Monday, October 31, 2011

Should Museums Attract Niche Or Mass Audiences?

NHB's Night Festival 2008

I love reading Nina Simon's Museum 2.0 blog for her cutting insights on stuff happening in my neck of the woods. One of the issues that she recently wrote about - audience development - is something that museums and art galleries in Singapore are also grappling with.

In her post, Nina questioned the need for museums to organise "hip" events to attract younger audiences at the expense of alienating a broader more diverse crowd. While many museums have shifted from being a "cabinet of curiosities" for an elite few to "community destinations", the question now arises whether their activities should be narrowly focused on distinct segments or appeal more broadly across visitor groups.

I believe that we can achieve both if we play our cards right. Like libraries and parks, museums serve diverse communities hailing from different age groups, interests, behaviours and backgrounds.

By offering a plethora of experiences - thematic exhibitions, focused events, varied dining options for instance - museums can attract a wider proportion of the community. These can perhaps be considered across different spaces and timings, and with different marketing channels to reach the targeted groups.

For instance, a Friday night "chill out with culture" session can perhaps reach out to the youths and young adults, while a Sunday "Family Fun" event can be targeted at families with kids.

To address the issue of possibly alienating one group from another, more general activities could also be organised. Examples in Singapore include the popular Singapore HeritageFest, Night Festival and International Museum Day events. These broader appeal events would reach wider demographic and psychographic segments.

Beyond short-term events and festivals, the more important audience development question is one of engendering ownership and triggering grassroots advocacy amongst different groups. Other than our dear volunteers who also work as docents, can the museums reach out to a wider spectrum of society and get them to "own" parts of the experience?

As public institutions, museums really belong to the people (cliched though that may sometimes sound), and it is important for the public - regardless of their stations in life - to feel that it is a part of their lives. However, there is also a need to ensure some degree of academic rigour and scholastic discipline is maintained.

Can museums relinquish some control over to their audiences (perhaps a better term in future would be associates or public stakeholders) such that they have a greater role in adding to its cultural narrative? How can these be done in a manner that respects curatorial authority and integrity while embracing participation such that they can be an integral part of communities around the world?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Face-to-Face Still Trumps Facebook

According to the latest post on Church of the Customer, the most important platform for consumers to talk about brands isn't on Facebook, Google +, Twitter or even SMS! Rather, it is good old person-to-person communication in the flesh (well at least in the US).

Have a look at this chart here from eMarketer:


I wonder if the same is true here in geeky gadget crazy Asia (or more precisely, Singapore) where we're almost perpetually tethered to our smart phones.

From my own observation, it is more likely for us to talk about brands face-to-face or over the phone than on email (which is often for more officious stuff). We're also pretty huge on yakking about brands on forums, particularly specific interest group based ones like, Cozycot, and Kiasu As for SMS or WhatsApp, I find that these are more for person to person communications with hardly any chats on brands.

What does this tell us then about our marketing communication strategies?

The simple answer is that there isn't any.

To reach your target customers, employ a mixture of methods from targeted advertisements, email invitations, Facebook invites, Tweets, to good old fashioned events (roadshows, meetings, product showcases). Employing cross platform marketing channels is a good practice as it leads to greater brand exposure and reinforcement.

Also, don't neglect the power of the spoken word. In an age of visual clutter, going audio may sometimes work in your favour. However, only call potential customers when they've indicated some levels of interest in your product or service (eg by registering on your website for instance).

What do you think?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Harnessing the Power of Colours

Do you ever wonder why some people look fab in black, while others look sinister?  Want to add a dash of colour to your professional wardrobe without looking like a clown (or 7th month Getai singer)?

I found out the answers to this and more at a recent Colour Dynamics seminar organised by Jill Lowe International, thanks to my buddy James Soh (Living in Singapore Today) and the folks from Jill Lowe.  Held at their cosy premises at level 2 of the Raffles Hotel Arcade, the session provided much food for thought.

Jill Lowe International

For a start, consider these cool facts that a fashion tortoise like me has just learnt:

- Light colours are better for first impressions, be it job interviews, dates, client meetings and so on.

- If you match your skirt or pants with your shoe colour, you will look taller. Conversely, if you match your blouse or shirt with your shoe colour, you will look shorter.

