Friday, October 30, 2009

Remembering the Fallen

One of Australia's largest war memorials, the Shrine of Remembrance located at King's Domain on St Kilda Road was built to commemorate the valour and sacrifice of Australians who died in both World War I and World War II. Built in the classical architectural style reminiscent of the Tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus and the Parthenon in Athens, the memorial served as a reminder of the heroism of soldiers who fought for their ideals amidst the then oppressors. Every year, it is the site of two significant ceremonies - ANZAC Day on 25 April and Remembrance Day on 11 November.

Like many wartime memorial sites, the shrine was serene and peaceful, providing a quiet place for reflection and contemplation. It was an oasis of stillness and introspection, where the woes of war are remembered with a fervent commitment not to ever let such atrocities overtake mankind ever again.

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This lone "soldier" guarded the path to the memorial, standing proud against a wall.

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Flags to signify the national importance of the site, and speakers to announce important events for the day.

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This little sculpture reminds me of the story of the Good Samaritan, lending his horse to an injured compatriot.

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The noble facade of the memorial, designed to resemble the Parthenon in Greece with its Corinthian columns.

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A side view of the memorial, with noble lions and classical Grecian statues astride on them.

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I like this red brick wall leading from the entrance of the memorial.

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Shiny medals honouring the bravery of the various platoons and forces involved in both world wars.

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A donation box decorated with poppies. These flowers were chosen because they bloomed across some of the worst battlefields in Flanders back during World War I.

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We next visited the exhibition in the memorial to learn more about both World Wars.

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These were the scary headlines on the papers in 1939 during the onset of World War II.

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Soldiers during World War I were attired in the army green fatigues and identified by their arm bands.

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A small souvenir shop in the middle of the memorial.

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A video screening showed the opinions and feelings of modern day Australians, reflecting on the effects of war and the heroic actions of their predecessors.

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The Union Jack is one of the most universally recognised symbols of British legacy in the world.

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A statue of a father and son team guarding each other's back, set amidst a room adorned with the flags of Commonwealth partners.

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A shot of the inside view of the ceiling in the middle of the shrine.

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These marble and granite walls add to the gravitas of the attraction. What is this lady looking at?

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A timely reminder of the ultimate sacrifice of love.

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Stepping outside the dark memorial into the glorious sunshine outside provided a nice transition from the gloom of battlefields to the glory of peace. Here's a view from the parapet of the building.

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Another view of St Kilda Road and the high rise office and condominium buildings, icons of commercial success which contrasted with the stark bleakness of conflict.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How to Hit 'Em Social Media Blues

Today's post is rather light-hearted, and we take several digs at Digg, poke fun at poking, and titter away at Twitter.

First, a meeting of social media addicts anonymous:



Followed by a short and chirpy little love song fit for these social media enabled times.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Random Highlights in Marketing and Social Media


Courtesy of gapingvoid.com

As I trawl through my RSS feeds this week, the following posts caught my eye.

The first is this fascinating titbit in Branding Strategy Insider which noted how Chinese adopting Western names are using more unique monikers to make themselves stand out from the usual Toms, Dicks and Sallys. They include a young lady who calls herself Vanilla Wang, an artist working on wood-block prints who is renamed Colour Zhao, and a Beijing video editor called Thunder Wang. The rationale behind this is to give greater significance to their names and to also make themselves more easily remembered from the seas of Johns and Janes - a legacy of the traditional Chinese emphasis of according meanings to names.

I suppose this is a case of globalisation carried to extremes, infusing cultural practices in the East with the naming conventions of the West!

Hugh MacLeod, highly successful cartoonist of the Gaping Void blog, highlighted the significance of Social Objects and how these can be leveraged on successfully. He wrote about Jyri Engstrom's (Jaiku's founder) five principles of social objects, and how these apply to his business:

1. You should be able to define the social object that your service is built around. These should then have a unique URL or other forms of reference that can be linked to or tagged with.

2. Define your verbs that your users perform on the objects. For instance, eBay has buy and sell buttons. It’s clear what the site is for.

3. How can people share the objects? Make it easy for them to distribute to their friends in turn.

4. Turn invitations into gifts. Things that motivate viral behaviours are normally those that provide some value to their receivers.

