate scam was orchestrated as part of a plot. The spinning of this intricate yarn culminated in the successful launch of the movie.

Though dismissed as deceptive by some, the Blair Witch Project campaign is an idea of how clever and systematic storytelling could help to build hype for one's otherwise humdrum product and service launch. Of course, not all stories need to be as convoluted or complex. Even simple stories can be inspiring and emotionally compelling, and perhaps it is here that one should start.

Have you shared a story related to your business today? If not, why not look at telling one today?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sexy Selling in Less than 10 Words

If this outdoor advertisement doesn't catch your eye, I suppose nothing else will. No prizes for guessing what product they are pushing for! What's more interesting though is how a seemingly simple advertisement like this follows the age-old rule of AIDA. In advertising parlance, this means Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

1) Attention - Obviously a headline like this written in bright red on a yellow background catches one's attention. The sentence is also provocative and uses one of the most attention grabbing word in the world (not sex but) - love.

2) Interest - In this case, the same headline also helps to stir one's interest by using the phrase of "Making Love" and "Doing It..." which piques one's curiosity.

3) Desire - Instilling desire (in those who are already naturally inclined) is done by weaving in words like "Longer" and "Try" which are positive building words. In other words, you can have your cake and eat it too.

4) Action - This of course is where the rubber hits the road (no pun intended), and the call for action is conveyed through the word "SMS 'Try' 1800 711 711". When one is outdoors without access to the internet or pen and paper, the fastest way to do so is through SMS. And the sensitivity of the subject is such that people will probably find it easier not to have to speak to a 'live' person about wanting to "do it longer"!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fresh Food Galore at Central Market

Celebrating its 140th year in business, Adelaide's Central Market is located between Grote and Gouger Streets, which is between Victoria Square and the Adelaide Chinatown neighbourhood. Like Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market, it boasts of a wide selection of fresh daily produce like fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, cheeses, candies and lots of other goodies. While the market seemed to be slightly smaller than the Victoria Market, it does appear to have fresher and slightly more affordable produce which hail from the sprawling South Australian rural countryside.

Apparently, the market is so distinctive as a tourist destination in the city of Adelaide that there are tours which you can book to learn more about its history, stories, sights, sounds and scents! As usual, any visit to an Australian market is a feast for the senses in more ways than one.

First, a photo opportunity outside the entrance featuring Ethan and I.

These organically grown fruits and vegetables look plump, colourful and luscious. I am sure that they taste as good as they look!

Take your pick of coffee beans any which way you like them. There must be hundreds of varieties to choose from here.

One can also choose from the wide spread of cheeses, dressings and dips available for sale.

Here's Ethan and Tina fascinated by the fresh kangaroo meat offered for sale. Hopefully, they are not the same cute ones which we saw earlier!

More fascinating fresh meats for sale, this time hailing from the seas near the South Australian coast.

We were pleasantly surprised by this very Chinese style grocery shop, which closely resembled one you can find in Singapore. Heck, the owners even spoke in Singapore-accented English!

Tina picking up some eggs to be cooked for our breakfasts at the hotel.

Talking about eggs, these Easter hampers seem to be running out quickly. Better hurry and get some for gifts back home!

All in all, a nice way to spend an hour or two in the City. Now that we are stocked up, our next destination is back to catching more native Australian wildlife...

Friday, June 12, 2009

World's First Life-Sized "Noah's Ark"

I was recently attracted to news about the billionaire brothers Kwok brothers in Hong Kong has built a life-sized replica of Noah's Ark, a project that has been christened as one with "biblical proportions". While mega attraction projects are not uncommon in this part of the world, what caught my interest was how this project attempts to link entertainment with evangelism. The project also seems timely since the Ark is often seen as a beacon of hope in times of uncertainty and global turmoil, with project director Spencer Lu claiming that "the financial tsunami will be over".

What's interesting is that this discovery has also revived an age-old interest in the vessel which certain scholars claim may have been berthed on Mount Ararat in Turkey, an obsession which has grown so far and wide than it has led many researchers and explorers up that icy peak.

Apparently, this isn't the first time that a replica of the huge wooden vessel is attempted. However, it is supposedly the most accurate in terms of size and dimension. According to the Bible, the floating zoo should be built from gopher wood and measure 300 cubits long, 50 wide and 30 high, with a window, a door and three storeys. From the estimation of modern scholars, that comes out to about 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high.

