Great example of how to use video to build interest in a brand


The 1970s are considered to be the decade in which Hollywood rebranded itself after the collapse of the studio system of the 1960s. Independent filmmakers (at the time) such as Scorsese, Lucas and Spielberg all got their breaks in the 1970s creating such iconic movies as Jaws, Star Wars, Raging Bull, The Godfather, Raiders, ET and Chinatown.

It was also a period (no pun intended) when some of the scariest horror movies such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Exorcist (in my opinion the scariest film ever), The Shining and Carrie which was possibly the forerunner of the teen horror flick, were released.

But for every successful blockbuster, I think that something like 7 fail. And those failures can be really, really expensive. John Carter, released in 2012 is rumoured to have lost RM250 million (US$90 million), despite a RM330 (US$100 million) million marketing campaign.

So in an attempt to reduce failures and to squeeze more money out of a successful franchise, Hollywood likes to remake films. The latest of which is Carrie. I saw Carrie when I was 14. I wish I hadn’t. Carrie is an outsider, her mother is a religious nut and all of her classmates hate her. But Carrie has special powers. Telekinesis powers which means that she can mess with your mind, especially when you piss her off. Add in her first period, pigs blood, a prom, nasty girls etc. You can imagine the rest.

But the movie still has to be sold. And selling a movie is not easy. Especially as international audiences are often the difference between a success and failure – John Carter only took US$80 million in the States, over US$100 million came from Asia. So they decided to come up with a digital marketing campaign whereby they would lay the foundations with a video and then encourage consumers to do the rest.

So far the video has received almost 10 million views in 2 days. The cost? Maybe RM320,000 (US$100,000). Sure a viral campaign is nothing new but it shows that marketing departments need to open their eyes to the social economy and in some sectors, there actually may be one size fits all solutions.

Branding: Taking the mundane and making it interesting


One of the hardest jobs for any brand is to stay relevant and interesting. This is especially true of airlines who seem to spend their marketing dollars on glossy videos featuring pretty stewardesses, cute kids and modern aircraft.

And when it comes to such activities as safety videos, most airlines opt for the tried and tested formula of the pretty stewardess going through the motions of seat belt, exits, life jacket and so on. A quick look around any flight just before take off will show that few travellers are paying attention.

It was refreshing therefore for me to see that Air New Zealand has really thought out of the box with its latest safety video by teaming up with Eton educated ex SAS officer Bear Grylls to create a unique and captivating safety video. The pretty stewardess and cute kids are still there but I’m sure you’ll agree the rest of the cast is unusual!

What is Social Business


We’re involved in the development of the Asean Social Business Summit to be held in Kuala Lumpur in May 2013. You can read more about the event here and visit the official site here

But there is a lot of confusion over what is and what isn’t social business. Social Business refers to enterprise collaboration & innovation that uses social technologies to boost corporate, customer and social value. Social Business does NOT refer to social marketing (PR) or social entrepreneurship (helping rural businesses).

This video argues businesses are still stuck in the Industrial Revolution and need to change and change fast. Importantly, it goes some way to explaining what is social business

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Stop giving creative advertising agencies responsibility for your brand


This article is worth reading, especially this paragraph,

“You’ll find many ‘marketers’ pushing their social and interactive expertise with little true marketing experience in their backgrounds. This results in tactically driven campaigns that do not support a company brand promise or any kind of overarching strategy. It’s talking for the sake of having a mouth – but ultimately saying nothing.”

CEOs and or CMOs, already under pressure time wise, are giving too much responsibility to creative advertising agencies to manage their brands. This is a sweeping generalisation but the fact is creative advertising agencies do creative advertising because that’s all they do. Good luck to them but creativity design alone cannot build a brand.

Brand strategy is being sacrificed for speed, creativity, originality and one off tactics that have no longevity. Shareholders and consumers are the losers.

What is the difference between an advertising agency and a brand consultancy?


As the consumer landscape changes and consumer habits and the purchase decision making process evolves, it is imperative that brand owners understand where, when and how to spend their valuable and increasingly limited resources.

Historically advertising agencies defined and controlled a brand’s message and through which channels it was broadcast. They would then blitz consumers with intrusive advertising and messages. The goal was to reach as large and as broad a target audience as possible on those platforms with the most extensive penetration.

But in the social economy, consumers have little faith in such corporate driven messages broadcast across mass media channels to which they are paying less and less attention.

Today consumers spend their time in a variety of social networks or in niche online communities with likeminded people. And it is to these people they look to when seeking information on products and services.

So does this mean the end of advertising agencies and advertising? Definitely not, there is still a need for good advertising agencies that create good work but the process has changed and the advertising agency can no longer be given responsibility for building brands.