5. Charge the publishers, not the spectators. Much of the virtual world gaming model centres on charging advertisers with "products" or "services" available for purchase, as opposed to gamers.

Through these principles, the creation of social objects - be they cartoons, widgets, applications, designs, photographs, videos and so on - can be monetised by their originators and leveraged on by corporations to reach their end consumers. This is a possible win-win arrangement for developers of intellectual content on social media platforms. Great content alone isn't enough unless it encourages sociability.

Church of the Customer shares an interesting piece on Twittering for customer service. A distressed Jackie Huba had her tweets answered by an AT&T representative - the company appeared to a better service provider online than on the phone apparently. In her own words,

"Twitter is the killer app for customer service. Companies can discover aggravating service problems by using a variety of tools to listen on tweets mentioning their name. A response can be nearly immediate."

This could be good advice for anybody keen to increase their customer service standards and making themselves more accessible, 24 by 7, through a variety of channels. Apparently, AT&T has 23 social media channels on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Posterous and so on!

Finally, drawing from the Japanese and Chinese art of ink and wash painting, Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen shared that sometimes using too many colours could be distracting in presentation slides. Drawing on lessons from the monochromatic art of Sumi-e (Japanese brush painting), he wrote that "much is expressed through a combination of empty space and monochromatic strokes that range from the extremely light gray to black". The 8 lessons in design from Sumi-e which bears remembering are as follows:

1) More can be expressed with less.
2) Never use more (colour) when less will do.
3) Omit useless details to expose the essence.
4) Careful use of light-dark is important for creating clarity and contrast.
5) Use color with a clear purpose and informed intention.
6) Clear contrast, visual suggestion, and subtlety can exist harmoniously in one composition.
7) In all things: balance, clarity, harmony, simplicity.
8) What looks easy is hard (but worth it).

What a refreshing lesson in advertising aesthetics and design! Often, by trying to be all things to all men, we may end up with too much clutter that does nothing for our potential customers.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Divine Marketing



As I was walking along Russell Street in Melbourne's CBD area, I saw the above banner perched high up where it is visible to all. Quite a novel way to seek spiritual sustenance don't you think?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Applying Integrated Marketing Communications


Transe Express Performing Mischievous Bells at Festival Opening

It is currently the season for the Melbourne International Arts Festival, which is the city's most internationally oriented showcase of its vibrant and diverse art scene. Major roads in Melbourne's city centre are festooned with its characteristic purple and white banners, flapping on flagpoles in the wind. At many of the busy street corners like Swanston and Flinders Street, one can also find the festival posters pasted on billboards, tram-stop shelters and other public places.

By adhering to a strong thematic design aesthetic that is woven through all elements of the festival's brand touchpoints, the Melbourne International Arts Festival has embraced the principles of Integrated Marketing Communications or IMC. Through this, it is able to reinforce awareness, recognition and interest across multiple platforms by applying a consistent message through both visual and textual means. This is important for a short-lived (17 days) event, and requires significant investments to gain the greatest amount of visibility in the most cost effective way.

To see what I mean, do look at some of the festival's collaterals, which include:

Flagpole Banners...



Ticketing Booth (at Federation Square)...



Website...



and Brochures (which are thematically coloured both front and back).


Front cover


Back cover

Other marketing channels similarly themed include newspaper and magazine advertisements, posters, T-shirts for helpers, standees and others.

As seen in the above example, the application of a consistent design aesthetic should strive towards simplicity and elegance. The use of bright colours, consistent typography (for the words), and highly visible locations helps to immediately raise awareness and interest in the campaign, without the need for oodles of text or messy visuals. Coupled with the right levels of media publicity, such a holistic approach may help to improve the effectiveness of campaign or festival marketing beyond just investing heavily in press, TV or radio ads.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Marketing to One's Ego


Like peacocks, we all have our pride (beautifully shot by ClaraDon)

There is nothing worse in the marketing rulebook than to humiliate one's potential customers. Or to make them look or feel inadequate, insecure, or just plain stupid.

