Thursday, October 21, 2010

Singapore not as high-end as HK

I was in Hong Kong for a week long editor’s conference and was looking for a high-end gift for my high maintenance husband.

Walking along the IFC, I drooled when I saw brand names like Tom Ford and Ascot Chang which carries Brioni. Brioni the makers of the tuxedo in James Bond’s Casino Royale!

As a Singaporean, I felt envious. Why doesn’t Singapore have top notch brands setting up shop in this city?

The daggers of envy were stabbed deeper when Marketing’s entire regional editorial team visited the Monocole store. Global affairs magazine Monocle opened its second retail store in Asia, launching a Hong Kong bureau to join London, Tokyo, New York and Z├╝rich.

The store will play a dual role, acting as a retails front and as a hub for its editorial operations.

Why didn’t Monocole’s editor Tyler Brule set up operations in Singapore?

I decided to ask some branding experts for their thoughts.

Size, perception and reality were the reasons given to why high-end brands set up in Hong Kong. Size does matter especially with Hong Kong’s 7 million population versus Singapore’s 5 million. This makes Hong Kong a more attractive choice for a premium brand’s location after Tokyo and Shanghai.

“Though perception is changing, Hong Kong has a longer history as a global city having attracted global financiers and travelers for longer too. And reality is another reason. Hong Kong’s climate plays a role with its four seasons linking well to the fashion industry’s exciting seasonal cycles versus Singapore’s ‘single’ season. Hong Kong has also been longer linked with ostentatious wealth which would also attract premium brands to Hong Kong first, before Singapore,” said brand specialist Interbrand.

I got my answers but my envy didn’t end.

I did leave Hong Kong with a Brioni wallet though.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's got everyone talking... 'Really'?

Microsoft Windows 7 phone ad is garnering much attention in most parts of the world, with bloggers voicing extreme opinions. Tell us what you think about it?

I personally enjoyed seeing the video but hang on, what’s the differentiation in as far as its messaging is concerned? I fail to understand.

And as my colleague says, the background music looks like its right out of Wisteria Lane in Desperate Housewives!

There are moments in the video that do make you smile but I guess that’s all.

What do you think? Let us know.

Friday, October 01, 2010

What’s In A Name or W.I.A.N?

YOG or Youth Olympic Games. This begs the question, yet again- What’s In A Name (W.I.A.N). Singapore’s inclination toward abbreviations is common knowledge, as just about every expressway, bank, Government body, school, college, commercial complex etc. eases into a coinage of truncated verbiage.

The colloquial speak eventually finds a way into it being ‘the brand name’. The latest entry into the Abridged Book of Convenience (ABC) being YOG - The ‘Youth Olympic Games’.

One could argue that the official name is still the full form of it, however the fact that the commonly spoken and written depiction is YOG, would suggest otherwise. Now, when you probably have the greatest sporting event engrained in a ‘name’ i.e. ‘Olympic’, why should you strip the magnificence that it represents into a set of cold, hollow and meaningless letters.

On the contrary, the meaning of the word ‘Olympic’ should have been heightened.

This is not really about just abbreviating an institution, or about it being a Singaporean obsession. The larger question being- ‘Should convenient condensing of brand names arise without any apparent reason?’

Queensland and Northern Territories Air Service, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, Victor Company of Japan, International Business Machines Corporations, Bayerische Motoren Werke alias QANTAS, 3M, JVC, IBM, BMW respectively, had both reason and wisdom to rename themselves from descriptive, industrial institutes into initials that grew into multi-billion dollar brands.

Heritage does have a role, and in my view a brand needs to earn an acronym and by that I mean GE and LG, having successfully built their equity have the license to be known by an initial should they so choose.

Occasionally though, brand initials can run the risk of allowing for the world to hijack it into undesired territory based on their unfavourable actions for e.g. Beyond Petroleum (BP) and Government Motors (GM). A move to change into one could sacrifice its equity. Hence let Harley Davidson always be Harley Davidson.

Some brands have had other reasons such as KFC -be it the Kentucky taxes or the implications of ‘Fried’ in a world getting healthier. Removing some baggage, bridging language barriers, changing an offering or renewing meaning from when the brand started to its current avatar can legitimize an acronym. Though, initializing an already existing acronym such as YMCA into Y, one could ask Y?

