Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Science of Excellent Exhibitions

Creating Exhibitions @ Science Centre

As the importance of 360 degree immersive marketing grows, companies should consider curating and choreographing experience-rich physical environments in their retail outlets. A good way to do so would be putting up 3D exhibition displays that help to augment and enrich the overall experience of one's customers.

In this regard, the Singapore Science Centre can be considered one of the leaders of the craft. Attracting more than a million visitors a year, the Science Centre offers education, enrichment and entertainment all under one roof. As part of the PS21 EXCEL Learning Journey, I had the benefit of understanding how the Centre - considered one of the best in the world - goes about creating, developing and implementing an exhibition.

Essentially, there are four steps involved in conceptualising and rolling out an exhibition:


The first step involves understand your target audience and current competencies, so that you can devise the best ways to reach your customers and maximise your strengths while filling up gaps.


In the example of the Science Centre, they knew that their primary target audiences were children between the ages of 9 to 14 years of age, with some background in scientific knowledge, as well as "casual" adults who may have studied science way back in school. This determined how they pitch their exhibitions and necessitated the incorporation of high levels of participatory and interactive features in their exhibits.


The Science Centre normally hires specialists with a general scientific education (for education oriented areas) or an interest in the subject matter (for other areas). This ensures that the learning curve is shortened for newcomers and that they have a passion for what they do.

In addition, it leverages on a network of advisors who who could be experts and academics to give credence, inputs and ideas. An example is Professor Bernard Tan of the National University of Singapore, who is an expert in physics as well as a aficionado of classical music who was able to give solid inputs in a prior exhibit on sound.


To generate a healthy flow of innovative and creative ideas, the Science Centre embraces the following tenets at its workplace:

a) Open office spaces and layouts with inspirational features and designs

b) Cross-functional teams during the process of ideation for exhibitions and educational programmes on a space by space basis

c) A 'no bad ideas' policy during brainstorming exercises

d) No hierarchy, ie anybody can lay claim to an idea

e) Open meeting room concepts


In the development of the exhibits themselves, the following steps are necessary:

a) Choosing an appropriate TOPIC. This can be either planned in advance or made to be topical in nature to ride onto current concerns. An example of a 'hot' topic would be global warming and the current carbon crisis.

b) Brainstorming of the CONTENT. This can be done via an advisory committee with panel of experts and academics plus everyone else involved. The following questions could be asked:

- Interesting enough?

- Too profound for the layman?

- What do they want to know?

- Anything else to be covered?

c) EXHIBITS, ie how to turn an IDEA/message into an individual interactive experience?

- Mechanisms like pushing buttons, pulling levels, touch screens, flip panel, etc?

- Use of multimedia features like films, games, applications?

- Other things to consider include safety, user friendliness, durability, and feasibility (which can be done via prototyping)

d) EXHIBITION DESIGN, ie what do you want visitors to see and experience.

- What is the exhibition flow?

- Layout of exhibits?

- Themed areas?

- Colour scheme?

- Overall aesthetics?

Do note that both exhibits and exhibition design can happen CONCURRENTLY and that they can be fluid and dynamic processes.


Exhibition implementation requires one to keep an open-mind and to be flexible in one's approach. It is common to encounter problems and obstacles that may not be evident during the initial planning stages. The best way to minimise any negative incidents is to work on prototypes and to test them in advance with target audiences.


Like any other endeavour, one should constantly monitor the responses to one's exhibition from both spoken and unspoken behaviours. To ensure that this is done effectively, the Science Centre conducts 'live' testing and actively solicits visitor feedback. It also updates its content once every five years to ensure that they remain refreshing and relevant.

In addition, it organises complementary activities and programmes to enhance the overall learning experience for its visitors. These include workshops, tours, expeditions, talks and other auxiliary activities.

Examples of the fruit of the Science Centre's efforts include the "Invent" exhibition as well as the YOG flaming tower. Do check out the pictures of these exhibits below and see if you can figure out how their process works.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Changi Airport Goes Christmassy

Experiential Marketing @ Changi Airport
Royal purple is the colour this Christmas!

As I've highlighted in an earlier post three years ago, Singapore's Changi Airport is well known for embracing experiential and immersive elements in its onsite marketing. Occupying a sprawling complex of buildings covering four terminals, the airport has concertedly marketed and promoted itself not only as a gateway to the world but a retail and dining destination for locals.

Experiential Marketing @ Changi Airport
Step into this magical err... cluster of plants!