- Guys shouldn't cross their legs the same way as ladies do (some "ventilation" is needed)!

- Accessories can help to make a black or white outfit come alive for ladies. However, you need to match them carefully according to projected authority levels.

- Clothes should make the woman (or man) rather than the other way round.  In other words, you should dress for a person to remember you rather than your wardrobe!   

Peppered with examples from Hollywood and fashion, image consultant Gwen Goh spoke with much aplomb about the characteristics of colours and how they influence perception and behaviour.  Consider the qualities of the following colours:

WHITE: Representing cleanliness, purity and innocence, white is supposedly the best colour in the wardrobe as it combines all 3 primary colours. It is a good colour for people in the sales professions (insurance, real estate), and can be worn with any colours. Those with warm skin tones should go for warm white while those with cool skin tones should opt for cool white. On the flip side, white may make people look fat and get dirty easily!

Jill Lowe International
Does a white tie look good on him?

BLACK: Considered by many to be slimming, classy, mysterious, black is usually the most widely used colour in the corporate world. Care must be taken when wearing black as it projects seriousness, dominance, and danger (hence doctors should never wear black). Like white, there are several shades of black from midnight black to jet black. To wear this, you should try to use accessories to break from the monotony.

BLUE: Calm, cool, stable, trustworthy, and masculine, blue is probably the safest colour - conversely it can be boring, cold and old. To spice up your wardrobe, consider matching it with yellow (blue shirt and yellow tie?), wearing a blue scarf or other ways of mixing. People in technical, security (think Police officers and "jagas") and academic professions should go for this colour. Blue comes in different tints like cyan, turquoise, indigo, and midnight blue.

Jill Lowe International
Blue isn't just for your friendly neighbourhood "mata"!

PINK: This is probably the most feminine colour, suggesting playfulness, sweetness, vibrance and romance which could also be too loud or girlish for guys. Men who can carry this off well portray an air of confidence. Apparently, pink is good for dates, fund raising efforts, pastoral work or family bonding. Pink should not be used for a top to toe dressing unless you want to look like Hello Kitty!

Jill Lowe International
There are many shades of pink: peach, fuchsia, violet, skin and more.

Jill Lowe International
James looking resplendent in peach pink.  Time to ditch those stale colours dude!

Participants next learnt about the palettes of the four seasons and how we each have a different "season" depending (I suspect) on our skin tone, hair, eye colour and to some degree, personality.  Different shades and tints on a palatte will determine the difference between the seasons. 

Jill Lowe International

Here's what I noted from the session:

SPRING: Generally considered the attractive type, Spring celebrities include Clay Aitken and Nicole Kidman.  The shades of colour used here are bright and cheery but not overpowering.

SUMMER: Folks belonging to this category should don soft pastel colours, aiming for a porcelain doll look.  Examples include Kate Winslett and Vicki Zhao Wei - both fine examples of damsels in distress!

AUTUMN: There are the drivers and movers (Gwen says I'm very autumn.. err hmmph), and the colours are normally more muted like rust red, most browns, olive green, chrome yellow.  Three good Hollywood examples are Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman - all smart women in the controlling seat!

Jill Lowe International
Cheryl is quite an autumn person apparently

WINTER: These are the ice queens and kings, and their numbers include Gong Li, Tom Cruise, Maggie Cheung and Pierce Brosnan.  A more dramatic and striking use of colours is preferred here with brighter and sharper shades.

Jill Lowe International
Upcoming singer and host Mint trying on a wintry shade of blue

Up next, Harvard trained coach and trainer Marion Neubronner shared with us a startling fact: only 5% of trainees usually made the change after attending such an image makeover session.  Considered the peak performers, these are the folks who are constantly learning new things and willing to work to make the difference.  They also surround themselves with positive people.

Jill Lowe International

Marion urged us to make the leap forward by discarding our unmatchable clothes (based on skin tone and palette), understand than being outstanding may require us to be uncomfortable (at least initially), and to keep ourselves centred on what our values are.  The act of changing our outer image/clothes actual jumpstarts a deeper renewal process within each and everyone of us.   

Bottom line?  We are all beautiful/handsome in our own special ways and we should not be afraid of letting that inner beauty shine through. 

