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July 23, 2014

What commitments do you need?

Commit to an objective. Commit to a budget to snatch the objective. Commit to the process of the snatch. Will your words match your grit?
July 22, 2014

What’s on your yes list?

“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” – Warren Buffet. What’s on your no list?
July 21, 2014

Is your friends’ advice ruining your marketing?

You would be surprised how many decision makers believe in their friends more than the experts they hire – internally or externally. Nothing wrong if your friend is an expert in the area you need advice on. Otherwise, the medium who can speak to dead relatives is an equal bet. Whose opinion do you need?
July 18, 2014

Can your company go faster?

Some people in your company are very cooperative. Nice even. But they are “inefficient and ineffective” by barely delivering. You know those who are just passable rate. Sure they did not fail, but as far as the company is concerned they failed you. Remove these people. You can add ten more great players into your team but your company won’t go any faster. In fact, good players may just start to drop off. Who is slowing the company down?
July 17, 2014

Why are your competitors way ahead?

I don’t know why they are ahead. I can only guess. You were waiting for your perfect moment. You didn’t dare to put your foot down with the other departments that are dragging their feet. You were waiting for their “permission”. You believe in big steps. You look down upon small steps. You forget that accumulated small steps become the big step you were waiting for. You have leaky expectations. Too afraid of this and that. You take your fears too seriously even after you have completed your plans. Why are you behind?
July 16, 2014

How will your brand change?

To advertise and to wish that your brand won’t change is wishful thinking. To not advertise and hope that your brand will change for the better is hopeful thinking. Possible but a long shot. To advertise and to know that your consumers own your brand is to let your brand growing freely in the fertile hands of the users. Can you keep your brand from changing?
July 14, 2014

What did you do efficiently?

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker. Should you even do it?
July 11, 2014

When do I stop?

Branding is a process. It’s like eating a balanced diet, exercising, getting enough rest. You don’t do it once and stop. You don’t do it once and expect long term results. You don’t think about it as a cost. All else being equal, if you get it right you have a healthy brand. Do it even better, you have a fit brand. How disciplined can you be?
July 10, 2014

How did you learn to walk?

You didn’t ask your parents for a set of instructions on how to walk did you? They didn’t have to give you permission to walk, too. One day, you just decided you push yourself up, stood and started walking. Sure, they were there to hold you for awhile. But you fell, you stood back up. You experimented with walking. Some things you don’t need permission. You don’t need a set of instructions. You need action. (Whisper) It’s the same in the work place. When should you ask for help?
July 9, 2014

Where did you want to go?

Somewhere along the lines, especially when it is mid-year some people lose sight of where they had planned to go at the start of the year. Months rolled on, new people on the team, the hubris of good sales (maybe), the vision blinding daily mini crises, the seduction of sexy projects. These and more can take you off the real objective. It’s always a good idea to look at the actual plan on paper. Just so you don’t lose your way. Have you lost the plot?
July 8, 2014

Do you really have the answer?

Once you admit that you do not have the answer, that’s when the real solution manifests itself. Pretension is the solution that thickens the mud. Eventually, it blinds you. Where do solutions come from?
July 7, 2014

What is good customer service?

Real person with a genuine concern for the customer. If everyone who works in the frontline is told that, whatever training you do later would be easier. Whatever you want to build into your customer service platform would make more sense. If you have that, then a person would answer the phone. Not machines. Customers get real answers, not scripted verbiage designed to cover the corporation’s ass. If your company think relational not transactional. I think customer service will really mean serving the customer. How may I help you?
July 4, 2014

What is an easy business?

Ad people like to say, “Advertising is not an easy business.” As if saying that makes the industry more glamorous and more elite. Saying “Advertising is not an easy business” is like saying “_________ is an expensive car.” It is only expensive if you cannot afford it. Nothing is easy if you don’t have the skills and balls for it. Here, pharmaceuticals is not an easy business, farming is not an easy business, surgery is not an easy business, IT is not an easy business, service offices is not an easy business, education is not an easy business, insurance is […]
July 3, 2014

Who owns your brand?

You think you own your brand. You have the illusion of control. For your brand to grow, you need to connect with your consumers. To connect you need to cede control. Your brand is given nicknames by your consumers. They tattoo it on body parts your mom should never know. They post it on walls associating it with words you never want your kids to hear. They eat it the way you never intended. And use it ways you never conjured in your creative labs. Your consumers have more liberty to do to your brand than you as a marketer. […]
July 2, 2014

What is easy?

