Friday, April 30, 2010

Even Google is Doing Paper Advertising!

As I was checking my snail mail a few nights ago, I had to do a quick double take.

An envelope with one of the world's most famous online brands jumped out at me.



Yes, it was a letter from Google, the world's number one player in the Internet space! As I opened the envelope (which came with a time-limited-hurry-before-it-expires offer on its cover), I was greeted by a letter and a brochure. You can see the contents of the letter below:

P1150417

What this tells me are several things:

1) Direct marketing still works, even for the most pure-bred online behemoth;

2) Purportedly old school hardsell copy and graphics may still work for the right target audience. I noticed the use of the words: FREE, HURRY, EXPIRES, INCREASE YOUR SALES on the various collaterals provided, as well as the use of a voucher;

3) Perhaps nothing beats eliciting an urgent response than to use a time-limited offer and tap onto that fear in each one of us;

4) Sometimes emails alone just aren't enough when it comes to battling the numerous spam filters. When it comes to physical paper mail, your recipient would at least have to glance at them FIRST before keeping or discarding them;

5) If you need help at any time, you are invited to call an 800 number, NOT visit a website or email a customer service personnel. That's right, Google the world's most online company, is relying on Alexander Graham Bell's 'antique' technology to provide customers with that personal touch. I suppose this is the fastest way for potential clients to clarify any doubts in the quickest manner.

What is your take on this?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Are We Philosophers or Pragmatists?

After working with so many people throughout the years at all levels, I find that there are two distinct personality types.

The first, whom I call philosophers, are those who love to examine the fundamentals of every decision in the organisation. Thriving on discourse, these deep thinkers love to indulge in intellectual discussions and question the reasons for management mandates and policies that don't fit into their worldview.


Are you as profound as Confucius....(source)

Before embarking on any new task, philosophers want to be assured that each step of the way is carefully thought through and pondered. Nothing is too small to be teased apart into its individual components, studied, and reflected upon. To them, action is a dirty word while analysis is nirvana.

The second, whom I call pragmatists, are the exact polar opposites. These roll-up-the-sleeves specialists love to dive into the challenge, no questions asked, and are at the starting blocks even before you say "Get ready". Their mottos are "Do first, ask later" and "Mine is not to reason why, mine is just to do or die."


...Or as ready to zoom once you're off the blocks? (source)

Pragmatists do not like to ask questions, consider options or valorise the vicissitudes of their work. To them, speed is of the essence, and every minute wasted on paperwork is a minute lost. Once the gates are open, they will carry on from A to Z until you say "stop".

Which category of workers are more important to an organisation? I believe that both are necessary.

Jobs like policy formulation, strategic planning, financial management, market research, systems architecture, and human resource development require some element of philosophising. You need to establish the raison detre of the organisations, where its vision and mission lies, and what approach is best in these roles.

Other jobs require people who can move quickly and independently, and where some degree of haste is necessary. They include marketing communications, public relations, operational management, sales, logistics and system administration.

My more important point, however, is that we should try develop BOTH our philosophical and pragmatic selves at work, and to use these different facets according to the occasion.

As an example, a market researcher may want to seize an immediate opportunity to get feedback on their competitor's product if the launch is happening tomorrow. Similarly, somebody looking at building a robust IT architecture may want to study in detail a major system failure which just took place an hour ago.

Similarly, a sales executive may want to beef up his knowledge on human psychology and consider a different strategy to target his client's weak points. Likewise, a visitor services manager may want to study how other retail businesses do it, and reflect upon what works and what doesn't in customer interactions.

The next time you think about your hiring and training needs, consider the balance between the philosophers and the pragmatists and how you can tap onto the best of both worlds.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How to Manage "Gen Y" Workers

P1150420

How are Generation Y (Gen Y) workers perceived in general? What should organisations do to attract and retain Gen Y talents? Are they any different from their older and more senior colleagues?

The answers to these and more were covered in a recent talk organised by the Institute of Advertising Singapore which featured the results of a joint research project between the GMP Group and Temasek Polytechnic. Also known as the Millenial Generation, the term Gen Y refers to the cohort of individuals born from the 1980s and 1990s. In the GMP-TP survey of some 2,610 respondents (including about 567 Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers), they are considered those between 18 to 27 years of age.

Generational Diversity in Today's Workplace

According to the findings, Gen Y's themselves considered other generations work ethics to be slightly positive, while other generations' perceptions of Gen Y was seen to be slightly negative. Personally, I don't subscribe to the stereotype that Gen Y workers are more difficult to manage (some call them "Gen Y Not" due to their perceived rebelliousness) and in fact, such thinking can be detrimental.

