Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Advertising, the cultural thermometer

Pay attention to ads and feel a nation's pulse. It's a sign of the enormous importance and focus on children's education if the country's top scorer in school leaving examinations is enough of a celebrity to endorse food supplements.

This poster was seen in Singapore, but it could just as well have been Japan, China or South Korea. Especially Korea, where traffic is throttled nationwide to give children the chance to concentrate on their all-important exams.

I'm trying to imagine a campaign like this in the education-blasé US or indeed any European country. It would meet with a collective shrug.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Small ad space doesn't mean no ad space

Singaporean public advertising is among the best I've ever seen. In contrast with the previous post, here's how you actually use taxis as an advertising medium.

Self explanatory, simple and clear. And visible from a distance, even with a crappy iPhone camera.

-- Post From My iPhone

Catch Cheating Websites Dot SG

Intriguing little bit of advertising on Singapore's taxis. The advertiser, Kokusai Security Pte Ltd, looks like a legitimate private investigator whose 'founding members comprise public officers who have experience in police and armed forces training. They specialize in investigations, crowd control, security management and bodyguard services.' All of this according to their website.

Especially the divorce investigations bit seems a bit slow these days. How else to explain this narrow focus on (literally) making your name in Cheating Spouses? On the surface, taxis seem a good choice as a preferred form of anonymous transport by cheating spouses and their fellow conspirators. But Kokusai's agency (or did they do it themselves?) forgets that they're choosing an advertising medium here, not a getaway after an illicit tryst.

A poor choice, even more so because you have to key in the website from memory if the ad really has any effect. And if you do, chances are you key in dot com instead of dot sg, which lets you end up with exactly those cheating spouses that Kokusai fights tooth and nail.

Ads like these will only become effective if your phone cam starts recognising links like these straight from stll shots. Until then you run the risk of unintended advertising consequences.

-- Post From My iPhone

Engrish or English?

Plenty are the jokes about the Asian pronunciation problems with the difference between 'l' and 'r'. Entire websites are devoted to silliness caused by errant Rs. So it's refreshing to see someone's found a workaround. After all, we all know the Customer is King, so is there really any difference between a Loyalty Program and a Royalty Program?

Kudos to The Coffee Club for finding an elegant solution. (picture: The Coffee Club Holland Village, Singapore)

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Millions clamouring at the door

Every shopkeeper knows the phenomenon. Customer comes in, asks for an article you're not stocking. Ah well. Not long after that, another one. Same question. By the time the third customer comes in, you make a note.

Companies like Apple should (and probably do) thank God for the incredible amount of transparency any internet-related business model offers. Now we can track demand in more ways than you can imagine, even before the product is there. No need for expensive market testing.

Only thing needed now: marketers who heed the call. Apple ignores the masses at their peril.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Inane advertising

This is the third time I've seen this ad on the back of my favourite newspaper, The Economist, and it's starting to annoy me.

"An icon that will change the way the world views Hong Kong."

Wow, that's an eye opener! I mean, until now you wouldn't think of Hong Kong as a place full of tall glass office towers, would you?

You see this type of ads more often, but this is a particularly inane specimen. I suspect their only purpose is to reassure the developer's shareholders. At least, that's the only purpose I can think of.

You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it (revisited)

This quote, from Scott McNealy, is just a bit more than ten years old now. You'd almost call it McNealy's Law, because like Moore's and other laws of nature it doesn't show signs of losing its applicability. As is shown by this video from The Onion, a must for everyone remotely interested in internet privacy.

Marketing 3.0 - there's an app for that?

All signs are pointing in the same direction: Apple's App Store is briskly on its way to two billion downloads, Forrester has just reported that gadget craziness is going mainstream, and now even the scientists have gotten hold of the fact that there's something significant going on here.

Especially the New Scientist article, here's the link again, is worth a read. It pretty much describes what happens to you if you enter app land and start leaving browsers and the internet-as-we-know-it pretty much behind you.

And let's face it. Apps, little icons on your always-on, always-with-you smartphone that have exactly the function you want right now, one touch screen click away, are so much more convenient than firing up a browser and doing a search or accessing a website. And that is precisely how they eat into quality time you used to spend on your browser, on Google, on Yahoo or other portals, or on any of your other favourite websites.

This has enormous consequences for marketing. Life ain't easy for today's marketer, who has already had to adapt from the traditional media to search marketing, maybe just got used to it and now has to completely change over again. It's also interesting to see that no one has really figured out how to adapt to the new model yet. Display ads in apps? Forget it,it's not happening, at least not yet. Selling your products via apps? The only examples I've seen so far are clumsy attempts to mimick a magazine or catalogue, or inane little gimmicks, like having your product (which happens to be a watch) function as an on-screen clock.