Before we left for the night, Jill Lowe herself shared how she started the business way back in 1984 as a 19 year old doing facials, incorporated the company as a brand in 1991, and worked towards what the company is today.  Its laudable to consider her ambition of making her company a premium Asian brand in image and personal asset management.

Jill Lowe International

Having experienced the Colour Dynamics seminar myself, I must say that it is useful not only for ladies but guys who wish to change how they project themselves.  Will I be like the 5% of "peak performers" willing to discard my old wardrobe?  Well, let me leave you guessing for now.

For more information on Jill Lowe's "presence communication" and image enhancing programmes, check out their website, in particular the section on their corporate programmes for companies.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why Branding Isn't Just a Marketing Problem

Ensure that all customer touchpoints are branded (courtesy of Carving the Apex) 

You've probably heard variations of these conversations in your own organisation:

"Our branding sucks!  Let's change our logo and splash it all over the place."

"We need a new tagline!  And a fancy jingle that everybody can hum to!"

"Our website looks like a dog's breakfast.  No wonder nobody can recall or remember what our brand is about!"

"Can the Marcoms do something about the low interest in our brand?  How about a major branding campaign with our advertisements placed in the most prominent locations?"

Sadly, many corporate executives and managers associate branding with marketing (or more specifically marketing communications).  After all, the brand identity of most organisations are often depicted through platforms like the logo, tagline, advertising templates, web design, banners, posters, T-shirts and so on.

The truth, however, is that branding is less about the message than about the experience.  According to Branding Strategy Insider, "Marketing communication is much more effective in building brand awareness than it is in creating or changing brand perceptions."

In this regard, the only way to bail one's brand out of a sinking situation is to improve customer experience.  This covers the work of the entire organisation - from manufacturing (product quality and features), logistics and operations (faster deliveries), HR (hiring the right service staff, culture), retail/frontline (ensuring that branded experiences are delivered), design (shoptfronts, furniture, stationery) and of course marketing itself.

To build a strong and robust brand - or to transform an ailing one - every facet of the organisation needs to be oriented in the right direction.  While a spanking new uniform for frontliners or an aesthetically pleasing shopfront may help to do the trick, the real magic often takes place in the individual interactions between customer and staff.

Every facet of an organisation needs to be oriented towards the customer and to work towards a consistent and integrated brand-centric experience.  Ensure that you deliver (or overdeliver) on your brand promise.  If you can't, don't put it out in the first place.

The essence of great brands lie in every customer touchpoint.  The only way to solve a branding issue is to align one's entire corporate machinery in the same direction.  Only then can you build a truly great brand.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Have a "Beery" Good Time with Fine Brews in Chinatown

Fancy a Hobgoblin, Kopparberg pear cider, or Pauvel Kwak with chicken rice or fish ball noodles? How about a lychee flavoured Taiwanese "Xiao Mei Mei" beer to wash down a steaming plate of fish head?

Now you can with The Good Beer Company, Singapore's first (and only) specialty and craft beer stall in a hawker centre. Opened by Daniel Goh of Young Upstarts fame, its a realisation of a long-time dream come true.

The Good Beer Company

Located at Blk 335 Smith Street (stall number 58) in the famous hawker centre at Chinatown Complex (its near the famous Hai Seng Ah Balling Stall), The Good Beer Company offers local craft beer Jungle Beer Easy English on tap and a whole range of specialty brews in bottles. These hail from countries all over the world like Belgian, Holland, England, Australia, Japan and Taiwan - we're talking about a United Nations of hop-based brews!

The Good Beer Company

Aimed at the beer aficionado who relishes a good brew in a fuss-free and casual setting, The Good Beer Company is probably the cheapest dining place to get wasted with premium brews!  If you're feeling peckish, you can always increase your calorie load with the mouthwatering options from neighbouring hawker stalls.

The Good Beer Company

On a recent visit, my friend and I tried a bottle each of Thatcher's Green Goblin (an apple cider) and Wychwood Gingerbeard (a ginger beer with alcohol). Paired with roast pork and char siew (caramelised pork) rice, the meal went down extremely well and we certainly made plans to return again.

