Why it’s dangerous to hire the wrong freelancer

Even before the arrival of COVID19, the bottom had fallen out of the freelancer market in Malaysia. Once upon a time, freelancing was seen as the best of both worlds, work to your own routine, don’t have to answer to a dictatorial boss while only taking clients you wanted. Sadly life is rarely so simple and many freelancers have suffered.

A frustrated freelancer described the business to me like this:

Freelance graphic designers get friends asking them to do wedding invites for RM500, 3 days before the wedding. Even though the freelancer knew his friend was getting married, he didn’t ask for the business in case he was rejected. The friend getting married didn’t ask earlier because he’s disorganised or assumed his friend would do it. Plus he’s a guy and leaves everything to the last minute.

The freelancer is happy to get the job but 2 weeks earlier he’d won a RM5,000 job and had been paid RM1,000 but hadn’t started work on it because, well he’s a freelancer and works to his own schedule but the deadline is a week away and he was intending to work 3 days straight to catch up but now he’s got the wedding job so focusses on that because it’s for a friend and he can’t let a friend down and it’s a wedding, so he can’t push the deadline back!

As a result, the RM5,000 job gets put aside but he is too shy to tell the client. As the deadline approaches the client starts calling more and more often. Because he doesn’t know how to speak to clients, apologise and explain a new timeline, he ignores the client’s calls till he’s finished the wedding job which he does. His friend is really happy and pays RM250 and promises the balance later, blaming the wedding costs etc for the delay.

It’s his wedding and he’s a friend so the freelancer has to say no problem. Then he calls the RM5,000 client who ignores his calls because he’s got fed up and has taken the RM5,000 job and given it to someone else. Now desperate he starts looking for work but can’t find any.

He can’t chase the wedding guy because they are friends and it’s too embarrassing to ask friends to pay their debts. Besides, what if he tells other people in the kampung? He’ll never get another wedding job.

Meanwhile the RM5,000 client has found a freelancer willing to do the RM5,000 job for RM3,000 so even after writing off the RM1,000 deposit he paid to the first freelancer, he’s actually saving RM1,000 which should make his boss happy and his boss is more happy when money is saved than when value is created.

However, the freelancer who is doing the RM5,000 job for RM3,000 doesn’t put much effort into the job because he’s only getting 3k and it’s a lot of work and should really cost RM5,000 plus he didn’t get anything in advance because the client is pissed off with the first freelancer but why should he be punished?

I forgot to mention the original freelancer who did the wedding job used the RM1,000 deposit he got for the RM5,000 job for a downpayment on a 50 inch TV from Harvey Norman and desperately needs to make the next payment or suffer the humiliation of his neighbours seeing the TV taken away a month after it was delivered.

So he goes out and gets a RM5,000 job by offering to do it for RM1,000 with 50% up front so he can pay the next instalment on the TV. But after paying off the TV he’s got nothing left and TNB cuts off the power to his house so he can’t work. The client is calling him so he turns off his phone and goes back to his parents.

Meanwhile, all the companies that thought using a freelancer would save them money have seen deadlines and opportunities missed, brand equity reduced, reputation tarnished and large amounts of hair pulled from heads.

Across town in Damansara, a mother of three who markets herself as a social media guru because she’s got 10,000 questionable followers on IG and gets free products for promoting unknown skin care brands, suddenly realises that there’s more to social media than sharing 12 second videos of cats saving babies from falling off motorbikes in the suburbs of Boise, Idaho or ducks doing handstands. But she charged RM1,000 to develop a social media strategy for a government company with impossible to achieve follower targets because organic takes forever and she doesn’t have any budget to promote the posts which is probably a good thing for the rest of us because it’s less crap content clogging up our feeds!

So if you are thinking of becoming a freelancer or hiring one over a consultancy or an agency because they are cheap, think again. Think past cost and think about value. Cheap can often cost far more than moderately expensive. There are some good freelancers out there. But you need to find them. Not all of them are created equal and it can be very dangerous if you choose the wrong one…

How BMW Malaysia got it all wrong with its latest LinkedIn campaign

I opened my LinkedIn this morning and had this message in my inbox. Now my trials and tribulations with BMW are well known to anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis.

BMW, I’m the last person you want to be contacting!

But in case you are new and interested, you can read an example of why I detest this brand with a passion here.

Let’s go back to that message in my inbox. This is a relatively new channel for brands, especially here in Malaysia where most business owners think a billboard is the height of marketing sophistication.

So why would you use this channel? Well in theory it allows you to get in front of the right kind of people. Ideally, that is people who are interested in your industry and potentially although not in my case obviously, your actual brand and even a particular product.

