Green Eyed

Green is in and marketers are upping the ante with some really innovative ideas. Some months back, I blogged about Coke getting into the skincare – and now, they’re heading into apparel. It doesn’t sound like much, after all, Pepsi did launch their line of clothes many years back and it flopped. It’s always tricky when it comes to managing brand extensions, after all just because Richard Branson and Virgin could do it doesn’t mean anyone can. There’s a limit to far you can stretch a brand…

So, how is Coke going to be successful when Pepsi failed? Well, first of all, Coke isn’t launching their t-shirt in a big way like Pepsi where boutiques were opened, etc. Rather, they will be leveraging off their network with Walmart to push t-shirts. Secondly, and here’s the how it will all make sense: the t-shirt coke will be marketing will be manufactured from their recycled soft drinks bottles! The material used to make Coke bottles, a polymer called PET, is actually the same materials that can be used to make clothes. Not only will Coke be able to recycle their bottles, the clothes produced will emit 75% less CO2. While it is unsure if this just a PR gimmick for Coke, the idea and act itself has truly ignited a good feel about Coke inspiring all businesses to start thinking green in a more innovative way.

Lush, a UK brand of “fresh made” cosmetics has also been rather innovate in their marketing campaigns. I really liked how creative they were when they pushed environmental awareness at their stores where they got their staff to wear dresses made of plastic bags! While creating awareness for business is a good thing, I am always interested to see how we as marketers can stretch “awareness” into “experience” and “action”. In this case, the Lush ladies hollered at passers by to turn in plastic bags in return for free samples of their products in their stores. This campaign was presumable better accepted by their staff compared to their previous request to go naked. Well, not quite but the world still got a great view of their butts.


Blue Apple, Now on Sale

I know I bitch alot of endorsement type advertising, i.e., Celcom with their ICONs who I don't think actually use their services, especially since they are based in UK, but anyway, I just realized that Apple also uses personalities in their ads that don't use their products. I'm referring to the Apple "Think Different" campaign which I even raved about in this blog. Imagine my shock, but how did Apple pull it off without being cursed? I guess it's just to show that what works for some won't work for others...and Celcom isn't Apple.

Anyway, the lastest Celcom promo is their "SALE", where everything within their catalogue of products and services will go on sale till end March. Conceptually, it's a different take on lowered rates / price, but I don't know why, it's just falling flat for me. Maybe I guess I've seen it done before in the banking industry where HSBC declared everything's on sale some years back. Ironically though, the HSBC guy who implemented the "sale" campaign is now in Maxis.

To really make the "sale" concept work, a lot needs to be on the ground and POS level so that it channel the retail excitement feel to the entire campaign. Even with HSBC's marketing machinery, they only did an OK job. As for Celcom, I guess they lost me at the blue box.


See The Future Of Radio

When Yahoo! First came up with it’s Messenger Music LAUNCHcast internet radio, I was totally awed by the number and genres of station available. The proposition was really unique in the sense that users could also click on the link to the lyrics of the song, info of the album / artiste and more, which truly adds new and exciting dimensions to “sound”. While I am not sure how the cross-sell ratios are, the killer app, really is the convergence of platform for brand engagement on Yahoo!Messenger (along with branded and interactive IM environments, etc). The whole thing is a great idea but somehow I felt that there’s still a bigger commercial potential that’s yet to be tapped. I mean, when you see how apple just gobble up the market with iPod and iTunes, I can’t help but feel that there’s been some missed opportunities by Yahoo!

To some, missed opportunities means getting out and starting over. Three former CEOs of Apple’s rival, eventually left their respective gigs at iRiver, Musicmatch and Rio only to join forces to start a business together. Slacker, is a MP3 device that streams customizable online radio channels / stations or play lists to users. Their proposition is basically making it even more simple for people to get the music they like. Rather than making an effort to search and load the songs you like, Slacker delivers the tunes to user’s devices, If they like what they hear, they can request for more of the same or “ban it” from ever coming on again and on the downloadable software player version, you can view music videos, album art, etc.
The future of radio 2.0 will be more interactive, more engaging, more visual, more like a better TV.
visuals from cnet.com and gizmondo.com:



I’ve previously blogged quite a bit on fast food marketing when it was hot some months back – but this is completely crazy: McDonald’s has resorted to advertising on elementary school children’s report card! What’s more, the brand has even positioned itself as a reward or prize by offering a free Happy Meal to students who has all A’s and B’s, has no bad marks in behaviour or hasn’t been absent from school for more than 2 days.

The brand has maintained that it only seeks to promote good nutrition and making good eating choices. While the focus has mostly been on McDonald’s, not many people are questioning the school’s authorities who approved this exercise - who couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. After all, no one seemed to fuss when Johnson Banks got school kids to develop fonts for an advertising campaign for Save The Children in the UK - which to me is like Nike getting the sweat shop kids to smile and say “thank you for my job” in a TVC.