In the past, branding and advertising used to be elements of marketing. Today, marketing and advertising are now part of branding and it is the brand consultant you should look to if you want to build a brand.

So here is an outline of the difference between an advertising agency and a brand consultancy. Hopefully this will give you enough knowledge to make an informed decision on who should build your brand.

1) Branding is strategic and advertising is tactical. The most strategic actions you will get from an advertising agency will be a brief. The brief will define the proposition that the advertising must communicate and to which segments. But then what? And what about internally? How will you get personnel on brand? Does the delivery driver or sales assistant know what their role is in the delivery of the promise/s made?

A brand consultant will develop a brand plan or brand blueprint that will drive the brand strategy, both internally and externally. This holistic approach will address all key elements of the brand from the copy used in recruitment advertising to customer facing departments and their ability to represent the brand to point of sale and retention strategies and more.

The brand consultant will then work with you to determine the best resources to use to get the whole organisation on brand.

It is not possible to define a brand through an advertising brief but it is possible to define a brand through a brand plan or blueprint.

2) Advertising agencies do advertising. That’s what they are good at. In fact some of them are very good at it. Advertising uses creativity and a slick message (normally defined by the organisation) to get your attention.

And this is done via campaigns pushed out across TV, radio, billboards, websites and so on. The idea is that enough people will see the campaign and the message will hopefully resonate with as many people as possible. And of course the agency gets a commission for placing these ads with the channels.

If it doesn’t work you either get the agency to come up with another creative idea and go through the whole process again, get rid of the agency, hire another one and hope they can come up with a creative campaign that does resonate or you can go out of business.

And as consumers have lost faith in traditional marketing and now distrust the messages contained in such campaigns or simply miss them because of the clutter, it is increasingly difficult to build a brand using such a model.

So unless you have very, very deep pockets and can advertise consistently for long periods of time, this approach is simply going to waste valuable resources.

A brand consultant will carry out an audit of your business, industry, processes, systems, stakeholders and more and then determine the best way forward for you.

Solutions may require advertising but will also look to improve R&D, sales, production, supply chains, operations, customer relationships and retention strategies.

3) If you are looking to go with an advertising agency, your strategy is likely to be in the hands of a creative director and his team. If the agency is going through a difficult period and doesn’t have many staff when they win your business, the agency will attempt to employ talent with experience in your industry.

Unfortunately, if the talent isn’t available, perhaps because they are working for competitor agencies, you will end up with sub standard people working on your brand and your chances of success are reduced further.

Because branding is a strategic institutional initiative, not a marketing initiative and therefore must have the buy in of executive management, a brand consultant will insist on having C level involvement in the development of the brand which places your brand strategy where it should be, in the hands of executive management.

4) Advertising agencies are often deemed successful if they have won lots of awards for creativity not whether a campaign increases sales or profitability.

There aren’t many awards for brand consultants which is a good thing because this allows them to focus on increasing profitability, often through developing and strengthening relationships with stakeholders and customers.

5) Most advertising focuses on a series of tactical initiatives to acquire customers. A brand consultant will develop a strategy to acquire and retain customers.

6) Traditional marketing activities are enormously wasteful as much of the advertising targets irrelevant demographics or customers that cannot afford or are not interested in the product. A recent report in the Harvard Business Review quoted a UK study that reported 72% of CEOs are tired of being asked for money from marketing departments without an explanation of how it will increase business.

Furthermore, in the same survey, 77% of CEOs have had enough of talk about ‘brand equity’ that can’t be linked to any real equity. A brand consultant will ensure budgets are spent on the right strategies for the right segments with metrics for measurement.

7) An advertising agency uses a one size fits all series of tactical advertising campaigns that use mass marketing across mass media with only a nod to digital and below the line activities.

A brand consultant will look to collect and leverage specific data to develop targetted communications across digital channels to engage prospects, whilst carrying on conversations with existing customers.

8) An advertising agency will often look at what the competition is doing and try to position an offering based on competitor actions. This approach is flawed because successful organisations are nimble and by the time you have developed your position the competition’s strategy will have evolved.

A brand consultant will be aware of competitor activities and will use that knowledge to strengthen the firm’s competitive advantage but will not allow competitors to define strategy going forward.

9) The impact of an advertising agency’s work is difficult to measure. A brand consultant will develop metrics to measure promotions, advertising and other activities.

Art meets advertising


This is a beautiful video of what maybe the last of the billboard painters.

Hand-painted billboards first appeared in the USA in the 1950s and are still seen in some parts of the USA especially in LA where they are often used to promote a new movie.