The idea is to work with LinkedIn to target users who have shown some interest previously in a similar product or even better are perhaps engaged in related communities.

Best of all would be members who are engaged and want to know about the product. I’m none of these but that didn’t stop BMW messaging me.

Look at that message. What does “Athletically muscular and aesthetically uncompromising” juxtaposed with ‘its full-on racing DNA is visible from the get-go” even mean?

In the era of Mad Men this meant something. Today it shows a complete lack of understanding or appreciation of the customer journey.

Hopefully they are being charged per click because in the course of writing this post, I’ve clicked on the call to action many times.

Power. Gentleman. Design. Oh my days…

And once I get to the site, I’m bombarded with even more powerful verbs, adverbs, adjectives and prepositions. Uncompromising power. The Perfect Gentleman. Design. WTF? I guess by now I’m supposed to be frothing at the mouth, desperate for the opportunity to own this beast, which incidentally costs more than RM1,000,000.

But perhaps most galling of all is that when I click on the link, I go to the main BMW site. So I’m being targeted as someone with the potential to spend RM1,000,000 on a car, yet now I’m supposed to mix with the hordes of BMW 1 and 3 series wannabe owners.

There should an exclusive, seamless way for me to engage with the dynamic 8 team waiting for someone like me keen to learn more about the 8 series!

But anyway by now, instead of frothing at the mouth, I’m doing what every potential customer does these days. I’m seeking out the opinions of people that matter to me.

And when it comes to buying a car, my first stop is Top Gear. BMW describes the interior of the 8 as “More irresistible with every detail. The elegant ‘CraftedClarity’ (note the nifty use of capitals and joining together of two words) glass application gives the sporty interior an exquisite appearance…It embellishes the insert of the gear selector…The result is an interplay of sporty flair and exclusive design that combines athleticism and grace like never before.”

Obviously as a jaded consumer who has been let down so many times by brands over promising and under delivering, I need to visit the Top Gear site to get a third party unbiased opinion.

‘CraftedClarity’ or ‘Unreadable’. You decide

Top Gear describes the interior as, “the new TFT- screen instrument cluster is a mess. There’s a big area in the centre that shows navigation diagrams, which can’t be used for anything else if you know where you’re going.” Hardly ‘CraftedClarity’!

Top Gear goes on, “Alongside is a near-unreadable rev-counter. In compensation you get a tach in the HUD when in sports mode. The new climate controls are a bit fiddlier than BMW’s previous efforts too, and the silver buttons are impossible to read when backlit. And while Apple CarPlay-over-Bluetooth is a convenient idea, it was glitchy in the test cars. That’s a nitpicking paragraph, but more nits than you expect.”

It’s a million Ringgit car! You nit pick away lads!

However, Top Gear isn’t done. They end the interior review with, “…The front seats are a good place to be, poly-adjustable and supportive. The back ones aren’t. They’re horribly cramped, for knees and heads. At least the boot is biggish, and folding the useless back seats extends it some more.”

That’s a long way from, “interplay of sporty flair and exclusive design that combines athleticism and grace like never before.”

The Top Gear verdict is seven out of ten and the very underwhelming, “It’s very competent across the board, but not greatly different from the rest of the BMW range.” Hardly a compelling reason to spend RM1,000,000. And that’s before the astronomical insurance, road tax and running costs.

So how can you make sure your brand doesn’t make the same mistakes? Well here’s a few ideas

1) LinkedIn messaging isn’t a tool for creating awareness. Don’t be lazy and treat it as one.
2) Branding is no longer about transactions. It’s about building relationships. Don’t try and sell anything to anyone at the first attempt.
3) Know your target market. How many people in Malaysia are likely to be able to afford or want a BMW 8 series? No more than a handful. There are better ways to reach out to them.
4) Have an integrated brand strategy based on robust brand, market and customer data to make informed tactical decisions. No more of this ‘spray and pray’ approach.
5) Understand the customer journey before making any tactical decisions.
6) If you are selling an exclusive product, make every step of the experience exclusive.
7) Brands can no longer expect consumers to believe what they say and not seek 3rd party confirmation of the claims. The days of flamboyant corporate driven advertising with ‘power words’ are over. Accept it. Be real and human in your content.
8) For an automotive company, the right way to use LinkedIn messages is to create personalized invites for a test drive or invitation to an exclusive and I mean exclusive, event.
9) Don’t use new tools in old ways.
10) Collect and use customer data.

It is inevitable that you will lose customers although preferably not the way I was lost to BMW.