The best exception I've seen so far is Nike, with the iPhit Fitness Tracker, a nifty little app that lets you track your running or other fitness exercises in combination with a sensor in your Nike running shoes.

There's no quick-and-dirty way to figure out how to let your brand enter consumers' minds via an app that really has an impact on your target group's lives. It's more like guerilla marketing: a different approach for everybody. But great riches await those who get there first.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Marketing your iPhone apps

The iPhone-plus-AppStore is a brilliant and groundbreaking model for the future of mobile marketing. I've written before how effective the two work in conjunction to give users the best mobile experience by far. By getting it completely right Apple has changed the mobile landscape forever. But how effective is the AppStore as a marketing tool?

This reveal-all presentation by iPhone analytics firm PinchMedia provides an early insight in the new medium. It tells us how important it is to get yourself into at least the Top 100 at some point in time ("bunch up your publicity"); why it's generally better to choose paid-for over an advertising-supported business model; and how sticky the various categories of apps really are (you'll be amazed).

PinchMedia, we thank you. Finally the iPhone/AppStore ecosystem comes alive, supported by some proper metrics.

Why should I buy New Moon rice?

Looking at this poster I can think of three reasons:
1. It's Triple-A Premium. That sounds really, really premium.
2. I can choose from no fewer than six different packs.
3. The girl seems to like it.

So either this is the message New Moon choose to spend their advertising dollars on, or they need an advertising agency.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The wireless past

In the old days conference tables looked like this: pristine...

... and this is what I came across the other day:

Somewhere along the line things have taken a wrong turn.

Increasing loyalty doesn't need to cost anything

"Spot the differences"

Solitaire is the highest tier in Singapore Airlines' frequent flier programme. Its perks are incredibly popular. I know people who normally fly Economy (which doesn't contribute towards Solitaire qualification - you have to fly Business or First) but throughout the year carefully spend the extra money on a few Business Class flights in order to stay Solitaire. Perks are things like priority seat reservations and luggage handling, access to SIA's First Class lounges all over the world, and the prized First Class check in at Changi Airport (the Ritz Carlton among check ins).

So Singapore Airlines are a textbook example of perfect loyalty managers? Not always. In 2008, for inexplicable reasons, Singapore Airlines removed the number of membership years which until then had adorned each card. It's the easiest thing to do, and it doesn't cost the company a dime. Credit card companies have known this for a long time. It reminds people time and again of the period they've been valued customers, and it provides a subtle but continuous incentive to stay that way and increase the little magic number.

I just received my new Solitaire card, and I was pleased to see that SIA 1) hasn't thrown away the precious information of their top tier customers' seniority and 2) has put it back where it belongs - on the card.

If you want to increase customer loyalty you don't always need to throw money at it. Common sense helps too.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Facebook, The Electronic Friendship Generator

Hilarious! I have nothing to add to this.

And please, PLEASE can someone make Twitter, blogging and email versions??

Starhub's Not-So-Digital-Lifestyle

Some things you just don't make up. Digital superstar Starhub sends me an email, telling me there's such a thing as a "Digital Lifestyle" and how exciting it all is. Can you spare us a few minutes to answer a survey about it?

Of course, always. I mean, I practically live the digital lifestyle, sitting behind my desk, surrounded by heaps of gadgets and emailing, blogging and twittering my little heart out. So naturally I click on the link.

Sorry, your browser is not supported. Please use Internet Explorer version 6.0 and above, or FireFox version 2.0 and above. Your current browser is Safari 528.16

So much for Starhub's version of The Digital Lifestyle. I rest my case.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

5 Reasons to pick up blogging

After a two-and-a-half-year absence, blogging is back in my life. Why now? Five very different things have conspired to my re-entry in the blogosphere. One is personal. The other four are incredibly relevant to every marketer.

1. Popular demand. Lots of people over the past years told me it was a pity I'd stopped posting. Apart from the flattering effect (which wears off pretty quickly) it built up to an increasing feeling of guilt. Contrarily to feeling flattered, guilt lingers. And it builds up over time. All it then needs is some help, which came from technology.

2. Phone cameras. Pictures help incredibly when you want to get a point across. Speaking for myself, the reverse is even true: one feels compelled to make a point when one sees the picture that goes with it. So always having a camera in your pocket has an enormous impact your ability to shape thoughts and share them with the world. Add to that the fact that a few phone makers were quick to recognize this and turned their horrible crapcams into fully-blown, usable cameras. Thank you, Nokia.

3. Online social networks. It's great to be able to stay connected and communicate with many friends and business contacts, bridging enormous distances and gaps in time. But while doing that I feel an increasing need to have an 'anchor presence' on the Web as well. A place where you put your own original content, a place where you can express ideas and thougts that are larger than bite-size. A profile page is not enough. A blog gives you all the room in the world.

