Monday, March 29, 2010

We Should All Be Curators

The art of curating and storytelling drew 8.5 million visitors to the Louvre in 2009 - many just to catch the Mona Lisa here!

One of the insights which I have gleaned in the hectic past few days from Steve Rubel and his thoughts on digital curation was this:

We should all be curators. Every single one of us in the fields of marketing, public relations, and advertising. And not only in the digital realm, but all others too.

The use of the term perhaps needs some explanation.

In the world of museums and galleries where I come from, curators are considered the erudite gatekeepers and custodians of not just an institution's collections, but the body of knowledge focused on those areas.

Curators are tasked with the acquisition and maintenance of artworks or artefacts for display. They decide on how pieces should be displayed, as well as the order in which they appear. The most tangible outcome of a curator's work are exhibitions both permanent and temporary.

Curators may also work with programmers and educators to see how different audiences at different levels could be reached. These could take the form of tours, workshops, forums, films, children's activities, and festivals which are often thematically aligned to the exhibition which forms the core of the institution.

Curators are also scholars and researchers who specialise in specific disciplines. Art curators may specialise in particular art forms like sculpture, painting, films or photography, science curators may specialise in specific disciplines in biology, physics or chemistry, history curators may specialise in specific historical periods and regions, while ethnological curators may specialise in specific civilisations and cultures.

Prolific curators publish regularly, either in the form of catalogues of their collections or scholarly articles in peer-referenced academic journals.

How does the seemingly academic and focused work of a curator relate to us as marketers? Plenty!

For a start, we should all be schooled in the fine art of storytelling, just like curators in a museum. Rather than push forward endless value propositions, promotions, catchy taglines or gimmicks, marketers could look at 'curating' corporate and product information in a way that can educate, enrich and entertain stakeholders.

What is the main plot? How should clients and consumers be a part of this?

More importantly, how can we keep a customer engaged and entranced on whatever physical or virtual platform in which we are operating in?

Marketers should spend more time hitting the books and understanding their main subjects - customers and clients - in more precise terms. This may mean market research with some depth rather than merely skimming the surface.

Establishing credence as thought leaders and voices of authority may also help improve the reputation of a marketer. Here's where blogging, publishing white papers, or speaking at conferences and workshops could help.

Finally, marketers may want to consider an integrative approach, involving all facets of an organisation, in the weaving of a compelling tale. They should become experience architects, examining every single touchpoint and seeing how these help to add mystique and allure to an organisation and its brands.

Instead of viewing Integrated Marketing Communications as a means of developing consistent messages on multiple platforms, consider it from the perspective of your customer. What is the best way for me, as a customer, to partake in the grand narrative? How should the various visual, textual, tactile and audio cues help to flesh out the entire experience?

Better yet, how can you draw me in not only as a purchaser of your product and service but a very willing participant and even fan?

Perhaps, if we all don the hats of curators (as opposed to communicators), we could develop truly 360 degree marketing initiatives. Ones that look at engagement instead of entrapment.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Marketing in the Age of Streams by Steve Rubel

Steve Rubel (courtesy of laughingsquid)

Just in case you don't know, uber digital strategist Steve Rubel from Edelman was in Singapore (he just flew off this morning at 5.45 am) in the past few days. I had the rare privilege of meeting him personally at the kind invitation of Edelman and also to hear him speak at the MICA-CSC Public Communications Conference 2010.

Steve's latest thoughts on what goes beyond Web 2.0 were certainly refreshing. His latest analogy likened the current information revolution to that of a bursting fire hydrant. We are all bombarded with multiple streams of data, information, contacts, video streams, tweets, photos, applications and what have you.

Information is like a bursting fire hydrant! (courtesy of comicbooknerd)

Consider this:

- The average American visits 111 domains a month.

- He or she spends about 7 hours a month on Facebook.

- Every movie ever made will soon fit into a device the size of an iPod in 5 years time.

- 80% of web surfers DON'T scroll on a web page.

- There are a gazillion applications on an iPhone.

- Google is not just a search engine, but a reputation management engine.

- The greatest invention of the 20th century is the bullet point. See my earlier posts on the atomisation of attention.

In Steve's words, "Choice is infinite, attention is finite, and we will all have a Zen moment and realise that we can’t do everything."