Have a recovery plan for lost customers, especially those lost in an acrimonious way. But once lost, don’t include those customers in your marketing as it may negate your marketing efforts significantly.

But most important of all, branding today is about building relationships, not selling stuff. Use new tools properly to build relationships. The stuff will then sell itself.

Thinking of hiring a cheap freelancer to design your website? What’s the real cost to your brand?

Last week we lost a project to build a corporate website to a freelancer who quoted 5% of our figure. How can we compete with that?

On the face of it we can’t. Freelancers are popular because they are cheap. But as I was reminded while discussing this loss, last year we bailed out three companies who had chosen a freelancer and then had to spend a lot more money after he went missing in action.

mistakes-to-avoid-when-hiring-freelancers

If you find a good freelancer, he’s worth his or her weight in gold. But they are increasingly hard to find. And if you find a bad one, you could be in a lot of trouble. And not just with your boss.

Freelance web designers tend to create websites. But the goal is not to create a website. The goal is to create a website that compels as many visitors as possible to take action. That may be to fill out a contact form, sign up for a newsletter, buy a subscription and so on.

Because a lot of freelancers have a background in design, the design tends to lead the process and a lot of business owners are seduced by great design even though website design should follow content structure. The design is there to aid the engagement of the content.

The content and referring channels, are what influence search engines and not the design. Have an amazing looking site and lousy content and you might as well not bother.

And of course a good website is linked to tools that allow you to collect data you can use to improve content and engagement. Finally, a good website provides a little more control around the next step in the visitors journey which will be social media.

The 3 projects we salvaged last year eventually cost about the same as we had quoted originally. But after taking into account the business lost during 6 months without a website, cheap becomes expensive.

Error again

2 weeks ago we were contacted by a start up who hired a cheap freelancer last November. The site still hasn’t gone live. 5 months is a lifetime for a startup and it’s not just the money wasted on the freelancer. Reputation, credibility and sales have been compromised.

Another entrepreneur we’re helping has lost first mover advantage after hiring a cheap freelancer. In the four months it took him to create a terrible home page with dreadful content and questionable hosting, a competitor has launched a rival business. What has hiring a cheap freelancer cost him? What extra money will he have to invest to recover lost ground?

Many freelancers sell themselves cheap to get the business then try to figure out how to do it. They may be great designers but have lousy project and time management skills. This will negatively impact your business.

Many won’t refuse work, from anyone, ever. And while they may be a web designer, many of them will be asked to develop wedding invitations or websites for friends and friends of friends.

Nothing wrong with that of course except that when they get overloaded they tend to look after their friends and their friends of friends before their top paying customers. That’s illogical but perhaps it’s better to lose face with a stranger than family or friends, even if the stranger is paying 10 times more than the friend and, equally important but often overlooked maybe an influencer.

Freelancer quotes tend to be based on free templates built on WordPress or Wix. WordPress is a great platform with an intuitive CMS but the danger is you’ll have a ‘me too’ website that can look dated very quickly.

A freelancer may design what is easiest for him, not what you the client wants. There’s a good chance they’ll use free stock images and often use the same images for every project.

If a freelancer considers you to be ‘difficult’, they may go MIA mid way through the project. This can be hugely frustrating, especially if the site isn’t live. Talking of the website being live, once it is, what happens when there are updates to plugins?

erros-de-design.png

One corporate site that we built wanted to maintain the site on their own. Then it came time to update a plugin. They made a mistake and the whole site went down. Not good. Luckily we had stressed the importance of daily backups so the damage was limited.

Who and where your website is hosted is very important. While your freelancer may be a great designer, does he understand the hosting process? Does he know the difference between a ‘bad neighbourhood’ and a good one?

Smartphone penetration in Malaysia is above 80% so it may make sense for you to design for mobile first, rather than desktop first. Make sure your freelancer has the necessary skills.

But most important of all is populating the website. Who is developing the content? Often the freelancer will tell you he’ll do it. Don’t let him. Plus you’ll need regular new content to keep the site relevant. Who will create that content and how will it be uploaded?

A lot of planning should go into the development of a corporate website. Whether you are a start up or established business, cheap can often have a high price so think carefully before you hire a ‘cheap’ freelancer.

These videos suggest there is a disconnect between what Malaysia Airlines says and what it does

In the mid 1980s, I was working in the Middle East and when it came to taking leave, we had 2 travel options. Head West for Europe or East for Asia. Whichever direction, the airline recommendations were always the same – try to fly on Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific or Malaysia Airlines.

Why, because those airlines offered top quality service. Something the European carriers, with the exception perhaps of Swissair, were unwilling or unable to do.