Fortunately, all generations (Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers) considered their organisations to be fair to all employees and not age-biased.

Recruiting & Retaining Gen Y

On the critical issue of starting salaries, the research showed that most Gen Y-ers had high salary expectations despite the adverse economic climate during the Nov-Dec 2008 period.

What's interesting to note were the differences in views when it comes to retention strategies as seen below:

Top Factors That Motivate Gen Y to Stay In Organisations
1) Opportunities for career advancement (63%)
2) Good work-life harmony (41%)
3) Good relationships (40%)

Retention Strategies Most Used by Organisations
1) Opportunities for career advancement (43%)
2) Emphasis on learning & development (37%)
3) Good compensation (24%)

From here, it can be seen that opportunities arise in tailoring one's HR strategy to be more aligned to the desires and needs of our younger workers.

Work-Life Harmony

Interestingly, this dimension seems to hold the greatest resonance between all generations. The majority "disagreed slightly" that there is work-life harmony in Singapore. Which is nothing new really!

Key challenges cited which affect work-life harmony are:
1) Workload (75%)
2) Time (70%)
3) Senior Management does not care about Work-life Harmony (55%)

What's more alarming to note though was that other generations feel that Gen Ys work less than their official hours, while Gen Ys themselves feel that they work more than their official hours.

When Gen Ys have to work long hours, they themselves feel that its due to their own internal desire to work while other generations feel that it could be due to their own backlog of work (ie low productivity).

Ouch!

Leadership

Finally, most Gen Y-ers believe that it is most important for their leaders to be caring (54%), inspiring (45%) and competent (44%). However, managers from the other generations believe in demonstrating competence (52%), honesty (32%) and a forward-looking orientation (31%) to the Gen-Yers they lead and manage.

Gen Y-ers prefer relationship-oriented leaders, while their managers believe in a more task-oriented approach in leadership.

So What Can We Do?

According to TP and GMP, Gen Y-ers should:

1) Adjust their salary expectations;

2) Focus on opportunities for career progression;

3) Take a practical attitude towards work-life harmony; and

4) "Just Do It!" rather than to always expect their managers to be their bosom buddies.

On the other hand, their managers who are Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers should

1) Communicate to inspire and explain why (show appreciation, regular dialogue, more 'face-time', be authentic). An example is to shift the conversation from making bricks to building a temple;

2) Engage Gen Y-ers through coaching and mentoring;

3) Provide different strokes for different folks (multiple reward systems and benefits);

4) Focus on deliverables and not methods;

5) Understand that just because you did it doesn't mean they have to;

6) Teach them differently - from telling to asking.

What do you think of these suggestions? Do you agree with the results of the survey?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Earth Movie Review - Spectacular and Sobering


Courtesy of Disney Earth Movie

Probably one of the most moving films ever made about the beauty of our planet and the predicament of its creatures, Earth by Directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield provided spectacular nature and wildlife footages set against the story of three animal families. A re-cut version of the BBC Series Planet Earth, the movie was narrated by Patrick Stewart and set to a stirring soundtrack played by the Berlin Philarmonic.

With breathtaking shots of hundreds of thousands of birds flying in the air, and astounding scenes of school fishes escaping from their aquatic predators, Earth was a visual feast second to none. Here's a trailer to whet your appetite.



The first and probably most memorable scenes were that of a family of polar bears struggling against the vagaries of a melting Arctic ice-cap. It was impossible not to adore the two cute and clumsy cubs sliding in the snow, clambering about, and discovering the icy world beneath them.

While the mother bear with her two cubs had a happy ending, the same could not be said for the father. We were all beseiged by feelings of horror as the male polar bear swam furtively in the Northern waters looking for seals to eat. By the time he came across some walruses, he was too weak to hunt down the larger and much more formidable prey.

The movie also narrated how a herd of African elephants had to traverse vast distances in search of water to assuage their thirst. The warming of the planet contributed to the desertification of their home and weakened the largest land animals on Earth. Fortunately, most of them made it except for a weaker member of the group who succumbed to a pride of 30 starving lions and lionesses.

One can't help but admire the determination of wild beasts. Many were willing to swim, fly or walk thousands of miles in the search for food. They include a flock of birds which flew all the way above the highest peaks of the gargantuan Himalayan ranges, braving strong alpine winds to reach their land of milk and honey. Predators like the cheetah also had to run - and work - extremely hard to bring down their meals of fast running antelopes.