With all these factors in mind, Hong Kong's Noah's Ark presents itself as an excellent case study of a buzzworthy project with all the classic elements of a tantalising tale during these trying times, namely:

Controversy - Are the Kwok brothers commercialising Christianity? Will an explicitly Christian icon be appropriate in a largely Buddhist and Taoist society? Is there also competition amongst the different Noah's Ark builders and a global race to be the first to test its true shipworthiness?

Metaphoric Relevance - The idea of a floating haven for beasts which helped to save the world during the Great Flood and its parallels to the current global financial meltdown.

Larger than Life Characters - There are strong and unique personalities at play in this tale like Noah himself, the Kwok brothers, and the beneficiaries of this project.

Charity - Apparently, proceeds from this project will go to various causes such as the following on the project website.

Mythic Appeal - There is an air of mystery, legend and romance over the fantastic tale of Noah's Ark. Is it possible for a wooden vessel to float for one year (after a 40 day deluge...thanks Chun See for clarifying!) conveying all manner of birds and beasts? How does one survive on board such a ship? Can there ever be solid evidence found about the existence of such a feat of ancient engineering?

To conclude, here's a short clip with a spokesperson sharing what the values of the project are for your viewing pleasure.

Hong Kong: Life-size Noah's Ark
Uploaded by kj1983. - Discover more animation and arts videos.

Do you think that the Noah's Ark in Hong Kong can sustain itself after its initial buzz? What are your feelings about this monumental monolith?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Really Cool Nike Commercial

Came across this really cool Nike commercial which was made in Australia. As somebody who loves to go for hour long runs of between 10 km to 12 km each, I can empathise with the agony faced by the guy in whether he can or cannot go on. While the title of the ad is Reincarnate, I thought that the way the man behaved in the advertisement bore a remarkable resemblance to a character popularised by a leading fantasy film.

Would anybody hazard a guess who I am referring to? And yes, like the earlier series of viral commercials by Burger King, parody does work sometimes.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Viral and Buzz Marketing the Burger King Way

Humour works in advertising. It grabs your attention, makes you laugh, and gives you a nice endorphin rush. It also makes you more positively inclined towards a particular brand, especially if its cleverly done without trying too hard. In fact, some commercials can be even more entertaining than comedy shows on television!

Burger King is of course no stranger to humour in advertising. Many of you would have been aware of their Subservient Chicken viral website (which is still 'live') which is an interesting example of how a viral application could work towards a company's benefit despite having minimal brand presence or sales messages.

Courtesy of

Quoting from Marketing Campaign Case Studies:

"After being online for only one month, the chicken had performed its millionth request. After one year the site had had approximately 14 million visitors and 396 million hits. Andy Bonaparte, a Burger King ad director, told Adweek that the campaign helped ‘‘sell a lot, a lot, a lot of chicken sandwiches.’’ During the campaign Burger King’s 21-month sales decline stopped and turned around.

Burger King’s sales growth was soon outperforming McDonald’s. Sales of the Tendercrisp sandwich consistently increased at an average of 9 percent a week until it eventually sold more than the firm’s other chicken offering, the Original Chicken Sandwich."

This is what you get if you ask the chicken to do naughty stuff (courtesy of New Media and Brands)

Emboldened by the success of Subservient Chicken (and a host of many other parody style campaigns like this, this and this), Burger King has decided now to work with the same agency (Crispin Porter + Bogusky) to launch an ad on the One Dollar Whopper. There seem to be quite a lot of hidden "messages" in the commercial if you know what I mean. Well, just click on the Youtube video below:

Of course, Burger King's affinity for outrageousness may sometimes appear a little over the top, like the Whopper Sacrifice campaign in the US. In that campaign, one has to delete 10 friends from Facebook to enjoy a FREE Whopper. Unfortunately, Burger King got into a bit of a flap with Facebook for that as people were manipulating the system. Some immediately added their friends after the free Whopper voucher was given to them.

The good thing about the Whopper Sacrifice though is that they managed to generate so much buzz that it probably paid off. And I am sure the costs of the free Whoppers probably still chicken feed compared to that of nation-wide prime-time TV advertising.


I sometimes wished that fast food chains in Singapore would dare to adopt some of these bolder and more buzz-worthy marketing tactics. If you need to interrupt us, then I would probably mind less if it is funny too. We really don't need yet another classy advertisement featuring that all too perfect family, yuppy couple or funky youths with modelsque smiles, trim bodies and wholesome features.