Emirates arrived in 1985, Oman and Qatar Air in 1993, Etihad in 2003. Prior to that, the only Gulf carriers were Saudi Airlines and Gulf Air. Thanks to their owner’s deep pockets, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar accelerated the establishment of their brands with massive investments in brand experiences.

Since then, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific have done their best to compete but Malaysia Airlines (MAB) was left far behind and today, is a mere shadow of the great brand it once was.

To many, if it wasn’t for the Business and First class offerings, it’s essentially already a low cost carrier. Nevertheless, in its communications at least, Malaysia Airlines continues to give the outside world the impression it sees itself as a world-class carrier.

In March 2018, Malaysia Airlines launched a campaign titled “Malaysian Hospitality Begins With Us”. The campaign aim was to ‘reinstate and demonstrate MAB as the national icon and represent Malaysian hospitality on behalf of the nation to all its guests and customers.’

MAB’s group CEO Izham Ismail said during the launch “that the airline’s diversity, heritage and culture are the foundation and reference of the brand promise, and that MAB aims to provide a Malaysian experience in travel through Malaysian hospitality.”

These bold and practically impossible to live up to statements were supported by the usual professionally produced advertisements and videos shot in high definition with smiling cabin crew in brand new aircraft telling us about ‘Malaysian Hospitality’ and how it is a culture that ‘runs through the organization’.

The website, the first destination for many potential passengers has a special section for ‘Malaysian Hospitality’ and in this section announces “Welcome’, or as the locals would say, ‘Selamat Datang’. That’s how it begins, the experience that is our hospitality. Warmth and generosity are the hallmarks of how we treat anyone we meet. That’s what we’re known for as Malaysians, and more importantly as an airline.”

It goes on to say, “Our hospitality begins with our experience. As we strive to deliver the best experience possible, everything we do is guided by our principles of hospitality.”

Now in some ways I think this is quite clever. Because if Malaysians are known for their warmth and generosity, then they only need to leverage on the natural capabilities of employees to deliver a potentially world class experience.

But it also means that every crew on every flight, will have to be on top of their game non stop if they are to deliver a high level of service at every touch point, every time. And that delivery must meet the very diverse needs of very diverse passengers.

And of course, the concept of ‘warmth and generosity’ may be difficult to deliver. Warmth yes, but generosity? What does that mean? Do you hug every passenger and give them a US$100 bill? Or do you upgrade everyone who asks?

Don’t forget, the aim is to ‘represent Malaysian hospitality on behalf of the nation to all its guests and customers’. With such a promise, there can be no half measures. And of course you can be sure plenty of people will be waiting for the first fail.

Is Malaysia Airlines delivering on the promises above? Despite the glossy high-end corporate videos, two videos have emerged recently to suggest it isn’t.

On their own, these videos could be dismissed as ‘one off’ rants by disgruntled customers but watched together and added to the explosion of negativity on the MAS Facebook page and a pattern seems to be emerging.

This suggests to me that whatever training cabin crew are receiving is not linked to the big promise and whoever is responsible for measuring the effectiveness of that training, isn’t doing their job properly.

Let’s take a look at the videos. The first one was uploaded to YouTube on November 20th 2018 by travel and aviation vlogger Josh Cahil who is based in Germany and has 23,000 followers on Instagram and close to 10,000 followers on Twitter.

His YouTube video where he claimed he was bullied by “extremely unfriendly” MAS cabin crew on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to London has been viewed more than 280,000 times and generated more than 2,600 comments.

International media in the UK and Australia picked up the story as well and in Malaysia it was covered by Says.com not to mention other news portals.

The second video was circulated around Malaysia via Whatsapp towards the end of November 2018. This video was created by controversial travel hack, entrepreneur and author of “Don’t You Know Who I Think I Am?: Confessions of a First-Class A**hole” Justin Ross Lee.

I have a suspicion this video was created some time ago because it features the Malaysia Airlines A380 and as far as I know, they aren’t using that aircraft on the London sector any more.

But what both these videos do is show how Malaysia Airlines is unable to deliver on the bold promises it makes in its marketing. They also show the futility of spending large sums of money on big ideas and not linking that promise to the departments responsible for delivering on that promise when all it takes is one passenger to have a bad experience and share that experience across social media and the whole expensive, one size fits all campaign is ruined.

This mass economy approach more suited to 1988 than to 2018 is built around the belief that with a large enough investment, an airline can make potential and existing passengers believe each bold statement it makes and that if it doesn’t deliver on that statement during their particular interaction with the brand, the passenger should just be grateful anyway.