The beginner will think everything is easy. For example, the executive thinks a boss’s job is easy. Then the beginner becomes a boss and realizes that things aren’t as easy as it seems. In fact it is complex. There are so many intricacies to master. By mastering the intricacies, the beginner now becomes the master, strips away all the complexities and executes with Zen-like simplicity. Easy.Complex. Simple. That’s how you learn. Simple but not easy. Don’t complicate stuff just because it is simple. What is simple?
July 1, 2014

What won’t you do?

I don’t know what you won’t do. But it’s probably a good idea to list down what you won’t do. So when confronted with a situation, you will recognize it. As consultants, we should not be the 24 –hour helpline, the assembly line, the unlimited help dispenser, the bad cop, the change agent. These we won’t do. What would you do?
June 30, 2014

Is it meaningful?

What you say about your brand. Your advertising budget. How you connect with your consumer. Your contest prizes. Your promotion. Your price-off. Your newsletter. What you post on your social media. You get what I mean. Meaning before marketability. What does it say about your brand?
June 27, 2014

Did you write it down?

Write. Write it down. Somewhere. Black ink, white paper. Nothing difficult about it. Whether it is a brief, a plan or a dream. If it is not written, it is not counted. Writing clarifies thoughts. Writing helps you remember. It allows you to revisit. Writing is a commitment. It forces you to say, “Here this is what I think now.” Writing allows you to see what you think and gives you permission to rearrange the same thoughts in an orderly manner. Writing grants you the keys to the genealogy of your thoughts as they develop. What’s with your fear of writing?
June 26, 2014

Can you give me your opinion?

Of course I can. But whether I am willing depends on a few things. Why do you want my opinion? Do you see me as an expert on the subject? How do I add value to the decision you will make? How seriously will you take my opinion? Does it even matter?
June 25, 2014

What questions do you ask yourself?

What do you know about your brand? Have you written it down somewhere? If it is not written, it doesn’t count. What is your greatest strength? What do your competitors think is your greatest weakness? What do you think is your greatest weakness? Are there any differences? What are your brand objectives this year? How do they complement your marketing plan? What didn’t work last year? How can it be better? Just some questions considering that it is midyear. What answers do you have?
June 24, 2014

Are they lying to you?

The moment you get paid to do what you love, it becomes a job. When it is a job there are expectations to meet, KPIs to deliver, clients/customers to make happy, suppliers to pay. Of course you can get paid doing what you love. Just remember that what you love when you get paid for it comes with pimples, acnes and warts. Are you lying to yourself?
June 23, 2014

How much of a newbie are you?

Not many people will argue if you say that the basics are important. It is when one talks about ‘advanced’ that people will debate you. Somehow, ‘advanced’ seems to indicate complexity or the need for complexity. Being advance in a field can often times mean an even deeper understanding of the basics and how to apply them even in complex situations. Nothing complicated about that. How advanced are you?
June 20, 2014

Do you know how it works?

Sometimes there is so much ‘intellectual dishonesty’ (in this context I am referring to pretending to know what you don’t know or pretending to know a lot of what you know very little of) in the meeting room that it can choke you. Yes, the smog of stupidity and dishonesty can leave you gasping for air. It’s easy to expose ‘intellectual dishonesty’ though. Just ask clarifying questions. Like “How does this work?” But intellectual dishonesty is usually met with anger even when the questions themselves seek to clarify and nothing else. Why? Mainly because the weakness is exposed and yes, […]
June 19, 2014

What’s your stance?

I know friends who will not change their opinions no matter what. Even in the face of new information. Sometimes, these people forget that an opinion about something isn’t the same as holding on to principles. As my friend Derek Sivers said here in his article “Loving What I Used to Hate”, “We don’t need to preserve our first opinions as if they are our pure, untarnished, true nature. They’re often just ignorance or inexperience.” The principle of not changing your opinion even when faced with new information should be questioned. Will you change your mind?
June 18, 2014

Is that the right dosage?

You often hear people say, “Something is better than nothing.” Yes and no. Sure, some exercise is better than no exercise. But if you have already made it a point to put aside x amount of time to exercise, isn’t it better to pick one that gives you the best return on time invested for your goal? Even for exercise (or workouts), there is a specific dose that can best meet your stated goals. Of course, if you have an ailment you need to cure, the proper dosage of drug is important to rid you off what keeps you in […]
June 17, 2014

Are you certified?

You could be certified. But you weren’t educated in the process of certification. What’s worse is that the process of certification made you ignorant and arrogant to further education. Are you educated?
June 16, 2014

What do you believe in?

“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.” – Mahatma Gandhi. Do your consultants do what they tell you to do?
June 13, 2014

What’s your capability?

June 12, 2014

How stable is your platform?