Often, these outcomes are unintentional and accidental, but they result in an eroding of a company's goodwill and trust amongst its customer base. They also result in negative word-of-mouth, which is an affliction that can result in untimely corporate morbidity.

Pride, face, or self-esteem. Call it what you may, but these are important components of a human being's sense of worth and identity, be it as a group or as an individual. While playing up to a person's fears may be effective in attracting his or her attention, getting the person to take the next step requires the envisioning of a positive outcome. Often, it entails making him or her feel good about himself or herself.

How does one ensure that one doesn't inadvertently damage the ego of one's customers? Here are some tips which may be useful to note:

1) Use the right models in your advertisements whom your target audience can identify with. At the same time, be aware of the aspirations of your potential customers and whom they look up to. While having young adolescent looking models may work for some markets, they may actually turn older and more mature customers away. Similarly, not every family these days have two kids in a specific age range, or are necessarily headed by a husband and wife pair.

2) Create situations that are intimate but not intimidating for your customers. For instance, if their lingua franca is Mandarin instead of English, find ways to converse with them in that language during the selling process. Similarly, having an ultra-modern minimalist shopfront may work well for youngsters, but may be less attractive to the mature market.

3) Develop storylines and scenarios in your marketing literature that plays up to ideals for your target markets. People at different life stages may value different things, and it is important to learn the kind of social recognition and respect which they crave for. Don't assume automatically that every student's dream is to be a graduate or a scholar, or that working adults necessarily all want to be the CEO one day. Studies have shown that the younger Gen Ys or Gen Zs place greater importance on work-life balance than career success, and these qualities should be considered in weaving one's marketing collaterals.

4) A little flattery will get you anywhere, but too much may appear superficial and insincere. Be mindful that we all like to feel loved, treasured, and important in our respective circles of social and professional influence. Try to get into your prospect's world and see things from his or her perspective, putting him or her in the centre of the campaign.

5) Finally, and probably most importantly, don't embarrass your potential customer while trying to be helpful, especially in a group. I always shudder at fine dining restaurants when one gets a condescending sounding remark from a waiter or waitress when asking him or her how to eat a particular exotic dish. While there is a time and place for social graces, not everybody with the financial means are born with a silver spoon in their mouth and educated in social etiquette from young.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why Looks and Beauty Matter


Do we have to look like Megan Fox to succeed in life? (courtesy of cras_dub)

Looks matter more than we think, according to Beauty Bias - Discrimination and Social Power authored by sociologist Bonnie Berry, and "lookism" is probably one of the last bastion of legally uncensured discrimination. Society at large is biased in many ways towards people who are beautiful or handsome, whether we like it or not. Often associated traits to one's looks like ethnicity, skin colour, height, weight, age, disabilities and deformities, and the condition of the teeth also go hand in hand with that partiality towards the pretty.

The ones born with the right symmetrical and often Northern European features - a slim and straight nose, big round eyes, fair skin, tall, and light haired - often fair better than others in job markets. This is especially unfair, states Berry, because one's looks are often difficult to change, and often have very little relation to how one performs in a job. You can't choose your parents, or opt out of an obesity gene.

Unfortunately, one's looks does affect one's career in the States. According to Berry, studies have shown that the CEOs of top US firms are all several inches taller than the average American in height. There is a "beauty premium" which comes with being "tall, slender and attractive and is worth roughly an extra 5 percent in pay per hour". Heavy people are also paid less than thinner people, especially amongst women-of-size with heavier ladies receiving almost one-fifths less than those of "average" weight. Some companies are explicitly "lookist" with the cosmetic giant L'Oreal, the Gap and the W hotel chain openly seeking people who are "sexy, sleek, and good looking".

Healthcare prejudices also occur. Those who are considered "morbidly obese" (ie more than twice normal weight) in the US have to pay health insurance premiums that are considerably more expensive than those in a "normal" weight category. While a deaf woman (Heather Whitestone) could win the Miss America contest in 1995 as her disability do not result in any compromises in look, other more serious disabilities usually result in a disqualification from conventional beauty pageants. The discriminations in the area of health are especially spiteful as the differently abled in the US are often marginalised because of their disability with poverty rates ranging from 50% to 300% more than the general population.

