Archive for the 'branding' Category

PRWeek – Study Finds PR-Blogger Divide

PR professionals conduct blogger outreach for various reasons, but a fundamental one of which surely is to cultivate brand awareness on behalf of their clients.  However, bloggers may have other motivations for blogging.  A survey by APCO Worldwide and the Council of Public Relations Firms found that PR pros and bloggers were at odds in terms of how well each party thought PR folks were reaching out and developing relationships with bloggers.

Whether/how companies should conduct blogger relations is a highly contentious issue.  Some argue that “blogger relations” inevitably translate into “seeding” relevant bloggers with certain products or giving them privileged access, and “hoping” that these bloggers would then altruistically “share their experience” with their readers, arguing that this amounted to bribery.  Others counter that this is no different from traditional media outreach.

The PRWeek article can be found here, but I would hesitate to comment until I see the full report.  I’ve done a search to no avail.  Can anyone help?


Blog Dissonance…

I always enjoy reading Rohit Bhargava’s blog because he consistently delivers insightful, well-considered commentary.  I learn something new each time I visit his blog.


Using the phenomenon where Scott Adams–the creator of Dilbert–as an illustration, Rohit discusses why it is possible for a brand (I loosely consider the Dilbert franchise a brand) to suffer a reduction in following because of its blog.  This happens when the audience sees a brand and its creator as one entity, but realizes through the creator’s blog (where one tends to express oneself more authentically) that his/her personal persona can speak with quite a different voice from the brand, hence the dissonance.

As Rohit explains, Adams sometimes blogs on his views on politics and social issues, which some of the readers (many of whom are drawn to his blog because they expect to hear the more of Dilbert) do not understand or agree with.  And when some of his audience see that the voice of Dilbert is not always consonant with the voice of Scott Adams, they swear never to return.

There are some useful lessons for marketers here.  Please read Rohit’s full commentary for more insights.  I believe it will be worth your while.

Nike China launches integrated, interactive campaign – 狂足快跑

Alan Vandermolen, Edelman PR’s Asia Pacific president recently highlighted a really interesting case study of Nike China‘s new interactive campaign on his Uncorked blog. 


What I really like about it is that this “bluetooth campaign” innovatively integrates elements of traditional and social media marketing.  Putting traditional outdoor advertising on its head, the campaign features a billboard that emits a bluetooth mobile signal that functions as a stopwatch.  The public can then run (literally) to a designated Nike store.  When they arrive, a second bluetooth signal is sent out, recording the run time.  Every day for 21 days,  the store gives away a different pair of Nike running shoes for the person with the fatest run time.  Now how cool is that?

Check out the campaign at 狂足快跑.

Event PR at Changi Airport – Elvis Impersonation Contest

In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley‘s death–and to inject some excitement–Changi Airport held an Elvis impersonation contest event, and I witnessed the finals while flying in and out of the airport on a weekend jaunt to Bangkok.

Other than flying in Elvis impersonator Johnny Baron from the U.S. and the prizes for contestants, the event probably didn’t cost much (after all, United Airlines, Philips, and Hard Rock Cafe were sponsors), but I think it sure generated lots of goodwill and positive impressions all around.

Johnny Baron as the event opener generated a fairly large crowd, which grew as he belted out a string of Elvis’ hits with gusto as well as numbers from his contemporaries such as Neil Diamond. Tourists and business travelers alike gathered round, some took off their shoes and sat on the floor, cheering and swaying to the music. While grabbing a bite at the cafeteria upstairs, I spotted a couple dancing in embrace to some of the ballads.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled to many airports around the world, and I’ve to say that Changi, my home base, is the airport that is the most unremitting in its gambit to stay ahead of the game, constantly reinventing and improving itself using a whole host of strategies and tactics. This tactical use of event PR, is a great example of how a little bit goes a long way.

Social media tactics are often a fantastic complement to event PR (I shared the Aveeno case study in an earlier post). Now if only Changi used inject some social media marketing elements to gain extra mileage out of this event!

Looking beneath the statistics – Local students given priority at state universities

Singapore’s news daily, The Straits Times, reported on July 17 that local students are “still given priority” for university. It provided the following statistics:

-Of the 28,000 local students who applied for a place last year in the three local universities, about 14,000 or 49 per cent were successful.

-But of the 23,000 foreign students who made an application, only 987 or about 4 per cent were offered places.

Ostensibly, it would seem that local students were indeed given priority (not that this is necessarily a good thing).