The Good Beer Company

It was good to see queues of customers during the beer stall's opening, no doubt a testimony to Daniel's own social networks and pulling power. An avid reader who is heavily plugged into the world of entrepreneurship, marketing, and PR, Daniel shared with me that the stall is a fulfillment of a longtime dream to be an entrepreneur doing something that he is passionate about - craft beers.

I cheekily suggested that he could tie-up with Erich's Wuerstelstand located downstairs at Trengganu Street of Chinatown's night market. After all, beer and German sausages go hand-in-hand with each other.

Eric's Wuerstelstand

Perhaps the best thing about this new venture is that you can swig fine beers wearing slippers and shorts, tantalising your tastebuds and sense of scent without needing to dress up. And maybe fulfill that fantasy of pairing a fiery hot laksa with a sweet ice cold Hoegaarden?

The Good Beer Company
Blk 335 Smith Street #02-58 Chinatown Complex, 
Singapore 050335
 Tue - Wed: 11:00 - 22:00
Thu - Sat: 11:00 - 23:30
Sun: 11:00 - 22:00

Friday, October 21, 2011

How Businesses Can Learn From Nature

Nobody manages resources better than Nature! (image source

Sustainability seems to be the buzzword these days. We've all heard about how companies are investing in carbon credits to offset their industrial activities, embark on occasional recycling programmes, or improving their efficiency to reduce their carbon footprint. While such motives are laudable, they often compromise on business profitability, and are seen more like "CSR" investments. Should the economy - and business - nosedive, would companies still be as noble?

To overturn traditional thinking on business sustainability, Gregory Unruh of the Lincoln Center for Ethics in Global Management shared that one should adopt a "value cycle" rather than the standard "value chain" in one's business model. The idea behind this is reuse as much material from one's products as possible, and to feed that back into the manufacturing, distributing and retailing process. This should be done in a profitable manner and be so ingrained into business practices that it becomes second nature.

In his book Earth, Inc.: Using Nature's Rules to Build Sustainable Profits, Unruh cited how the biosphere perfected the art of sustainability by using renewable resources to generate life. Almost all living matter goes back into the Earth (ashes to ashes, dust to dust), gets absorbed by plants which are then eaten by animals all the way up the food chain before they die, decompose and are recycled.

What are these "Biosphere Rules" which companies can adopt? They are:

1) Materials Parsimony - This first rule involves reducing and simplifying the types of materials used in products. The simpler and more organically based they are, the better. This not only benefits recycling or reusing plans but help to reduce the problems associated with toxic waste disposal.

2) Power Autonomy - Here, energy efficiency should be considered in the making of products, from the design and planning stages, and not just an afterthought.

3) Value Cycles - This principle involves painstakingly looking at how materials can be continually reused or recycled into new value-added products and not simply downgraded in the product cycle. An example of a company that does this well was Patagonia, which encourages customers to deposit their used performance underwear, and uses its fabrics to be made into other sport apparel.

4) Sustainble Product Platforms - The idea here is for companies to develop foundational product platforms that can be continually leveraged for other uses. For example, Windows and Apple have operating systems that other programmes and applications can build upon, while cars have used similar body designs in manufacturing. It is also about finding commonalities among product, processes and markets.

5) Function over Form - With a focus on sustaining the value cycle, the idea of function over form looks at how companies can move from selling products to providing services to customers in a long-term manner. Body shop does a great job by encouraging consumers to reuse their bottles, but this same principle can probably be applied across many reusable categories. Rather than sell more oil, Castrol used its knowledge of lubricants to help customers use less, rather than more, of its products.

Learn how mother nature does it with Earth, Inc 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Dragonfly Effect: Driving Social Change through Social Media

Article first published as Book Review: The Dragonfly Effect : Driving Social Change through Social Media by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith on Blogcritics.

Co-authored by Stanford University Marketing Professor Jennifer Aaker and her husband Andy Smith, a leading marketing consultant of Vonavona Ventures, The Dragonfly Effect offers a recipe for social change leveraging on the power of social media. Unlike many other books on social media which are strong on examples but weak on structure, the book proposed a systematic design thinking oriented process which anybody can follow.