With the theme of Christmas Fantasy (hmmm...haven't we seen that before elsewhere?), the airport transformed a part of its extensive spaces into photo opportunity spots, complete with an "enchanted" magical tree, teapot, elves and animals. These were accompanied of course by the shopping and dining promotions that allow you to redeem gifts in exchange for spending.

Experiential Marketing @ Changi Airport
Hey look mummy, there's an elephant!

What I liked was how they incorporated a daily trivia challenge on both Twitter and Facebook, integrating both online and offline elements in their campaign.

While we didn't quite participate in the promotion then (it was an unearthly 1 am), it was nice for weary travellers like us to be greeted by a whimsical "world" full of bauble-shaped faerie folks and beasties while waiting for our post-midnight flight to Taipei.

Experiential Marketing @ Changi Airport
Thumbs up for keeping Ethan and Chloe amused waaay past bedtime

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Engaging Customers with Game Mechanics

Animal Kaiser @ Timezone
Everybody loves gaming!

The latest buzzword in marketing - especially in online circles - is gaming (or more accurately game mechanics). To some, it has become the new viral, overtaking videos as the holy grail of consumer engagement and interaction. Almost everybody online these days are raving about how game mechanics can change the future of company-customer interactions.

So what exactly is game mechanics all about? Well, according to this source:

“Game mechanics are rule based systems that facilitate and encourage a user to explore and learn the properties of their possibility space through the use of feedback mechanisms.”

Amy Jo Kim (courtesy of Shuffle Brain)

Hmmm... sounds too "cheem" (deep)? Perhaps a more useful way to describe it comes from Amy Jo Kim, who breaks down the participation process into five key points:

1. Earning points - or anything similar like credits, coupons, loyalty, chops, rankings. The use of leaderboards/flightboards are popular here as players can immediately see who is winning (and losing) in the game.

2. Collecting - can be virtual or physical goods such as affiliations to groups, "swords and shields", toys, books, a set of matching crockery etc

3. Feedback - so that players know how well or badly they are doing. Best if this can be provided in real-time

4. Taking turns - an important attribute that helps to develop relationships and build social capital. Allowing interaction is also key.

5. Customization - Anything that allows you to differentiate and tailor-make your profiles. Badges are quite popular here (I have a few on this blog), as well as other elements like design, personality attributes, and so on.

My friend and colleague Kevin Lim has a nice and entertaining presentation on Productive Games which further explains what this is about, peppered with lots of examples both virtual and physical:

View more presentations from Kevin Lim.
Naturally, game mechanics are already applied prodigiously in online and video gaming worlds. Common examples include social networking doyens like Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, World of Warcraft ( IS a game), Second Life, Slideshare, Youtube, and Flickr.

There are also physical examples as cited by Kevin, as well as those integrating both online and offline elements. Trendspotter Piers Fawkes has a nice list that you can find here. With the rise of mobile computing, almost every handphone can be a gaming device.

So how can one apply the theories of game mechanics in one's customer engagement activities? Well, consider the following from Mashable (with my own elaborations):

1. Start With Your Vision and Work Backwards

The first thing you need to do is define your end goal. What do you want to accomplish? What are the exact deliverables (followers, fans, visitors, ranking, traffic) that you want to achieve?

2. Make a List of Required User Actions

Next, you need to determine the specific user actions required to realize it. What behavior patterns would they need to adopt in order to sustain your business model? What are the actions that you need them to do and how does that add eventually to your bottomline?

3. Motivate the Most Important Behaviors

Driving any form of user behaviour, games can be used to drive almost any user outcome. Mashable cited Marc Metis, President of Digital Chocolate as saying that “Games have the potential to tap into the full range of human emotions and motivate a wide range of behaviors.”

Plan the games such that specific actions and behaviours are encouraged:

i) Mechanisms should be layered. The most successful games normally have different levels of gameplay, as well as both individual and communal activities. Think Pet Society, World of Warcraft, Farmville and so on.

ii) Pull the consumer toward the most critical behaviors with rewards. As earlier highlighted, this can be in the form of virtual rewards (credits, gold, points) or physical ones (redemption of goods and services).

iii) Mechanisms should be designed for flexibility and growth. Don't lock them into one form of gameplay but allow for modularity and expansion.

4. Evaluate and Adapt

Learn to listen and respond to what your users/game players are telling you by how they play. This requires a fair amount of nuancing and modification of the game play mechanism, rewards, or social dynamics as the activity progresses.