Following the Josh Cahil video, Malaysia Airlines initiated an investigation and according to Cahil, the group CEO sent him a template apology and offered him a refund, which he asked them to donate to a charity supported by them.

The problem was that by this stage, the story was dominating social media conversations. Even corporate driven tactics on social media were being ambushed with negative comments.

In fact the majority of MAB’s attempts to use social media in a positive way are being hijacked by negative comments. And when this happens, the firm doesn’t seem to grasp the link between what the commentators are saying online and what is happening offline.

Malaysia Airlines attempts to build brand equity on social media
However, brand experiences are not meeting expectations & negativity is hijacking campaigns

This is the dangerous spiral many brands are finding themselves on today. They don’t invest in the right training to deliver the experiences consumers demand offline.

There are a variety of reasons for this and some of them sinister. Most common is that the scope of work for a campaign is created in isolation and by people who don’t understand the importance of delivering a ‘best in class’ customer experience.

Which means that if the scope of work for the project is wrong, it is doomed to failure before it even starts.

In despair or because they now have a channel in which to express their frustrations, consumers go online where they passionately vent those frustrations. And often they do it in the very space the company thinks it owns such as on a Facebook page, further diluting the ability of the brand to deliver on the brand promises made in the very expensive corporate driven messages it believes are defining its brand in the way it wants to be defined!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, when passengers vent those frustrations online, the people tasked with representing the brand simply don’t have the skills or for that matter the responsibility to respond in a suitable manner.

This exasperates the negativity around the brand, causing brand equity to plummet to such an extent that it can be almost impossible to escape the spiral into brand obscurity.

So what can Malaysia Airlines do? If they are serious about building a national brand that can compete with Asian and Middle Eastern competitors then it needs to understand the following

1) Forget about the big idea
Smart Brands understand the concept of the big idea belongs to the 1970s and much as the world has changed significantly since then, so should the way brands engage. Malaysia Airlines must focus budgets not on telling people they deliver Malaysian Hospitality but on showing people they deliver Malaysian Hospitality.

This requires a comprehensive overhaul of the marketing, advertising, customer relationship and social media strategies. Fusionbrand recommends this be carried out through a brand audit as soon as possible.

2) The right experience training
Judging by these videos and the comments across Social Media, Malaysia Airlines see training as a box to be ticked. A review is required to identify if there is an understanding of what constitutes world class service.

If the training providers have been hired for the wrong reasons and don’t have the skills to deliver the type of training required to compete with sector leaders, how can Malaysia Airlines cabin crew and for that matter ground crew, deliver a world class service?

3) Social Media
There’s no escaping social media but too many brands don’t give it suitable attention. Malaysia Airlines must start investing funds in social media instead of big idea promises it cannot keep.

I don’t know what’s happening at MAB, but too many companies think social media is the perfect place for interns because they are young and have an Instagram account themselves. After all, what could be hard about posting on Facebook and Twitter, right? Wrong.

Social Media is about many things. For brands, it’s about cultural, social and other nuances. Being responsible for a brand online is not something you do, it’s something you are.

Malaysia Airlines needs to link what it says and does offline with what it says and does online. Quickly, before it’s too late.

Branding in Industry 4.0

We had a great time today with creative writing, advertising and journalism students at the International Islamic University Malaysia. The discussion revolved around “Branding in the era of industry 4.0” and we talked about what Malaysian brands must do to to thrive in new economy and more relevant perhaps to these guys, how the advertising industry is changing and what they need to do to help those brands stay relevant.

Fusionbrand would like to thank you for having us over & thanks for the lunch too!

Marcus Osborne of Fusionbrand wrapping up before the Q&A session

Every Internal branding project needs to be driven by the CEO

Just thinking about an internal branding programme that Fusionbrand did at the end of 2017.

One of the hardest parts of the project was getting the C level execs to buy into the fact that without their support and especially the buy in of the CEO, it would never gain traction. (Side note, it was a GLC and smoking is banned anywhere in government offices but the CEO smoked).

The C level executives just wanted a series of messages to be created and then those messages were to be broadcast across the organisation. We explained that this would never work. Mainly because the concept of creating and broadcasting a series of words, no matter how well crafted they are, simply doesn’t work any more.

But also because we needed to be setting examples, not telling people how to behave. Back to the simple example of the smoking CEO. If an employee is told not to smoke on the premises but the CEO smokes in his office and the smell wafts its way down the corridor, teasing all those that smoke and potentially killing all those who don’t, why should the employee pay attention to the no smoking signs? And how can the no smoking policy be enforced if the CEO smokes?

Besides, we as consumers have been let down so often by corporate promises that are compromised by reality that we tune out of messaging anyway.

