So, you think you dig the culture?

Here is an interesting thought – marketing is local.

In fact, it might be that marketing can only be local. Now, before you hit the roof and point at the gazillion “global marketing” campaigns, hear me out.

Essentially, marketing is about taking what speaks to a person, relate it to a brand or a product, and attempt to engender a response, preferably a “buy” action. Now, if you fundamentally do not agree with this simple, direct definition of marketing; then you will not agree with everything in here.

To be able to speak to a person, you need to understand him. It sort of comes down to an understanding of the culture, since that provides a broad backdrop against which almost everyone in a particular community can relate to. There will always be fringes that differ enough that they do not fit. But by and large, the culture is a good entry point for most marketing efforts. From there, you distill it further into specifics.

That is why the statement earlier, that marketing is essentially local in nature. In a culture where “big is beautiful”, using skinny models have a negative impact on your brand.

International campaigns actually go against the grain and create their own culture. That is why many of them require huge budgets. But once they have the critical mass and the traction, their own sub-culture is created. That sub-culture then exists within the other social culture where the audience lives.

It is hard for marketers to understand the other person’s culture. Just saw this post about “Fish Don’t Know They’re In Water” and it does bring home the point of perspective and understanding.

That is why partnerships are so important in business. Finding a good local partner can make the difference between success and failure.

Think on it.

Personal Branding – Publish a Book

One of the best ways to improve your personal brand is to become a published author. Of course, for many people, this is easier said than done.

But the truth of the matter is, getting yourself published is not that difficult. You just have to get around to doing it. The real challenge of course, is to get published by a large, well known publishing house. Once you are able to do that, you are almost guaranteed a global distribution of your book.

Just like my friend Eran Katz. He has published many books on super memory and they have been translated into more than 12 different languages. But not English. Strange, isn’t it?

Well, seems like he was just biding his time and he finally got Random House to publish his first ever super memory book in English: “Where Did Noah Park His Ark?”.

We are really happy for Eran and of course, we want you to know that you should really not feel shy to click on the link below to buy his book.



Can it be “Your Singapore”?

My Kiwi friend who is flying down to Singapore after a long absence of 9 years wrote me a really short email, “What’s this with “Your Singapore”? It can NEVER be mine! How could it be? “.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has a different opinion on that obviously. It has built a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign around the “Your Singapore” catchphrase – one that involves an interactive website where travelers can customize their trips to the island city, book their flights and lodging and soon even have their itineraries sent to their cell phones.

In the past 33 years, Singapore has adopted 3 branding slogans – “Surprising Singapore” from 1977 to 2004, “Uniquely Singapore” from 2004 – 2009 and now “Your Singapore”. Comparatively, our neighboring countries are much more loyal to their branding catchphrases – “Malaysia, Truly Asia”, “Amazing Thailand”, “Incredible India” -in fact, they are still building fresh campaigns around their trusty slogans.

Some renowned companies do not change their slogans. They understand that it takes years, even decades,  to embed the branding message into the minds of their target audience. Maxwell Coffee ’s “Good to the Last Drop” was developed in 1907, Morton Salt’s When it Rains, it Pours was coined in 1914 and the famous I Love New York was conceptualized in 1977. I salute the decision makers of these companies. Many companies changed their branding message because they got tired of seeing the same words day in and day out, not realizing that their target audience does not have such an intimate relationship. I wonder if that’s the case with our STB who tired of “Uniquely Singapore” after a mere 5 years?

Personally, I prefer “Surprising Singapore” if I must choose from the 3 slogans. I just don’t feel that “Your Singapore” would be authentic to most travelers. Like my Kiwi friend asked, “How could it be?”. These wonderful people are just making a short trip here – be it a vacation or a business trip – and thereafter they return to home sweet home. No matter how clean and green Singapore is, no matter how Singaporeans go out of the way to make them feel at home, Singapore is not theirs. Not until they choose to make it theirs.

Possibly, STB’s intention was to make Singapore something to everyone. Ironically, when we attempt to be something to everyone, we will be inevitably be reduced to nothing to everyone.

