Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Simplest Trick in Advertising and Promotions?

Yesterday evening, as I was going home from work, I was handed a packet of free tissues outside City Hall MRT station along North Bridge Road. Considered one of the oldest promotional gimmick in the book, it came from QB House - famous for its 10 minute haircut costing $10 - which recently opened a branch at Basement 2 of Raffles City.

QB House Promotion Gimmick

Despite the small rectangular area of the tissue, the company has cleverly done a few things right:

1) Adopt bright and easily readable fonts with brand oriented colours

2) Highly visible call for action (WE ARE NOW OPEN!)

3) Clearly articulated information on their key USP (10 minutes haircut for S$10)

4) Emphasise their 3 major highlights in Chinese characters and pictorial symbols (Skill, Cleanliness, and Timeliness)

5) Include their web URL

As I opened up the pack, I noticed that it came with a map showing the location of the new outlet in red.

QB House Promotion Gimmick

In my view, giving away a pack of tissues is quite a no-brainer in marketing. People are more likely to pick up something that offers them utility as opposed to a brochure - even if it offers a discount or a lucky draw. The cost of mass producing and distributing them are also fairly reasonable.

Oh yes, I forgot to add that people who don't mind getting a freebie (like a pack of tissues) are also likely to go for budget $10 haircuts! So the company could be spot-on in terms of understanding its target audiences too.

Do you agree that giving away items like this still work in today's context?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

From Books to Facebook - NLB Ups the Digital Ante

Last night, at the kind invitation of Liana Tang (@spoonrabbit on Twitter), I participated in the first #nlbmeetup (issue #1) organised by the National Library Board. Happening at the lovely Esplanade Library, the Meet Up was a good chance for me to catch up with social media buddies and to witness the evolution/revolution of Singapore libraries from Paper Books to Facebook.

Of course, our libraries aren't strangers to social media, as my buddy Rambling Librarian (aka Ivan Chew) would testify. They have blogs for almost anything under the sun, a Twitter account, a Facebook fan page, an electronic encyclopedia (Infopedia), as well as other social media tools. Being a great fan, I can attest to their extensive efforts in using web and social technologies to improve the entire book borrowing, reading, fine paying (it happens!) and information gathering experience.

It was great to know that Siva (or @sivasothi), a long-time friend, former biology tutor, Friend of, and eco activist extraordinaire, would be speaking about his experiences as one of the pioneers in embracing social media for teaching and other purposes.

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Bloggers and friends were given this cool sachet of custom-made sweets. In case you're wondering, the message on the candies was...

#nlbmeetup issue #1
..."I Heart Social Media". Nice touch!

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Liana Tang giving an introduction to what NLB has done in pioneering their digital library initiatives.

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Trust Kevin Lim (@brainopera) to reveal his true colours like this. :)

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Molly, the Mobile Library Bus was one of the great innovations by our public libraries to make books and reading more accessible to the heartlanders.

#nlbmeetup issue #1
SNAP or Singapore National Album of Pictures on Flickr is another digital innovation by NLB which helps to build an online repository of crowd-sourced event photographs.

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Of course, the icing on the cake was the Facebook application which incorporated utility with social features.

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Up next was the head honcho of NLB himself, Dr Varaprasad. I liked his quote that "the library is not a place but a space" which gives a different context to what libraries do. You can also see a capacity crowd of bloggers following the proceedings closely, armed with digital cameras (from point and shoots to micro 4/3rds to DSLRs!) and iPads.

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Dr Varaprasad launching the Mylibrary Facebook application by dropping a "facebook" into the "bookdrop".

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Voila! The application is now officially launched.

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Siva regaled the crowd with his bygone tales of pioneering the online activism scene.

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Do you know that he was the guy who launched Singapore's first natural history blog (which became its first museum blog)?

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Siva was also credited with the first local cycling blog in Singapore!

#nlbmeetup issue #1
After all the brain food, we were treated to a pretty sumptuous buffet spread.

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Bloggers doing what they do best, social networking!