How true indeed!

People are making both conscious and subconscious choices to deal with the overflow.

Relating a personal anecdote, Steve shared that he stopped watching the local news in New York 2 to 3 years ago because of the depressing bad news that keeps getting ink. In fact, everyday a newspaper reader dies, and he or she isn't replaced.

Digital domains don't have it that good either. Many have dropped out of Twitter, or refrained from signing up for an account. Email bankruptcy in the United States have even resulted in a "Mark All As Read Day (Saturday, 31 May, 2008)", where people just wiped out all the unread emails on that day. Without ever opening them.

We are increasingly snacking on media - headlines, tweets, text messages. If a point is not made in a few seconds at the top, it will be gone forever.

Here is where frequency may be more important than volume. People need to hear things many times for any message to sink in. Studies have shown that they should be exposed to it for at least three to five times before they are going to take any action.

Generating a single story is not enough. Generating a single story with tweets alone is not enough. What's needed are multiple streams of information, contextualised to the idiosyncracies of different media platforms, and delivered in the way that people would want to consume them.

The key to success then? Powering people!

The more human beings and real individuals you can activate, the better.

Employee engagement is critical to social success. The more surface area you can create online, the more the opportunities for success. The more you get your employees to become spokespeople – as ambassadors - the better. The more advocates you can rustle up, the bigger the share of the increasingly diminishing attention pie.

Steve offered three practical steps that you can take:

1) Build Digital Embassies and Equip Employees to be Ambassadors

People are going to spend more time online. Right now, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are the top three places but this may change of course. People are going to look for experts amidst the noise and clutter.

You need to have a few digital bases of operation. They can be Facebook fan pages, Twitter accounts, Blogs, Youtube Channels or Flickr pages. These digital embassies could form the home ground of your emissaries.

What you need to do is to empower your experts to contribute in these social networks. They can be people working at different levels of the organisation, and not necessarily the top dogs.

These digital enjoys should also be out on the platforms which you don't control like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.

An important tip though. People don’t care about you until they know that you care about them. Everybody is selfish. Consider the Jay Leno rule, his guests will spend 80% of their airtime talking about what entertains audiences before spending the remaining 20% pitching their new book or product.

2) Embrace Multiplicity and Diversity

We are now looking at creating multiple stories at multiple platforms all of the time. Having different stories in different media creates greater surface area.

A very good example is the White House and Barack Obama, where different stories and updates are provided on different platforms. For instance, you may get an environment story on Flickr, a terrorism story on Twitter, or a healthcare story on Facebook.

Other examples include Starbucks which has multiple social media accounts in different countries. There are many ways to interact with them online, and this could be say a job story on Twitter, the solicitation of feedback on their blog, and the telling of a corporate video story on Youtube.

In a nutshell, narrowcasting is key.

3) Use the Force, Don’t Fight It

I suppose it should be pretty obvious that social media is becoming ubiquitous.

Almost every flight in the US now has Wifi. On a typical flight, people are checking their Facebook accounts, twittering, and reading on a Kindle, on all sorts of mobile and computing decice - iPhones, Blackberries, Netbooks etc.

Social networking is everywhere... Its the force.

To tap onto the force. you should look within your organisation. See if there are thought leaders who are already active in social media networks and see how they can be activated through the digital embassies.

A good company to look at is Best Buy, a big electronics retailer in the United States. Every employee can tweet on behalf of Best Buy and answer them on behalf of customers.

Credibility, surface area, and coming through in the age of streams. How you embrace the force is key to your success. Your customers and publics will hear things from friends and families. They embrace social networks.

Websites are going to be more utilitarian in nature. They are not going to the centre of the universe any more.

To survive and thrive, you want to have a hub and spoke approach. Create a website connected to social networks. Allow your customers to find you on websites, Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. Break up messages and content on what they want to see, and how they want to see it. If possible, handcraft content packaged for different audiences on different platforms.

Finally, here are some implications and recommendations from Steve:

1) Listen and Target – a deep understanding of trusted sources and channels in Singapore (or APAC) to reach out to the appropriate audience is critical.

2) Spokesperson Credibility – tune your messages and messengers for each medium. For example, social media employees with domain expertise can be more credible than the CEO.