With a little imagination, a good dose of humour, and an ability to take risks, F&B businesses can make a distinct difference in the way they market themselves beyond just showing the food, the food and nothing but the food. Tickling the funny bone is one sure way of beating the advertising clutter that we all face on a daily regular basis.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Happening Hahndorf

Just a short 30 minutes drive away from Adelaide in South Australia, Hahndorf is a charming and idyllic little town imbued with historic German influences. Surrounded by picturesque farms (like the Beerenberg Strawberry Farm) and post-card perfect landscapes, Hahndorf offers a perfect blend of rusticity and authenticity in a suburban paradise. Considered as a leading tourist town in the Adelaide Hills region, Hahndorf appealed to one's sense of nostalgia and longing for a simpler and pleasure-filled life in a bucolic Bavarian setting.

The colours of autumn were fully evident in April, tinting the landscape with glorious shades of red, orange and yellow.

Quaint shops like these offered children's clothes, souvenirs, toiletries, and gifts for sale.

Of course, nothing soothes one's thirst or hunger better than an Italian Ice Cream (in a "German" town?), and these were joined by others offering scones, cakes, coffee and other savoury delights.

You can even choose to stay in South Australia's "Pleasantville" at this neat looking hotel called the Manna.

A family photo to provide evidence that we were here. And yes, the weather was warm enough for us to shrug off our jackets and sweaters.

The highlight of the evening was our dinner at this restaurant offering German specialities, brewed Bavarian beer and a children's play area.

The wood-panelled dining hall probably resembled a similar setting back in old Germany, with authentic touches to enhance the mood for the evening.

Dinner was delectable, mouth-watering and absolutely delicious. The pork chop melted in one's mouth, the sausage was rich in bouncy texture and taste, while the pasta was flavoursome. And of course, the beer to wash it all down is simply Oktoberrific!

The best thing about the restaurant was the children's play area, which captivated Ethan for an hour or so while he made some new friends.

A parting shot after dinner before our long drive to the city of Adelaide.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Why I Think Obama's Cairo Speech is Great

I just watched the above speech made by President Barack Obama of the United States in Cairo (you can find the full text here if you prefer to read it) and was rather impressed by how Obama, one of the most eloquent and impressive political orator in this present age, managed to up the ante yet again. There has been numerous analyses of the political content of his speech so I shall not go there. What I am more interested instead is in the masterful way in which he embraced the art and craft of monumental speech making. Here are some perspectives on what we can learn from Obama's speech which may be useful to bear in mind if we ever address a crowd or are tasked to draft a speech for somebody who will be doing so.

1) Rigorous Research. The first point in monumental speech making is to ensure that one's facts and figures are in place. An example was this section made on the achievements of Islamic inventors and artists which contributed towards our progress:

"It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. "

2) Empathy. Obama showed that he understood and was sympathetic towards both Israel and Palestine in his speech, and expressed in many ways how his administration will do whatever it can to right the wrongs against Muslims around the world.

3) Offer Something for Everybody. One of the most important lessons in giving speeches at diplomatic international forums is to address the concerns of your audiences, both 'live' and at home watching the television. Obama knew that billions of eyeballs (and eardrums) are upon him the night of the speech, and he ensured that his speech addressed the multiple stakeholders - Americans, Muslims, Jews, Islamic nations, Israel, Palestine, and so on.

4) Make it Personal. Obama is a master in weaving anecdotes and examples from his own life to make the message hit closer to home. By linking his speech to his personal life experience, he is able to gain considerable emotional mileage from the exercise. Again I quote from his speech:

"Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk."

5) Find Common Links to Your Audiences. One of my favourite sections of the speech was the one where Obama spoke about the similarities between Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and the references made to Jerusalem which is a holy ground for all three religions. Said with much aplomb and dramatic effect, Obama made reference to the similarities of all three, and used a powerful analogy to convey his point as follows:

"Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer."

6) Mix Rhetoric with Concrete Action. What I particularly liked about this speech is that it doesn't merely stir the emotions but actually offered solid promises and action towards the end. Captured for posterity by the media, these statements will be used to measure against what was promised, but delivering them at an occasion like this gives the speech considerable gravitas. An example is as follows:

"...we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo."

Yet another one, which is even more tangible since it is happening at the occasion itself:

" I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio."

7) End with a Resounding Bang. This is probably one of the most important lessons in memorable speeches. Studies have shown that most people tend to pay attention at the beginning and towards the end. After more than 50 minutes of listening to a speech, it is important to capture the attention of the audience again with a strong ending. Of course, Obama doesn't really need to "wake them up" at the finish as the constant applause show that people were truly listening.

Quoting from the speech's ending:

"The Holy Koran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you."

What do you think of Obama's speech? Are there additional points that we can learn from him?