Can you achieve the game mechanic Zen? (courtesy of Mashable)

So what's my take on this?

Well, gaming in the business world isn't anything new. We have been using techniques such as FREE, loyalty points, membership rewards, lucky draws, refer-a-friends, and other similar mechanics to encourage greater spend, higher number of referrals, and increased profit per customer. However, these usually tend to be boring, uni-dimensional and lack the thrills of challenge, interactivity, community-building and sustainability.

Through applying the principles of game mechanics, one can make the experience more immersive than transactional while deepening engagement with one's customer. Embracing the principles of game mechanics require us to understand and consider elements of "play" from the perspective of the customer/user. Make it worth their time, effort, and emotional investment, and think beyond campaign-oriented short-term rewards.

Ultimately though, it is important to think about how implementing gaming elements help to contribute to one's customer equity - whether directly or indirectly so. Consider how relevant a particular game is to your brand positioning and values. While it is tempting to build a Facebook or Foursquare app - everybody's doing it anyway - evaluate whether they help to aid or aggravate your key objective.

Like in any marketing endeavour I suppose, the devil is in the details.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don't Toy Around With Takashimaya

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square
Not exactly award winning logo design, but it does the trick!

I'm not a shopaholic and neither is my wife. However, come December each year, we would venture forth to Takashimaya Shopping Centre (anchor tenant of Ngee Ann City) for our annual dose of gifting goodness. There is a certain magic in the way the Japanese retailer lays out its various spaces, tantalising consumers to part with their hard-earned cash in the most delightful way.

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square
Parental paradise or financial nightmare?

Every year, the Basement Two concourse area of Ngee Ann City - labelled Takashimaya Square - gets transformed into a shrine for childhood (and parenthood) consumption. With the theme "Christmas Fantasy", this mini toy/apparel/decor fair displays all the features targeted at getting your parents/grandparents to say "yes" to their most precious kids/grandchildren/princes and princesses.

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square
Buying for "ah boy" or "ah girl" is serious business!

How does Takashimaya manage to stir the heartstrings and purses of its target audiences? Here's a photo essay to explain the reasons.

Feature Top Billing Brands Prominently

Anybody who has a male primary school kid in Singapore would know how huge Beyblade currently is, putting a sensational spin on the cheap top, making them "battle weapons", and pricing them "over the top".

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square
Learn how the Japanese charge $20 for a $2 top!

Other big names with their own "selling territories" in the fair include the eternally youthful and beautiful Barbie (51 years young)...

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square

...the successfully reinvented Mr Men and Little Miss brands (another blast from the past)...

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square

... the ubiquitously Wonderful World of Disney...

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square

... plus a mix of other smaller brands like Hot Wheels and Creepy Crawlers...

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square

Use Exhibitions and Displays to Stir Their Imaginations

To paint the possibilities of one's toys, Takashimaya has cleverly constructed an exhibition showcase winners of a modelling competition featuring the popular Gundam robot series (hmmm... another 'classic' toy/anime brand). Working with huge Japanese toy brand Bandai, it managed to stir the excitement of both hardcore toy hobbyists and eager beaver boys.

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square
First you gaze...

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square
...then you study in awestruck adoration...

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square
...and finally, you give in to the siren-like calls and buy your own sets!

Mix Your Merchandise

While headlining brands may hog the retail spotlight, it may be useful to offer some discounted merchandise (sitting in your storeroom) that may no longer sell as well. These cheaper items may draw the value conscious consumer while helping to add buzz to the buying process. Of course, don't make it an everyday affair!

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square
You can tell a priced-down item by where its placed

Give the Kids Something to Play While Their Parents/Guardians Shop

While it can be a awesome adventure romping around in a toy fair, kids may sooner or later grow restless while their adult caretakers fret and fuss over the prices. Here's where activity corners offering games both video and physical could come in to absorb that hyperactive energy.

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square
Video games from Japan are always a huge draw

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square
Take your aim with Nerf Guns

Don't Forget to Wrap It Up

While this is one of the most basic and fundamental strategy, you will be surprised to note that not many retailers remember how busy working adults can be. Offering this service is a godsend for the festive period. Of course, it isn't exactly environmentally friendly to wrap all your gifts, but I'll save that debate for another time...

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square

Don't Forget the Festive Decor!

