Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bondi blow-up dolls

You have to admire vodka brand 42 Below’s marketing strategy.

They really are unafraid to take risks and are famous for their cheeky and controversial ad campaigns.

Their latest work, by Sydney creative hotshop The Glue Society, sees a group of strange figures who are dressed in white and doing weird installations across New Zealand and Australia. In one of the executions they’ve set up 100 inflatable sex dolls on Bondi Beach.

In other executions, the white-clad group set up a rainbow of plastic chairs in the snow.

They also have wrapped a street of cars with Christmas paper, set up a UFO-style shell in the New Zealand highlands, created a giant coloured snowman in Sydney’s Circular Quay and repainted the roof of a skyscraper. See them at

The installations are all part of a global campaign promoting 42 Below’s “Because we can” brand positioning. The web-based movement is aimed at celebrating those with a spirit of adventure, free thinkers, as well as to honour actions that are done for no reason other than for happiness, intrigue or exploration.

42 Below is encouraging the public to get involved with its own user-generated content, and is offering a US$4200 prize each month for the best submission.

As I said before, the premium alcohol brand has had no problem differentiating itself from its competitors. Being unique is something that 42 Below has spruiked from its early beginnings, as these ads show.

In the space of a just a few years, 42 Below has gone from being a tiny vodka brand based in Auckland to a global player that was snapped by drinks giant Bacardi for NZ$138 million in 2006. And marketing has played a massive role in its phenomal growth.

So does being different ultimately pay off?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Don’t mess with the Dragon

Nokia has released a great viral to promote its N96 phone in China.

Created by JWT Beijing, the ad shows martial arts legend Bruce Lee playing table tennis with nun chucks, and kicking arse. On this from he would have given Forrest Gump a run for his money.

The clip has had nearly 430,000 views on YouTube since 18 November, which ain’t too shabby.

There is also this website - - featuring a fighting Bruce and the phone.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bubble boy

Before he jetted off to fulfill his many other obligations, I managed to catch Y&R Group chief insights officer, John Gerzema for a quick video interview on his new book The Brand Bubble.

The book has been making waves of late, and he even made an appearance on Bloomberg yesterday (I think it was after I interviewed him) as well. I must admit, I haven't read the book cover to cover yet, but I am three quarters of the way through and its given good insight into today's consumer, the market performance of brands, and exposed the true value of brands.

He talks a bit about the book, which he co-authored with Ed Lebar, to Marketing here.

If you want, you can also get involved in The Brand Bubble conversation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lessons from Lenovo

Yesterday, I was at the Brand Couture Congress 2008 where i got to hear Lenovo's chief marketing officer for Australia and NZ, Yu Dan Shi, give a presentation on how to take a new brand from obscurity to a household name in 12 months , i.e. what she's done with Lenovo in the last 12 months.

It was a fascinating story on how she succeeded in building the brand in Australia and New Zealand with a limited budget (in one of her examples, she mentioned how she bartered something like $8 million worth of laptops / Lenovo products with Channel 7 for marketing opportunities during the Olympics).

I asked her a couple of questions on credit crunch marketing.

For more information on marketing during the economic crisis, see our December issue cover story where we talk to marketers and agencies across several markets, and get them to discuss on which strategies work.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Finger lickin' good

It’s rare that you get a piece of advertising that is not only unique but of benefit to the community.

McCann Erickson Singapore has taken this path with a new TVC they have created for KFC, adding in a bit of Xmas cheer.

Generally when you think of the Colonel’s finest, you might not think of helping others, or silence. But this could change with this ad (below).

The commercial was shot at virtually no production cost, as it was shot on a humble handycam, and the money saved from the making of the ad is being donated to the Singapore Association for the Deaf.

It’s a good example of a different creative idea that both is a piece of advertising and supports a cause.

And congrats to both KFC and McCann for doing it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Building sandcastles in the air?

Ever since talks began on building an integrated resort or Singapore’s excuse, I mean euphemism, for a casino resort - marketers have more than supportive of the venture, as they hope to see more tourism dollars fly in and that they will act as a catalyst for a more a robust local retail and entertainment landscape.

There were two awardees, Las Vegas Sands for the Marina Bay Sands and Genting International with Star Cruises, Universal Studios for the Resorts World at Sentosa. The latter recently announced its intentions to build a Transformers-themed ride, which has been met by a rousing response following the movie’s successful global run.

In fact as the structures become ‘more concrete’, many marketers will be setting their sights to be part of the development. Just yesterday in The Straits Times there was an article on the Sentosa resort’s plans to create 300 fairly senior positions. Marina Bay too held its hiring spree late last month, which saw more than 10,000 responses.