U.S. President Barack Obama is given a tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza by the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Dr. Zahi Hawass while in Cairo, Egypt June 4, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing (Courtesy of Free Mass)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Three Ways To Generate Word Of Mouth

Courtesy of maiskelin

The most prominent idea in marketing right now is probably Word Of Mouth marketing, a term that is defined as "the act of a consumer creating and/or distributing marketing-relevant information to another consumer" according to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  Unlike other forms of advertising or marketing, Word Of Mouth (WOM) marketing usually has greater credibility because it comes from trusted sources of information like one's family members, friends or associates.

According to WOMMA, the process of word-of-mouth can be represented through five components:

1) The Word-of-Mouth Unit or what we can identify as the contents of the message that gets disseminated.

2) The Participants in a word of mouth process, ie those who are sharing information to each other.  This can be one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many depending on the connectivity of participants to each other.

3) The Places or venues where communication takes place.  They can be both real life locations (coffeeshops, pubs, offices, schools, homes) or online social networking platforms like forums, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Emails and others.

4) The Actions that are desired from the Word Of Mouth exercise.  These will be the tasks that we want recipients of the message to do.  They can either visit a venue, perform an activity, purchase something, add on to the message, or convey it to others.

5) The Outcomes of that communication and its end results.  In a commercial enterprise, it should lead to either higher sales or greater brand awareness, while a non-profit organisation may want to elicit greater support for its cause in terms of donations, participation, or audience numbers.

Is there a difference between WOM, Buzz and Viral Marketing? Apparently, they are all related to each other, with Buzz and Viral Marketing seem as subsets of WOM Marketing.

Buzz Marketing is usually used more loosely than WOM, and there appear to be several different versions of it floating around. I like the definition by Mark Hughes (author of the book Buzz Marketing) best. He described it as "capturing attention of consumers and the media to the point where talking about your brand becomes entertaining, fascinating, and newsworthy."

From the above, one can see that buzz marketing frequently involves generating something sensational which is strong enough to hit the headlines in the daily press. Buzz normally has elements that include excitement, imagination, theatricality, shock appeal, surprise and often controversy. Buzz is usually time-limited and will normally eventually die down and be supplanted by other news. Examples include, Ashton Kutcher's humungous Twitter following, and I guess any major Internet sensation (like Tammy NYP, and Susan Boyle)

Viral marketing, on the other hand, is usually an online version of WOM which normally entails some form of stealth marketing where the identity of the perpetrator is often not known from the onset. It has a more underground and covet feel to it, and is normally conducted on a smaller and more "experimental" scale than a buzz marketing campaign. In most people's minds, viral marketing usually take the form of a viral video conveyed through video networks like YouTube.

Again, like buzz marketing, there is usually a time limit to how long viral campaigns can last. Lots of alcohol brands employ online viral videos or games in their campaigns. Examples of viral marketing include Hotmail, the subservient chicken, the Million dollar homepage and others.

I have created another form of Word of Mouth marketing called "Enduring WOM" (for want of a better name) which may or may not overlap with Viral or Buzz marketing. This is the kind of Word Of Mouth strategy which enterprises may want to aim for that is more sustainable and enduring over the long-haul with a unique competitive advantage that goes beyond fads and trends. In enduring WOM, one should pay greater attention to customer relationships, quality services, and premium yet unique experiences.

While enduring WOM may weave in elements of viral or buzz marketing, it should focus on a financially sustainable longer-term approach which offers something of value to customers long after the initial hype is gone. Generating long-term WOM is more often a function of one's business model than one's marketing campaign. Examples of businesses in this category include Nordstrom, In-N-Out Burger and

The relationship between all three can perhaps be conveyed through the following diagram:

Is there an appropriate form of WOM for one to consider? Well, this depends on one's individual circumstances and needs.

If you are starting a business or launching a new product, you may want to initiate a viral campaign or generate some buzz so that there is a greater initial brand awareness. Once the business gets going and customers start streaming in, a longer-term enduring WOM strategy (providing top-notch service, unparalleled after sales support, and/or a unique experience) may be more important. For major product launches, you may want to incorporate both buzz marketing and viral tactics coupled with longer-term WOM strategies. If you are targeting a more youthful and niche market, something with a more underground feel, ie a viral marketing approach may work better.

Of course, there is no hard and fast rule on what works or what doesn't. Sometimes, external factors which one cannot control do play a major role in the success of one's WOM campaign. Whatever the case may be, one should look towards WOM not simply to become an overnight sensation but to develop a sustainable way of cultivating positive and enduring long-term relationships with one's customers.

PS - There are actually 11 forms of WOM marketing in WOMMA's website here!  Do read them if you are keen to know more.