One of the goals of any internal branding project is to bring the employer and the employee closer together. The CEO needs to lead by example in every aspect of his daily routine. And that begins with obeying the rules.

Apple needs to focus on its core business or the brand will be in trouble

Towards the end of 2016 I read an article in Business Insider that had the audacity to suggest Microsoft is more innovative than Apple.

Now I believe that’s a bit of a stretch but there are definately problems at Apple. Since Steve Jobs moved on, the brand has made three critical mistakes. One is that it no longer has direction or if it has direction, it’s the wrong direction – driverless cars? Two it appears to have stopped listening to the voice of the customer and three, it’s products are very nearly not fit for purpose.

The next 'must have Mac?' Probably not
The next ‘must have Mac?’ Probably not

These three things are leading to a perfect storm of problems for Apple. If they are not addressed quickly, the brand will lose its loyal following from the creative sector. Indeed, Microsoft, yes Microsoft is already making inroads into this segment. Consumers are not as loyal to brands as they used to be, especially when those brands aren’t listening to them.

This excellent post from Mark Wilson of Fast Company outlines what is wrong with Apple and what they need to do to save the company.

In a nutshell, he wants the company to focus on delivering getting the existing products right rather than diversifying into new areas, to lose the gimmicks and deliver quality, to get the integration across platforms seamless, as promised. And he has a point.

It’s good to know I’m not the only one increasingly disillusioned with my Apple products.

Penang’s destination video isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. 6 ways to use video properly to build your destination brand

Google the words ‘Visit Penang’ and you get the following results:

'Visit Penang' search results
‘Visit Penang’ search results

The next step would be to click on the visitpenang website link that takes the visitor to a site that has no video on the homepage even though a video on a homepage is reported to increase conversion rates by more than 20%.

Indeed, the way consumers are absorbing information via video is well documented. According to YouTube reports, mobile video consumption rises 100% every year. Of course that will peak at some stage but it isn’t even slowing at the moment. In fact, more video content is uploaded in 30 days than all three major US TV networks combined created in the last 30 years.

And when it comes to travel and destination related videos, YouTube is the most used site with 79% of users looking at personal travel options. YouTube says that 66% of all travellers watch online films when they are thinking of taking a trip.

Someone sent me a link to a new tourism video for Penang and asked my opinion. The video, launched earlier this year lists a number of quotes stretching back to one from Yahoo in 2011. I presume the video is supposed to lure more visitors to the island but I couldn’t make out who it is targetted at.

I get the impression that it’s one of those ads designed to communicate with everyone that ends up communicating with no one. Yes it features everything that is well known about Penang but it didn’t bring us anything not already on the web. Penang is known for its Char Kway Teow and the dish is featured in the video but who is going to travel to Penang for a plate of noodles and besides, is it new?

Moreover, there are more popular, well established Vloggers on YouTube such as Roseanntangrs who have over a million followers including a Vlog about Penang food that has over 160,000 views (and plenty of negative comments that need to be addressed by the author). This would have been a smart channel to use to promote Penang food.

Here’s the Penang video. I feel like it’s about 20 years out of date, it’s like a TV commercial pushed out across digital.

It’s a real shame because Penang is a must visit destination for anyone coming to South East Asia. I felt this video didn’t do justice to the destination.

Inevitably after watching this I had to search YouTube to see if it was the worst tourism ad ever. I was surprised to find plenty of material including this one from Singapore that really is the worst destination ad I’ve ever seen or heard.

I don’t know what Singapore Tourism was doing when it commissioned this ad but it very thoughtfully pulled it off the visit Singapore site.

Thankfully or not, depending on your point of view, YouTube hasn’t been so considerate. Stick with it to the end because the punchline will have you heading for cringetowm.

Penang’s video isn’t as bad as Singapores but it will be as inneffective. Indeed after seven months it has only had 9,500 views. But what should Penang tourism’s approach be when developing destination videos?

Here are 6 top tips Fusionbrand recommends Penang take into account next time they want to use video as part of their brand strategy:

1) You can’t be all things to all people. And you can’t include everything about a destination in one video so don’t try. Hook the viewer with the first video and YouTube will do the rest of the work for you because they will link similar videos to the one the viewer first watched.

2) Think about the audience for your film. What will they want to get from a film about your destination and how can you make the content relevant to their needs? Because if it doesn’t resonate with a few seconds, they’ll move on.

3) Think about how travellers use the IoT. Basically it begins with explore and discover before moving onto consider and connect. That’s followed by evaluate and engage and finally adopt, buyin, embrace and share/endorse/advocate. You must be clear about what part of the buyer process your videos are aiming at and the content must reflect that. Don’t try and cover everything in one video.

