Friday, April 20, 2007

You can’t win them all

The broadcast of Virginia Tech gunman, Cho Seung-Hui’s ramblings and psychotic behaviour on American TV networks, NBC, ABC and CBS has opened up heated debate on media ethics.

It’s true we now live in a world shrunk so small by advancements in communications technology that hours after American TV networks broadcasted the ravings of the Virginia Tech mass murderer, Singaporeans were on YouTube watching as media yet again gave an outlet for psychopaths to spread their messages of hate to mainstream audiences.

I guess the question is, how does broadcasting the videos serve the public interest – is it news or a tactic to attract ratings? Everyone one of us will have our own opinions on this and I welcome all, I personally think in situations like this, each case must be taken on its own ‘merits’.

Did the video help the public deal better with their grief? By putting a face to the killer and showcasing his ideals, do we better understand why he did it? Will we cause more harm by showing the video?

I don’t support arguments saying violence in videogames and movies cause people to kill, and I hate it when governments start censoring things but I do understand that in the realm of school shootings and high profile killings – notorious killers often look at other high profile killers as sources of ‘inspiration’.

By airing his grievances have the media ‘glorified’ his actions, of course not in the minds of me or you but what must a disturbed teenager who relates to Seung-Hui’s statements and impressions of the world, think?

I agree that media have an almost impossible task in balancing truth and harm and if anything good has come out of this video, it’s that it has brought about debate and kept media on its on toes. All networks who broadcasted the images have since assured the public it will limit future broadcasts of the offending footage.

In truth, I don’t think airing the videos will ever help people fully understand why he did what he did because his mind was just not right.

I guess the next step in the Virginia Tech murders is the blame game – and it will be the media who get to point some fingers.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Branding vs Advertising misconception

Hands up who thinks running an ad in the papers or on TV is considered doing branding.

Now hands up who is surprised when I say advertising is just the tip of the iceberg and branding encompasses so many more things such as strategic planning, brand identity development, packaging, design, alignment of entire company staff with corporate identity, pre- and post-purchase customer service etc.

I’d safely most of you raising your hands that second time think you know the difference between the two but actually you don’t, because your ad agencies throw in a bit of packaging and design services for free, and you happily accept it as a good deal.

Perhaps the conversations we’ve been having in the magazine and on this blog are premature because the issue is not about building bigger and better local brands to take worldwide – the issue is that we mistake branding for advertising and thus will not be able to ever build those brands.

Branding is about the intangibles (service, image etc.) as much as it is about the tangibles (ad campaign, packaging) and all that contributes to you handing that $6.00 over for a Java Chip Frappuccino at Starbucks.

I had the privilege of meeting with the guys from Landor Associates recently and Sydney-based MD Michael Graham shared with me about the future of marketing. He says the concept of ROI in marketing is a financial one and is currently way overrated. It should be paired with the measurement of intangibles, which also means quantifying all touchpoints in the entire customer journey.

Michael Graham, Joseph Mcglennon and Frank Vial

Your brand should be your value creating tool, he says. Marketing is value creation and the current accounting system is incapable of managing that.

But marketing can be accountable and intangibles can be measured so systems have to be put into place to help us better understand that the investments we are making outside of just advertising can in fact bring us the Holy Grail of marketing – ROI.

Food for thought.

NB. This happened to be the same topic Marketing's inaugural Hong Kong edition ran as the cover story in March. While the article is currently not available online, if you want to have a peek, send me an email at