#nlbmeetup issue #1
Most of us stayed back till 9 plus for the lucky draw excellent company and conversations. My friend Coleman Yee (@metacole) won a funky "Fame" branded headphones!

#nlbmeetup issue #1
I was luckier I guess, as I won a brand new iPOD Shuffle. Woo hoo! Looks like everybody is a winner tonight - NLB, bloggers, and book borrowing public!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Sparkling New Jewel in the Night Sky

Last night, my family and I decided to venture on the new and improved Jewel Cable Car ride from Mount Faber to Sentosa. Living just a stone's throw away from the Jewel Box (with the view of Mount Faber from our window), we were really looking forward to going on our latest aerial adventures, suspended on a cable.

Mount Faber's New Cable Car Ride

Revamped at a cost of some $36 million, the new cable car rides boasted of 67 sparkling new cabins done in a modern metallic black and chrone design which boasted of large panoramic view windows. The flip-up seats were more comfortable, and the internal ambient lighting helped to make it less pitch black at night. Having experienced the old cable cars before, I must say that this recent upgrade is a major improvement to the overall experience.

Mount Faber's New Cable Car Ride
Hopping onboard the spanking new cabins

With a new mono-cable system, I found the ride faster and smoother (13 minutes each way), with the "intersection points" at the world trade centre and Sentosa less rocky than before. The midpoint is also higher at 120 m above sea level - 30m higher than before - enhancing the vantage point offered to passengers. At night, the aerial adventure offered wonderful views of Keppel Road, VivoCity, Harbourfront centre, Keppel Port, the Sentosa causeway bridge, and of course Resorts World at Sentosa.

Mount Faber's New Cable Car Ride
Resorts World Sentosa

Mount Faber's New Cable Car Ride
Keppel Road at Night

Apparently, there is also a World's First 7 Star VIP Jewelled Cabin which boasts of Swarovski crystals in both its interior and exterior, leather upholstery chairs and a Swarovski glass panel illuminated roof! Talk about luxury! Be prepared to pay more though (both the standard and VIP rides). Ticket prices are now about $26 (round-trip) for adults compared to $18,90 in the past.

Source: Seven Crystal

Other than the new cabins, Jewel Box itself at Mount Faber undertook a transformation. Its overall design and decor is now dripping with decadence, with elements like chandeliers, crystals, silver-coloured furniture, and dark walls to evoke a sense of luxuriant and opulent indulgence.

Mount Faber's New Cable Car Ride
Life doesn't get better than this!

The F&B outlets - named Black Opal and Sapphire no less - were given a new touch of class, offering splendid and unobstructed views. Even the tacky old souvenir shop was gone, replaced by a carefully themed one with specially "curated" merchandise.

Mount Faber's New Cable Car Ride

Here are all the photos of our experience for your viewing pleasure. If you haven't already gone on the Jewel Cable Car ride, do check it out soon!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How to Achieve Greater Office Productivity


Do you know how you can increase your productivity?

Do you know how you can do more with less (time)?

Do you know how you can be better and faster (though not necessarily cheaper)?

The three-step answers can be surprisingly simple. They are:

1) Shut up - at least during the time when you need to complete the task at hand.

2) Shut down - all Facebook, Twitter, Blog, MSN, Gmail, and Youtube windows on your computer/mobile screens.

3) Shut out - all unnecessary chatter, gossips, music and other auditory/visual/olfactory distractions.

In an open office environment, this can be fiendishly difficult. After all, one should mingle with one's coworkers and colleagues, catch up with each other on a social level, and establish camaraderie and esprit de corps.

There will also be meetings, discussions and brainstorming sessions that we need to participate in. Plus, of course, the emails where one proffers deep insights, intelligent discourse and invaluable points of view.

No man or woman is an island - especially in today's context which emphasise group efforts over individual prima donnas.

However, you do need to prioritise. Trying to do everything in drips and draps is the surest way to leave everything half-baked. Or undone.