Tapping the diverse fields of social media, marketing strategy, and consumer psychology, Aaker and Smith pepper their central thesis with many interesting case studies. These include micro-lending initiative Kiva, TOMS's one-for-one shoe movement whereby the company will donate a shoe to underprivileged kids in return for a shoe bought, and of course Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

The most memorable example was that of Team Sameer and Team Vinay, a heartfelt story of how friends belonging to the South Asian community in the United States came together to find suitable bone marrows to save their stricken friends' lives. Through the power of citizen activism, grassroots networks and social media, the teams recruited 3,500 volunteers, achieved more than one million media impressions and garnered 150,000 visitors to their websites.

How does the Dragonfly Effect work? Principally, there are four “wings” of the model: Focus, Grab Attention, Engage, and Take Action. Mirroring the way a dragonfly uses all four wings to propel itself, these phases can be represented by the model below:

Courtesy of the Dragonfly Effect

For Wing 1, Focus, one should identify a single, concrete and measurable goal. This should adopt the acronym HATCH, ie

Humanistic - focusing on who you want to help;
Actionable - tactical micro goals (low hanging fruits) that culminate in a long-term macro goal;
Testable, ie with metrics that help you to evaluate your progress and deadlines, and to celebrate small wins along the way;
Clarity, ie keeping your goal clear to improve your odds of success while generating momentum;
Happiness - ensuring that your goals are meaningful to you or your audience.

For Wing 2, Grab Attention, the acronym PUVV is used instead, ie

Personal - creating a personal hook with one's audience;
Unexpected - piquing the curiosity of one's followers by using new information and reframing the familiar;
Visual - Using the power of photos and videos;
Visceral - Triggering the senses: sight, sound, hearing, or taste, and hence unleashing emotions.

The next Wing, Engage, involves embracing a TEAM acronym as follows:

Tell a Story - Compelling, sticky stories to convey critical information;
Empathise - As you engage, let your audience engage you, and create narratives that compel them;
Authentic - True passion and sincerity is more influential and emotionally resonant;
Match the media - How and where we say something is as important as what's being said.  Align one's message with the context.

In the final wing, Take Action, its design principles is embodied in EFTO...

Easy - Yes, making it easy for others will increase your chances of success.  Don't make them leap through hoops;
Fun - Use elements of game play, competition, humour and rewards to make people "feel like kids" again.  If it ain't fun, nobody will do it;
Tailored - Customise the programmes to unique individuals and groups with specific interests or skills for greater impact;
Open - Provide your point of view and story, and allow people to act without having to ask for permission.

Overall, I found the book very instructive and useful, with a step-by-step approach that anybody wanting to create a social movement can do.  The case studies cited dive into pretty specific and pragmatic details which one can emulate, and they also cover the unique properties of different social technologies like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and others without belabouring the point.

Perhaps the most meaningul message I got from the book came from Al Gore, former vice president, who once said, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” By staying focused and concentraing on small acts that drive big change, The Dragonfly Effect provides a useful guide for social activism in Web 2.0 age.

Monday, October 17, 2011

To Research Or Not To Research?

P&G researchers study customers where the action truly is (courtesy of Science in the Box)

Marketing research is a huge cannon in any marketer's arsenal. Or is it?

The weapons of choice? Street surveys, focus group discussions, straw polls, online surveys, telephone interviews, and behavioural observations. Supplement these with secondary (desktop) research findings published by research houses and voila!, you'll have the makings of a great marketing strategy.

Consider this.  Apple, the much vaunted global brand founded by Steve Jobs (R.I.P.), doesn't conduct focus groups prior to launching its new products.  Henry Ford, the inventor of the automobile, has also famously said that “if I gave people what they said they wanted, I would have made a faster horse”.

Often, the wellsprings of innovation, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking isn't found in consumer research. Asking people what they want may end up becoming a disappointing exercise of having "more-of-the-same" ideas being tossed about.

Should one then ignore one's customers completely and trust in the guts of one's CEO?

On the flip side, P&G, one of the most sophisticated consumer research oriented firm in the world, employs an effective way of tapping their customers to drive innovation.

The huge FMCG company conducts what is known as ethnographic research, whereby researchers actually live with their customers "to observe how they live their everyday lives and to identify customers’ needs first hand". They also adopt a whole range of consumer studies using both online and offline channels.

So what should we do then?

First, you need to have a clear understanding of what you need to find out. What do you know or not know about your customers and their behavioural patterns? Which bits of information are more critical to decision making than others?