4) Be real and human. The days of the corporate controlled ‘big idea’ and message pushed out across media are over. Consumers don’t believe it and besides, it’s been done to death. Instead show events that happen during filming, things that go wrong and the people involved in the filming.

5) Instead of spending your money on expensive production of one video, make it real and make it often. Publish and share film on an ongoing basis.

6) Creating the video is only the start. You then need to share it, comment, respond, write about it and so on. An editorial plan should be developed around all videos.

Videos the future, for now anyway. But destinations like Penang need to stand out, not add to the noise. Otherwise branding investments are wasted and tax payers funds are too important to waste.

Rapidkl scores a branding own goal

RapidKL the operating arm of Government ownded company Prasarana recently took 8 corporate leaders on the Light Rail Transit (LRT) so that they could experience public transport and more importantly, be seen to be taking public transport in an apparent effort to “encourage the culture within their organization(s) and the public in general, as well as obtain their feedback for further improvements. This is a continuous effort from our end to get key leaders more involved in understanding the need to further enhance public transportation services in the country.”

However, The Heat Malaysia, an increasingly popular source of news for Malaysians called the event a ‘failed PR stunt’ and wrote a long article critizing the event and suggesting Prasarana misled the public by claiming it took place during peak time when in fact it happened between the hours of 11am – 2pm which can hardly be considered peak time.

Prasarana responded quickly with a decent explanation that was duly published at the end of the article. The Heat Malaysia site doesn’t appear to allow comments and it’s not possible to tell how many people shared the article on social media.

But never mind, all well and good so far and for many stories, this is quite often where it ends. Unless of course it is related to an issue that is close to commuter’s hearts. And public transport is definately close to the commuter’s heart. Which is probably why the Heat Malaysia didn’t leave it at that. They know a story with legs and so they also published the article on Facebook. And that’s when things started to fall apart.

Once the story gained traction online, instead of participating, Rapidkl went awol
Once the story gained traction online, instead of participating, Rapidkl went awol

Within hours, there were more than 50 comments on the post, nearly every one of them negative. By 2.30pm in the afternoon, Rapidkl cobbled together a predictable, corporate response, “Dear The Heat Malaysia, the recent online reports by the media covering 8 key corporate leaders riding the LRT during “peak hours” was inaccurately reported and had caused anxiety among some of our commuters. Please allow us to correct the facts and inform that the hour spoken refers to the afternoon “lunch crowd” and not peak hours as mentioned in the reports. The leaders were given an opportunity to experience taking public transportation as an effort to encourage the culture within their organization and the public in general, as well as obtain their feedback for further improvements. This is a continuous effort from our end to get key leaders more involved in understanding the need to further enhance public transportation services in the country.”

This typically contrived, corporate driven, out of touch and dated response generated even more negativity with Evelyn Toh asking what all of us were thinking would have been the right approach from the start:

Great question Evelyn
Great question Evelyn

24 hours later there was no let up in the abuse. And when Halim Hassan uploaded this image of the VIPs sitting in seats reserved for the elderly and disabled, what started out as a good idea, became an unmitigated disaster.

Not a good idea to sit in the disabled/special needs seats
Not a good idea to sit in the disabled/special needs seats

However, there was still a chance for Rapidkl to salvage the situation. If it had shown its human side, put it’s hands up and apologised, explained how their intentions were honourable, how they were trying to get more cars off the road, increase use of public transport and make life better for everyone and that in future they would go out and meet with real, genuine commuters and not chauffeur driven VIPs and done a few other things it could have recovered the initiative.

But they did what far too many firms do and ran away from the problem. Despite The Heat Malaysia Facebook post getting more than 500 Likes and 164 comments, Rapidkl refused to participate in the narrative. Hoping it would instead go away. This is a classic example of how not to approach social media. Social media is your friend but the best bit of advice I can give any company is that if you intend to use it as part of your brand strategy then the first thing you have to understand is that you must be social, not do social.

Too many brands think that social media is to be used in the same way as they’ve been using traditional media – as the base for a series of poorly thought out ad hoc tactics pushing a corporate driven message. Social media is not something you do, it is something you are. Which means that the people responsible for your social media communications must know what they are doing. Being young does not qualify you for managing a firms social media communications.

And any social media initiative must be part of a clearly defined brand strategy. This is not rocket science yet so many companies feel they can simply jump into social media with an idea and announce the idea and expect it to spread out across the eco system in a perfectly choreographed, positive manner. This of course rarely happens. But until senior management learns and understands social media, and actively participates in social media, most social media projects will fail because the corporate culture dictates social media competencies and if the CEO is non committal then the culture will be non committal and that’s the wrong place from which to start.