3) No More Silos – truly integrate social media to help drive public engagement goals.

4) Message Multiplicity – it is no longer about one message, consistently applied across platforms.

5) Demonstrate a Movement – consider partnership with an NGO or other government/private sector bodies which are aligned with your focus areas or directions.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

So What's the Big Deal about Transmedia?

Transmedia in a diagram (courtesy of Seize the Media)

Crossing various media platforms (or Transmedia, a term which is well expounded by Kevin Lim) isn't something new in the world of marketing communications. We have always done that in our ever desperate bid to attract eyeballs, visitors, and revenue in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Witness how quickly the emergence of communication technologies like the printing press, telephone, radio, television, websites, mobile phone, huge electronic billboards, bus stop shelters, and building facades are used for advertising purposes.

The latest territories in the entire marketing game are linked to social media, be they Facebook fan pages, Twitter updates, Youtube viral videos, Flickr photos, RSS feeds, tags on Delicious, and a whole bunch of other 2.0-ish tools.

Let's also not forget events, Events, and EVENTS. Every marketer worth his or her salt needs to organise an activity to gather potential customers, believers and fans. These can come in all shapes and sizes - from an intimate cocktail party for 20 to a massive festival attracting hundreds of thousands over a week.

What else is new? Oh I forgot that we all love to play.

In fact, gaming in the form of contests, competitions, tournaments, and lucky draws have always been a mainstay of marketing. We thrive on challenges - especially fun ones - and the more attractive the bounty, the more likely we will rise to the occasion. Be it scratching a silver coloured patch on a card, or battling evil "aliens" on Facebook.

So what's so great about transmedia then? Haven't we always been doing them?

In fact, there is a term in marketing called Integrated Marketing Communications (or IMC) which is a "holistic approach to marketing communications" that tries to ensure consistency in message and design across every single touchpoint - online, offline, real life events and all.

The difference between Transmedia and IMC I suppose is in the telling of the story I suppose.

As cited on Wikipedia:

Transmedia Storyteller Jeff Gomez defines it as "the art of conveying messages themes or storylines to mass audiences through the artful and well planned use of multiple media platforms... With transmedia, each part of story is unique and plays to the strengths of the medium. The result is a new kind of narrative where story flows across each platform forming a rich narrative tapestry that manifests in an array of products and multiple revenue streams. The audience is both validated and celebrated for participating in the story world through the medium of their choice."

Jeff Gomez (courtesy of O'Reilly Conferences)

Therein lies the difference I suppose.

Unlike IMC, Transmedia campaigns or initiatives looks at engaging and drawing one's audiences/customers/guests through a central storyline or narrative which is tailored to the idiosyncrasies of different media platforms, both online or offline. In other words, it looks at how a tale can be best told - and continued - through different media, without ever losing the plot.

Great examples of transmedia storytelling include the well known Blair Witch Project, the Dark Knight, Audi's wonderful The Art of the Heist (also labelled an Alternate Reality Game), and Coke's Happiness Factory.

Get Serious:Transmedia Branding from experience freak on Vimeo.

The devil I suppose is in the details. How does one curate, choreograph and weave a compelling tale involving gaming elements, audience engagement, and an irresistible plot while trying to sell a product or service? It would be great if we can create an example of this here in Singapore.

Your views are most welcome of course!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Are We Truly in a Marketing Revolution?

Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

In this current age of multi-tasking, multi-roles, multi-networks and multi-everything, a few things seem to stand out quite clearly. Many appear to be the inevitable outcome of ever-increasing activity and interactivity across multi-platforms.

The first is that people are going to increasingly become skimmers (borrowing a term commonly bandied by the media socialists) rather than divers. With so many online (and offline) options screaming out at us, paying attention beyond a couple of seconds may become a thing of the past.

Perhaps we should coin a new name for this condition - Distractus digitalis?

The second is that almost anybody in an online or mobile space would have an army of acquaintances. Think about the number of folks on Twitter who has added you in the last 24 hours, or the number of fan page invites from Facebook.

If we believe that every member or friend in your list is keen in your product or service, you would have an armada of customers beating the path to your shops. Yet the reality may be far more sobering.