Bag Lady 2.0

A lot of people got to know Anya Hindmarch for the “I am not a plastic bag” bag but what’s not covered as much is her foray into Bag 2.0. Bag 2.0, like Web 2.0 gives power into the users and consumers to dictate their terms on whatever they want suiting whatever their fancies. An example is Anya’s Bespoke Ebury series, where you can actually personalize the handbag with your choice of size, leather and colour in addition to being able to include a handwritten message which will be embossed inside the bag.

While this sort of personalization is not exactly the first of its kind (there’s Levi’s, addidas, nike, etc.), what makes this special is the brand’s “designer” appeal, after all, Anya isn’t exactly for the masses (but she cleverly got that covered too with the “I am not a plastic bag” bag). Her “be a bag” series is also very unique in the sense that you can have your favourite photo on the bag as part of its design. And as part of a 3-month charity campaign, over 100 actors, models and pop stars were also enlisted to contribute photos to support venture making her the talk of the town.

What makes Anya successful I believe is her ability to collaborate and bridge exclusivity with inclusively and individuality: Bag 2.0.

Designed for profit...

I’ve been thinking about “design” in the marketing sense quite a bit this year. “Design” has become an integral part of products, customer experience and brands. No one epitomizes this better than the original Walkman (product), Nintendo Wii (customer experience) and Apple (brand).

Recently I spoke with one of the best designers in the country and couldn’t help but ponder if graphics design can create just as big an impact on the bottom line. I am talking about graphic design in the most basic sense of the word, not corporate identity design, etc. Basically, can good graphics design sell? (No, this does not apply to David Carson).

Here’s when I came a brand of tea from the UK called Clipper Teas. They’re founded by a couple, Mike and Lorraine Brehme in 1983, and is one of the first products in its category to go organic and adopt fair trade policies. Business was generally good in the 1990’s in the sense that they expanded overseas, but unfortunately the market as whole was declining due to the rise and trend in coffee drinking. To put it in perspective, 84% of the UK population drank tea, but it dropped to 64% within 20 years. The threat was real and in move to revive the business, they decided to….overhaul its packaging design. The result: increased sales by over 350%, without any advertising!

The design of the new pack was a break away from the traditional clich├ęs. No visuals of tea ships, plantations, etc and replace them with modern, stylish information about the tea’s area of origin, emphasizing on the fair trade aspect of their brand.

Good design can sell anything…


Sorry, there’s no network coverage in the Maxis PR/Comm department

The other day, Maxis announced a new pricing structure for its ring-back tone services, claiming great savings for customers. I was actually tempted to subscribe for the service but several days later, the papers reported negative consumer sentiments on the Maxis move. They are complaining that Maxis' ring-back tones cost more now. How's that?

Well, Maxis isn’t lying...technically. Consumers use to have to buy ring-back tones in a package. Maxis decided to 'help' customers save money by charging per tone. So for example (and this is just an example so don't jump), customers used to pay, say, RM50 for 3 tones but they can now buy one tone at RM25. Do the math. It does cost less, right?

The problem is the offer doesn't reflect the consumption patterns. Customers are peeved because nobody uses just one ring-back tone. In order to have 3 tones under the new services, customers will have to pay RM25 x 3 = RM75. So in fact, it costs more now to subscribe and maintain ring-back tones. Maxis' so-called savings applies only to a one song / service subscription!

There are many ways to spin a message but to think that consumers will bite any message is stupid and disrespectful. When Maxis was contacted for comments by the paper that carried the story, here’s what was written: “Maxis could not be reached for comments before press time”.

Maybe Maxis should enhance network coverage for their PR and Communications department? Hmm..now I know why they don’t talk about coverage in their ads. Harlo? Harlo?

Another Brand Award...

The inaugural Malaysia’s Most Valuable Brand (MMVB) is definitely a milestone for all local marketers / business people. First of all, I appreciate the president of the 4A’s to state upfront that not everyone will agree with the list, as I think this is a very important disclaimer.

The strength of any brand awards must lie in its credibility.

If companies are required to commit and purchase XXX numbers of award books in order to be recognized as a super duper brand after they’ve nominated as a super duper brand by the organizer, then the whole program sounds like a scam of supply side marketing. To my knowledge, MMVB doesn’t have such requirements and for the record however a big part of the evaluation is based on financial performance of the brand, which therefore limits the participation of private businesses, unless they make public their financial records.

When the MMVB list came out, I must admit I was a little skeptic but what calmed me down was a category of award called “Enduring Brands”. It’s not was not published in the papers but I found it on their events booklets. Here’s how it’s described:

Enduring Brands

Whether a brand originates within a domestic market or arrives from foreign shores, the test of its success is in its ability to make a compelling proposition to the consumer. Here are some brands that have become household names in Malaysia. There are those that we embraced pretty much as they first appeared. Others adapted themselves to us. Still other are sprung up close to home, but are continually evolving to find relevance in new and far flung places. Each has found its own secrets not only to endure, but prosper.

100 Plus
Royal Selangor
Standard Chartered
Tiger Balm

If you’re wondering why I’m not listing the top 30 MMVB – let’s just say I’m still a little skeptical.

Anyway, besides the MMVB, here’s some of the local brand awards in Malaysia: the Superbrand Awards, the Brand Laureate Awards, Reader Digest Trusted Brand Awards, Brand Equity Awards and even Guardian Pharmacy’s customer choice awards, just to name a few.