Finally, as in any major cultural celebration, the Christmas Fantasy at Takashimaya features a trim shop offering faux Christmas trees, baubles, reindeers, Santas, and all manner of decor items for sale. While these are usually seasonal in nature, they help to add to the overall cheer.

Christmas Fantasy @ Takashimaya Square
Mini Christmas trees are a godsend for space-constrained apartment dwellers like us

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Are You Engaging Your Customers Yet?

Church of the Customer recently shared about a fascinating marketing strategy called the "Social Engagement Journey". It detailed how companies could embrace ever growing levels of interaction, engagement and relationship building with its customers.

Using a diagram to illustrate this idea (adopted by their consulting firm Ant's Eye View), Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba postulated that there are five levels in social engagement.

Stages 1 to 4 (Courtesy of Church of the Customer)

Arranged in stepwise fashion from Stage 1 to Stage 5, they represent incremental levels of customer engagement. The initial phases revolve around a purely command and control style of traditional one-way marketing, and gradually move towards disparate teams experimenting with customer engagement, a more consolidated and integrated listening and responding model, and a final "Fully Engaged Enterprise" stage whereby companies manage to elicit deep customer engagement akin to a long-term trusting relationship. Each step upwards represent a more precise and holistic manner of customer engagement - from listening, focusing, measuring, to responding and co-creating.

Stage 5 - the Nirvana of Social Engagement (Courtesy of Church of the Customer)

While one may automatically associate such a framework with increasing levels of social media activity, I'd like to think that it can easily apply to offline and face-to-face relationship building endeavours (or better yet, integrate them all). In fact, the most successful firms know that engaging one's customers is a 24/7 effort across all touch points.

Smart companies know that a customer's lifetime value is often far greater than just one shot purchases made after a spur-of-the-moment buying decisions. A long-term customer is a valuable customer. The costs of acquiring new customers are just too high, and often there are huge wastages in advertising and marketing spend - just like a leaky bucket.

Courtesy of Mindshare

Unfortunately, satisfying your customers and retaining them alone isn't enough. While loyal customers add significant lifetime value, truly engaged customers help to act as your business advocates and may even assist to co-create new products and services, often in a collective manner with other equally engaged brand believers.

Courtesy of Innovation Playground

The lesson for us as managers and leaders of corporations is that we should work with our customers as extensively as possible in an enduring and cross-organisational manner. Find ways to involve them in your company's thinking and product development process as early as possible, and actively solicit their inputs at every step. This goes way beyond a mere customer loyalty or a members rewards programme.

You should also keep your customer relationships warm with frequent - but not spammy - communication, and try to make it a dialogue rather than a sermon. Learn to listen more than talk, and find ways to seek their views, wishes and desires both online and offline, through spoken, written and behavioral cues.

Eventually, get everybody in your organisation - R&D, production, logistics, HR, Finance, and of course marketing - involved in listening and interacting with your customers. A totally engaged enterprise is one where all hands are on the same deck, heaving and ho-ing, when it comes to steering and navigating the Customer RelationSHIP.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Burger King's Naughty But Nice (For Now)

Anybody who has followed Burger King's advertising strategies in recent years would know that it doesn't shy away from controversy. Embracing an all out assault to shock and awe - moral sensibilities notwithstanding - the popular fast food brand has adopted sexual innuendos and stereotypes both subtle and not so subtle in its advertising around the world.

Examples of its amorous and attention seeking ads include the following:

1) Bikini clad "BK Girls" which were featured in print advertisements...

Courtesy of cherryflava

...and television commercials...

Courtesy of Scoop

...which got yanked by the advertising authorities there.

2) A Mexican advertising campaign featuring a tall cowboy and a short Mexican that got pulled due to its disrespectful use of the Mexican flag and stereotypical portrayal of Mexicans.

Courtesy of

3) And of course, the infamous Singapore advertisement which generated a lot of irate remarks, especially from feminist groups...

Courtesy of

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which camp you're from), their latest campaign shows a good mix of being slightly naughty but not bordering on the offensive, as shown by the bus stop shelter ad below:

Hopefully, things for the burger brand will stay that way. While I'm not a regular patron of their outlets, I do hope that they will embrace creative, clever and perhaps slightly risque modes of advertising - like the ones here - without veering into the offensive.

In the world of consumer marketing, it is critical for global brands to appreciate the cultural mores and traditions of its target market. Know what makes your audiences tick, and learn to differentiate between being delectable and being detestable.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Lower Cheaper Discounts

One of the most common forms of 'marketing' is what I call the L.C.D.