Looks also matter in the markets for romance, with the cliqued "tall, dark and handsome" or "fair and pretty" statements helping to reinforce age-old prejudices. In a study, Berry cited that out of 10,000 men in their early 20s, heavy men were 11 percent and heavy women were 20 percent less likely to be married than their thinner counterparts. Often those with physical disabilities are socially isolated, twice as likely than the abled to live alone, marry later (if at all), and are viewed as "asexual".

Berry claimed that many of these injustices were perpetuated by the media and fed by big business. Models, newscasters, actors and actresses, and much of Hollywood, Bollywood or the East Asian film market is predicated on slim, tall and good looking lead actors and actresses. The diet, fitness and supplements industries, which is worth some US$15.2 billion in the US in 2003, the cosmetic and cosmeceutical industries, as well as the plastic surgery industry. Entire systems like the medical and health insurance communities, legal communities, and the broader economy are also predicated on people's obsession with the superficial as a passport to a better quality of life.

Several ironies exist.

First, the almost universal standard of Caucasian models of beauty have resulted in a homogenisation of beauty throughout the world. Roughly 75% of African American women use straightening combs and chemical relaxers to achieve a straighter and more Aryan hairstyle, while plastic surgery for double eyelids to widen "almond shaped" Asian eyes are common in many East Asian cities. However, by trying to use plastic surgery or other methods to more closely resemble beautiful icons, we are increasingly becoming similar in our looks.

The entire food business is also fraught with such inconsistencies. For example, McDonald's restaurant has refused to hire a man who weighted 420 pounds claiming that he is overweight when the restaurant chain itself serves fatty and sugary foods that cause weight gain! Combined with the dieting and exercising industries, the food businesses form a tag-team that feeds on the insecurities of human kind and utilises them for profitable ends.

Fortunately, according to Berry, there are social movements that adjust these imbalances. They inslude the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) in the US, as well as the International Size Acceptance Association (ISAA) Aspirations group (for shortness-based folks). "Ugly laws" were also repealed - the last in Chicago in 1974. Companies like Dove with their "Real Beauty" campaign has also done some positive work here, although Berry cynically commented that their "above average sized" models were still pretty good looking and a far cry from the real "plus-sized" ladies in America.

Berry has also advocated for the media to play a lead role in fighting these biasednesses, as well as education, interpersonal influences (eg refraining from making comments like "what awful teeth!" or "Hey, shorty!"), as well as legislative and policy changes that remove obstacles to look-oriented discrimination.

Overall, I would say that this book does a fairly comprehensive job in describing how commonplace looks-based discrimination has become, and how it impinges on other forms of related discrimination like one's ethnicity (which would affect skin colour and eye shape), size, physical ability, and economic standing (the poorer people usually ate less healthily and were thus heavier in the US). It is also a useful reminder for us to make conscious decisions not to let "lookism" rule our lives.

As the saying goes, "beauty is more than skin deep". Perhaps it is a timely reminder for us to look beyond the superficial in all dimensions of our lives.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Indulging Your Customers


Courtesy of Garron Nicholls

What is indulgence?

It is the ability to act according to one's whim and fancy, whenever and wherever one feels like it. It is the availability of multiple choices which offer varied sensorial experiences, steeped in delicious decadence. It is about being able to savour the moment, untouched by the ravages of life.

Without an agenda or plan, indulgence is like a serendipitous walk in the park, meandering along whichever path we so desire to take. There are many diverging routes which one can take, offering exotic sensory experiences which may either resonate emotionally or intellectually with us. The one which we eventually choose usually offers a magnitude of benefits which are irresistible to our recreative spirit.

As marketers, we should be mindful how the profusion of leisure choices affects our consumers. With such a plethora of brands available to them, consumers are voting each day with their feet (hands and mouths), discarding the old and boring while offering their time, money and energies to the new, hip and exciting. All it takes is one unpleasant encounter and away they go.

The solution? Indulge them. Draw upon the potential of pampering one's customers and make the entire process pleasurable, hassle free and unforgettable.

Discard the outmoded and utilitarian approach to marketing which treats customers like robots, packaging them into neat demographic or psychographic categories. Instead focus on PROCESS - the one P which rules them all - and map out the entire consumptive experience from start to finish such that every step of the way is good.