Same Same But Different?

If you’ve bought The Star last week or so, there’s no way you could have missed the teaser “It’s about people. Not policies” sticker campaign that plastered on the top right of the front page. This went on continuously for about a week or more – fueling everyone’s curiosity. What could it be? On 16 November, Malaysians were introduced to eTiQa, a merger of 3 insurance companies, i.e., Mayban Fortis, Takaful Nasional, and MNI Insurance. My excitement very quickly lost out to my cynicism.

I read the entire 3 page ad filled with motherhood statements and no clear or specific USP. It said a lot of things that doesn’t mean anything. Read it, here’s the copy:
It’s about people. Not policies.
In an impersonal world of products, processes and policies, it’s easy to lose sight of the people they are meant for.

Etiqa is here to present the human face of insurance and takaful. At Etiqa, our business is not just about policies. It is to touch people’s lives by addressing their hopes, aspirations and dreams.

With products, services, policies, procedures, systems or even communications, our goal is to keep things simple, clear and relevant. Always with your best interests at heart. Of course we deal in policies, but we care more about the people they are for.

Building On A Rock Solid Foundation
Etiqa combines the expertise of three leading heavyweights. With proven success in takaful, bancassurance and conventional insurance, we have already earned our credentials. And now it’s time to take it to the next level.

Aiming To Improve Lives. Not Just Our Bottom-line
While we set high standards for ourselves in commercial achievements, it’s just as important for us to make a positive difference in the lives of our customers. We are innovating to transform insurance and takaful, and the key is connecting with people and caring about their needs.

Saying What We Mean
Life is complex enough as it is. We won’t complicate it further. We will keep it simple when it comes to language, procedures and paperwork. Which means you won’t have to read the fine print to know what you’re really getting.

Sharing Your Goals
To meet our goals we need to share yours. We will work hand-in-hand with you to achieve them. We make ourselves accessible to you, because true partners need to engage with each other. That’s our priority.

It’s promising, but I don’t know what they are promising. I went to their website to find out more and here’s what I got from their FAQ section First, please take a deep breathe:
Product Related Questions

With the new Branding, will policies be affected?

There will be no changes
to existing policies. All terms and conditions remain unchanged.

Will there be changes to premiums?

There will be no change to premiums for all existing policies. All terms and conditions remain unchanged.

Will there be changes in the benefits?

There will be no change to benefits / entitlements for all existing policies. All terms and conditions remain unchanged.

What will happen to existing products?

Existing products will still remain with minor changes to the product name as this is necessary to reflect the new brand.
The real changes besides the new logo and fancy ad are (1) their promise to make claims easier, which by the way I have no way to ascertain if they are best in the market or otherwise; and (2) their promise to remove their IVR System and I quote, “Callers will be talking to our dedicated staff rather then a machine giving options of pressing 1 or 2 for help and directory listing”.

Well, I decided to check and call the phone numbers listed in the FAQ and here’s my report:

Claims Assist 1300 88 1007 (Direct to Staff)
Etiqa Oneline 1300 13 8888 (Direct to Staff)
Auto assist (Insurance and Takaful) 1800 88 6811 (Direct to Staff)
Agents Hotline 03- 2780 4688 (IVR SYSTEM)
Bancassurance Representative Hotline 03-2718 5555. (IVR SYSTEM)

The thing is this – Is it easier to have 1 number with IVR or having to remember a few different phone numbers to dial for different needs?

Fundamentally, the exercise is to announce a new brand name as a result of the coming together of 3 insurance companies. I think they’ve over spun it and unless they can do something that can really benefit customers as a result of the change, everything is just air. There are other insurers who did some re-branding (not just branding) exercise this year which basically put out some “this is out new” straight to the point kinda ads / communications – and you know what, it works for me because they didn’t promise or over promise anything to me.

This whole Etiqa campaign actually reminds me of the Guinness Adam King campaign. The “Who is Adam King?” teaser is definitely one of the best teaser campaigns ever, but unfortunately, when Adam was found, the whole thing just fell flat. Maybe it’s the high expectations set, maybe it’s just bad follow through. My point is teasers are really tricky things to do. Most of the time, it’s only exciting to the marketing folks within the company and not the consumer, who couldn’t really be bothered with it. Etiqa is a prime example of weak follow through as I really feel that even after the unveiling of the brand, they are still teasing me!

P/S. The Etiqa TVC is really good though – but it still doesn’t tell or sell you anything much (just like the press campaign, only with humour).


Art and Design of Marketing

Kanye West’s lastest album is one of the best rap albums this year. The songs are tight and extremely well produced. You can always expect Wes’s best when he drops his music. What’s not expected for me was his colaboration with Takashi Murakami for the album’s art. It’s not the first time we see collaborations between artiste and artist but I really digh Murakami’s “superflat” art. Superflat is a style he pioneered which basically very non-dimensional. Even top brands like LV count as one of Murakami’s clients - check this out

Joshua Davis is yet another prolific artist who frequently collaborates with brands like BMW and Motorola. His work is distinct and inspired by the likes of Jackson Pollock. The best way I can describe it is “controlled chaos”. I had the opportunity to attend his talk early this year in KL and was really impressed with his work ethic and story.