It translates into 3 universally embraced words:

Lower Cheaper Discounts (or Lowest Common Denominator, depending on how you see it).

In the hypercompetitive world of consumer marketing, offers, special deals, sales, one-for-ones, buy-one-get-one-free, season-ending-soons, and other price-related promotions have always been preferred. If you look carefully at your newspaper advertisements, the majority of them would come with a slash-and-dash deal.

Want to move old stock? Dump them in the bargain bin with a 50% off!

Tickets not moving fast enough? Roll out the credit card and partner promotions.

Restaurant looking cold and empty? Offer a set lunch, free beer, free dessert, one-eats-free or all of the above!

Wondering why there is "nobody, nobody but you"? Give them the ultimate rock-your-socks deal: FREE (in bold and caps) entry.

While the LCD does work momentarily in moving your customers and their wallets, it hardly strikes me as a sustainable endeavour. Repeated and regular discounts cultivate a serial "waiting" behaviour amongst consumers.

This is also known as the "I know that you're only going to sell me that Prada bag at 30% off during the Great Singapore Sale so I wait lor." symptom.

Although the cash registers may be ringing, profits end up becoming razor thin (if any). You could increasingly attract a less profitable and more price-conscious crowd, while setting the alarm bells ringing in the heads of high-value and less price discerning customers ("I'm not squeezing in there with those 'aunties'").

Of course, while they're in the shop, you could entice them to buy other regular priced items (ie your offers act as loss leaders), but hardcore discount buyers tend to be notoriously difficult to waylay.

Having said that, an occasional offer or a delicious deal is useful in grabbing much needed attention in a sea of ads. It is fiendishly difficult to forecast demand, and generating cash flow could be much better than letting your stock sit idle while occupying expensive storage space.

However, be mindful not to overdo it. Rolling down the price/value hill is easy, but once you do that, climbing back up again would be a strenuous task. Once consumers label your brand as CHEAP, it will be difficult to convince them otherwise in future.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How Taiwan Touched Our Hearts (and Wallets)

Taiwan Feast Indulgence Tour

As some of you may know, my family and I went on a one week tour of Taiwan (labelled Taiwan Feast Indulgence), and we certainly had a wonderfully hedonistic time together. Our vacation from 3rd to 10th December covered Taipei, Neiwan, Taichung, Nantou, Kaohsiung, Taitung and Hualien. It was an especially meaningful and fortuitous trip for me as this was the second time I visited the island - my first visit was in 1983 or 1984 back when I was a bored teenager.

Taiwan Feast Indulgence Tour

Attracting some 4.4 million annual visitors, Taiwan - also known as Formosa (or beautiful in Portugese) - is a major tourism destination for a primarily Asian market. Most of its visitors hail from mainland China, Japan and Southeast Asia. The island occupies some 35,801 km2 in its total land area, out of which about 70% comprises mountainous natural areas. Taiwan also has a population of about 23 million in total, out of which 98% are Han Chinese, and about 2% belong to 13 native aboriginal groups.

How has Taiwan "touched our hearts" during the 7 days? With a hat-tip to Elizabeth Gilbert of "Eat Pray Love" fame, here are the highlights of our tour:


Every day was a gastronomic overkill. Most of the hotel breakfasts featured endless buffets of Eastern and Western favourites.

From Tamshui Old Street, Ximending and Shihlin Night Market in Taipei, Feng Jia Night Market in Taichung, to Neiwan Old Street, we stuffed our faces with all manner of Chinese cuisines and beverages. We filled our tummies with streetfare like Oyster Mee Suah, Fried Chicken, Taiwan Sausage, "Lu Wei", "Da Chang Bao Xiao Chang" (like a hotdog coated with glutinous rice), as well as nourishing concoctions like White Bittergourd with honey, Lingzhi juice, Papaya milkshake, Grandma iron tea eggs, soya bean curd, and others.

Some of the restaurants we visited include one of Taipei's top chef's restaurant, Neiwan Theatre Restaurant, Modern Toilet Restaurant, a Japanese styled hot pot restaurant and an eat-till-you-burst Chuan Fu Mala Hot Pot where one could gorge on free flow Haagen Dazs ice cream.