This means infusing your campaign, counters, and customer associates with all the goodness that you can afford to muster. From the first salvo of advertising or publicity which reaches your customer's eyes or ears to the after sales experience. With so many roads to take, you must pave yours with gold in order to continually capture the attention and affection of the ever elusive customer.

Examples of how you can indulge your customers include redesigning websites to be painless to navigate, offering "eye candy" and pleasurable tactile experiences at your shopfronts, reducing the queues needed for payment, and making it easy for them to become a member of your club by filling up the forms for them. Indulgence also means being there when they look lost or in need of help, but quietly fading away when one's presence is perceived to be overbearing.

If your customers have to wait, make it enjoyable for them by offering a drink, a massage or a good book. Be sensitive to their unspoken needs, and anticipate them as far ahead as possible. However, don't make it seem like you are controlling or leading them, since that would be the surest way to break the spell.

Have you indulged your customers today? If not, why not start now?

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Purrfect World of Hello Kitty


Courtesy of *Hello Kitty*

Generating more than US$1 billion in sales back in 2002, Sanrio is one of the world's major character goods company. Much of the success of this global purveyor of all things cute and cuddly can be summarised by two words: Hello Kitty. With her moon-shaped visage slapped on more than 22,000 consumer products - from pencil cases, notebooks, toys, to even credit cards, cartoons, refrigerators and cars - Hello Kitty has become one of the most coveted brand images in the world.

In 2002, Hello Kitty was rated as the third most recognisable Asian brand behind Sony and Cathay Pacific. The global icon of cute quirkyness has a huge legion of fans and communities around the world. The Hello Kitty juggernaut is so huge that in 2002, she was appointed as Japan's official tourism ambassador to China and Hong Kong. Certainly nothing to meow at!

How does this furry feminine feline attain such international stardom, especially among young girls of all ages?

In trying to discover the secrets of this, I read Ken Belson and Brian Bremner's title Hello Kitty: The Remarkable Story of Sanrio and the Billion Dollar Feline Phenomenon. Authored by two hardcore business journalists, the slim volume attempted to weave in the economics of the world's kawaii craze with the development of the Japanese cultural phenomenon, bringing in insights gleaned from the founder of Sanrio himself Shintaro Tsuji.


Shintaro Tsuji and Hello Kitty (courtesy of Sukebe Chan)

According to the authors, Hello Kitty's success was concocted over a brew of clever design, the growth of Japan's soft power (particularly its behemoth anime and manga industries), the understanding of what makes girls and their mothers tick, and perhaps just lots of plain old luck. The creation of the kitschy kitty herself appeared to be more an outcome of accident than design. Tsuji himself played an instrumental role in developing the design of Hello Kitty, together with a string of designers like Yuko Shimizu and Yuko Yamaguchi.

The storyline of Hello Kitty seemed more farcical that factual. According to her creators at Sanrio, Kitty was born on 1 November 1974 (without a mouth) to English parents George and Mary White and lives in a brick house a half-hour outside London. She has a sister called Mimmy who looks like her save for a yellow ribbon. Yes, believe it or not, Hello Kitty is supposed to be English, who is "locked in a kind of kindergarten fantasy" where the "deepest debate might be about whether to eat ice cream or cookies as a snack".


Hello Kitty and Mimmy (courtesy of *Hello Kitty*)

Lasting more than three decades, the moon-faced cat's enduring power was partially attributed to the growth of manga, a US$6 billion business originating way back to 12th century graphical representations, and its associated cousin anime. The social phenomenon of shojo manga which looks at consumption "as pleasure, as play, and as a creative act" has led to the boom in fancy and frivolous goods in Japan, led by young girls and teens. The ubiquity of Sailor Moon, Power Rangers, Pokemon and Super Mario shows how Japan's pop machinery centred on the appreciation of aesthetics has evolved and grown over the years.

Unfortunately, not everything purrs smoothly in kittyland. The huge merchandising success of the Hello Kitty-McDonald's tie-up still lingers in people's minds together with its more ugly aspect here in Singapore. There are also quite a few anti Hello Kitty purveyors who protest against its sexist depiction of women including Hello Kitty Hell. Some of the company's forays into movie making and a theme park (Sanrio Puroland) also performed poorly initially.