It was also endearing to see how cute little ducklings made the huge leap from their nest in their maiden attempts at flight, urged by their mother duck. The fear of heights obviously wasn't in their DNA!

Another prime example were the mother and child pair of Humpback whales which swam all the way from the Equator to the icy Antarctic oceans for their feast of krill. The mother whale kept close to her cub throughout the journey so that it doesn't succumb to attacks by predators like the Great White Shark (check out the amazing footage of the shark eating a seal below).



Other fabulous footages include a segment on the rich biodiversity of the tropics and how tropical rainforests covering just 3% of our planet's land area harbours more than 50% of all species here. The courtship dances of the male birds of Paradise were flirty, flamboyant and funny as you can see here.



Set to stunning and spectacular scenes of towering waterfalls, sprawling desert sand dunes, dramatic snow-peaked mountains and luxuriant equatorial jungles, Earth provided lots of natural eye-candy with an urgent tale to tell. If we as humans do not do something to save this beautiful home and its marvellous animal inhabitants, we will lose something that all the riches in the world cannot buy back.

One of the most dire messages in the movie was that Polar Bears may be extinct by 2030 (that's 20 years from now) if we do not change our planet warming habits. As we remember this Earth Day, let's all do our part for our dying planet and its wonderful beasts.

Friday, April 23, 2010

From Buying to Believing


Courtesy of Christopher Madden

If you want to succeed beyond your wildest dream as an entrepreneur (or an intrapreneur), don't just create products or services. Instead, start a religion, or better yet, a cult.

The best organisations don't just push out great products or services. They start movements and create causes. They turn jaded old ideas upside down. They spark off ripples which resonate so much with their followers that these become giant tsunamis of market revolution.

Some of the best examples of cult companies include Apple, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and Nike. While product supremacy is still a must for these category leaders, what's more important are the values which they stand for.

Apple is an emblem for cool, style, and cutting-edge technology that is invisible.
Starbucks represents the third place away from home and work - a caffeinated sanctuary for the senses. Coca-cola is perceived as the icon of refreshment, available where you best need it. Nike of course is about an active, get-up-and-go lifestyle.

While branding and experiential marketing helps to uplift an organisation's potential for success, it is far more important for customers to participate in its cause. You must have a story to tell - one which captivates, motivates and inspires your followers to do greater things with their lives (and reward you for it).

Making money is no longer legit as a reason for entrepreneurship. Creating a revolution is.

To do so, you need to look deep within your organisation and question what you truly stand for. What are the reasons for you to turn up for work each day? What do you tell your family and friends about your work? Ask yourself if your passion and conviction for the job is deep enough for you to volunteer for your organisation even without being paid.

Next, you need to find out if your corporate beliefs strike a chord with your customers. Is what you're doing something that they care about? How different is it from the next available competitor? Don't compete in the crowded marketplace and offer the same "me-too" benefits! Instead, find a place in the Blue Ocean instead, employing tools like Value Innovation to stand out from the rest.

Thirdly, you need to find a way to embody these beliefs and make them come to life. Are your executives and leaders walking emissaries of the corporate religion? Does everybody on the line talk the talk and walk the walk? Seek to make everybody your corporate envoys.

Fourthly, like any good religion, you need to have way of getting the message across. No, I am not just talking about pamplets like the famous Four Spiritual Laws. Instead, you should look at authoring a compelling chronicle that stretches across different media - each told in the best way suited for the platform.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to congregate and assemble your brand believers. Hire a community manager and initiate the formation of fan clubs across online and offline platforms. Find all kinds of excuses to meet them on Facebook or face-to-face. Build long-term relationships and encourage them to share with each other.

The new era of competitive advantage is no longer about being the cheapest producer, having the most outstanding products, or providing the most fabulous customer experience alone. Instead, what matters most is to create a compelling mission for your followers - one that they can believe in, spread to their associates, and truly embrace for the long-term.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Garrulous Gourmet Globetrotting with Ian Wright

At the kind invitation of Belinda Ang of MS&L, I had the privilege of attending a Discovery Travel & Living event (co-sponsored by Starhub) featuring the hilarious Ian Wright. For those of you who don't know Ian, he is well known for being one of the most travelled man in the world, exploring far flung places like Siberia, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and Okinawa of Japan. Here's a preview of his misadventures in freezing cold Siberia:



Do check out his television show Ian Wright: Out of Bounds, which will be premiering every Thursday at 9 pm from 20th May onwards on Starhub's Disovery Travel & Living.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
The evening function was held at the beautiful spaces of the Salon at the National Museum of Singapore.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
A take home menu for the night featuring Ian Wright togged in arctic splendour.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
The five course dinner for the night featured an exotic spread of locally concocted dishes, created by the acclaimed Novus restaurant.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
Here's the comical Ian Wright with the glamorous Angela May, our host for the evening.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
What's Ian doing now? Believe it or not, he was actually stripping to show us his sunburns. Ouch! (in more ways than one...)