The modern history of Singapore began in 1819 when Englishman Thomas Stamford Raffles established a British port on the island. We may be less than 200 years old, however, we have a unique and colourful identity with Malays, Chinese, Indian, Eurasians plus many foreign immigrants residing here. By giving a carte blanc for travelers to customize Singapore, what is left of us? What do they think of us? In marketing, we emphasize a lot on unique selling proposition, branding and positioning. By being everything to everyone, we basically become a significant nobody.

I have a Famous Business Slogans category in this blog, however, I probably won’t slot this post in that category until “Your Singapore” has, well, become famous.

Sex Advertising in Singapore

Burger King Seven Incher Ad

It would not be a surprise to find this ad in some progressive European country. Or in the USA. Or any where else, in fact, except in (surprise! surprise!) – Singapore.

When the ad was first launched, the hapless Burger King agency in the USA, Crispin Porter & Bogusky was credited with the dubious honour of being the creator of the ad. Fortunately, this has been cleared up by Burger King, that it was an ad created in Singapore by a Singapore ad agency.

Some time back, I wrote a post about “Sex in Advertising?” which discussed the fact that sexy ads may not be the best way to bring your message across.

This latest ruckus in staid Singapore, might just prove that point. Many bloggers have labelled this a shameless, blatant attempt to play the sex card in advertising. I mean, the very visual and unambiguous allusion to oral sex is quite plain to see.

Seen on the walls of the fast food family restaurants, at the bus stops and in newspapers, the ad urged people to “fill your desire for something long, juicy and flame grilled with the new BK Super Seven Incher”.

Some have even ventured to say that this imagery might appeal to some of the population for which fellatio is a huge turn on, but they forget one thing… is the ad appealing to the giver or the receiver?

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore was not amused as it has received 5 complaints from the public.

I wonder how many guys will rush out to eat that particular super 7 incher sandwich now that eating it is associated with giving a, ahem, well, you know what I mean…

Coca Cola Under-Leverage it’s Great Brand Image

That’s the opinion of Al Ries.

If you don’t know the man, he is the one who along with Jack Trout coined the term “positioning” and authored the famous book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind”.

Al Ries was in Singapore recently to attend the Global Brand Forum and he answered an interesting question from Marketing magazine:

In your opinion which brand has a great brand image but is not doing anything to leverage it and why?

Al Ries’ answer was not unexpected.

Coca-Cola it is world’s most valuable brand yet it never plays up on its heritage as the original, authentic cola. Every couple of years they change the slogan. The latest concept ‘The Coke side of life” to me is a meaningless concept. Coca Cola should own an idea called “The Real Thing”, connoting the authenticity of the product. Incidentally, Coca Cola share of the soft-drink business in the US has been declining about 1% yearly in the last four or five years.

I’m always in the opinion that marketers should own a key word or key phrase in the target audience mind. Mercedes-Benz is all about “prestige”. Volvo means “safety”. Nike advocates “doing”. American Express reminds us “don’t leave home without it”.

Coca Cola has a gem in it’s 1970 slogan “It’s the Real Thing” yet it abandoned it within a year. I have discussed in my earlier post When Is A Change Of Advertisments Good? that

You breathe and live your product and services, you will notice even if a speck of dust drops on it. Your target audience, however, is nowhere near that level of intimacy with your products. They are not as aware of your brand, corporate identity, product features and benefits as you are. My suspicion is, they are starting to take notice of you just as you are beginning to get sick of your own marketing messages.

Fortunately, when Singapore Airline ditched Batey Ads For TWBA, it did not hear the calls of dissidents to ditch the famous “Singapore Girl” branding.

It will be interesting to see if Coca Cola will emulate companies like Burger King – who resurrect it’s 1976 slogan “Have it Your Way” in 2004.

How to Sell Yourself Effectively The First Time?

Did you say the right things

When you introduce yourself for the first time to someone you just met in a networking session, how will you sell yourself?

Think, and go through your self-introduction speech in your head before reading on. There’s a reason for this suggestion.

The conversation probably goes like this:

John: Hi, I’m John Smith.
Harry: Hi, John, I’m Harry Jones. What are you doing?
John: Oh, I’m in the insurance industry.