To fend off its arch nemeses like the Disney characters and Snoopy, the authors have suggested that Sanrio should capitalise on Hello Kitty's popularity with stars and celebrities like Christina Aguilera, Jessica Alba and Paris Hilton. These "role models" could be used to inject a contemporary and fashionable flair to the brand, while widening its appeal to youths and young women.


Paris Hilton obviously loves Hello Kitty (courtesy of The Superficial)

Spanning the fields of economics, pop sociology and psychology, Hello Kitty: The Remarkable Story of Sanrio and the Billion Dollar Feline Phenomenon is written in a breezy and entertaining manner by two veteran journalists. It weaves a tantalising tale of how character-based branding can take place without a detailed back story (unlike foes like Snoopy or Mickey for instance), and how the comforting presence of the mouthless cat provides an escape from the drudgeries of life. Some dimensions of the history and development of Japan's pop cultural phenomena are also covered.

Unfortunately, the book doesn't quite address the key management or business strategies and falls short of informing the reader about the Dos and Don'ts of making hits happen. Certain parts appear to be haphazardly strung together, and a central coherent argument appear to be missing. Despite these shortcomings however, it is still a useful read for anybody keen to understand what goes behind the creation of a image-based consumer brand.

As a tribute to the icon of cute, here's a 35th anniversary video showing how she has evolved over the years. Enjoy!


Hello Kitty celebrates her 35th Birthday this year! (Courtesy of Sanrio)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Context is so Critical


Context helps one understand where and how consumers purchase (Russian Market in Phnom Penh, courtesy of Larpoon)

We have all been caught in the wave one way or other. The rush towards speed and efficiency in business - partially abetted by the global craze over social media - has led many to forget about the foundational strategies of marketing. There is such an emphasis on tactics (10 ways to be richer, 7 tips to make your wife happy, 15 of the most important ideas in social media marketing...) that people forget about that all important factor.

Namely, context.

Context is the sum of the ecological, social, political, legal and cultural factors which affect the milieu in which one operates in. Context is the difference between the threat of terrorism say 10 years ago versus what it has become today. Context is about being current and sensitive to the relevant circumstances that surrounds one's market at a particular point of time, in a particular place, with a particular group of people.

Context however, isn't about motherhood statements, generalities or stereotypes. While it hovers at a high altitude and provides one with a holistic view of one's operating condition, it also requires an understanding of the plain truths in one's market. In contextual analysis, anecdotes matter a lot less than empirical evidence gleaned from studies that are statistically significant.

Put this another way. The perspective or view which you have just heard from a group of like-minded friends is probably wrong. Unless they are your target market, and brutally frank.

How does one gain a better understanding of the operating environment of one's markets?

For a start, look at country - or even better - city-specific studies and reports which inform one about consumer buying patterns, tastes and trends. Don't be unduly swayed by US-centric or Euro-centric market reports because consumer behaviours are radically different between regions.

Study how consumers use a particular product or service, not just from a hovering helicopter, but right down in the alleys and ditches. Yes, this will require you to mingle with the Joneses (or Lees, Muthusamys and Mohammeds) in order to see how they are used. Take off those prejudiced lenses of yours and spend a week or a month living life through your customer's eyes.

Be aware of both cultural similarities and differences. While social media applications are growing tremendously around the world, the mode of usage can be quite different between regions, ethnicities, and even neighbourhoods. A person who lives in a 3-room HDB flat in Singapore probably thinks differently from one who lives in a luxurious bungalow.

It is also incredibly important to be updated with current tastes. Your antiquated knowledge of what makes for an irresistible product offer may no longer be relevant. Don't ask your band of 40 or 50 year old golf buddies what teens like these days. Ask your sons or daughters instead. Note too how different life stages will change customer expectations of how a product or service interacts with them.

Finally, and very importantly, learn from the mistakes of the past. To many, history is a dull subject and poring over dusty files or tomes is the last thing people want to do. However, it is important to consider the age of one's market and their relative exposure to new products or technologies before rolling them out.