Next, be aware that there is an entire barrage of marketing research methods and means out there. These can be as simple as asking a few questions to observing and tracking customer's visual pathways and actual responses in real-life buying situations. Adopt the 80/20 rule here and focus on the few techniques likely to yield the best outcomes.

Be mindful that most ordinary consumers aren't going to proffer cutting edge insights in an artificial environment. Instead of asking them how you should do your job, find out what makes them tick and draw inferences from them.

How do they typically spend their weekends, for example? What draws them towards a product lying on the shelf - its brand name, colour, physical location, price? Even better if you can spend a day with them like how P&G does.

Don't be so obsessed with the means that you forget about the ends. One can be lulled into a endless trap of analysis-paralysis, continuing to probe, enquire, ask, confirm and "double confirm" with benchmarks and research before taking action.

Remember that timeliness can is next to Godliness, especially in today's markets!

Finally, don't forget to use a whole lot of common sense (or maybe uncommon sense?) when interpreting one's results.  Data alone isn't meaningful until its digested, interpreted and translated into clear and actionable strategies.  Consider how the information is gleaned and think about the context of your own organisation and how it operates.

Are you a fan or foe of marketing research? 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Wordsmith's Manifesto

Courtesy of tribe

I eat, pray and love the written word. My every spare moment is spent reading, writing, or listening to words that bring inspiration, comfort, wisdom and joy.

I am always poised to pen something down, especially when triggered by a flash of insight, moved by a scene, or teased by an idea that refuses to leave my head.

I carry a notepad and pen with me whenever I go for meetings, regardless of the agenda. Capturing prodigious quantities of notes is always a good practice for the inner journalist in me.

I read, and read, and read. During bus rides to and from one destination to another. Before I sleep at night. Whenever I'm waiting for an activity to happen. You will always find a book in my bag - and yes, I am a "bag man". Nothing triggers good writing better than good reads.

I'm a keen observer of my environment, the people surrounding me, and the unique situations that I find myself in constantly. They provide fodder to my literary outputs, planting the seeds of the narratives that chronicle my thoughts.

I pay special attention to how every word is crafted and honed to meet the page. I fuss over the flow and cadence of my sentences, the expressions used, the points highlighted, and how they are all assembled together. Especially the beginning and the end.

Being human, however, there will be "off" days when I can barely muster a single virtuous word. I understand that good writing isn't as easy as turning on a tap and letting it flow. Writer's block is an inevitable occupational hazard that hits all of us.

I believe in different strokes for different folks. Write for your audiences and write for the medium. There are distinct differences between an advertisement, a press release, a blog post, an invitation email, a strategy paper, and a diary documenting one's innermost thoughts.

I am always mindful of the contexts of my writing. There is a time and place for everything under the Sun. Finding the right moment to tell the right story to the right audience under the right conditions are crucial elements of writing success. Anything else is a compromise.

I am always learning and always picking up new things. While I trust in my own instincts, I am also painfully aware that I'm not omniscient. I will make mistakes, but I will pick myself up again, brush off the dust, and carry on.

I am a wordsmith. Writing is my craft.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The 5 Skills of Great Innovators

Steve Jobs (bless him) associated calligraphy with beautiful fonts in the Macintosh (source)

Ever wondered how disruptive innovators like Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos ( and A.G. Lafley (P&G) behave?  What are the traits of these great entrepreneurs and business leaders?

According to INSEAD Professor Hal Gregersen (who co-authored the book "The Innovator's DNA" with Jeffrey Dyer and Clayton M. Christensen), they have what are called the five discovery skills as follows:


• Questioning - allows innovators to break out of the status quo and consider new
possibilities. This may mean becoming like a four-year old child and asking all kinds of questions.

• Observing - innovators detect small behavioral details in the activities of customers, suppliers, and other companies which suggest new ways of doing things.

• Experimenting - relentlessly trying on new experiences and exploring the world, with a habit of tinkering and fixing stuff until they work.

• Networking - with individuals from diverse backgrounds, hence gaining radically
different perspectives and inputs.


• Association - combining the above four patterns of action to cultivate new insights. Steve Jobs is a master of this, fusing his love for calligraphy with the development of fonts for the first generation Apple Macs.