It’s amazing how “design” is now taking a more critical role in marketing – it’s moving esthetics and being embraced as part of the consumers’ experience. Take Apple’s iPod for example, when we think about it at its lowest common denominator, it’s still and just an mp3 players. It’s hard to quantify but who can doubt the impact of design on Apple products?

Better designs allow for better mragins through better pricing. The tricky part however is to figure out what better design means to customers and if they would ultimately pay for it.

If you have a problem struggling with the design thing for your products, just do what most of them did: commission artists to the job for you – but don’t just use any artist, must have “khang-Tau” one lar otherwise no one gives a damn leh…

I am NOT just another bag

My wife had the privilege to interview Anya Hindmarch when she was in KL recently. She’s an amazing young entrepreneur with a good heart. Like most of us (well, maybe just me), we probably know her for her “I am not a plastic bag” bag. The message is simple: don’t use plastic bags and do your part to help the environment. These days, I guess a fashion statement is as good as a social statement – how convenient (pun intended).

Over the course of the interview, Anya said something that I thought was a gem of an insight, she basically said that there’s no better or more effective mood altering fashion item than the hand bag - it doesn’t matter whether you are a perfect size 8 or 18, a designer hand bag can make you feel perfect irregardless. Long live designer bags!

Bye Bye Business 2.0

One of my favourite monthly reads is Business 2.0 – it’s my first choice in terms of reading priority followed by Fast Company and Wired respectively. I’m always impressed with how they cover the newest and best ideas first before others, In fact, I’d go as far to call it the best quick read business mag in town. Sadly, they’ve announced that they’ll be closing shop after 5 years. Even though they are backed by Time Inc., I’ve already suspected their ability to sustain themselves with the number of ads appearing in each issue. My worst fear came through...

Some times the best products don’t survive not because they are no good – I know this first hand when I witness the demise the of another good magazine, Markethink, a bi-monthly critical read on the happenings in the marketing industry locally and overseas. Even though the response from the readers had been very positive, the business just couldn’t sustain itself based on the management’s high expectations and slow response from advertisers. I had the privilege to be the contributing editor for 4 issues.

As I looked around the market, my observation is that this holds true for most businesses:

Success goes to those who survive.

My condolences. You will be missed, Business 2.0:


Heroes in the real world...

If you're like the rest of the world, Heroes is probably one of your favourite TV programmes - how could you not get hooked with cliff hanger episode endings like these? But despite the high ratings, Tim Kring, the creator and executive producer of Heroes has this to say: "Production costs are going up. We're losing eye balls. We have to reach people in other ways".

It's always good to recognize the realities of the market place and fickle-mindedness of consumers - nothing is guaranteed and here's where marketers should always push the envelope to innovate. True to Kring's word, a myrid of innovate marketing initiatives we developed to further involve the audience. No, I am not just talking about roadshows and promo events that we're so used to. To take the experience of watching Heroes further, the marketing guys of Heroes has actually created and expanded the physcial interaction of the audience with real interfaces. The characters of Heroes don't just existing on TV anymore, here you can find Claire's myspace site which you can add on to be your friend (she currently has 12203 friends) or check out Hiro's blog. There's more, websites of companies featured in the series are also in existance like Primatech Paper and others. There's also a "9th Wonder" website created with a online graphic novels which you read or experience. You can check it all out here on the official Heroes Evolution website. The customary, fan forum, vote or create your fav hero, behind-the-scenes features are all there...

Interestingly though, Kring's fears of losing eye balls actually came true. As ratings dropped 15% since the start of the second season, He took the bullet and admitted some mistakes were made, including those relating to the pace of the episodes and how the focus on the "big theme" is lost, etc. in a
published interview. He will however be making ammends and will seize the opportunity to do it right before the Heroes becomes Has-Beens. Well, that being said, I guess I won't be expecting too much of the new season...


It's been a long time

I haven't been blogging for quite some months - I was busy with work and a number of other projects. So many things have changed since I last blogged - but I guess I won't bore you. Anyway, I'll blog more in the coming months.

Till then, As Jerry Springer would say: "take care of yourself and each other"


Break free

I couldn't help it - I incarcerated myself, determined to finish watching Prison Break season 1 and 2 over the last weekend. In the process of serving my sentence, I missed my weekly blog update. My bad.


Caught RED handed

I hope Al Gore's "An Incovenient Truth" caused you indigestion. You can be indifferent but the truth is, you're also in this mess. The good news is, you still have a choice and can do something about the problem. Right now I'm making some personal choices, starting with simple things like turning off the main switches (rather than leaving appliances on standby modes) and the tap when I'm brushing my teeth (as opposed to letting the water flow), etc., to play my part in making a difference. My goodness, I'm even going to start my new-car-fund for a Toyata Prius ...when it starts to sell in this part of world!