The third is that it isn't enough that each new product launch becomes bolder, brighter, and more beautiful than the previous one. You now need to have arresting anecdotes, heartfelt "Hallmark" moments, and a fascinating backstory on your blog/facebook page/twitter account/fill-in-the-social-media-blanks to your business if you ever hope to stand out from the rest.

What's alarming is that the entire conversational marketing push purportedly catalysed by multiple social technologies may become as dead as a digital dodo.

There is so much overcrowding and jostling for attention in every social networking channel imaginable - even amongst family, friends and fans - that getting people to talk about your product or service is only going to work if you are remarkable beyond belief (or a damn cute celebrity).

How many lasting relationships can we really form, beyond our various inner circles of contacts?

How many wonderful stories can we spin about our company - short of hiring Stephen King on our payroll?

More importantly, who do we really trust to give us honest-to-goodness, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die feedback on what's a really great product or service?

What this means is that we are ironically going back full-circle to AIDA (an artefact of Advertising 101), which kind of goes like this:

Attracting people to notice and pay attention to us - or to befriend us in the first place;

Generating their Interest in our product or service - as well as their interest in our buzzworthy or noteworthy story;

Stimulating their Desire in what we have to offer - and their desire to discuss it across both offline and online platforms; and

Getting people to Act on that information and to purchase it - or talk about it to their various networks, contacts and affiliates.

In the bigger scheme of things, it is surprising how things haven't really changed despite the revolution behind social media, blogs and that whole 2.0 thing. In the end, it is still about spin, albeit packaged in new wine skins.

Do you agree with me?

Update: To clarify further, perhaps I should state that I truly believe that Word Of Mouth and grassroots evangelistic styles of marketing do work. Relationships do matter a lot more in this day and age as a first step in building trust and respect for a brand. However, it is undeniable that only the very gifted few can hope to cut through the clutter in an ocean of channels, platforms, networks and aquaintances.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Art of Good Governance

(Source: SCCCI)

How should board directors carry out their duties as arbiters of public trust? What should companies do to boost performance while ensuring that sufficient safeguards are in place? In an age of increasing dissatisfaction over how companies and charities are governed, how does one balance the need for innovation with control?

To find out the answers to these questions (and more), I signed up for a talk organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday by Mr JY Pillay, Chairman of the Singapore Exchange, who spoke about corporate governance and its implications for both public-listed firms and Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Mr Pillay is one of the movers and shakers in Singapore, and has helmed various leading organisations as the former chairman of Singapore Airlines, Temasek Holdings and DBS Bank, amongst others.

The first and most deeply felt point was that robust governance is a pre-requisite for a healthy enterprise. By ensuring that the right procedures and processes are in place, good governance helps to strengthen the labour productivity of an organisation. I suppose what it does is to help snip wayward business practices in the bud, especially those which may lead to substantial costs in reputation if left unchecked.

Leadership is also key in the strong governance of any organisation. It is easier for good practices at the top to percolate all the way to the bottom, than for positive habits to move upstream. Board members must be seen to be independent, without having an "outside hand" influencing their viewpoints. While board directors and executives help to set the tone, however, it is still crucial for vigilance to be applied at every level.

On the issue of the preferred code of ethics to be adopted by individual organisations, board directors, particularly those of public-listed firms, have a heavy responsibility to shoulder. They are vested with the public's trust in these organisations and have to ensure that conflicts of interest are resolved wherever possible. They should also keep abreast of the latest developments in this arena. In Mr Pillay's own words, "stasis is not an option".

Contrary to popular belief, governance guidelines should be instrumented from the very beginning of an enterprise. While SMEs have an advantage in being nimble and flexible relative to large listed companies, they still need to practice the principles of governance. While the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), and Singapore Institute of Directors imposes strict rules and codes of ethics for listed firms, such principles can still be adopted by smaller start-ups.

To build a positive reputation for their brands, SMEs should examine best practices in governance while evolving their own systems and parameters. It is advised that they should not formulate codes of ethics too early in the game. Rather, what really counts is to ensure that the values, principles and laws which are already in place are codified in the guidelines.