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
Ian regaled us with his witty wisecracks, doing a travel slideshow unlike any other. Here's a shot of a lady in Cuba (or was it Venezuela)?

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
We welcomed our dinner with much aplomb. The first dish called Pelmeni comprised Siberian meat dumplings which looked and tasted like chicken won-tons, swimming in a broth with chives and sour cream.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
The next dish called Kakuluwo apparently hailed from Okinawa. It was blue crab curry with coconut and rice.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
Thereafter, we cleansed our palates with some Mojito - without the alcohol. The combination of lime, brown sugar and mint was quite refreshing.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
Halfway through our meal, we were entertained by a stage game of Win, Lose and Draw.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
Here's Ian showing that he can wield a mean marker, while everybody else tries to guess where in the world that place was.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
The next dish hailed from Syria. Called Lamb Shwarma, it comprises grilled lamb on pita bread with yoghurt and hummus. Honestly, it did taste a little dry and overdone in my view.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
To ensure that we were adequately stuffed for the night, we got our desserts called Quesillo. This comprised a Venezuelan caramel flan served with fresh berries.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
For the girls at our table like Eevon Ng and Catherine (of Camemberu fame), the bigger treat was meeting Ian and getting his hugs/kisses.

Ian Wright: Out of Bounds
The remaining three of us were less delirious but still happy to strike a pose. Here's Belinda and Jayden with Ian and myself in a Kodak moment.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Four Greatest Emotions of the Heart


The seat of human emotions is not the heart but the pair of almond-sized amygdala in the brain (courtesy of In.com)

As a fairly prosaic person who thinks more than he feels, I am not naturally given to bursts of extreme joy, anger or sorrow. Adopting a rather Zen-like philosophy in life, I try to stick to the middle path. If a particularly contentious issue comes my way, I normally try to resolve it in the most amicable and least conflicting manner.

Lately, however, I find that my heart starts to get in the way more often. I find that I cannot just sit back and use a purely logical approach to resolve them. Fortunately, I haven't exploded in a truly un-dignified manner and chose to find a solution to an emotionally distressing situation rather than to just grin and bear it.

Somehow or other, the heart gets in the way. Or more precisely the amygdala of the brain.

Interestingly, some have labelled the autonomic responses associated with intense and immediate feelings to the gut (ie a gut response). Its a description of that feeling you get in your abdomen (kind of like "butterflies in the stomach") when faced with a particularly daunting challenge.

While the mental faculties of reason, logic, analysis and calculation help one make sense of various situations, it is the emotion which ultimately decides. Depending on your levels of self control, the battle between the heart and the mind can be long and protracted (eg deciding whether to leave a job or end a marriage), or instantaneous (eg chocolate, vanilla or cookies and cream).

What are four of the most powerful emotional drivers?

The greatest (and most primitive, since it originates from our early reptilian brain) is fear. Nothing drives human behaviour more than the fight for survival in the face of extreme danger.

Yoda said it right when he told young Anakin Skywalker, "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

Coming a close second is anger. One of the reasons why the theme of revenge is so popular in movies and television is because people are driven by anger. Hopefully, the righteous type of anger that rights all the injustices and wrongs of this world.

The third one is sorrow. When one is afflicted by sadness, disappointment and depression, nothing else matters in his or her mind. The feeling of forlornness can sometimes be so significant that it overrides human survival instincts.

The light at the end of the emotional tunnel is of course joy. Happiness and joy are often cited as the ultimate goal for all human beings. The pursuit of happiness provides that energy which keeps us all going on the long road of life.

Understanding the drivers of fear, anger, sorrow and joy are critical skills for today's manager. Handling the delicate emotional state of colleagues requires empathy, compassion, and tact, while still maintaining a clear head (don't miss the forest for the sobbing tree). If you're seen to be uncaring or unfeeling by your team, it will be a matter of time before they vote with their feet.

Similarly, knowing these powerful drivers of your customers and stakeholders can make a critical difference between marketing success and failure. You can list down all the joyful, happy and positive benefits of your product and service. You can paint that ideal scenario in their minds. However, nothing makes them beat a door down to your outlet than a 50% sale which ends tonight at midnight!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Who Says Blogging Is Easy?