I don’t personally dismiss acronyms but there are limits and at times it does rob the brand of potentially positive emotions and YOG being one such example. Keeping Mother Teresa Charitable Trust intact as against MTCT would be preferred.

Today, when one is tasked of creating a fresh brand name it would be advisable to keep it simple, meaningful and acronym-proof. Some may not agree and say FCUK, whilst St. Thomas University of Public International Diplomacy might just concur.

Mohit Gopaldas is managing director, Identity Counsel Brand Consultants

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Digital Sweet Spot

2009 was the year “Minority Report” finally came to life with augmented reality interaction – and you facing up to the reality that privacy is now as confidential as a fish bowl after Facebook made private information searchable.

2010 marks the birth of new devices that are creating more waves in content creation, redefining the usage of mobile phones.

Apple’s iPad has given dying newspapers a new lease of life. The explosion of smart phones and democratic data plans from telcos has converted people from watchers to participators. Location-based applications tell friends where the others are, and real-time status updates across social sharing services, such as Twitter and Facebook – all invite you to read and respond.

Instead of making predictions on the impact that new technologies and trends like Google TV, HTML5 and location-based advertising will have on marketing, it would be more apt to talk about how you can work digital advertising effectively for your client’s business.

With the exponential growth of online content and surge of marketers adopting digital as the lead for their campaigns, we are starting to see more interesting work in Singapore. As the market begins to mature, digital practitioners must put their money where their mouths are, and start delivering results for every cent the clients entrust.

Over the years, I’ve been able to put certain theories to test, and having worked with many brilliant minds, I’ve observed that a combination of factors may just help you nail that sweet spot for your brief and yield results beyond expectations.

Monetise Social Currency
Marketers are starting to mimic successful campaigns, by utilising various components of social media – from viral videos to micro-blogging, Facebook engagement to discussion forums and activation.

And of course, the million-dollar question – “Is there money to be made in social media?” I’d like to think so. The market is ready to separate the boys and men, amateurs and the pros.

If you believe in your idea, peg your remuneration to its result and impact. The digital medium is inherently accountable, and it’s not difficult to work out an attribution and valuation model.

No doubt, the mode of engagement puts pressure on the agency to sharpen the strategy, and gives clients glimpses of a social media heaven. If done well, you’ll have a new convert.

Preach responsible advertising and demand your payout.

Rally People Around a Cause
Human beings gravitate towards goodness. They want to be able to contribute for social, political and environmental causes. We have seen how certain initiatives have gathered the support of global citizens.

The secret to their success: authenticity, sincerity, honesty and keeping it real. These attributes win the hearts and minds of people. More often than not, you are able to move them into active participants.

A brand can stand for a cause under their corporate social responsibility efforts. Whilst the commercial returns are not immediately visible, you will see gains in brand affinity.

However, do be warned that there is a flipside. When you force-fit a cause for a brand in a one-time effort, people can smell dishonesty from a mile. The same impact of cause marketing can work against you.

Maneuver Channel Platforms
Just as many people have an online presence, web users have real friends, (yes they do!) passions and lives. However, this line between virtual interaction and real life connection is getting thinner.

There is now more reality in virtual reality than ever. Here lie opportunities for channel platform maneuvers, where we move people from online to on-ground to mobile and vice versa.

There must be a strong motivation or incentive to move bums off seats. Or a belief that people will connect like-minded individuals, who are passionate enough to do something. I much prefer the latter approach.

A community that is driven by passion creates a longer (maybe even permanent) bond with the activity, thereby making it a valuable asset to any brand.

The science is in the methodology of crowd sourcing. Appoint leaders to be poster boys, and recruit various tiers of members. Along the way, appoint leaders from the mass crowd and grow organically. Soon the multiplier effect will happen.

Content Decentralisation
Content is still king, but you don’t have to create all of it. Take the model of decentralisation and start building satellite content outside the original ecosystem.

Set a framework. Cut consumers loose, invite them to fill in the blanks, and let them remember the experience as their own.

One model we find working out well is an idea of content co-creation with brand ambassadors, from editors to social influencers. However, the accessibility to publishing tools has created many self-proclaimed social influencers.