In a sense, corporate governance can be considered more of an "art" rather than a "science", since it must be aligned very closely to the cultural norms prevalent in the governing board and the organisations. It should evolve in a measured way in any organisation and be improved and refined through trial and error.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Of Love, Loss and Luscious CGI

At the kind invitation of, I had the privilege of catching "The Lovely Bones" directed by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson with movie mogul Stephen Spielberg as the executive producer. Screened at the Lido, it certainly won't be forgotten in a hurry.

Based on the bestselling novel in 2002 by Alice Sebold, the movie centred around how 14 year old Susie Salmon (like the fish), played with much aplomb by Saoirse Ronan, was brutally murdered and raped on her way home from school in 1973 and the events which unfurled before and after the incident.

The victim of a serial killer whom she knew as her neighbour Mr Harvey - played with bonechilling intensity by Oscar-nominated Stanley Tucci - Susie watched how her family came to terms with her death, and vividly described how her early teenage life has been prior to being cruelly snuffed out like a candle. Cunningly choreographed by amateur architect Harvey to blood-curdling precision, the killing scene was suspenseful enough to make one's heart race without going too much into gore.

Relating her story from heaven (or purgatory, since its repeatedly called the "In Between place"), Susie's gawky post-pubescent life of first kisses, family bonds, and suburban splendour was played out in the movie, peppered with scenes of celestial wonder as she traverses the transcendental terrain. Throughout the film, many cliches and metaphors were liberally adopted, like golden meadows to represent heaven, and the use of living and dead roses (or camellias?) to illustrate life and death. The injuring of Susie's father in the real world was also mirrored by the crumbling of the pavilion in which Susie stood in at the heavenly places.

I suspected that Jackson was partially inspired by scenes from movies like "Howl's Moving Castle" (a masterful movie by anime auteur Hayao Miyazaki) in portraying an idyllic paradise, and "Ghost" in describing the after-life. Some of the post-death depictions appeared strikingly similar to what the late Patrick Swayze's Sam Wheat encountered in that movie.

My main bone of contention with the movie was the excessive use of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). While the computer rendered landscapes and depictions of paradise were spectacular on the cinematic canvas, these splashes of eye-candy do tend to distract rather than add to the main plot of the film. The special effects were stunning and awesome, but they do overshadow certain aspects of the storytelling process.

The soddy script also didn't quite do justice to the fine acting chops of Susan Sarandon, Rachel Weisz, and Mark Wahlberg. While Sarandon's chain-smoking and alcohol imbibing Grandma Lynn was almost show-stealingly comical, it added little lustre to the production. It was also illogical how Susie's younger sister Linsey (played by Rose McIver), could stay calm and gawk at a heartwarming family reunion between her parents after running away from a neighbouring serial killer's home.

Make no bones about it. The Lovely Bones is a credible offering helmed by a competent director in the art and science of cinematic "wow". I liked in particular how Ronan deftly delivered her role as a happy teenage girl who had to deal with a multitude of emotions - from puppy love and familial loss to fear and hatred. There were also many scenes which were skillfully handled, like the tender acts of love in the family and the difficult grieving process after a tragic death.

With two Hollywood heavyweights at the helm of a much-loved book, one would expect nothing less than a screen sensation. While it was certainly an emotional roller-coaster at times - I heard occasional gasps and sobs amongst the audience - it ended up missing several brownie points.
DreamWorks Pictures Presents
In Association with Film4
A WingNut Films Production
“The Lovely Bones”
Executive Producers Steven Spielberg Ken Kamins Tessa Ross Jim Wilson
Produced by Fran Walsh Peter Jackson Carolynne Cunningham Aimée Peyronnet
Based on the Novel by Alice Sebold
Screenplay by Peter Jackson & Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens
Directed by Peter Jackson

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Age of (Im)Morality and Immortality

Jack Neo and his wife Irene Kng (courtesy of

By now, everybody would have read, listened, spoken about or viewed news about Jack Neo, his wife, and his dalliances with Wendy Chong.

The local and international media has gone wild with the latest celebrity news in every channel, and tremendous buzz has been generated in social media and mobile platforms - SMSes, MMSes, blogs, Facebook, forums, Twitter, Plurk, Youtube, blog aggregators (like, wikis and so on. Many have leapt into the fray with all kinds of judgements and interpretations, with some harsher than others. Jack himself has blogged about it here and apologised for his actions.