In a world which values speed, efficiency and reach, the lure of embarking quickly on an entrepreneurial idea seems almost irresistible. After all, isn't everything available on the Internet? I can just "google" it and cobble together a business plan which ready to go. Unfortunately, many of the studies, statistics and results on the web are probably not going to be directly relevant to your market. Many are heavily US or Western-centric, and are unlikely to be useful for an Asian marketplace.

To improve one's odds of succeeding, it may be wise to invest in understanding the local environment of one's market right now, at the places where you want to sell, and with the people whom you want to sell to.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

From a Drying Dam to Wet Walhalla

On the final leg of our trip to Wilsons Prom (and beyond), we drove from the Mount Baw Baw ranges to the Thomson Dam, which is located just a short distance away from the alpine region. While the view of the dam was pretty awesome in terms of its sheer size, it was also a sad reminder of how severely dehydrated Australia is. The water levels were so low that the dam, which has a capacity of 1,068,000 megalitres, was only 16.7% full (178,783 megalitres).

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A view of the Thomson River showing how far water levels have dropped over the years.

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This huge canal used to be full of rushing water cascading down the sides of the hill. Now it is just bare concrete.

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These granite rocks and concrete wall helped to keep the water in during the heydays of hydration.

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A nice view of the river which has become a still lake and reservoir, with the mountain ranges of Baw Baw in the background.

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A close-up view of the tower in the middle of the dam. I wonder what they call this building?

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A little memorial park with a symbolic rock located adjacent to the dam.

Our next and final destination was the historic Walhalla town. During the boom days of gold mining, some 5,000 people used to live here, prospecting, digging and filling their pockets with the precious nuggets and ore. Today, it is a tourist destination with hotels and restaurants located beside the old minefields where "gold diggers" used to work in. Unfortunately, due to the time in which we arrived, most of the attractions were closed so we could only take some photographs to capture the essence of the place.

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The mountainous road leading to Walhalla, glistening in the rain.

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Apparently, this was one of Victoria's oldest fire station. I doubt that it has seen much action lately.

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After a hard day's work of digging, tunnelling and seiving, nothing beats a beer at The Corner pub.

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This little mound of bricks is actually a historic wall which belonged to the original settlement during the mid 19th century or so.

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Fancy living in a historic town? These blue wooden cabins may just be the place for you.

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A view of the town taken beside the river/drain.

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The Mountainer Brass Band Rotunda is apparently still being used today for little get togethers and functions, offering a quaint getaway for those jaded with city living.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

From the Sandy Sunsets to Snowy Mountains

On the morning of our third day at Wilsons Prom, we checked out of our comfortable cabin and drove to the Taralgon area (in the La Trobe valley) enroute to the alpine regions. The idea behind this was to see if we can experience the different environments of the lovely Gippsland area of Victoria - from the pristine forests and sandy beaches of Wilsons Prom, rolling hills of pastures and farmlands, to the snow-capped summits of Mount Baw Baw and the alpine regions. With a height of 1,567 metres, Mount Baw Baw is just 120 km east of Melbourne, making it the nearest skiing region to the capital city of Victoria.

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Our first stop at Taralgon, where we got down for some rest, food and even retail therapy!

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At the tourist visitor centre, we spotted this 3D model of the mountainous areas and the driving route there.

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As we drove up the mountain road, we saw snow lining both sides of the tarmac.

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As we parked our cars, we saw more snow on the grassy areas beside the road, melting away in the spring sun.

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And the first thing you do when you have snow is to start a snowball fight!

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A short walk away from the carpark is the resort area for Mount Baw Baw.

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We had our lunch in this cabin which had a lounge and a little cafe cum restaurant.

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A view from the top of Mount Baw Baw. Well, not quite a winter wonderland, but at least we had some snow in Spring.

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This skiing shed must have seen brisk business during snowy wintry days.

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I saw a rabbit hop through the snowy bushes here. It is probably foraging for food as the snow starts to thaw.

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This little snowman looked kind of creepy don't you think?

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Just as we were leaving the resort, Nay, Chong Meng and Tung had more snow fighting fun.