Fortunately for us, the "DNA" is actually more of an acquired behaviour than an inherited trait. Most of these inventor-CEOs have cultivated them into life habits , and it was discovered that they spend 50% more time on these discovery activities than do CEOs with no track record for innovation.

To get an idea of how these innovative CEOs compare across the five skills, check out the chart below:


In their article in Harvard Business Review, the authors cited that Pierre Omidyar launched eBay in 1996 after using association to link three unconnected dots:

1) Wanting more-efficient markets, after being shut out from a hot internet company’s IPO in the mid-1990s;

2) Trying to solve his fiancĂ©e’s desire to find rare collectible Pez dispensers;

3) Observing the ineffectiveness of local classified ads in locating such items.

Other than the five skills above, most of these innovators are also risk takers who are willing to challenge the status quo.  They steer clear of the conformist "cognitive bias" that many of us corporate types fall prey to and embrace a "mission of change".

For more information on the five discovery skills of an Innovator's DNA, watch the video below by INSEAD School of Business:

Sunday, October 09, 2011

How To Create Delightful Customer Experiences

Apple's success lies in providing premium customer experiences every step of the way (courtesy of The News Chronicle)

In an age which some may term as the "experience economy", companies and businesses can ill afford to focus solely on quality products or low prices. The entire spectrum of engaging and enrapturing a customer through every single touch point becomes critical. It isn't just the transaction itself that matters, but the entire journey - from reading/hearing about your product, browsing your stores, speaking to a retail associate, purchasing the product, using the product, to the ongoing provision of customer service.

With the ubiquity of social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and blogs, customers are sharing their positive or negative experiences with a far greater network than ever before. Ignore these voices at your own peril.

Against such a backdrop, what can companies do to enhance their customer experiences?

In this article by experience designer Dane Petersen, a customer's engagement with your products, services or environments are affected by these human qualities:

Motivations: why they are engaged with your offering, and what they hope to get out of it

Expectations: the preconceptions they bring to how something works

Perceptions: the ways in which your offering affects their senses (see, hear, touch, smell, taste)

Abilities: how they are able to cognitively and physically interact with your offering

Flow: how they engage with your offering over time

Culture: the framework of codes (manners, language, rituals), behavioral norms, and systems of belief within which the person operates

Understanding these qualities in your customer would provide a useful first step in designing physical environments, service offerings and interaction points. A good way to do so would be conducting interviews or focus groups with targeted customers, as well as to observe their behaviours at existing outlets (or competitor outlets).

You should also examine your customer's complete experience as highlighted by this HBR article by Adam Richardson. Here Richardson highlights three key facets to take note of:

Customer Journey: A thorough understanding of the journey that your customers take with your company. In a car rental company Zipcar's case, it starts with informing customers of the service and then signing them up, with multiple stages flowing out from there.

Touchpoints: All the various points of interaction — products, web sites, advertising, call centres, and others — that support the customer through their journey.

Ecosystems: This relates to the integrated ecosystems of products, software and services that may open up new possibilities for customer journeys and experiences in ways that more isolated touchpoints cannot.

OK, so we've looked at the human factors from our customer's perspective, developed a map of their interaction points, and considered how we can design them accordingly. What's the next step?

The answer? Get your entire organisation and all members of your team on board!

Here, the 6 Laws of Customer Experience by the Temkin Group may be worthwhile to consider:

1) Every interaction creates a personal reaction - Experience needs to be designed for individuals and optimised, putting in place the right measurements and employee empowerment mechanisms.

2) People are instinctively self-­centered - Don't assume that your customers know as much as you do, seek to help customer buy things (not sell to them), and don't let organisational factors influence service.

3) Customer familiarity breeds alignment - Broadly share customer insights across the organisation, talk about customer needs rather than personal preferences, and don't wait for organisational alignment.

4) Unengaged employees don't create engaged customers - Training and development of staff is key, deploy technology to help your team members do their job better, communicate profusely, celebrate achievements and measure engagement.

5) Employees do what is measured, incentivised, and celebrated - Leave nothing to the imagination, define clearly what is expected, and look out for mixed messages. Ensure that measurements, incentives and celebrations are aligned.