If you think your job is hard, wait till you try theirs! (Courtesy of College Life)

One of the most misunderstood concepts in social media content generation is that it is easy.

All it takes is just a couple of minutes (or perhaps an hour or so) of your time each day, and voila! Another insightful/interesting/ingenious work of art is published or uploaded, ready to be savoured by the world.

The truth is that it is not. Not least if you want to build a following of any size - from 10 to 10,000. Not least if you want to leave a lasting digital imprint.

Developing great content of any kind requires discipline and determination. Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. To become a social media savant, you need to put in your fair share of hardwork, blood, sweat and tears. Even on days when you just don't feel like creating something.

In his book "Outliers" (which I haven't read but hope to do so), Malcolm Gladwell mentioned the 10,000 hour rule. The key to becoming a master in any area is to put in prodigious quantities of time and energy into that enterprise.

This same rule applies equally whether you are a maestro, a brain surgeon, a rocket scientist, or a country president. It also applies to publishers of user-generated-content on online channels like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, MySpace and others.

If you want to leave a lasting online (and offline) legacy, you need to keep at it both day and night. Gary Vaynerchuk, author of "Crush It", has said that hard work is never not part of the formula.

Speaking from my own experience, people have often asked me how I managed to blog so regularly despite holding on to a more than full-time job. Wouldn't I be tired and drained? Isn't writing what I already do for the large part of my day?

What drives me is the knowledge that each time I lay a 2.0 brick, I am helping to create the future. Every post, every photo, and every video that I push out will be read, viewed, and enjoyed somewhere by somebody.

And that alone is good enough to keep me going, come hell or high water.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Marketing Jobs in the Age of Conversations


A good storyteller (like JK Rowling) makes a great marketer (Courtesy of tutor2u.net)

All this talk about conversational marketing, social media marketing, Word Of Mouth (WOM), and the spread of ideas can be boiled down to a few things.

One, the old ways of doing things are no longer relevant.

Two, existing marketing job scopes need to be radically altered.

Three, you need to equip people with new skills and capabilities.

In my mind, we probably need to have the following experts or specialists in the new marketing organisation of the future.

Authors and Storytellers

Spinning a good yarn is now more critical than ever before. Unlike the spin doctors of PR whose mandate is to weave momentary buzz, storytellers need to create a compelling narrative to bind all the loose threads of information in an organisation together. These wordsmiths are like the script writers of your organisation, helping to craft creative prose that becomes a spellbinding story that your customers will find enchanting and fascinating.

Authors and storytellers don't just create a magical tale - they also look at how it can be best adapted to its various forms both online and offline. The best storytellers can exploit multiple media platforms and draw the audience into the story.

Creative Producers/Directors

"Lights, cameras, action!"

The world of broadcast and film production no longer resides in television and movie studios. It should now be a part and parcel of every marketing organisation worth its salt. In the age of video, audio and photo sharing through Youtube, Vimeo, Odeo, Flickr and other channels, having a creative producer becomes critical.

Consumers are no longer contented just to view a boring 30 second commercial on TV, or reading a bland-as-wallpaper newspaper advertisement. They want to be entertained. Here's where having your own DJ, "television" producer or journalistic photographer becomes critical.

Community Managers

To enjoy success on social networking channels and platforms, you need to appoint community and relationship managers in your organisation. Think of them like your grassroot managers, event organisers, advocates and relationship managers all rolled into one.

Most of these people are not tied to the office. They spend the bulk of their time schmoozing with your community of believers - facebook or face-to-face - and cultivate them. The best ones are so successful that they can rally a group of your best customers to openly show their support for your company's products or services.

Experience Architects and Choreographers

In the new economy, great marketing is like a performance or a show. Customers expect their every encounter with your organisation to be a delightful one, full of pleasant surprises. Here's where you need specialists who can design, curate and orchestrate the entire experience to be thematic and terrific.

True experience architects don't just look at ads, websites or shopfloor spaces as disparate spaces. Instead, they create, design and engineer every single touchpoint to be an encounter that is meaningful and magical, enveloping customer's five senses of sight, sound, scent, touch and taste in memorable and mesmerising sensations.

Audience Analysts

Finally, the one last critical role in the marketing organisation of the future is one involved in the art of listening and calibrating. Like investment analysts who study company figures and charts, audience analysts are always familiar with the pulse of customer sentiment. Their tools can be both online or offline - surveys, interviews, focus groups, secondary reports, customer feedback.