Jack's dilemma closely resembled an earlier case involving Tiger Woods, the number one golfer in the world. Both men were famous, received extensive positive coverage in the media and were generally well regarded by society. What happened with their recent "falls from grace" appeared to be amplified a lot more online than earlier scandals involving former US President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (which broke the news in 1998) or Hugh Grant's indiscretions with Hollywood prostitute Divine Brown (in 1995).

There are several observations that one can make from the aftermath to the adulterous affairs.

First, it is clear that any scandalous news will now reverberate a lot more extensively through personal communication networks than ever before. With so many channels of user generated interaction and dissemination now available, the "echo chamber effect" will be magnified manifold. This means that almost everybody would eventually hear of the news through one way or another, regardless of how aggressive they are in consuming media in its various guises.

Second, what used to be ephemeral coffee shop talk or taxi driver conversations are now immortalised online. Every individual opinion, viewpoint, discourse and exposition is now archived and easily searched for the whole world to see. The unfortunate thing is that any transgressions are going to be extremely difficult to forget.

Third, the democratisation of media has meant that you will not only receive information from paid journalists and reporters, but also from many other members of the public. While the breaking of major news in Singapore still belong largely to the domain of mainstream media, they are now peppered with perspectives from concerned citizens. The "Cult of the Amateur" isn't just a myth anymore, but a fact of life.

Finally, and most importantly, the advent of social technologies have also led to a new morality - or immorality - in our people. With the opening up of easily accessible channels of communication, everybody can become a preacher, philosopher or pundit. We are no longer just constrained to our immediate physical neighbourhood or environment, but can tap a far wider global channel that is open to all, 24 by 7. People are becoming bolder in speaking up about a topic which they care about, and will not refrain from letting their voices be heard.

The implications of these trends are that any indiscretions will now be blown up a lot more and have a far longer tail than ever before. Any perceived lapses becomes far more costly - from a communications perspective - than ever before, as negative impressions do stay longer than positive ones. Actions to address the subsequent media fallout will thus have to be a lot more aggressive and all encompassing, while centering themselves on the virtues of honesty, truth and sincerity.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Online Buzz and Omnipotent Brands

Disney's one of the top dogs both online and offline - it is 10th on Interbrand's list and 3rd online (courtesy of Jeff Bullas)

An interesting social media monitoring report by Jeff Bullas highlighted the buzz which major brands generated online relative to their overall brand equity as measured by Interbrand. What's noteworthy is that the most prominent brands in the digital social spaces - at least as measured by Jeff over the last 12 hours - is fairly comparable to those offline. The top 10 brands on Interbrand's list, which are assessed by a robust mix of different factors linked to market value, financial earnings, and others, are measured vis-a-vis their online might.

Other than Google which appears to be a pure internet play, the rest of the companies have very significant brick and mortar presences.

These trends seem to tell us several things worth noting in the world of branding and social media:

1) Building strong brands in the real world often translates to a significant presence in the virtual one. In other words, don't neglect the fundamentals of brand building and imagine that having an extensive social media presence alone is enough.

2) Traditional companies with real products and services can benefit greatly from having an expanded presence in social media, and to explore triggering the right conversations.

3) Large MNCs still dominate much of the digital corporate buzz relative to smaller players. Apparently, size still does matter, and being small and nimble doesn't necessarily make you an online phenomenon. Goliath may still win the game.

For more information, do check out Jeff's blog here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Will You Do Whatever It Takes?

Courtesy of Spencer Limb

Challenges. Problems. Uncertainties. Obstacles. Stress.

These words form the lexicon of modern life, where resources - both financial and natural - are increasing being depleted while the demands of work, school and life put a severe drain on our beings. We don't need any reminding to know that we are all damaging our planet at an alarming rate. Attending to customer needs are also increasingly difficult as a growingly demanding and discerning population requests for more bang for the buck.

The office is also no longer a haven for lifelong employment. To stay nimble, flexible and focused, organisations are downsizing, rightsizing, and outsourcing in their bid to become cheaper, more cost effective and efficient. Executives and managers have to constantly pick up new skills, multi-task, and juggle increasing responsibilities.

How does one stay afloat in the sea of change filled with increasingly tempestuous and tsunami-sized waves?

Enter Resilience.