Be inspi(RED)

Since the screening of "An Inconvenient Truth", brands like Home Depot and Timberland are trying to position themselves as "eco-friendly". But could this be just a convenient ploy to mislead customers? Especially since these eco-claims are not verified by any proper third party authority besides their own marketing department and creative agencies?

They should probably take a few notes from Pepsico's Smart Spot program. The company got the FDA involved in certifying some of their products as "healthy" and this lends a lot of credibility, further boosting consumers' confidence in Pepsico's products. There's really no short cut if you want to do it right...

Check out (RED)'s business model and be inspired! I sincerely believe that we, as marketers, can still make a difference and drive profit with a purpose. (RED) is basically made up of a group of brands who have agreed to work together under the same banner and contribute a portion of the sales of their (RED) branded products to a worthy life saving cause. Of course, it also helps that there's a credible guy like Bono to led this initiative and create even more awareness.

While reports on the sale of (RED) products have been very positive - raising over USD12 mil for the (RED) / The Global Fund - detractors are however, not convinced that buying is the solution. After all, buying a $100 product is not the same as giving $100 to charity.

Some of the big brands under (RED) include: Converse, Amex, Armani, GAP, Apple ("red" apple ipod - how cool is that!), and Motorola. But we've only seen the Motorola SLVR RED phone being sold here through a tie up with Celcom.


Black Swan over Blue Ocean

When I came across the Blue Ocean strategy concept in a late 2005 article in Harvard Business Review, I didn’t think it was that big a deal. As BO goes, you need to find yourself a market space where you own the category – where you call the shots without any intrusion of competitors. If you are occupying a space with competitors, you’re in the "red ocean", in simplistic terms. BO seems like common sense to me, but it’s not something easy to achieve. The examples cited in the article and book were, I feel, were very retrospective and hindsight based. It seems to me that the authors were just trying to fit in their BO model on to those case studies they’ve selected. It’s seems descriptive and I questioned its prescriptive / applicability value for a company operating in the now and be tested against the future.

Interestingly, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, “Black Swan”, which just hit the local stand talks about how we will never be able to prescribe or predict the future. Our limitations in knowledge and frames of logic wouldn’t allow us to do so. We can’t predict outliers because we simply can’t fathom them, for example 9/11, the impact of the internet, etc. The title of the book itself underlies this theory where in the western world all swans are deemed to be white – until they came across a black one (from Australia) which totally blew their minds and understanding of the world.

So between BO and BS, read BO if you want to learn the buzzword and impress your peers, otherwise do check out BS, so that you learn to understand what you don’t understand (I highly recommend it).


Integrated Marketing 3.0: Mash-ups

We’re on the threshold of one of the biggest blockbuster movie seasons ever. Tomorrow, Spiderman 3 will be premiering and I already got my tickets to the IMAX. Among the many movies out there, I’m really looking out for “The Transformers”. It’s going to be an awesome human / CGI extravaganza! And as you probably know by now, things like these don’t escape the eye of the opportune marketer - coinciding with the launch of the movie, NIKE and Tomy (a toy manufacture from Japan) have seized the moment to introduce a “more than meets the eye, robot in disguise” NIKE-Transformer line.

Nope, you can’t wear them! But they sure look cool, don't they?

We’re increasingly seeing more mash-up marketing happening, where 2 seemingly unrelated brands come together to develop really interesting stuff. One of the most interesting mash-ups announced recently is the COKE and L’Oreal project for a skin care beverage called Lumea. This drink is supposed to be able to deliver nutrients important for skin health. While this genre of product is not new - as drinkable skin care is already marketed by a company call BORBA - it’s really the partnership between 2 big brands that’s making people pay attention.

One of the most successful marketing mash-up project thus far has got to be the Nike Plus, a collabo between Nike + Apple. This range of Nike running shoes is able to sync with your iPod so that you can, not only listen to music while you run, but also track / record your work out stats and pace. There’s more. The stats tracked can then be loaded onto the nikeplus website to monitor and review your workout progress.

What these marketing mash-ups really underlie is the necessity for brands, especially big ones, to be innovative. This is a very strong message but I’m not sure how many bosses / organizations realize its seriousness. You can’t be serious about innovation if you continue to close your mind to things…


Hennessy vs. Hush Puppies

Managed to catch 2 marketing events over the past week: the Hush Puppies Spring/Summer collection fashion show and the Hennessy Artistry gig.

As part of the Fashion in Motion week in Mid Valley, Hush Puppies held a fashion show featuring their new line at the concourse of the mall and I couldn’t help but think about the brand’s journey from shoe to shirt and skirts. HP is a great shoe brand that stands for comfort but somehow taking the concept of “comfort” through a clothing / garment line is a little too stretched for me. Yes, we all know that on paper, HP owns “comfort” and it makes logical sense to extend the product lines. But I think they ultimately failed because they couldn’t convince me that their line of clothes are more comfortable than others! And when there’s little or no noticeable difference, your brand equity erodes and will be bound to negatively affect the perceived value / proposition of the core shoe product.

Sometimes, what seems right in marketing theory may not be so in reality.