44. Twitter. So now we've covered three basic human needs: a social network, the ability to communicate, and a place you can call your mental home. Anything missing? Yes, opportunity. Enter Twitter. Twitter fills the little gaps in between. What's more important, it does to blogging what the phone camera did to photography. It may not be an ideal tool but it's simple and lightweight, and you can afford to always have it on you and use it on the go. But a person cannot live by bite sized thoughts and visuals only. (At least I can't - I'm not speaking for the average politician of course.) So for me, tweeting and blogging are inseparable - one cannot live long without the other.

5. The iPhone. Or in my case, the iPod Touch. Hat off to Apple, who came up not just with a brilliant little gadget, but withba while ecosystem that put them at the nexus of all mobile developments. It's not just that we now have an elegant mobile device with a decent operating system, allowing us to do just about everything that you previously needed a laptop for. Nokia did that already, except that their OS is deeply inferior. But on top of that Apple managed to create an exosphere of developers who continuously come up with brilliant little apps for every possible need. Want to tweet? Dozens of apps are available. Want to publish to your blog? Pick and choose. Not to mention everything else under the Sun, but that's another day and another blog post. My only nags are that Apple still need to work a bit on the phone, and are still in the crapcam phase. Which is why I now carry two devices around.

So there you are. I know this is a bit if a risk. Having said what I just committed to posterity means that I now have no excuse not to blog. So be it. Meanwhile, see you on Twitter!

-- Post From My iPod

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Another new advertising medium: Sailboards

If you think the online space has a monopoly on additions to the ever-growing list of media, think again. Here come the Sailboards.

The world's fastest growing cities are all sitting on either rivers or harbours. A giant TV screen sailing back and forth is guaranteed to reach a massive audience. And let's face it, riverfront property is most expensive in the world, so purchase power guaranteed!

Not sure if this has been done before, but Shanghai is the first place where I've ever seen this.


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Coming back to Shanghai after a few months' absence always has the same effect: shock and awe. The building boom goes on and on, higher and higher and on an ever grander scale. Hardly have we gotten used to the 420m Jin Mao Tower's skyline domination, or next to it arises the world's tallest bottle opener, the 455m Shanghai World Financial Center.

Literally around the corner, the old Shanghai is still being demolished. Maybe the Bottle Opener will be joined by a Corkscrew? Don't say it out too loud. This is Shanghai, after all.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Back to the roots of Marketing

Siem Reap is doing well. The tourist trade is booming, hordes of Korean and Chinese tourists overrun the ancient temples of the Kingdom of Angkor. Everyone in the service industry is doing a brisk trade.

Take for instance the remorques, tiny taxis consisting of a two- or fourseater compartment pulled by a moped. Remorques are a bit of a commodity, they're all alike and your negotiation position as a tourist is good. A US Dollar will get you anywhere.

Except this one. This entrepreneur has discovered the value of advertising. If you make yourself heard, and shout just a little bit harder than the others, you will get more business and you can charge just a little bit more. We paid this gentlemen $3.

Next step is branding, of course. A transport tycoon in the making.

Germany funding minefields?

The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) does good work, removing a lethal danger that still lurks in parts of Cambodia's civil war scarred soil.

Too bad then that the Germans keep funding new minefields, according to this CMAC sign near Siem Reap. Or do they mean the opposite?

This grammatical minefield would've been funny, given a less deathly serious subject. Wonder how many of these signs can be found throughout Cambodia, and what effect they have on Germany's public image?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hello Kitty Unlimited

If you've ever visited Hello Kitty Hell then you know that the Hello Kitty Universe knows no bounds.

Thanks to Hong Kong's MTR Corporation it now has an underground railway too. Complete with trains and uniforms.

Hong Kong respects global brands too

Welcome to Lamma Island, home to just about every Leading Hotel of the World:

True sign of globalization: each country its own speciality

Cuba's was already well known. But Macau's?

Asia's continuing IP crisis

Just a high street pharmacy. This one's in Macau, but could be anywhere in China or Southeast Asia.

Honestly. No fakes. Cross my heart, hope to die.

Ugliest skycraper. Ever.

Stanley Ho's Grand Macau Lisboa atrocity may not be finished yet, but it already dominates the skyline of Macau. Too ugly for words, I guess it'll easily take the trophy for Macau's most photographed building. Here's the definitive picture angle.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Alien is Alien, and English is English...

... and never the twain shall meet. I bet Rudyard Kipling lies turning in his grave.

Some like it French

Not a word of English in this little tableau. Still, it's in South Kensington. Or shall we say Quensington du Sud?