The Red Army in China used them to err motivate citizens and they are still a common sight in parts of South East Asia and India. However the quality leaves a lot to be desired and may not compare to these American billboards.

Thanks to these guys for the heads up on this video.

Advertising sells


I’m often accused of being anti advertising which I’m not. I’m just anti the use of advertising to solve all branding problems. And I’m anti the use of advertising as the only tool to build a brand. Oh, and I’m anti the use of advertising to communicate one corporate defined position to as many people as possible across as many channels as possible, simply because this was a solution fifty years ago and is therefore the solution today.

And to prove I’m not anti advertising, here is a link to what is possibly one of the most stunning ads I’ve seen.

I don’t know if it was allowed to be shown on TV (it’s from the UK) and I’m still trying to work out whether it is shockingly effective or effectively shocking, but it certainly grabs and keeps your attention. What do you think?

2012 must be the year you develop a social media brand strategy


Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has twice been named as one of the smartest and most creative investors in the world by Forbes magazine. He’s also been called the “Saudi Warren Buffet” because of his impressive track record with his investments.

He first came to the fore with a signficant investment in Citibank in 1991 and now has interests in a diverse portfolio that features stellar brands such as Apple Inc, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, George V Hotel in Paris, Songbird Estates (Canary Wharf), Time Warner, News Corp., Walt Disney, Euro Disney, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Motorola, Hewlett Packard and Kodak.

So when someone of his calibre announces, as he did just before Christmas 2011 that he was taking a US$300 million stake in Twitter, the world pays attention.

Ahmed Reda Halawani, Executive Director of the Prince’s Kingdom Holdings company said in a statement, “We believe that social media will fundamentally change the media industry landscape in the coming years. Twitter will capture and monetize this positive trend.”

“Fundamentally change the media industry landscape in the coming years.” I’m prepared to go one step further, I believe that social media is the media equivalent of the printing press, the radio and the Television – all arriving at once!

So if you are CEO of a Malaysian SME and you still haven’t invested resources into social media, I suggest you do so and do so quickly.

But before you do what many do which is to copy all the content on your website and paste it onto your Facebook page and think that is a social media strategy, I suggest you also invest some time in learning about how to use these channels.

Because social media is about relationships. And Malaysian SMEs have, on the whole over the last two decades or so, focussed not on relationships, but on selling their products at the cheapest price.

That’s fine when there is significant demand for a product and you can always produce it cheaper than someone else. But unfortunately today, someone somewhere is producing just about everything cheaper than Malaysian firms.

And this places Malaysian SMEs at a disadvantage, especially when multi national corporations are taking notice of Malaysia and beginning to invest significant marketing dollars in the country.

The good news is that social media, used correctly can actually save SMEs a lot of money because firms can create awareness, gain customers and, most critically retain them across social media platforms for a fraction of the cost of investing in traditional media such as TV, radio, Outdoor and others.

But it is important to develop a social media strategy before embarking on the exercise otherwise resources will be wasted, reputations may be affected and you could be worse off than before you started.

Here are 11 elements that must be included in any SME social media strategy

1) Determine your goals and your target market.
Obvious I know, but too many companies are trying to use the same tactics online as they did offline, ie trying to use the same ‘one-size-fits-all’ communications campaign to create awareness via a series of tactical campaigns. This will not work on social media.

2) Raise brand awareness by creating an online game or contest and hosting it on Facebook.
Tourism Malaysia has spent a significant amount of money on Facebook competitions that have generated many online column inches of comment. Despite limited investment in the content, the activities were executed well. However despite hundreds of thousands of new Facebook fans, tens of thousands of engaged users, significant traction in the social-media space, it is unclear what the actual campaign goals were.

3) Give free stuff away!

I don’t know how Tourism Malaysia will use the data it generated from the Facebook campaign, but to build a database that can be turned into brand evangalists in the future, it might be worth offering prizes for content shared with other users across platforms such as Youtube, Twitter and so on. This can be then be leveraged to gain more brand traction.

4) Use crowdsourcing to determine strategy
Back in 2009, Vitamin water wanted to launch a new brand. In an exercise that Gap management should have emulated, they binned the traditional qualitative and quantitative research via focus groups and intercept surveys. Instead the company turned to social networks and sought the opinion of consumers in a real world, real time environment to decide on the name of the new product. Over 1 million people participated in the project and they got close to celebrities employed to spike interest in the project.

5) Don’t delay your decision, you are already being talked about!
Conversations about your brand are already happening on social media. Embrace the conversation and get engaged but a word of warning, don’t try to use the platform as an opportunity to push your products onto consumers.