Next up was the Henny gig at the Loft. The gig was basically part of a global campaign to promote the “Global Art of Mixing”, featuring music artists at their events. Jennifer Johns, Lady Free and Paul T were featured here but I didn’t think the crowd cared too much as to who they were. I mean, after all they just wanted to have fun regardless of it being brought to them by Henny or Heiny. Anyway, I found this from the www.hennessyartistry.com website:

Artistry brings together the finest of cocktails and innovative music talents to create a hot mix of music, moods, styles and culture. This blend of contemporary musical artists and cocktails from around the world offers unique events for an unforgettable experience.

True greatness in art is the fruit of daring. Hennessy Artistry represents a fusion of dramatically different, yet complementary, genres, proving that the whole is always better than the sum of its parts. Like a Master Blender who combines eaux-de-vie to produce an excellent cognac, the Art of Mixing blends music and cocktails to create Hennessy Artistry, or the Hennessy Art of Living.

Wow! What a fine piece of copywriting!

I don’t really have a problem with Henny or their Artistry thingy - it makes sense. I mean, I appreciate that it is done very well and that it’s probably “on strat” and all, i.e., leveraging on the whole music platform and honing in on the “insight” that people now like to mix their drinks. Maybe it's because they can't stomach the hardcore stuff on its own or that mixing helps extends the mileage of a bottle to over more sessions. But somehow I wonder even if something makes sense or is “on strat” on paper, would it make any difference to the consumer?

Henny is different from the HP case because it has been credible in this space / position. But if you remember some years back, Kent (the cigarette brand) also owned the rave / clubbing proposition through their events and all but after the gigs died down, no one seemed to care any more.

This is the reality of Marketing vs. Market. Only the consumer can have their cake and eat it too.


It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away

I love making up words. Most of the time it’s to annoy the crap out of people, especially my wife who is an editor. While I’m not sure how I got into this irraus* hobby, I suspect it has something to do with the Simpsons. Way back when The Simpsons were first aired on TV3, one of the promo snippets involved Bart playing Scrabble and declaring his winning word as “Gwigiborous”. I was completely knocked off the floor and making up words started to make sense!
Over time, I honed this hobby into a skill and manage to put it into some real use for the real world. I developed a knack for coming up with some good names for brands, shops, businesses, magazines, etc. An example is “markethink”, a magazine that reports and examines marketing news and issues in a more critical and intellectual kinda way - a Fast Company meets Wired-ish type magazine, if you like, for marketers. Another brand I created was meant for a new shoe retailer who brings in various branded shoes under one roof targeting the middle-upper income group of female consumers: “Feetish”.
Anyway, a few nights back I finished the Alex Fankel book “Wordcraft”, which talks about brand names and their origins. Five brands were studied: BlackBerry, Accenture, Viagra, Porche Cayenne, and IBM e-Business. It was a real eye opener. The business, culture and sophistication that goes into the process of creating brand-names was just awesome. I guess it has to be. After all, how else would a client justify paying six figure fees to someone to come up with a single noun?
Ultimately though, what makes a brand-name powerful will be its ability to transcend beyond its noun form into verb form and assimilate into our everyday lives, completely defined in its own purpose with the fullest conviction.

*Irraus = Irreverent and useless


The Amazing Race: Malaysia Stop

Last week, the Amazing Race All Stars stopped over at KL. I thought it was a great way to promote the country, especially this being VMY. The Amazing Race platform is really perfect to showcase and market any country as it becomes part of the program and engages itself with the contestants and viewers. I think Malaysia was showcased more than 45 minutes in that episode. I am not sure how much was invested for this kind of publicity but the impact was really powerful and impressive.

Q: How do you differentiate which portion of advertising or marketing is effective?
A: You’ll know it when you see it.


Where The Truth Needs Advertising…

Just saw a new thetruthaboutprepaid.com ad in the papers today. It’s a site where you can check out all the dirt on the prepaid packages offered by the 3 local mobile operators. While it’s managed by Digi, you won’t explicitly see their logo and association there. The street launch for the site some months back was quite fun too: getting groupies to walk all over town chanting and holding posters like they were in some kind of demonstration…

Since Digi is the smallest of the 3 players, they have nothing to lose by being the first guys to throw rates, etc. Their game is to dictate the pace / rates of the industry, always pushing for that first mover advantage to stay ahead. These guys have done it long enough for the public to buy into their big idea, i.e., that they’re always innovative / first.
But competition isn’t taking it lightly though, Maxis / Hotlink is fighting back with their new “telco talk” segments in the radio, countering / bettering the deals offered by Digi as well as continuing to go all out pushing their mega budgets for that aspirational / lifestyle marketing front with music / concert tie-ups etc. Not that it’s bad or anything but to me it just seems that it’s not a sustainable approach.
Marketing shouldn’t be about just throwing in big bucks. It should be about being smart. Some very big brands didn't even need to use big A&P budgets to get where they are. All they had is really “the big idea”.

“The big idea” as described by Robert Jones, a director of Wolff Olins, is that soul and essence of the company that transcends advertising and marketing. For Virgin, it’s iconoclasm; Southwest, irreverence; and Microsoft, ubiquity.