The chief difference between audience analysts and traditional market researchers is this - they are obsessed about the customer. Highly experienced in the art and science of analytics, these professionals can take a bunch of data, digest it, and present the appropriate measures in the most efficient and immediate manner.

Are there other roles in the marketing organisation of the future? Do share your thoughts here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Beyond Buzz by Lois Kelly (A Book Review)



What is the best way to make conversational marketing work?

How does one embrace the lofty ideals espoused by the Cluetrain Manifesto?

More importantly, how can one "operationalise" the ideals of Word Of Mouth marketing beyond just "creating buzz"?

The answers to these and more were answered in Beyond Buzz by Lois Kelly. Turning the old marketing model of integrated marketing communications over its head, Kelly shared practical strategies which are grounded with various case studies and examples. They include McDonalds and McJobs, Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign, Sun Microsystems, and the Women & Infants Hospital.

Unlike many of her contemporaries purveying "social media snake oil", Kelly isn't fixated with the promises of social technologies like blogs, social networking platforms (Facebook), microblogging (Twitter, Plurk), or Youtube. Instead, she focuses primary on the core offering of marketing organisations: the art and science of conversational marketing that wins the hearts and minds of customers.

Some of the book's main points include the following:

1) Write like how people naturally speak and adopt an active conversational style throughout various platforms and media. Avoid buzz-words, try to cut-to-the-chase, use the active language, delete meaningless adjectives, and tell stories.

2) Make meaning and not buzz, which lasts only for limited time period. The four ingredients of meaning-making are relevancy, emotion, context and pattern making.

3) Stand for something and embrace a point of view (or several). This should differ from the usual vision, value proposition, messages, and elevator speeches which are normally unremarkable. A good point of view should be engaging, true, relevant, genuine, fresh, able to connect the dots, memorable, "talkable", leggy (ie resonate with multiple audiences through multiple channels), and likeable.

4) Listen, listen and listen some more to discover great talk-worthy ideas. Good sources include the CEO, point-of-view workshops, the exploration of new metaphors and going on a walkabout.

5) Consider the nine most common themes in a conversational strategy. These are: aspirations and beliefs, David vs Goliath stories, avalanche about to roll, anxieties, counterintuitive/contrarian points of view, personalities (especially strong ones?), how-tos, glitz and glam (enlisting help of celebrities), and seasonal/event-related.

6) Shift towards building a marketing organisation that emphasises "talk" as a culture. Traditional roles should be shifted from a promotional/"push" point of view to one of two-way involvement, dialogue, storytelling and relationship building.

As a guide for marketers and communicators, the book scores in its ability to dish out advice that is woven around a single-thread of conversational marketing. I like her hype-free and nuts-and-bolts approach which leaves something of value to readers.

The challenge however is to implement some of these conversation-oriented strategies in more command-and-control oriented Asian companies and organisations. Relinquishing control is still a difficult thing to do in this part of the world, and so is sharing company stories in an honest, open and transparent manner. Hopefully, with time though, this paradigm may change.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More Than $40,000 Worth of Prizes for Bloggers



Before I talk about the great opportunity for bloggers, I must first declare that I've been selected to be a judge of the 2010 Omy.sg blog awards. Spearheaded by bilingual news portal Omy.sg, the awards have always been well received by the blogosphere year after year.

It is a great honour for me to be appointed alongside other more well-known luminaries from the arts, entertainment, and digital communities like Mr Kelvin Tong, movie director, Ms Kuo Jian Hong, Co-Artistic Director of The Theatre Practice, Ms Anna Lim, Radio 100.3 deejay, Mr Josh Lim, Managing Director of Advertlets, Mr Chua U-Zyn, CEO of Ping.sg, Mr Samuel Ng, CEO of Marine Parade Family Service Centre, Ms Xiao Han, Director and Lyricist of Funkie Monkies Productions, and Mr Danny Yeo, who is a theatre practitioner.

If you're a blogger who specialise in virtually anything under the Sun, you should nominate yourself and participate in the Omy.sg blog awards. A total of more than $40,000 worth of prizes including a trip to Hong Kong, Asus Netbook, and a custom-designed trophy by renowned artist Tan Swie Hian can be won!

Don't believe me? Here are the categories which you can nominate yourself or your friends in:

1. EASB Best Individual Blog (Sponsored by EASB)
This category is for individualistic blogs with free-wheeling content about daily lives and musings that cannot be categorised.

2. Best Lifestyle Blog (Sponsored by National Heritage Board)
This category is for blogs that shares information that will light up someone’s mundane lifestyle.

3. Best Photography Blog
This category is for professional photographers to share their works with photography enthusiasts.