What do you think will happen if Harry’s mind has been programmed and conditioned by parents, siblings and friends that insurance agents (a.k.a. financial planners) always use fear tactics to get people to buy a policy that they don’t need and don’t want? Or, what happens if Harry has an unpleasant past experience with a hard-selling pushy insurance person? Either way, this conversation will either be terminated prematurely or be channeled to a safe subject by Harry.

Who is on the losing end?

Naturally, it’s John. Yes, John just lost a one-to-one, face-to-face opportunity to tell Harry of the values, benefits and solutions that can make Harry ‘s life easier and better.

However, Harry is not on the winning side either.

It could have been a win-win scenario had the self introduction of John went this way.

John: “Hi, I’m John Smith.”
Harry: “Hi, John, I’m Harry Jones. What are you doing?”
John: “Harry, do you know there’s more than 60% of seniors in this country cannot afford the large medical bills when they fall sick or injured? My main focus is helping seniors aged between 70 and 85 to minimize, or even eliminate 100% of their medical expenses.”

Harry has an ailing mother of 72 and he is still paying the exorbitant medical bills when the old lady was hospitalized for five and a half month when she fell twice last year. And, Harry never knew seniors could be covered until 85 years old. How do you think Harry will response? I bet he said, “Tell me more”.

What’s the difference? Continue reading “How to Sell Yourself Effectively The First Time?”

How Strong is Your Brand? Take a Brand Test.

I was having tea with a friend who intended to start a business within the next few months. The conversation led to a long discussion of whether one should build the entire company and product around a pre-set branding or should branding evolve over time. It’s almost like a chicken and egg discussion but it peppered the 90-minute afternoon tea very sumptuously.

Personally, I would go for the former. Branding is all about matching the needs of a targeted market segment with your company’s core expertise. You begin with designing the product, offering relevant services, set up the infrastructure and instill a mindset that are important to, and aligned with the values of your target audience. Then, you go through the necessary marketing communications channels to talk to them in a way that is understood and appreciated by them. In a nutshell, branding is about knowing the market’s problems, wants and yet-unknown-wants, and reveal your solutions in an unique and attractive manner that make you appear as the only logical and viable option.

What the brand should be isn’t a matter to be decided by the brand development, marketing or public relations department. And it certainly should not be coming from the advertising agency alone. Branding must involve the top executives of the company. They should drive the brand values across and down, to every level and everyone. We have a distinct picture of the mission, beliefs and expertise of The Body Shop because of Anita Roddick. When we talk about Microsoft, we cannot avoid discussing Bill Gates. Branding of a company goes hand in hand with the top guns in that company. The brand therefore encompasses the corporate mission, values, vision, goals and culture.

If you are like my friend, new to business or unsure, if you have a desire to create a strong branding for your target segment, you might want to take this simple 12-question Branding Test. Questions like “On a scale of 1 -10, how your clients/prospects perception align with how you want to be perceived” and “how you feel your marketing communications support your corporate strategy.” The questions are simple to understand. However, if you find yourself struggling with the answers, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your corporate branding or seek some professional advice.

The company drives the brand, the brand shapes the company.

[tags]branding, brand strength[/tags]

Do You Have a Personal Brand?

Whatever you do about your personal branding, just don’t be a “Paris Hilton”. She might be in the news all the time but none of them are in a very favorable light. Most of us savor snickering at gossips now and then, and we enjoy seeing people put on the spot and laughing at them, without any ill intentions, of course. It’s all harmless because the “target” has Paris Hilton - Trash for Salenothing to do with us. It’s just a source of amusement. Paris Hilton, unfortunately, is a poor little rich girl who provides lots of entertainment. What is the image that people conjure when her name is mentioned? The key words could well be “heiress”, “pretty’, “beautiful”, “glamorous”, “party girl”, “socialite”, “celebrities”. But what about “poor little rich girl”, “spoiled brat”, “celebrity trash”, “bimbo”, “air-head”? Her personal brand is a hotchpotch of good and bad. Just look at the banner above, do you want to be seen like that? Do you want to send such a mixed signal to your clients, business partners and associates? Isn’t corporate personality and identity quite enough? Everyone has a personal brand. Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, Hilary Duff; just think of any popular persona and you will see clear evidence of the markets they speak to and the images that the promote. Continue reading “Do You Have a Personal Brand?”