We can be sure marketing hires too would be part of the exercise. So dear HR departments other than drawing up retrenchment packages and handing out pink slips (it seems like a daily affair these days anyway), shouldn’t you be keeping a close eye on your lead marketers?… if not we might be meeting some of them for coffee in Sentosa or Marina in the near future.

Ahhh….with all these talk on investments, hiring and themed rides… Everything sounds all merry and happy in casino-land ain’t it?

But sorry my dears good things don’t come too easy. Las Vegas Sands seems to be in for some trouble. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire owner who controls 65% of the company was in Singapore recently and was having tête-à-tête sessions with the Singapore government, as the company is suffering a severe cash-flow problem.

Las Vegas Sands, which is set to open next year, had committed the highest development investment of S$3.85 billion. Which means it is likely to exceed S$5 billion in total investment, making it one of the most expensive casinos in the world. Imagine the company’s market capitalization was $49 billion in October last year but as of October 23 this year its value was $3 billion! A value even lesser than what it was to put into Singapore!

So what is to happen now we aren’t sure. Adelson says the show will go on. Would this mean the Singapore Government digging deeper into its own pockets to finance the Sands? Or will the pitch in due time be reopened to find the next bigger better player to carry on the project? Perhaps, but it would be very unlikely that the project will be abandoned completely.

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has called for Singaporeans to spend if they can afford to as to stave off the recession, but if print headlines continue their daily runs as ‘bearer of bad news’ its unlikely we’ll see much improvement in consumer spend.

This serves as another chilling reminder to marketers out there that counting chickens before they are hatched isn’t the best business practice to have, while in this case it would mean…Building sandcastles in the air.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The good 'ol days

In case you are working in advertising or marketing and have been living under a rock for the past 14 months, there is a US television program that is a must-see. And finally it has landed in Asia.

Mad Men is set in the 1960s in New York’s Madison Avenue advertising scene, and focuses on the fictional agency Sterling Cooper and its charismatic creative director Don Draper. Mad Men was created by former Sopranos writer and executive producer Matthew Weiner, and similarly has Sopranos-like tendencies – its high quality TV, compelling, intelligent and witty. The show is simply compulsory viewing thanks to its brilliant writing and attention to detail.

For those who haven’t seen it, here’s a quick tease.

The show debuted in the US in 2007, and has quickly become a global hit. It won Emmys and Golden Globes in its first season, and the second season is on is the US right now. Mad Men just launched on FX in Singapore and Hong Kong last night.

You also know you’ve made it to the big time when you’re parodied by The Simpsons.

Mad Men really is a fascinating insight into what some might call a golden period of advertising, and the internal politics and mechanics of a big ad agency. The show is full of smoking, sexism, rampant drinking and has a distinct lack of political correctness.

Which begs the question. What was life really like back in the advertising and marketing scene in the 1960s? And have we lost some of the fun out of the business?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Money-Money-Money-Money, but is that enough?

The US presidential election is nearly over, and it has been a fascinating insight into big brand marketing.

Barack Obama has been spending money on advertising for his campaign like it was going out of style. He has broken records by spending around $600 million on his campaign, according to a story in The Straits Times, and raised in total a record-breaking $1 billion. $207.4 million of that has gone on TV advertising, almost a $100 million more than John McCain has spent on TV spots.

Last week Obama bought a 30-minute slot on three of the four national American TV networks and on three cable networks, right before a World Series baseball game. The move was virtually unprecedented in a US election campaign (apart from Ross Perot’s effort in 1992) and the one-off media buy would have cost the Obama camp roughly between $3 million and $5 million.

And it was by far a huge success, at the very least in ratings terms. According to Nielsen Media Research, the infomercial was seen by 33.55 million viewers, which was more than the World Series game which followed it and more than last season’s finale of American Idol.

That’s scary stuff.

But is it all about money? Is money all that counts, or does substance and a more stylish campaign message go a long way?

Well another thing in Obama’s favour is his slogan or tagline of ‘Change’. Obama has marketed himself as an agent of change and hope, as ‘the Saviour’ and ‘the One’. As someone who is different from the norm and who presents a break from other politicians and bi-partisan politics.

It's something that McCain has struggled to fight against

Obama has a few simple facts to back up his change message – he is young (47) compared to McCain (72), and has a very different background. He is African-American, charismatic and articulate, and thanks to two of these three facts he resembles another former popular Democratic leader in JFK.

So couple Obama’s massive bank balance with an effective campaign message, regardless of actual policies and real ideological differences, and it’s a pretty tough arsenal to compete with.

The Democratic camp has also utilized new media a lot better than the Republicans, with this viral effort one example:

So putting all this together, does John McCain stand a chance?

Well, in a perfect world, marketing would definitely not decide a political election and perhaps not play such a massive role. But as they say, only in America.

In a few days we’ll have our answer.