First, carve out the hours of your work day for specific activities. Establish clear goals on what you need to accomplish before the end of the work day. Stick to them as much as possible.

If you need peace and quiet to work on a particular piece of work, consider coming in earlier than the rest of the team so that you have an uninterrupted stretch to work on. The plus point is that you may get to go home earlier.

Where possible, time your coffee breaks such that you - not your colleague, buddy or the coffee lady - determine when, where and how long your social interactions should be. If checking emails are breaking your rhythm, consider doing that only during specific intervals (instead of every other minute).

Of course, you cannot just keep quiet and smile when a colleague speaks to you. That is considered rude and a huge no-no in the book on office etiquette! Well...if you really do need to focus - and the office is like a fish market - consider asking your boss for permission to work offsite in an environment where there is peace and quiet. I am sure that he or she wouldn't mind your temporary absence if the end result is better quality work in a shorter timespan.

Do you have any tips on working more productively and efficiently? Do you also agree with my points above?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Old Spice Man - Old Cologne in New Bottles?

Source: Frat House Sports

By now, almost everybody plugged into social media (including my friends Ivan Chew, Kevin Lim, Siva and Lucian) would have heard of how Old Spice, a heritage toiletry brand (used by one's granddad) managed to reinvent itself through the Old Spice Man Youtube channel. The idea was developed by marketing agency Wieden + Kennedy and involved the shooting of real-time marketing videos while leveraging on social media networks.

Here's an example of the commercials which have been circulating on Youtube and garnering massive views:

Considered by Techcrunch to be "one of the more creative social media ad campaigns in a while", Old Spice Man involves a shirtless, muscled man (played by Isaiah Mustafa, an actor and former NFL American footballer) dishing out little video snippets in response to tweets. Cleverly scripted to be witty and charming while oozing lots of masculine hunk appeal, they form part of a Youtube Tweetathon, which spanned a two week period from end June to 14 July (the last video is here).

An example is his response to Digg founder Kevin Rose's tweet that he was sick below: well as another (out of several) in response to celebrity Alyssa Milano below:

To date, Old Spice has uploaded a total of 205 videos (and counting) on their Youtube channel, which has garnered an impressive 7.8 million channel views, 83.2 million upload views with almost 125,000 subscribers. Naturally, there is an Old Spice Twitter account and Facebook page (its blog isn't quite updated, unfortunately).

While the campaign is a great marketing idea leveraging on the properties of social media channels like Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and viral marketing, there are several Advertising 101 lessons here:

1) Sex appeal sells. I can't imagine how the response will be like if the Old Spice Man was old, balding, blubbery and wearing a shirt.

2) Celebrity appeal sells. The most watched Old Spice videos were those made in response to larger-than-life personalities like Justine Bateman, Alyssa Milano, and Kevin Rose. Notice also how Old Spice focuses on the few with the greatest influence.

3) Humour and wit sells. If Old Spice Man was just a voiceless, charmless bare-bodied hunk, the results would have been vastly different.

4) Great scripting and excellent production values sells. With a gazillion Youtube videos out there, you need to be exceptional to stand out. Elements of success from the old TV broadcast model still works here.

5) Being focused and succinct sells. Note how intense and short-lived the Old Spice campaign was on Youtube, before it starts to become draggy and deadbeat.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Can You Truly Separate Business from Pleasure?

Courtesy of Life's a comic strip!

In the world of User Generated Content (UGC) on social media platforms, a common question always arises for those whose job involves blogging, facebooking or twittering.

How do we separate our personal and professional selves? More importantly, are we able to do that in the first place?

There are a few dilemmas of course.

First, blogging, youtubing and flickring for work isn't quite the same as doing it on your own time and space. You probably need to adhere to some corporate principles and guidelines. Those working in large organisations like MNCs, government agencies or GLCs would also have to follow certain policies pertaining to information security, appropriate behaviours, and language norms.

Second, updating an 'official' facebook fan page isn't the same as telling your buddies where you partied till 3 am last night. You need to be prudent and pace yourself in posting event information, photographs or product information, lest you be treated as "spam" and deleted indelibly from your fans' facebook streams.