But there are some other factors that could account for this statistics. For example, could it be that of the 28,000 local students who applied, a significantly high percentage satisfactorily met entrance requirements, whereas of the international students who applied, there was a high percentage that failed to meet the requisite criteria. Thus, it is possible that it was not that NUS had accorded priority to local students out of some national policy, but that because of the relatively smaller proportion of international students meeting the entrance criteria, the statistics was in fact by default.

The public would be able to better appreciate the numbers if they were also informed how many of the local and international students who applied did not meet the entrance requirements to begin with.

What relevance does this hold for a blog focusing on public relations and reputation management? Well, first, providing a fuller, more transparent explanation of statistics is important from a credibility standpoint. One should not assume that the public will take flattering statistics at face value.

Secondly, the seemingly stellar reputation of Singapore’s state universities is oft-repeated enough in the local media that perhaps most Singaporeans take it as inviolate. It hence attracts students with high academic achievements. However, in the region and most certainly around the world, the local state universities may not enjoy as high a standing as there are several universities even in Asia that command a higher brand equity that Singaporeans are simply not aware of. Hence, the local state universities would not be the top Asian university that the best international students would apply to.

Leveraging new media to give a branding campaign that extra oomph – J&J’s Aveeno

I came across a fascinating case study that provided a model as to how new media could maximize the mileage of a traditional branding campaign.  When J&J wanted to launch its Aveeno brand into the uber competitive anti-aging arena, its PR consultants at Ogilvy PR knew that relying on traditional media outreach alone would not gain much buzz.  So, it engaged British artist Julian Beever (a.k.a. Pavement Picasso), known for his artistically complex, 3D-like street drawinings, to execute a “Fountain of Youth” in the heart of NYC.  It created a viral video and YouTube posting of Beever at work, and supported it with a Flickr album, blogger outreach, and other digital activities.  Click on the picture for Ogilvy PR’s case study.


Incidentally, Julian Beever was in Singapore in June 2007.  He was commissioned by Nokia to paint a “hole” in front of the entrance to a major local department store.  Ironically, for a new economy company such as Nokia, it did not seem to ride on new media to give its effort that extra oomph.  Perhaps this is where the marketers here have still a ways to go in harnessing the galvanizing powers of new media.

Public Relations Academy Conference – “Markets and Brands: Positioning for the 21st Century”

I attended the PR Academy‘s 6th Annual Conference a couple of weeks ago.  One of the most provocative speeches was none other than its keynote delivered by Ho Kwon Ping, Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings, known most for its ultra-luxe chain of eco-friendly resorts.


Ho described himself as both “an ardent advocate and confirmed cynic” of branding.  Lamenting how in the zeitgeist of branding, a buzzword which seems to drip uncontrollably out of the lips of marketers and ad executives, “the packaging has come to replace the product.”

Branding, according to Ho, is the distillation of all the attributes of a company into a powerful entity.  This is a proprietary advantage of a company, unlike a competitive advantage which can be seized by competitors. 

Ho further asserted that credibility is the most important, but yet sorely lack attribute to branding.  The imputation, then, is perhaps that if a company put its money where its mouth is, living up to its values and credo above marketese, the story will tell itself.  Indeed, Ho claimed that at Banyan Tree, he measured the size of its ad budget vis-a-vis revenue growth to gauge the success of the brand.  To this end, Banyan Tree has a relatively modest ad budget, but leverages heavily on third-party endorsement, which to Ho, is far more credible.

That is all well and good, and even branding gurus would not dispute that a strong brand cannot be built on lip service.  However, in an increasingly competitive market, I wonder if it’s enough just to keep on keeping on, hoping that the story would somehow get out. 

Take Singapore for example.  Southeast Asia as a region in the eighties and nineties was far different from what it today has become.  Merely a decade ago, Singapore was able to shine and attract investors simply by offering a predictable environment to do business, an efficient work force, and reliable infrastructure.  Today, the gaps between Singapore and its neighbors have narrowed, and will continue to narrow.  Its closest neighbor, Malaysia, for example, is embarking on a multi-pronged effort to market itself to the world.  As part of an effort to respond to the challenge, the Singapore government has engaged Interpublic’s FutureBrand to help it develop an umbrella brand position.  Putting the hands to the till is only half the equation.  In this day and age, one needs to get the story out as well.

Incidentally, Ho is an interesting man, with a colorful history.  Born into a wealthy family that ran a diversified commodities, trading, and construction conglomerate, Ho was a student activitist in his university days.  He later worked as a correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review, and was briefly jailed under Singapore’s Internet Security Act for some of his articles.  Today, however, he quite the country’s darling, holding the position of Chairman of the Singapore Management University‘s Board of Trustees.  Check out this bio on BusinessWeek and a corporatized version on SMU’s website.

Flickr Photos


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