Marketing and branding principles are just a set of ideas and instructions much like the software in your computer hardware. This set of marketing instructions and ideas can be used across platforms i.e., organizations and personnel. Given that each platform has its own limitations and capabilities, you get mixed results even though the set of instruction is the same. When you ask, “How come this isn’t working as well with us?” perhaps it is not a software issue. What operating system do you use?
June 11, 2014

How does your garden grow?

Imagine your brand as a plant in your garden of business. Branding then is the process of nurturing that plant to grow. What you spend time on grows. If you threw a seed into the garden and expect it to grow, your results may be dismal. But if you spent time understanding the seed, the plant it can grow into and planned well for that growth, perhaps its fruits may turn out to be what you expect. Is your garden full of weeds?
June 10, 2014

Can you fix your people?

A lot of brands face challenges that are more of a human resource issue than brand issues per se. You know, people with the wrong aptitude, mismatch of skills, lack of passion, or utter devoid of marketing knowledge. These people sit in a position of power as clients not knowing that they are the cause of the problems to begin with. Sometimes when we consult on a project initiated by the bosses, it is patent that if people issues are fixed, then the brand issues will resolve themselves. The wrong people in your marketing department is a formula for brand […]
June 9, 2014

Do you want to build a brand?

If you want to build a brand, start by committing a healthy budget for this purpose Every. Single. Year. And stick to it. To many of you this may be a given. But you will be surprised. Committing a budget means spending. Spending is vulgar to a lot of business owners. Investing behind your brand means spending. Spending demonstrates your commitment. Did I just say the F word? Yes, spend. How much do you have?
June 6, 2014

What are you afraid of?

When someone is confronted with new information they do not understand, the easiest thing for them to do is to criticize and condemn. For bosses, they need to be aware of the Luddite within them. And Luddism that is breeding within the organization. Are you a Luddite?
June 5, 2014

When will the seeds grow?

Experienced sales people know sometimes the harvest may not be good for the day like closing a deal is tougher and there are no solid appointments. Experienced sales people also know that they should not just measure the success of the day by the fruits they reap. They also measure the success of the day by the seeds they sow. How’s the harvest today?
June 4, 2014

What experience do you have?

“I have news for you, son.  Being full of yourself for no reason whatsoever is the ticket to waste your twenties and possibly thirties. In training and in other aspects of your life.” – Pavel Tsatsouline. What are you full of?
June 3, 2014

How much did you spend?

In terms of your time spent doing what you want to achieve, that is. Your time investment today will turn into trophies tomorrow or of course the reverse is also true. It might turn into trash. The more time you spend, the higher the chances of you turning in a trophy.
June 2, 2014

What should you practice?

May 30, 2014

What do you want to be good at?

Hard work is the only way to get good (make that great) at anything you want. The majority of people find that the hardest part. If you know hard work’s natural conclusion is being great at something, would you still avoid it? How else can it be done?
May 29, 2014

Who is the charlatan?

I think bosses have to be very cautious of their inner circle. No doubt, getting into the inner circle usually takes trust and some form of credibility. But once inside the inner circle, the halo effect usually blinds the bosses to what the true expertise of these lieutenants are. They listen to everything they say. Safe to say, that’s dangerous practice. “If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) […]
May 28, 2014

What do you want to learn?

I learned some things the hard way but I will always strive to teach it the right way. Whether you learn them correctly, that’s your responsibility. How were you taught?
May 27, 2014

Are you reaching your target?

If you are not, here is a good question to answer. “Does your behavior match your goal?” To reach your goals, you have to do. Not just doing, but doing the right thing. Is it time for a review?
May 26, 2014

What are they selling you?

Stick to the basics. Get a solid foundation. When you know these, then it is easy to spot the false prophets. Remember, false prophets are only interested in profits. But you will only be able to spot these people if you have the right knowledge. How else do they profit?
May 23, 2014

Are you stagnant?

May 22, 2014

Are you increasing uncertainty?

May 21, 2014

What’s your experience?

May 20, 2014

What are you reading?

Reading what everyone else is reading gives you something similar to talk about. Reading what everyone else isn’t reading allows you to think a little differently. What did you just read?
May 19, 2014

What are your people consuming?

If the people working for you aren’t even using your services and products then you have a problem – especially when they can afford it and on staff purchase as well. Go ahead; politely ask to have a ‘pantry check’, a ‘freezer check’, a ‘drawer check’ (a wherever your product is stored at home/office check) as part of marketing research. It will unearth a copious amount of insights you can use. What would they rather use?
May 16, 2014

Where do ideas come from?

May 15, 2014

What do you do differently?

