Archive for the 'brands' Category

Edelman Trust Barometer 2008

Richard Edelman unveiled his company’s annual trust barometer study–this is the ninth edition–on his 6 A.M. blog a day before the official release.  He previewed seven key findings, but I just want to highlight a couple, which I think are particularly interesting.

Finding #1: “Trust in media as an institution is at a high point in the study’s history, with marked increases over past year standings in the U.K., Germany, the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and India.”  This is the first year where the definition of media was expanded to include social media, which probably boosted its ranking.
==> In Dec 2007, BBC commissioned a study on the perception of media in 14 countries.  For Singapore, 1,011 were polled out of the 11,344 worldwide.  Responding to one question on perception of press freedom, only 36 per cent gave Singapore’s press a high freedom rating.  This was the lowest of all the 14 countries surveyed, a key fact completely omitted in reportage by local state-owned media.  Almost as if to prove the point, one local English daily put a spin on the figure, reporting it as such: “Despite the fact that the media here was perceived ‘as less free than in any other country surveyed’, 36 per cent gave the local press a high freedom rating.” (TODAY, “Social stability is key: Poll,” Dec 11, 2007).  Check local citizen journalist Alex Au’s blog for more background and analysis.   I am also attaching a more detailed report of the study: 10_12_07_worldservicepoll.pdf

Finding #2: “Social media is on the rise, particularly in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). As expected, it is also more highly used and trusted by young opinion elites. Wikipedia ranks as the No. 2 source of credible information among 25-to-34-year-old opinion elites in the United States, by 55% of respondents.”
==> A surprising lot of professional communicators I know do not give much credence to the community-edited Wikipedia, dismissing its credibility and value.  Numerous studies, including one groundbreaking experiment by Nature, provided much evidence that Wikipedia articles are as accurate as those found in Encyclopedia Britannica.  While there have been a number of high-profile hoax entries, Wikipedia has instituted measures to tighten its editorial policy and process.  There is a whole community out there that is actively creating and editing entries on companies, newsmakers, scandals, and social issues.  Does Wikipedia not provide organizations with an excellent opportunity to be part of a conversation in a transparent, open way?



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.

Mattel — A PR Fiasco?

Like many around the world, I grew up being familiar with Mattel toys. It’s a brand that communicates oodles of fun, loads of creativity, and implicit in all these, are that its products are safe even for young children. The nightmare the company has faced with product recalls and a string of apologies has been well-documented.

How did Mattel fare? In China, certainly the state-owned media seem to have injected their own take on the issue. Michael Netzley of Singapore Management University shared his view that Mattel may have lost some control of its message in that market.

That aside, my own view is that on Mattel’s own communication platform–it’s corporate website–it has done a rather laudable job. On the front page is a link to a message from Bob Eckert, its Chairman and CEO, communicating his empathy and commitment to earn back its customers’ trust. More importantly, there is a prominently displayed link to a website–updated in more than 15 languages–explaining what Mattel is doing to assure the safety of its products, an FAQ, a link to media statements, and a videocast from Eckert apologizing for the situation and reiterating his personal commitment to product safety and getting customers to trust Mattel again. A link to Mattel’s customer service portal brings the public to media and consumer relations contacts in key markets around the world.

How did you think Mattel handled the situation in terms of issues and crisis management? And as far as Mattel’s own website is concerned, how do you think it fared in terms of getting the message out and being transparent?

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.

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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