Finally, you can't do it on your own whim and fancy. Having a job in maintaining a twitter account means that you need to respond to customer feedback and comments as quickly as you can. And often, we do know that corporate twitter accounts do end up becoming complaint channels!

While the above is true - that performing official social media duties aren't quite the same as telling the world what you did last summer - it is also inevitable that whatever you do online will affect people's perception of you.

Studies have shown that more and more employers will trawl the World Wide Web to search for information on prospective hires. The first things which pop up when you google a name are things like a person's facebook page, photographs from a image sharing application, blog posts or sometimes forum posts.

It is also difficult for one to truly divorce work from play when the Internet is 24 by 7. From experience, many of my best leads, contacts and hires do not come from official channels, but from personal networks - often at 1 am on a Friday night!

One's online persona will also influence what others think about one's organisation, as employees are inevitably corporate ambassadors whether they like it or not.

The moral of the story? Be true to yourself but be mindful that whatever you do online will have repercussions - whether good or bad - on your professional career. Let's not forget that anything on the web is immortal and written in indelible digital ink.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Which Poster Would Warn You Better?

As I was walking to work recently, I couldn't help noticing the following workplace safety advertisement on a bus stop shelter (I have a peculiar habit of noticing outdoor advertisements of all shapes and sizes):

Workplace Accidents Singapore

Put up by the Ministry of Manpower's Workplace Safety and Health unit, the poster had a simple and succinct message reminding everybody to be careful and to take care of themselves. This is important as some 29 per cent or 3,000 workplace injuries last year were from non-factory industries like retail, entertainment and services.

While the advertisement did work (at least for me) with its straightforward message and clear visuals, I couldn't help noticing how alike (yet different) it was compared to a similar campaign last year in Melbourne put together by Worksafe Victoria.


Back then, I blogged that shocking visuals could be a way to get a message across in a cluttered advertising scene. Of course, the Victorian government took a more graphic approach to safety at work.

Which approach would work better for you and why?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mindfulness and Zen in Management

Source: Mystic Bourgeoisie

What is the most difficult task as a manager in a corporate organisation?

a) Finding a way to fund your projects, justify ROI and achieve your KPIs?

b) Dealing with the likes, dislikes, and increasingly discerning choices of your customers and partners?

c) Handling the soaring expectations of one's bosses (without sounding like a wet blanket)?

d) Keeping a close tab on what your competitors are doing in a hypercompetitive marketplace?

e) Working with the widely ranging personalities of your direct and indirect reports, while smoothening ruffled feathers?

f) All of the above?

I believe the answer is probably closer to f) for most of us saddled with the enviable/unenviable task of managing and handling both people and finances. Faced with competing pressures for one's personal time, attention and energy, how can one handle the often onerous duties of management?

There are several strategies that one can adopt.

1) Embrace an attitude of mindfulness and take a step back. When things get heated in the office, don't jump into the fray with your sword and shield in place! Instead, control your gut feelings, take a deep breath, and think rationally and objectively before responding.

2) Learn how to tune out and tune in at the right time. When you get back home after a hard day at work, try not to let the worries of the day keep you awake in unproductive wakefulness. Try to relax by listening to music, going for a long run, or practising yoga.

3) Be patient and try to hear somebody out if possible, and speak in soft and measured tones. While you should try to empathise with the other party, do not let the conversation spiral into a hysterical emotional roller-coaster. There is a time and place for spilling one's guts and bawling one's eyes out - the pub is probably better than the office for this.

4) Take everything that you hear from the office grapevine with a pinch of salt, and do not be upset by nasty or hurtful comments about yourself. As a manager, your job isn't to become the most popular guy in the block. Rather, your task is to ensure that the organisation runs smoothly and efficiently, while taking care of the collective welfare of your colleagues.