Somehow, I don’t think many Malaysian brands will get this even though they may try very hard. As soon as Digi’s competitors figure their 'big idea' and get it right, the rules of engagement will change and thetruthaboutprepaid.com won’t even be relevant. Because consumers will not be buying solely on price anymore - they will be buying into the idea, whatever that is.

At BonusLink, the big idea I wanted to communicate was: 'free doesn’t equal cheap'. Even though the card is free and the redemption stuff are at great value, I didn’t want people to misconstrue that the program is cheap and for cheapskates, but rather it’s for the educated and (budget) savvy. True enough, eventually two thirds of the urban population of the country became fans, include many dignified datuks and prominent professionals / business men. The idea evolved and was eventually epitomized in the line “Everyday’s a Bonus”, which conveyed a sense of appreciation for the meaningful extras that we so welcome in our life. With this, the brand distanced itself from all the other loyalty programs, which seemed me-too and mechanical. The big idea is not just about hard selling. In some ways it’s about philosophy and character. “Everyday’s a Bonus” has the legs and potential to go very far in terms of execution and dimension to further strengthen the brand’s proposition. And we really did seize those opportunities with very positive results (over RM40Billion sales through the partners, over 70% active membership base, etc).

Good marketing is never about the size of A&P budgets. It’s all about passion and the people behind the brand.

P.S. If you’re wondering what Celcom did when the Digi site first launched, they actually launched a counter site called thetruthaboutprepaid.com.my (The diff is the <.my> bit! WTF?! Haha)! The site was eventually closed and they have since focused on their Power of X and movie tie-up thingy.


Totally Goofed-up Initiative (TGI) by Friday’s

Last week I decided to celebrate an occasion at TGI Friday’s. The food was okay, the evening was enjoyable. It’s really sad that they stopped issuing BonusLink Points, otherwise I’m sure I’d frequent the joint more often. After I called for the bill, a nice chap passed us a postcard and explained to us how we can get a main course free if we just go online and filled out a simple survey.
Today I decided to check it out. Afterall, if my opinion is worth something, I might as well cash in on it. I was duly instructed to visit www.surveycenter.com/sc/tgif and enter the unique ID on the postcard to kick start the whole thing. I jumped through many hoops because I thought the free meal would be worth this crap. Dee dee dum dee dee day... and I’m finally done!

But wait, where is that validation code that I was promised? Something’s wrong. With restrained anger over my betrayed patience, I called the restaurant to explain my problem. I was informed they have no way to verify if I have completed the survey without the validation code, which I was supposed to have received. I offered to come in and log on in front of them to prove my point, for which I was informed that “the quota of the survey response was met” – WTF? Mr. Rahim further explained that this is was part of their HQ / Global initiative and he couldn’t appeal even if he wanted to. He offered a free appetizer for my next visit but I told the very kind Mr. Rahim that it’s not about the free appetizer.

I am really pissed off as to how the customer / web engagement was so badly managed in the first place. Something could have been done like putting up an apology on the main survey page (but that would mean not getting additional survey response wouldn’t it?!). Customers need to have their expectations managed. I would be fine if there was a disclaimer of sorts but there weren’t any and I really felt cheated. Consumers are spoilt with choice so there’s no worry about thinking of another place / brand the next time. It’s really that simple. And marketers, be more proactive. Do the right thing even if there’s a screw up. Most customers are not un-reasonable. We should always try to build up goodwill - it’s one of the main things that drive loyalty and repeat purchase.

Here’s some “F”s for Friday’s:
Figure out all customer engagement scenarios and manage them accordingly.
Fall back plan must be in place if thing screw up anyway.
Failure to rebound and follow up will be fatal.


T.C.M. (The Chinese Marketing) Method

When I first saw "Cash Register Rings Non-Stop: The amazing transformation of Eu Yan Sang" in bookshops I rolled my eyes and rolled over laughing. What? Another wank off book? But I went ahead and bought it anyway because I wanted insights into how the Cina-man marketer thinks. So there, I parked my balls aside in the name of learning.
Through out the book, you'll come across quite a lot marketing lingo words like "SWOT", "Positioning", etc, being dropped in a rather obvious manner, especially in the first few chapters. It's as though they are taking a pre-emptive strike on the reader, to force upon us an impression that they are in touch with "modern" marketing principals and approaches in their "traditional" type business.

To be honest, the book really reads like an annual marketing plan / report presentation most of us have to prepare for our bosses. The (real) goal of such presentations is to show management that we've been and will be doing loads and loads and loads of marketing programs so as to justify our salaries and stay in the company. It's superficial but true. And most bosses are happy with this type of presentations because it makes them feel that they are "getting their money's worth" from their employees. So if you really want to look forward to reading EYS's radio ad script or the behind–the-scenes development of their calendar, go knock yourselves out.

To say that the book was a waste of time is however, not true, as it did give me an idea on the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) business and how they work. In fact, I did find some of the marketing initiatives innovative and 'blue-ocean', like their New Soup Packs, Wild Ginseng Tea, Chicken Essence Traditional and a few others. And if you're sharp you'll also find two or three really good ideas in practice hidden between the lines. I guess for the price of the book and the share of ideas, it's worth a read.