6) You can't fake it - Anything below a 3rd priority is not good enough, don't start if you're not committed to a major customer service initiative, and advertise to reinforce rather than create a customer oriented positioning.

Engineering memorable and delightful customer experiences can be sheer hard work, since many of us are not intuitively wired to do so. Achieving it requires a keen understanding of your customers, how they interact with your products/services, and how you deliver it through your staff, website, physical stores, and any other touchpoint.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sail on the Maritime Experiential Museum & Aquarium!

Maritime Experiential Museum

Southeast Asia's exciting maritime past comes alive this 15 October with the opening of Singapore's first maritime museum. Known as the Maritime Experiential Museum & Acquarium (MEMA), the attraction at Resorts World Sentosa features more than 400 rare objects including the Jewel of Muscat (a life-sized reproduction of a 9th century Arab dhow), and treasures from the Belitung Shipwreck.  Designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates, an international museum design firm, the museum depicts the romance of a bygone era with tales of seafarers braving the stormy seas along the Maritime Silk Route.

Set in the 15th century, the museum's centrepiece revolves around the story of legendary Admiral Zheng He who launched many maritime voyages from China to the Western oceans with a fleet of 300 shops.  Through highly interactive features and realistic replicas, the stories of exotic lands and seas from the past comes alive.

Join me on a visual tour and let's "brave" the seven seas together!

Maritime Experiential Museum
A life-sized replica of the bow of the Bao Chuan, Admiral Zheng He's legendary treasure ship, dominates the cavernous interior of the museum.

Maritime Experiential Museum
A cross-section of the vessel.  Apparently, Zheng He did bring back wild animals from Africa to China.  My first thought however was that it looked like Noah's Ark!

Maritime Experiential Museum
Miniature Chinese junks "sailing" on steel wires.

Maritime Experiential Museum
More experiential decor, to create the right oriental mood and feel.

Maritime Experiential Museum
Interactives like this table top game helps to engage visitors young and old, while teaching them about our Maritime heritage.

Maritime Experiential Museum
Guess why this Malay couple here never need to eat, sleep or rest. (Clue: they don't blink either)

Maritime Experiential Museum
Coffee beans, grains, spices and other precious cargo were hauled from far away exotic lands to mainland China.

Maritime Experiential Museum
A Vietnamese water puppet stage complete with puppets.

Maritime Experiential Museum
This snake charmer and his cobra provide a good prop for photo ops.

Maritime Experiential Museum
More interactives, this time tracing the route of the legendary admiral and his ships.

Maritime Experiential Museum
Get your stamps at this station here - a favourite activity for kids.

Maritime Experiential Museum
Yes, Zheng He sailed all the way to the Middle East.

Maritime Experiential Museum
A view of the Typhoon Theatre, a 150-seat 360 degree multimedia theatre where visitors can "board" an Arabia bound sailing ship and go on a "perilous" and "stormy" voyage.

Maritime Experiential Museum
The Jewel of the Muscat, a replica which comes as a gift from the Sultanate of Oman to Singapore.  Apparently the ship really sailed to Singapore all the way from the Middle East.

Maritime Experiential Museum
A little preview of our seafaring adventure awaited us before we...

Maritime Experiential Museum
...walked into the cool depths of the Typhoon Theatre.  I must say that the 3D experience of howling winds, splashing waves and flashing lightnings were pretty real and immersive.
Maritime Experiential Museum
The next section in the museum showcased real artefacts hauled from the ocean bed.  It began with a floor map showing the different spots where the Belitung sunken treasures were excavated. 

Maritime Experiential Museum
Some of the sunken earthenware treasures brought to the surface for all to see.  The research behind these were done by renowned archaeologist John Miksic from NUS.

Maritime Experiential Museum
Here's how they looked like when they were first uncovered from the depths of the sea.

Maritime Experiential Museum
You can also try your hand at creating some virtual pottery on this interactive screen.

Maritime Experiential Museum
To fill the hungry tummies of land lubbers, a snack shop beckons.

Maritime Experiential Museum
I'm sure my 8 year old boy would love these soft toy animals!

For more information on the MEMA (including ticketing and openign hours), check out its website here.  At only $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for kids, its really quite a steal for such a wonderfully immersive experience (pun unintended)!