5) There is a time and place for vigourous discourse. However, do not be drawn into long intellectual and philosophical arguments that are fruitless, energy sapping and time wasting. Don't suffer from analysis paralysis and aim for perfection when time is not on your side.

6) Finally, learn to let go. There will be times when you screw up, make mistakes and flop. Just take it with a pinch of salt, admit that you have gone wrong, and move on to the next project and initiative. (Of course failures that are too costly may result in the organisation letting you go instead, but that's a different story.)

Can one truly find inner peace and tranquility in a tempestuous workplace?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

We Are All Stars @ Singapore Blog Awards 2010

Singapore Blog Awards 2010

It was an afternoon to remember at Movida of St James Powerhouse when virtual virtuosos became real rock-stars. More than 100 bloggers, models, singers, friends, fans and followers of social media stardom congregated for's Singapore Blog Awards 2010. As one of the judges for the awards, I had the privilege of evaluating the shortlisted finalists for two of the categories, and was blown over by the quality of the entries.

Looking around the hall, I had the following quick thoughts (being an insightful blogger - remember?) on what Singapore's blogging scene has become:

- Bloggers are no longer just geeks, nerds or techies (just look at the photos and blogs below);

- Social media isn't new media any longer, but is in fact a part of mainstream media. Conversely traditional media is also moving into new media;

- Anybody can be a social media celebrity/rock-star/"god" or "goddess" if he or she tries hard enough.

My heartiest congratulations to all the winners of the 13 categories as well as the hundred over finalists! Here's a pictorial recap of an afternoon to remember.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
These banners at the entrance of Movida listed down all the finalists of the award categories.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Crew from the video team interviewing larger-than-life Steven Lim and his coquettish coterie.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Sumptuous servings of food (prepared and served by students from EASB) helped to keep energy levels high...

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
...washed down with free flow of soft drinks and Tiger beer (courtesy of APB).

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
My colleague Karen Tang won a cool laptop bag by Fabrix during the bingo-like stage games.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
These talented students from EASB pulled off some slick dance moves.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Silver Ang, a finalist of the Best Modelling Blog, brought us two songs. I heard that she is already signed on to greater mainstream stardom. Nice work!

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Chim Kang, editor and bossman of, addressing the audience.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Here are the finalists for the best modelling blog (which seems to be the most high profile) parading in their Saturday best. Can you spot who the odd one out is?

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Contestants for the best-dressed party goer include the hyper-energetic Steven Lim (doing a flip), Jayden Leif, Kanny Theng, and a guy with a bow tie and bermudas.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
More entertainment provided by Kanny in a fluffy pink and white dress which seemed to defy gravity.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
GOH Teo Ser Luck, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for MCYS, flew back specially for this event. The winners' trophies on the right were created by master artist Tan Swie Hian.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
The highlight of the evening was the announcement of the winners. Finalists' details (like cooking blogger tigerfish here) were flashed on the screen ala Oscar award style.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Catherine Ling of Camemberu fame won the best food blog award. Well done Catherine!

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Violet Lim
, another blogger whom I respect, won the most insightful blog for her matchmaking services. I think Mr Teo must be especially happy since that's one of the KPIs for his Ministry!

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
A family portrait with all the brilliant winners of the blog awards, posing with the GOH, Mr Dennis Foo (owner of St James Powerhouse), Chim Kang and Swie Hian.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Ever the flamboyant showman, Steven surprised us when he popped over to ask for "I Like" stickers (inspired by Facebook). We gladly obliged, and Kevin quickly camwhored with him.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Unfortunately, our contributions weren't enough for him. Here are the remaining candidates for the "most well liked" party attendee/blogger.

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Bringing up the glitz, glamour, and "Boomz" factor were the infamous Ms Ris Low and two other model bloggers. Too bad Ris didn't come dressed in a "leopard preenz bigini"!

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Here's what I brought back that day - the Fabrix laptop bag on the top left was a special gift for being a judge while the rest were found in the goodie bag. A fabulous end to a great event.

A special shout out to Alvin, Han Joo and the team at for putting together this wonderful celebration.