4. Best Modeling Blog
This category is for blogs with lots of self portraits and modeling photos.

5. Best Food Blog
This category is for blogs featuring food content.

6. Best What-The-Hell (WTH) Blog
Blogs which focus on the strange, the underground…topics that would make you go “WTH”.

7. Most Insightful Blog
This category is for serious blogs with interesting and revealing insights, analytical reports, and commentaries on social issues.

8. Most Laugh-Out-Loud Blog
Blogs containing humorous content that cackles up readers.

9. Best e-commerce Blog
This category is for blogs which deal with online commercial activities.

10. The Y-Bloggist 部落Y格斗 (http://project.omy.sg/ybloggist) presented by iKnow.com.sg
This is a blogging challenge for any youth bloggers aged 25 years and below. Participation is open to individuals or a group of no more than five people sharing a blog.

The main sponsors for Singapore Blog Awards 2010 are the East Asia Institute of Management (EASB), National Heritage Board (NHB) and United International Pictures (UIP). Air tickets and accommodation for the 10 award winners are sponsored by the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Other sponsors include Rednano, ASUS, Asia Web Direct (http://www.asiawebdirect.com) and Fabrix.

For more details, check out Omy.sg's official blog on this.

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and make your day!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Appointing Customer Champions


Make customer advocacy the pinnacle of your business (courtesy of MIT Sloan Management Review)

Anybody who has been in the field of marketing would be familiar with the term customer champion. However, few have truly understood what it means in the context of today's organisation.

Being an advocate for customers doesn't merely mean spending all your days (and nights) at your client's offices, or conducting an endless round of surveys, focus groups and tea sessions. It isn't just about understanding what customers want and desperately trying to fit one's products and services into that itty bitty space called "consumer desire".

Rather, being an "outside-in" advocate means lobbying for one's customers within the organisation. Think of them as being like consumer/client rights representatives who appear to work for the interests of the buyers rather than the sellers.

The public perception of customer champions should be like an emissary of the company who acts like a bridge linking what customers want with what companies want. At times they would even play the role of facilitators, moderators, and even mediators (in cases of customer-company disputes). Customer champions should be where the interfaces between an organisation and its stakeholders are.

To be a great customer champion, one should have the following qualities:

1) Possess a thick skin. Customer advocacy requires you to speak out against company policies which increase profits at the expense of the customer. You HAVE to be the bad guy.

2) Be passionate about service. The greatest customer champions are normally service excellence champions - the rare breed of humanity who likes jumping through flaming hoops to satisfy their customers.

3) Have a clear viewpoint (or two). Customer champions need to be seen, heard and understood. They need to state their case for the customers in coherent and unequivocal terms without being offensive, abrasive or belligerent.

4) Be excellent communicators. Now this doesn't mean that customer champions only exist in the marketing or PR departments. Anybody who is willing to raise his or her voice - in person, text, audio, or video - can be an effective advocate.

5) Are good problem solvers. Customer champions are not incessant complainers. They help to think of practical ways to solve issues in discussion with their colleagues in the rest of the company.

In an age of abundant choices and numerous companies falling head over heels for their customers, paying lip service is the surest path to corporate ruin. Companies need to go beyond customer service and relationship marketing to customer advocacy.

Anybody - from the shopfloor worker to the executive suite director - can be a lobbyist for the customer so long as they have a voice and use it.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Who Says Museums and Families Don't Mix?



Yesterday, my family and I decided to check out the Circle Line Open House at NHB Museums after hearing about it from my colleagues. Held in anticipation of the opening of the highly publicised Circle Line on 17 April, the Line includes the Bras Basah MRT Station which is smack in the middle of the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum!

Despite the dreary rain and drizzle that morning, the crowds still thronged the museums. I saw queues in front of the National Museum, and many families popping into the Singapore Art Museum with kids totting their Circle Line balloons. As I've been to both museums recently, we decided to make a bee-line for the Peranakan Museum and the Singapore Philatelic Museum.

Circle Line Open House
It was great to see a constant flow of human traffic at the Peranakan Museum, many of whom are families.

Circle Line Open House
Our first stop was the Straits Family Sunday at the Ixora Room of the museum.

Circle Line Open House
These valiant volunteers were on hand to help families with their art materials.

Circle Line Open House
These kids were having much fun doodling, colouring and pasting.

Circle Line Open House
Those who preferred to read could lounge on these comfy cushions.

Circle Line Open House
Our next stops were the galleries themselves. Ethan went for the stamping activity as usual. We also checked out the excellent Ramayana Revisited exhibition (unfortunately its photos were too dark to showcase here).