A friend asked me the other day, “Is your book available at MPH?” I said, “Bookshops are the worst places to sell books. Besides, I did not write a book to sell to make money.” Interesting ideas comes to mind when you do things differently. You can’t expect yourself to come up with out of the box ideas if you keep thinking outside the box. No I did not type that wrong. To think out of the box, you need to do outside the box. Do things differently. Read different things, see different things, experience different things. DO different things. […]
May 14, 2014

Who is paying the fees?

You can warn young marketers all you want with your experience and wisdom. But it will be wasted on them. Their gumption blinds them. They will rubbish what you say. “This is a different era. This is a different category; I am handling this differently…” In reality, inexperienced marketers cannot know. That’s part of the experience of being inexperienced. Now, after I say what I have to say and not expecting them to listen; I just sit back and watch. It’s fun. You should try it sometimes. Is experience wasted on you?
May 12, 2014

Why would you matter to me?

Deliver well on the functional benefits. Then you can talk about the emotional ones that you try so hard to layer onto your brand. If the consumers do not even believe that you can deliver the bare basics, how do you expect them to connect with you emotionally? Do you know what I need?
May 9, 2014

Are you doing it differently?

Some people like to say that in marketing there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I am not sure if that is right. The line between doing it differently and doing it wrong is pretty clear. Are you doing it wrong?
May 8, 2014

Is it dark in there?

If you aren’t open to new things, the old way of doing it is always easier. And because humans are animals of habits, we will always stick to the old ways. You will always find comfort in predictability. Your way of going to a particular destination will always be the easiest until a friend more familiar with this route points out a better one and you actually tried it. Even then, you would come up with two other excuses why your way is better. Then, you will secretly use the route to the extent that it becomes your default route. […]
May 7, 2014

Why would they shut up?

Even the greatest artists, poets, writers, chefs, (feel free to add other experts you know here) have their fair share of critics. What’s so great about the Mona Lisa? That piece of work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I think it needs more colors. You know how it is, if you have had people criticize your work before. Sometimes you think, “Absurd.” Well, sometimes it is absurd.  But I don’t think the experts care. They weren’t asking for permission to be great. Who are you?
May 6, 2014

Who is your face?

Managers handling their brand’s Facebook page need to be very cautious. Do not let your personal personality, interests, tone and manner creep into the brand’s Facebook page. It is a brand’s Facebook page, it should be the brand’s personality, interests (or its shared interests with the consumers), tone and manner. Not yours. You, of course know that already. What is your voice?
May 5, 2014

What’s the simplest way to do this?

Occam’s Customer: Of all the possible ways to solve a marketing challenge, the most complicated way is the one your customer will most likely want you to do. I was just having fun with that. Some clients are like that. Complex and complicated is what they like. They think it justifies their job, I suppose. Those who buys into Occam’s razor, of course are the ones that keep us inspired. Why does it have to be complicated?
May 2, 2014

How fast are you moving?

“We are taking two steps forward and one step back.” It’s a common lament you hear. One filled with frustration and disappointment. This phenomenon in my experience commonly occurs when someone in an organization wants to make a change pushing for the two steps forward. Often, those who fears change, those who are attached to the ‘old’ ways or ‘how it has always been done here’ are the ones making the organization take a step back. If you are the one pushing change and you seem to be taking two steps forward and one steps back; remind yourself you have […]
April 30, 2014

Are your fundamentals right?

If you come from my generation, marketing is just the 4Ps. Later, when I entered the industry I hear people talk about however many Ps and what not. There were a few seminal books on marketing and advertising. If you read those, understood them and somewhat guided by them, you turned out OK; whether in the marketing department of some MNCs or ad agencies. Somewhere along the line I think we lost the plot. Bookshelves of marketing started to resemble the cereal aisle of a hypermarket. Each shouting a different flavor, variant and taste. Some are junk. Some grounded on […]
April 29, 2014

What does quality look like?

If you are a marketer, you should have an insight into what drives the companies that makes things or provide the services. Couple with the fact that you are also a consumer; you should at least use the power and knowledge you have to shape the type of businesses you want to see happen in your world. Use your money wisely, buy things that have quality. Support services that are impeccable. Write compliment letters when the service is great. Not just complain when service is poor. Choose great over good and good over garbage. Every cent you spend crafts the […]
April 28, 2014

Whose attention do you want?

Over the weekend, one of the leading brands of instant noodles in Malaysia won one of the best brand awards to be won in Malaysia. It’s a people’s choice award which no money can buy. Interestingly, along with this award they also garnered a good review from an overseas instant noodles reviewer and ended being rated top ten in the world. Surely that must be something to shout about. Even more interestingly, there are congratulatory ads from a state government, a global football team and their ad agency for their win and the rating. All things considered, I would not […]
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