TIMES are changing

It’s that time of the year again: taxes. For those who don’t know, you can get up to RM700 in tax rebate from book purchases. Though I buy a lot of books, I don’t really buy that much from Times. But what they did impressed me and would probably change my mind. I received the following a few weeks back:

By obtaining approval from LHDN to accept Times’ “Member Purchase Statement” as a valid document for tax rebate submission, they’ve essentially made it so much more convenient to be a loyal member! With this I don’t have to worry about collecting / collating / keeping many pieces of receipts for filing anymore. It really gives me more reasons to park my purchases with Times, or at least keep them on my radar as the choice of bookshop, especially since books are some what commodified anyway.

While the context and timing of the effort played an important part in engaging and reinforcing customer experience, this initiative also shows that customer loyalty can be fostered through something other than price / discounts.

See you next time at Times.

P.S. – It’s actually quite a good deal to be a Times member as they give good instant discounts on stuff including mags (compared to MPH’s lousy 5% cash rebate after 12 months) and they’re relatively convenient to locate. I guess my only problem with them seems to be the selection of titles (new and old) they carry, for which Kino is the best, followed by Borders. If you’re the patient and cheap type who don’t mind waiting out titles, Popular and PayLessBooks are where you want to be. So you’ll have to take your chances I guess.


IM me

Your staff can either be your brand’s best evangelist or worst antagonist. Salary only buys you talent and tenure – nothing more. So why haven’t we paid enough attention to staff / internal marketing (IM)? After all, based on the 80/20 rule, this is the 20% you don’t want to screw around with…because they know your shit and can mount the most effective and creditable smear campaigns against you. So don't kid yourself.

3 NEW signs of companies in need of immediate internal marketing:
1. Employees blogging to expose the hypocrisy and crap in the office
2. Employees blogging to expose the hypocrisy and crap in the office – during office hours
3. Employees using friendster, myspace, youtube, etc to promote their blogs that exposes the hypocrisy and crap in the office, during office hours.


Opps, you're on the wrong lane

Marketing folks, don't mess with Hafidz (of The Star). Love him or hate him, he's a rare bird who says it as it is without candy coating his reports (most of the time anyway). Not many would have the guts to interview one of the biggest advertisers in the country and still print a statement like: "But just as often, he gives answers in a non-committal or vague way". As a fellow marketer I am really getting very sick and tired with all the B.S. we come out with. Just ask any editor about the press releases they receive. Don't they all sound like something the client wanks off to? Fortunately for everyone, we can still depend on the nice media gift and treat (not to mention advertising dollars) to balance off the hate. So why rock the boat too much? After all, everyone's just making a living. Hafidz could be more brutal to the interviewee by adding more comments but I guess he'd rather just publish what the guy said and leave it to the readers to decide.



Before "awareness" and "awards" became the ultimate objectives of so called Brand Marketers and their Agencies, the motivation of ATL advertising was to drive sales through "heuristics". "Heuristics" is basically an innate short cut learning / decision making tool based on past perceptions or experiences. In the case of mass advertising, the more a brand shows you how it solves your problems or meets your needs through lots of ads, every time you have that particular problem / need, you'd automatically think of that brand and eventually buy it, of course.

Since all marketers are now probably thinking the same thing, how then can you make your ad stand out from the rest? The
Supply Side Marketer will shout, "Buy more ads!" and the Agency folks will be screaming, "Be brave and approve more 'creative' ads so that they grab the attention of the consumer, etc." As a result, marketers have been enticed to trade their priorities of driving sales with achieving awareness…

As marketers, you can always expect us to post-rationalize our actions: "The road to closing the sale is paved with many steps. 'Awareness' is only just the first step." I know its not easy to measure the effectiveness of ads, but my point is "awareness" as a priority is really over rated most of the time. Budweiser's "Wassup" campaign was one of the most awarded and popular TVC America has come to know but those levels of "awareness" didn't translate to increased sales. Rather the brand had a 8.3% drop in sales, further reducing its market share to 2.5% from 4%. It's sad but not many brands know how to optimize on awareness to leverage for driving / closing the sale. The closest, and only example I can think of now, is the "1984" Macintosh launch campaign by Apple, which only ran once (during the Super Bowl) but elevated Apple to cult status - a result that I suspect was unexpected even if the marketing guys at Apple claimed otherwise.
Whether an ad results in mass awareness that translates into sales (ala Apple) or not (ala Bud), is a mystery. So what do we do? Come up with more excuses and brilliant post-rationalization?

Picture from bzzagent.com
Well, the bzzz in marketing these days seem to be peer-to-peer (P2P) and word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing. As marketers realize that their "awareness" ad campaigns aren't working as well as they used to with consumers, they might as well recruit them to do the work. Companies like Tremor (a buzz marketing subsidiary of P&G) recruit moms for the purpose of generating buzz and awareness about P&G's products. To date, approximately 1,000,000 members are signed up to a program of such nature from all demographics, psychographics, etc.
Happy Bzz-ing!