Circle Line Open House
He also took some time to listen to the interactive stations explaining age-old Peranakan rituals like "An Chng" whereby a young boy was assigned to roll over the nuptial bed in the hope of the wedded couple bringing forth a son. Not exactly the most politically correct of practices, but traditions were different then I suppose.

Circle Line Open House
Our next stop was the Singapore Philatelic Museum or SPM.

Circle Line Open House
There were lots of people thronging its cosy little galleries, with children of all ages having fun (as you can see).

Circle Line Open House
Of course, there were lots of real kids there too. Here are some of them colouring while seated comfortably on the floor.

Circle Line Open House
Ethan tried his hand at this station, which showed how the different speeds of snail mail transportation.

Circle Line Open House
I took the chance to peak at the Philippines exhibition, which showcased the cultures and practices of the over 88 million Filipinos on its 7,107 islands.

Circle Line Open House
The beautifully decorated Edo dolls also attracted visitors. I overheard some visitors saying that the hair on these dolls were purported to keep growing even when cut. Anybody can verify that spooky fact?

Circle Line Open House
This brightly coloured room was full of kids having fun stenciling on different patterns.

Circle Line Open House
Naturally, Ethan had to get into the act.

Circle Line Open House
Finally, we checked out the bazaar (better known as Pasar Malam to us locals) at the alleyway of SPM.

Now who says that museums are boring and sterile places unfit for families? :)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Feeding My Mind

Recent Book Haul - 3 April 2010

Following the tip-off of a friend, my family and I visited the wonderful MPH Warehouse sale at Singapore Expo and hauled back about 40 titles. Admittedly, most of the books were for my son as well as gifts.

I picked up a total of five titles covering digital culture, grassroots/evangelistic marketing, socio-psycho trends, social media marketing, and related topics. Beyond Buzz is actually a loaned copy from the wonderful National Library of Singapore's public libraries.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I will spend more time reading and less time surfing.... Yeah right!

Friday, April 02, 2010

We are all Creatures of Habit


Courtesy of cartoonstock.com

There is an age-old saying that you cannot make a leopard change its spots. Or teach an old dog new tricks.

Habits, especially deeply ingrained ones, die hard. Sometimes, they can be so addictive that they not only fail to perish, but linger on. Day after day. Week after week. Year after year.

In any successful marketing strategy, one mustn't only study consumer behaviours, attributes and profiles, but understand what they are addicted to and why. The marketer who is able to worm himself or herself into the customer's subconcious behaviours - the one's that are generated by the autonomic nervous system - wins the game.

Here's how:

First, look deeply inside and find the child within you. Coax that kid to come forth and observe his or her candid, frank and unabashed opinion of what rocks and what sucks. Habits usually form when one is young and it is best to look at consumption behaviours from a child's eye.

If you can't picture yourself being the target customer of your own product or service, get a close family member and friend who is. Take a peek at how they pass their days, and what their unsolicited reactions are to the various products and services that they encounter.

Next, be observant for clear patterns around your neighbourhood. I find that certain behavioural trends are as consistent as clockwork - the same uncle will come down to go for a walk at a certain time each day or the same little boy will kick his ball around in the basketball court at four pm.

Finally, think about how you can adapt your value propositions to suit those habits. As Stephen Covey has said, "Begin with the End in Mind". If your goal is to serve the purposes of your customers, examine what their idiosyncrasies are and adapt your product offering to those patterns.

In the age of information overload with a multiplicity of choices, consumers are looking for convenience and ease of transaction in a way that suits their lifestyles. If you wish to disrupt those patterns, you must be 100% sure that your product or service is remarkable. Otherwise, it may be better to capture the ebb and flow of one's customer habits.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Would You Apply For This Job?

Every now and then, you come across a nice marketing idea that not only catches the eye but changes conventional perception of how advertisements should look like. As I was flipping TODAY newspaper this morning, the following job advertisement caught my eye.



What I like about this ad is that it chooses not to adopt a conventional job advertisement format which lists down the various job requirements in bullet points, and is often written in a more straight forward manner.

The use of the visual provides a nice touch, and the use of colours is balanced in a harmonious manner while highlighting certain text which needs special attention. What's more, the copy is beautifully written and pitched at the right level for the premium world-class restaurants that the Marina Bay Sands will be opening.

It would be great to see more organisations take the plunge by investing in creative and innovative job recruitment advertisements. People are the most important resource in any company, and it is absolutely critical to ensure that you hire only the best that your money can afford.