After cramming our guts, we "atoned" for our gluttony by exploring the spiritual dimension of Taiwan. Religious sites visited include the sprawling and magnificent Fo Kuang Shan Monastery with a giant golden statue of the Buddha, Da Jia Jenn Lann Temple where the Chinese sea goddess Ma Zu is worshipped fervently, and the Fu An Temple where joss papers were "swallowed" by a burning pyre.

Especially notable was the Wen Wu Temple around the perimeter of the Sun Moon Lake in Nantou, and the neighbouring hotel where an appropriately placed "Pi Xiu" ( 貔貅) was said to prevent the Ching Sheng Hotel from collapsing during the 1999 great Taiwan earthquake. Wanting to gain some of the good "fengshui", we also visited the Chung Hwa Pui Shiou Museum and brought home some animals of auspiciousness.


We shopped till we nearly dropped at the thousands of shops, pushcarts, street vendors and shopping centres during our visit. Other than the usual souvenirs, food items, and toys, we brought home herbal remedies like Lingzhi capsules, as well as geomancy approved jade "animals" for good fortune. From the various night markets and streets like Wufengpu Fashion Street, to the hyper-classy Taipei 101 and the humungous Dream Mall in Kaohsiung (the largest in East Asia), it was retail remedy every single day!

What especially caught our interest were the burgeoning crowds of mostly mainland Chinese visitors thronging the 維格餅家 vigor kobo pineapple cake (鳳梨酥) shop. It was amazing how efficient their production processes were, and this led to the single outlet generating some NT$400 million a year in sales!


With a unique mountainous interior, Taiwan offered many interesting visual spectacles both natural and cultural. While its mountains and valleys can't quite compare to New Zealand's South Island, there were many impressive sights to behold. They include the staggeringly steep Taroko Gorge landscapes, infinite views of the Pacific Ocean from ravine risky roads, and the gorgeous blooms and man-made landscapes of the Taipei International Flora Exposition.

Of course, the streets of the cities in Taiwan offered lots of eye candy too - dressy dames and handsome hunks, aesthetically pleasing shopfronts, and the architectural marvels both old and new!


The highlight of the entire trip was the visit to the spectacular National Palace Museum. There, we marvelled at the intricacies of the Jadeite Cabbage and the natural fatty pork stone, appreciated the animal face inspired motifs on early Chinese bronze ware, learnt how to differentiate between dragons painted on Ming and Ching Dynasty vases, and understood why plain looking Celadon vases are priceless.


An especially invaluable experience for me was the opportunity to educate myself in Chinese customs, traditions and folklore. It was interesting to hear the tour guide share about some of the origins of Chinese idioms, as well as to find out more about how my body works (eg one should sleep by 10 pm and wake up at 6 am for optimal benefit). The entire school of Chinese geomancy and Fengshui was also fascinating - for example, how the number of strokes in one's name can determine one's fortune.


With a 6 and 7 year old in tow, it was natural that play was the order of the week. We had fun - or rather Ethan and Chloe did - at the various night markets, Tamshui Old Street, and the Neiwan old hakka street playing old-time games that require one to physicall shoot, aim, and fire. It was charming to note how many of the nostalgic toys of yore were still actively played by Taiwanese kids. Even the sprawling Fisherman's Wharf with an impressive bridge could form the backdrop for some tomfoolery!


To recuperate from all the hectic eating, shopping, seeing, and playing, we rested our weary bodies in rather splendid hotels. They include the Grand Hyatt and the Hotel Riverview in Taipei, Papago International Resort in Taitung, Forte Orange Business Hotel in Taichung, the splendid Silks Place in Yilan, and the Garden Villa in Kaohsiung. Our therapies include sipping on fine cocktails, soaking in a hot spring, enjoying a relaxing massage, and of course sleeping on comfortable beds.


Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the holiday allowed us to bond as a family and to also get to spend more time with Father, Mother, William, Susan, and Chloe - who is probably one of Ethan's closest cousin. Both Chloe and Ethan got along fabulously for most of the trip, and it was good that we could also spend time with Tina's extended family members away from Singapore.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Six Festive Marketing Ideas for Kids


Christmas is in the air, and retailers are all out to garner those precious year-end gifting dollars. With bonuses likely to be bountiful this year, any business worth its salt would be finding ways and means to target the consumer wallet.

Young children probably form one of the most important markets in the season of giving and receiving. Nothing beats the story of how Santa Claus will shimmy down your chimney - or rubbish chute in Singapore's highrise context - and bear tidings of fun-tabulous toys. On a more pragmatic level though, how can companies cream this festive occasion for their own profits (and bonuses of course)?