In the 2010s, the one human trait that can probably weather the brewing storms in this decade is one which has been around for the longest time.

Our ancestors in Singapore have lots of it. We have all heard how Singapore as a nation and an economy was conceived out of a little island of less than 700 sq km in area. We have all been regaled by the tales of how our pioneer leaders carved out a modern industrial park in Jurong out of a swampland. We have also been cheered by how sheer determination, hard work, and a never-say-die attitude have led to our current status as a first-world city that is comparable to most modern ones across the globe.

How does one increase one's resilience? A way to look at this is to work on the four variables of one's Adversity Quotient (AQ) by Dr Paul Stoltz, which is a measure of how you respond to adversity (change and challenges). This can summarised by the CORE Acronym, ie:

Control: The extent to which someone perceives they can influence whatever happens next.

Ownership: The likelihood that someone will actually doanything to improve the situation, regardless of their formal responsibilities.

Reach: The extent to which someone perceives an adversity will “reach into” and affect other aspects of the situation or beyond.

Endurance: The length of time the individual perceives the situation / adversity will last, or endure.

To ride the wave and respond to adversities, it is recommended that one should do the following:

Listen to your response to adversity.
Explore all origins and your ownership responses.
Analyze the evidence.
Do something.

(source: Stitches)

Here are some additional useful tips on managing various forms of challenges:

Financially: Especially in this economy, it’s important to plan for the future and really understand how to budget your money... Money is such a big part of people’s stress. The more planning and preparation, they better suited you are for encountering a bump in the road.

Mentally: Stress management is a really valuable tool to have. Being able to identify the types of stress and triggers can allow you to better prepare yourself, and even those around you, so that you can maintain your productivity not just at work, but at home as well.

Emotionally: Sometimes just taking a break from it all is necessary for your sanity. ... Turn your cell phone off for a few hours, don’t check your email if at all possible, go outside, go swimming, eat something grilled – you get the idea.

Physically: Stress and turmoil can actually take a physical toll on you. If you feel achy or seem to be getting headaches often, try adding some exercise into your day. ...the sunshine will do you some good. If you really feel ill, you should talk with your doctor about stress management and possible techniques – like meditation – to help you get through those rough patches.

(source: IT Freedom)

Do you have any tips on how one can manage adversity at work or at home?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Painful Truth About Branding

Courtesy of America's Story from America's Library (CREDIT: Fleischhauer, Carl, photographer. "Branding Iron [35mm slide]." Date Recorded 79/10. Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982, Library of Congress.)

It is interesting to note that even after so many decades, marketing professionals and senior executives alike still think that a brand belongs to either of the following:

A) A huge ego exercise

B) An exercise in aesthetic and textual superiority

C) A powerful icon signifying the awe-inspiring might of the organisation

D) An almighty blueprint of Biblical impact

E) All of the above

While the above may be true to some extent in huge companies like Apple (worship the partially eaten fruit!) or Nike (woosh over the swoosh), the majority of company and product brands aren't made out to be half as great as what their creators hoped.

In other words, most brands fail in the marketplace. Most often miserably so.

Is branding then an exercise in redundancy? Should we just cast away the trusted corporate identity kit, messaging kit, logo kit, and all those pretty pictures and templates that cost an arm and a leg?

Not necessarily so.

I believe that there is a way to make a brand stand out far more than stunning graphics or witty taglines. And that is to give it away to your customers, shareholders, employees, board members, suppliers and partners.

In other words, the true essence of a brand isn't in owning it. It is in disowning it.

The more you are able to make your brand a part of your community's lives, the better. The more you can integrate it into what your influencers and followers believe in, the more successful your brand will be. The more willing you are to let others appropriate your brand - albeit in a respectful manner of course - the more spectacular your branding exercise will be.

Great brands aren't just the stuff that is conceived in board rooms and executive suites around the world, but the stuff that people make their own. Great brands are malleable, moldable, mashable and mushy. They are the stuff that people rave about (with some clever prompting) without having a doctor's prescription to follow.

The next time you are thinking about rebranding your organisation or undertaking a strategic brand positioning whatever, consider how you can involve your most important stakeholders in the whole process. Invest in not just brand evangelism but co-creation, right from the beginning of the game.

You will be amazed by the difference which it makes.