The strategy is so important. All bases must be covered. The ‘what if’ scenarios must be carefully thought through and prepared for. And the team designated to develop the narrative must have the skills required to address any issues and communicate effectively and in tandem with the overall goal.

The irony is that Rapidkl had a good idea but they didn’t understand how to implement the idea and certainly didn’t know how to develop the narrative around the idea on social media. And as soon as it went wrong, they panicked and shut down. Nevermind, all is not lost. The public are a forgiving lot. The next steps though will be crucial. Let’s see what happens.

A solid brand is built from the inside out

The chances are that you have discussed branding, what it is and whether it is important. You’ve probably agreed to ‘look into it’ and assigned someone from marketing to research brand consultants.

Marketing will probably google something like ‘brand consultants’ or ‘how to build a brand’ or ask friends or associates if they can recommend anyone. If your marketing department is staffed with ex advertising agency personnel, they may get on the phone to ex colleagues.

Unfortunately, advertising agencies is where many companies start the development of their brand. Senior management and the marketing department together with an advertising agency and often without any input from other departments such as sales, will spend a considerable amount of time developing the “marketing mix.”

A tagline will be created, colours discussed and so on. This is important but not at this stage. A good brand is built from the inside out. Before the creativity starts, carry out a brief internal brand audit. Ask yourself questions such as, “Do our employees know what we do?” “Do our employees believe in the product/service that we offer?” “Do they understand the role they have to play in the brand mission?” “Do they understand the importance of our customers?” “Do our staff ‘live the brand’?”

Here are 10 other initiatives that will help you lay the foundations for a brand.

Step 1: Review your organizational structure
Customers control relationships with businesses like never before. Manufacturing costs have fallen to record lows. Transactions are cheaper and faster than ever. The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate and do business. Yet despite these cataclysmic changes, companies continue to integrate in the same old traditional ways.

Employees report to superiors and information is channeled up and down hierarchical chains not across departments, hampering coordination and improvement. To succeed in the future, brands must understand that the customer is king, focus on processes not functions and develop a retention based not acquisition based culture.

Step 2: Recruit talent not bodies
Too many companies leave recruitment to the last minute or try to save money by increasing the work load of already overburdened staff. Look to recruit people that will enhance your organization based on your long term vision.

Step 3: Build a credible corporate vision
In collaboration with staff, create a vision that benefits employees, shareholders and customers. And make it realistic! Brand values must be based on providing value to customers. The reasons for and the role of the organization and individual staff in providing this value and the benefits to the organization and staff must be crystal clear to all.

Step 4: Train new and existing staff immediately, consistently and regularly
The only thing that all brands have in common is that customer loyalty is a result of employee loyalty. The foundations for any internal branding initiative must therefore start with personnel understanding the importance of the role they have to play in the evolution of the brand. In addition to improving skills, training also gives staff the confidence and attitude the organizations requires.

Step 5: View staff as an investment not an expense
Too many companies see staff as an expense and as a result do not invest in them because they are frightened the staff will leave. If you create an environment that is rewarding and encourages personal growth and has clearly defined career paths, your staff will not leave.

Step 6: Give personnel room to grow
Everyone makes mistakes but few people make them deliberately. Once you’ve invested in the right people and trained them, show them you believe in them by supporting them and trusting them to get things done, even if they make mistakes along the way. And if they make mistakes, give them the responsibility to correct the mistake.

Step 7: Encourage freedom of expression at meetings
If you only want to hear people support what you say or agree with what you have done what is the point of them attending meetings? To build a great brand, individuals will contribute and good managers will need to be open and aware of those individuals and give them the freedom to benefit the brand by challenging senior management.

Step 8: Understand that in general the sales department is the frontline of your company
No matter how much you spend on advertising, the first touch point most prospects will have with your brand will be via the sales force. It may be in a shop, a showroom, at an exhibition and so on. If that first meeting with your sales force is unsatisfactory, the prospect will not return. Train your sales force to represent your brand and reward them for doing so.

Step 9: Think long term
Whilst it is possible to build a brand more quickly than perhaps twenty years ago, building a profitable brand takes time and commitment. Take a long term approach to your business rather than a short term deal making mentality.

Step 10: Measure all activities
Wherever possible, measure. But before you do, ensure measurement definitions are standardized to ensure consistency and communicate them corporate wide. And when you measure, share the results across the organization and seek feedback and recommendations for improvement from staff. And then help them implement those recommendations and measure them.