Here are some marketing tricks that you may wish to consider, based on a casual survey of the Christmas shopping scene in Singapore.

Marketing to Kids

1) Dress up your premises with festive decorations that sparkle and sizzle. Nothing attracts the young ones like a humungous Christmas tree like this iconic one at Ngee Ann City shopping centre.

Marketing to Kids

2) Lights, cameras and action! Mobilise the masses with a roadshow followed by a meet-and-greet session with the most popular cartoon characters. Nothing grabs a toddler's attention more than a 'live' performance by Dora the Explorer.

Marketing to Kids

3) Contests are cool, especially when there are oodles of fun toys to be won! Evergreen brands like Lego and Playmobil have also learnt this trick, using their beloved characters to charm those children. Remember that kids love gaming!

Marketing to Kids

4) Engage as many of their senses as possible - light, sound, touch, taste and scent. Children love to experience the world using all their God-given faculties. There is nothing like a fully branded, colourfully designed demo station with a kick-ass commercial video to tease those tots.

Marketing to Kids

5) Let them try first. Children love to play (even while lugging a violin along, like Ethan here), and nothing grabs their attention and interest like a demo toy set that they can fiddle with. Check out the look on his face!

Marketing to Kids

6) Finally, every child below a certain age loves a furry and cuddly companion. Entice them - and their penny watching parents - by offering a promotion that allows you to collect a set of thematic toys. Just make sure that they spend above a certain threshold amount (*kaching!!*) and that only the early bird catches the worm (otherwise you may go bankrupt).

Marketing to Kids

These cuddlies can either be cute and colourful, like these bears above...


...or they can be themed to what's hot and happening - like these soft toys from the blockbuster movie Megamind that is showing now. Just see how effective they are in enchanting Ethan!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Advertising Taglines from Heaven (or Hell)

Do you consider this a good slogan?

In the world of branding and advertising, developing a catchy slogan or tagline is probably considered the Holy Grail of the craft. They can be found in practically anything and everything, from shampoo to milk powder, movies to museums, cities to churches, and cars to condos to credit cards.

Almost any organisation or institution worth its corporate salt would purvey these one or two liners, in the hope of raising mindshare, deepening heartshare, improving top-of-mind recall, and of course growing brand equity.

Effective corporate and product adages work well with or without the logos of the company or the brand. See if you can guess which ones below go with which brand?


Of course, marketing mottoes go best with their respective logos and can help to further reinforce an already strong brand identity. Used correctly, they provide a way to embody the ethoes of the brand, and what achieve that marketing nirvana which gurus call the brand essence.


Naturally, there are also terrible ones that don't do any justice to their product or services. These are the straplines that seek to draw attention to themselves and try to break the clutter - often in an unfortunate manner.

See if you agree with the one below by Chupa Chups as observed by the avid marketer:


The use of overly clever and catchy soundbites is also prevalent in religion, and some can truly make you cringe. Like this one here:

Not very godly if you ask me (Source)

Of course, some organisations go to extremes, like this place here which gave absolutely no qualms about what it is (or aspires to be):


It is critically important, however, that taglines and slogans should not just be exercises in verbosity. The stronger and more impactful your slogan is, the more people will remember them - for good or evil. Being superb at sloganeering can sometimes impose a backlash on you when you fail to deliver on them.

Naturally, politics has seen its fair share of such examples. This very famous Presidential election mantra was on everybody's lips more than a year ago. Almost everybody (myself included) were chanting this, brimming with hope, positive dreams and optimism for the future.


Unfortunately, the truth didn't quite pan out that way. Just look at the graph below:


Knowing how things work in the US, this has led to an accompanying parody...


(Of course, some people will tell you that's part and parcel of politics and electioneering...)

The moral of the story is that you should put the substance behind the spin. Don't go on endless "brandstorming" exercises without having a clear idea of what your organisation and its products can or cannot do.

While having a cutesy call for customer action may sound great to your bosses and board members, have a think about what it really means.

Does it truly reflect what your organisation provides?

Can it be authentically applied across all your various customer touchpoints and interfaces?

How is the service experience like for your customers and do they feel that they're 'lovin' it'?

Perhaps its also good to test your tagline with your various stakeholders and target audiences. Ensure that they are as widely representative as possible, so that you don't end up with groupthink.

What do you feel about creative catchphrases and snazzy slogans?