6) Don’t be afraid to revise your marketing message
Perhaps once, twice, three times and even more to make sure you engage the right consumers with the right content and don’t generate negative feedback from your audience. But if you do generate negative feedback, address it in an honest and transparent manner and see the conversation all the way to the end, no matter how distasteful.

7) Comments are good
One website we were asked to audit recently didn’t allow comments from other users yet increasingly, consumers are looking to comments rather than actual articles for the data that will influence and determine their decision making.

8) Remember your core message and don’t go too far away from it
Being genuine and transparent and sticking to your overall image is very important.

9) Tell the truth
Target Rounders is a subsidiary of the US retail giant. It is an online group that you sign up for & you get points for marketing a product. They come up with new products & then everyone on their list finds fun ways to promote it for “points.” The company launched a Facebook campaign that utilized a lie created to gain more fans and a larger community! Unfortunately consumers spotted the lie and the project died.

10) Creativity is effective in social media
Prior to launching the much anticipated Shark Week, the Discovery Channel sent a jar that appeared to include a death notice to new media types.

The jar included a note that read, “This jar holds a story – the story of a single tragic incident that needs to be unlocked. Dive in, investigate the evidence and discover what lies beneath the surface of frenziedwaters.com.”

The jar also included a large warning sign, shredded swimming trunks (no doubt belonging to someone who was eaten by a shark), and a detailed obituary dated for a future date at the time of the campaign.

Participants were intrigued and as a result spent a lot of time researching online before realising that the Discovery Channel was behind the whole thing. Nevertheless, the right people were soon talking about the show and building interest.

11) Write a social media policy
For most firms, their social media policy consists of restricting access to social media. But this isn’t the way forward. Used properly and by the right people, social media can be a very effective and inexpensive marketing tool for brands. But there are always going to be risks associated with a new tool so the best defense against abuse is to create a policy for usage.

Social media is making companies be more sharing, collaborative and transparent, not just externally but internally as well. Including employees in the policy development process will create internal advocates for the policy and improve morale.

The social media policy should be more about what employees can do and best practices for social media use versus all the things employees can’t or shouldn’t do on social media.

When shrewd investors such as Prince Alwaleed bin Talal are taking stakes in social media you know it is here to stay.

To stay competitive, Malaysian SMEs are going to have to invest more in developing brands. Social media, used correctly will save them large sums of money communicating those brands to consumers and other customers.

Print advertising done right


Because of the massive increase in advertising noise and clutter, it’s getting increasingly difficult for advertisers to capture the attention of consumers with traditional print ads.

You’d expect therefore that Malaysian advertising agencies would increasingly push the creative envelope, to develop material that makes consumers stop, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.

Sadly, and for whatever reason, the work produced by Malaysian advertising agencies rarely pushes the creative envelope. Furthermore, much of the local agency output focuses way too much on the product and not on the benefits.

Other ads contain far too much copy and weak headings or taglines. Worse still are those ads that make outrageous claims that are ridiculed in coffee shops up and down the country.

The golden rule of any advertising should be, “Sell the sizzle, not the sausage.” In other words don’t focus on the product and how great it is, focus on what it can do for the reader.

Have a strong call to action and include a prominent URL and telephone number. And make sure that there is an answering service. We recently spotted an ad for a German automotive manufacturer and called the number. The phone wasn’t answered and there was no way to leave a message to arrange for a sales person to call back.

A picture really does paint a thousand words so make sure you have an clear, simple image that grabs attention.

Here are some great examples of print advertising from around the world that deliver effective messages.

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What will be the impact of social TV on your brand?


A fascinating survey by Digital Clarity in the UK of 1,300 under 25 mobile Internet users reports that a large number of them are talking to friends about the show they are watching.

80% of the survey participants said that they used Facebook, Twitter or other mobile applications to actually comment on the programme and talk about the programme to friends as they watch it.

Twitter (72%) is the most popular platform, followed by Facebook (56%) and other mobile applications (34%). Of those surveyed, 62% use a combination of all three.

Social TV as it is being called is popular because it means young people can communicate with friends, in real time whilst watching their favourite programmes.

But this is really going to put the cat amongst the advertising pidgeons. Here are half a dozen questions that I’d really like to get you input on:

What are the implications for advertisers, already struggling to keep viewers focused on the TV during commercial breaks?

Will advertisers accept that reaching lots of consumers is no longer a relevant metric and demand more from media owners?

Will advertisers push the creative envelope more to try and position products?

Will product placement increase, perhaps with cross platform repetition?

How will they integrate technology with traditional marketing initiatives?

How will this integration of consumer habit impact overall branding strategies?

I look forward to hearing from you.