English may dominate the business community. But from Sydney to London, French is the global language for the culinary world.

No fusion here...

... at least some of London's stock brokers seem to prefer it English through-and-through.

Anglo-Japano-Greco-Thai fusion

From a distance it looks like your typical wood paneled English corner pub. Up close, it turns out to be a Thai restaurant. Design cues from ancient Greece (Ionic columns). And the name? "The Rising Sun."

Not that there were any doubts that London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on Earth. But this pushes the envelope.

"You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it."

Scott McNealy's classic quote is now over 8 years old. But it turned out to be quite visionary. UK's largest credit bureau Experian seems to think so too. In this tube ad Experian tries to educate the English consumer to not only accept this fact of life, but to try to make the best of it too. "Our information affects your position in life," it seems to say. "Why not come and check it, and ensure it's up to date?"

Quite the double-edged sword. One wonders if an ad like this would have the desired effect in other cultures as well. Would it work in, say, China? Somehow I doubt it.

Pottermania in action

Quick research in the London Underground, morning rush hour:
1. One in two spend their tube time reading;
2. One in four readers reads Harry Potter.

By the looks of it J.K. Rowling's books are not only enjoying record sales, they're being read too. By adults.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Concrete scarcity: a blessing in disguise

Concrete has become scarce and expensive in Singapore, since Indonesia started blocking sand exports to the little city state. If you compare Singapore's brand new skyscrapers with the old ones, I'm not sure whether that's a curse, or a blessing.

And by the way, the quality you can get out of your Nokia N95's camera on a bright, sunny day is impressive...

High-tech endangers low-tech

Seen at Singapore General Hospital. Acupuncture is a venerable, 5000 years old medical technology; mobile phones a 50 year old communications tool.

One wonders in what way handphones pose dangers for 'sensitive' acupuncture equipment. Have today's needles become electronic gadgets, coming a long way from the Bronze Age's sharpened stones? Or do loud conversations interfere with the serene atmosphere in which the needles are being applied?

Acupuncture is from Venus, handphones are from Mars.

Commercial email getting more threatening?

Guess those Webroot guys are used to dealing with spammers and other vermin. Bit of a cruel way to treat your customers, though. Wouldn't "Your subscription has expired" sound a bit more friendly, and less lethal?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sunset over the East Coast...

... and Moonrise over Suntec City:
You see too few of these pictures around. It leads one to believe that Singaporeans value their own cityscape too little. The fact that the Government has to put pressure on developers to build landmark buildings speaks volumes. And yes, we are starting to cherish our conservation bungalows and shophouses, but they're still being razed and mutilated by the dozen.

Thirty years from now, the next generation will start to regret what happened even today.

Fortunately the tide has turned. Too slow, as always, but already visible in places, such as Blair Road, the street where I live.

Hopefully, as the old becomes scarce, we'll start to cherish the new as well.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Relaxing Singapore

This is new. By this I don't mean the picture, taken at One15, the new yacht club and marina at Sentosa, but the title of this post. Singapore has made it, it's not only about living to work any more. We now work to live. But Singapore wouldn't be Singapore if 'working to live' would not be made into a business itself. So now we build marinas, casinos, and resorts. By the dozen.

Bustling Singapore

The old and the new. But looks deceive. Capital Tower looks new, Ann Siang Hill's shophouses in the foreground old. Reality is, Capital Tower is occupied by old-style financial institutions. Ann Siang Hill is the home of up-and-coming interactive advertising agencies, and internet startups.

Booming Singapore

Palm trees and building cranes.

The Age of the Internet has arrived. Books have become decorations

Remember books? You know, the stuff we used to read when they still had paper? Well, they've completely done up the new food court at Suntec with them. How quaint.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Do Not Disturb

Interesting post from Jan Chipchase on Future Perfect. Hutch in India apparently offers a blanket opt out for sending commercial text messages through to your phone.

Jan frets about the 72 hours before the block will be in place, and the unspecified time it will take for Hutch's marketing clients to comply.

If Hutch gets this right (that's a big if), client compliance should not be a problem. Mobile providers, after all, are known for 'keeping the keys to the Kingdom', allowing their customers access only to those bits of cyberspace they make money off, and generally blocking the kind of progress we've seen on the wider Internet. But that should work both ways.

The flip side of the medal is the provider's responsibility to shield their customers from unwanted communications. Either accept that responsibility, or take you hands off the whole thing and let your subscribers roam freely across the Web.

Unfortunately this logic does not appeal to telcos, judging by their initial reactions in last year's mTouche scandal in Singapore.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Sorry Officer - I was just praying for free parking"

The best excuse for not getting a parking ticket in Singapore - ever.

Friday, June 22, 2007