Sadly, there many who talk amongst themselves, leaving not a single dent of impact. The balance of official and non-official voices is a delicate thing to handle. We must be very selective of who we engage.

Most brands that are brave enough to adopt this find their brand trust increasing year after year. The more you let go, the more you gain.

Lastly, there is no formula in hitting the pot of gold.

Sometimes, it’s about good old-fashioned understanding of human emotions. Sometimes, we have to go beyond our core disciplines to get the results. Sometimes, it requires us to do the minimum.

Deng Xiao Ping once said, "I don't care if it's a white cat or a black cat. It's a good cat so long as it catches mice.” Likewise, do whatever it takes to get the results.

Jeff Cheong is ECD and Head of Tribal DDB Singapore

Friday, July 02, 2010

Does branding have a future?

I remember about 10 years ago that many people in “the industry” predicted that branding, like several other aspects of business, would die at the hands of the internet.

This idea started when the internet represented a new way of choosing things to buy, where traditional media and retail channels would be overtaken by digital substitutes and people would return to buying products not brands.

The concept experienced a reincarnation of sorts in last few years.

Web 2.0 was going to replace a brand’s reputational promise with transparent user reviews. The Long Tail effect was going to allow niche offers to overtake famous “big hit” brands by allowing buyers to express their true preferences - buying the products they really want, unfettered by production, distribution and communications bottlenecks that have been the traditional battlegrounds for brands in the past.

Well it’s fair to say that brands have survived these pressures. But the practice of branding has been significantly impacted in the process – and not just as a result of the impact of the internet.

It’s also true that while advertising agencies have famously struggled to re-invent themselves – brand consultancies have not always been at the leading edge of innovation in their own practice.

So what are the factors driving change in branding? At FutureBrand we work with renowned futurologist Richard Watson to identify the key macro trends with the most widespread real impacts.

• Changing demographic shapes – tailoring products to the needs of aging populations and the expectations of “digital native” youth

• Global connectivity – the fact that while many people in emerging markets in particular may not have the money or access to brands, their ever increasing exposure to those brands in context of marketing and entertainment shapes their aspirations

• Technology –a range of categories are on the cusp of significant change from technologies in genetics, robotics, nanotechnology and the internet. These will have the effect of shifting their overall value propositions and evidentiary basis for benefits

• Sustainability – this is an issue that’s not going away. Relative to say Europe, much of mainstream Asia remains preoccupied with prosperity rather than sustainability. But consumer niches are growing, and progressive governments and corporates operating in more demanding international environments are starting to offer leadership on this issue

• Emerging economies and Asia – particularly post the global financial crisis, it’s fair to expect that economies and cultures in this part of the world emerge as producers and shapers of brands – not simply large masses of consumers to be exploited

Considering these trends and forces of change that put pressure on brands and the practice of branding, FutureBrand has been giving thought to what makes a ‘future brand’ – a brand that maximizes its long term potential to create business value.

1. It must strive to make people’s lives better.

2. It must do so based upon a future forward view of their category in which their brand, that of the company or organisation and their products and services are driving positive change.

3. Related to this, it must provide an emotional connection to those who are the brand’s greatest advocates or ambassadors, that sets a future brand apart from its more rational or ‘me too’ competitors.

4. And, finally – it must actively understand, manage and appropriately exploit all touch-points at which a consumer or stakeholder interacts with the brand as an organisation, a product or a service. All sensory stimuli are used to connect and differentiate so that the brand values, experience and consumer preference is reinforced and aligned to a brand’s vision.

These characteristics naturally have an impact on the practice of branding in a variety of ways. For example, managing and maximizing touchpoints now means designing great screen-based experiences. Offering compelling emotional connections with brand advocates requires the acceptance of a degree of freedom in customers’ participation with brands, rather than trying to stage “controlled” experiences. So brand management becomes a highly dynamic process of influential interactions with people – not being the logo nazi.

So yes, branding has a future, but its practice is not the same as its past. Brands remain critical assets that drive and deliver ‘value’. As we move into the 21st century, the challenge for marketers and practitioners is to understand how brands can evolve and facilitate growth for the benefit of investors, stakeholders, consumers, customers and employees.

Tim Riches is chief growth officer, Asia Pacific and chief executive officer, Singapore for FutureBrand.