Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why Asians are the best digital experience designers?

In fact they should be because East and South Asia dominate global internet usage.  Quite amazing that all the tech stuff and content are coming from the West though.  I mean even Africa has higher users!  Maybe that's something to do with penetration instead.  The more people use it compared to those who don't, the more quality stuff we get?  I think we have to rewire our thinking.  Internet is not about being advanced or developed.  It's about enabling solutions.  We should get out of this follower mindset right now.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The real difference between Malaysia and Singapore today.

Source: Google

That's the difference.  Malaysians who go to Singapore, can't afford the night and Singaporeans who come to Malaysia, all enjoy themselves :'(

This is a very far-fetched hypothesis.  Please take it with a pinch of salt. Don't be too serious otherwise statistics becomes shitistics :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What happens to the strategic planner with the advent of data and marketing automation?

Second day in the digital summit and I swear that I've met agency groups who see Strategic Planners as an endangered breed.  And they rejoice to hear from one.

Strategic planners - a dying breed?  Well, that depends on where you come from.  In Malaysia, and specifically Malaysian strategic planners - yes, they're high on the list of extinction.  And if data intelligence is going to drive the client's business from now on, then how do we survive?

On the contrary, this. Is. Our. Moment.

Was reading Superforecasting on the plane and came across this very interesting paragraph:

"When the scientist tells you he does not know the answer, he is an ignorant man.  When he tells you he has a hunch about how it is going to work, he is uncertain about it.  When he is pretty sure of how it is going to work, and he tells you, " This is the way it's going to work, I'll bet, " he still is in some doubt.  And it is of paramount importance, in order to make progress, that we recognize this ignorance and this doubt.  Because we have the doubt, we then propose looking in new directions for new ideas.  The rate of the development of science is not the rate at which you make observations alone but, much more important, the rate at which you create new things to test."

Take that principle, apply it in planning. Ever come across a planner who struts in and is cocksure that his idea was going to work and everybody else's is going to fail?  Well, that's not a planner.  That's just plain bossy.  Jokes aside, it is true that we must be able to differentiate ignorance and doubt.  And it's always good to have a pinch of doubt in everything we work on because before we are planners, we are human and we must recognize that as humans, our knowledge will always be limited.  Hence, why there are always new ways to be tested, novel ways to do things.  Data, interestingly will help us to reach there and get our answers faster.  Because data does not only show historical behavior, it can also be a rich base for predictive modeling.  And that's essentially what we do isn't it?  We evaluate where the brand is today and project the highest potential of where it can be in one year, 3 years, 5 years time.  And then we work out the kinks on how to get there, considering everything good and bad that could possibly happen under the sun between now and 5 years later.  Predictive modeling helps us to close our doubtful gaps, even if not 100% and advise plans which are a lot more grounded and risk-proof in such a fast paced environment.

Account planning was half strategy and half creative - there was always something subjective albeit calculated in our proposal.  Because we were weavers of culture and we understood the fabric of people.  So we have and will always stand proudly to represent the consumer's voice in the parliament of marketing.  That human intuition will and should never go away.  It can only be made more powerful with data analytics and machine learning.  To quote Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner, "To reframe the man-versus-machine dichotomy, combinations of Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue may prove more robust than pure-human or pure-machine approaches".  The computer learns patterns and can probably spew a million positions in a few seconds, while the human mind can only project to as far as 10 steps ahead. But the computer will never be able to understand context as well as a human and there's where we trump. Honda said it right, Man Maximum, Machine Minimum when it comes to their engineering philosophy, because at the end of the day it is about the 'human taste'.  And THAT, was coined in the 40s.  Likewise, the machine might have hundreds of best variations but it still lacks our God-given creativity - the nature to start fresh without the burden of history. The even better news is, they will help us to be faster and more efficient as a planner.  In levels never before - we can make decisions overnight or in a blink of an eye.  Ten years ago, if you wanted a complete brief in 3 days, you must be out of your mind!  But today, 24 hours is possible with the right tools. But don't you dare test it on me.

Machine will never replace us. They're our friends. And they will help us to reconcile our client's brand and/or category back into the world where it happily belongs, in speed we've never been able to before. We shouldn't just wait and embrace it.  We should create it.

Monday, January 11, 2016

What would 'Perfect Education' look like?

I am convinced that in order for human to advance, we must always consider 'balance' in our everyday life.  It sounds like some Buddhist Zen philosophy but reality is that is how nature has always taken its course.  Which to me, education should not be a field that is an exception to this law.  If at all, it should be the most important one to embrace this because as we all know, education is the fabric of any modern development.

To me, 'Perfect Education' should look like this, where X marks the perfect equilibrium of technical skill (what is) and thinking skill (what if):

Too often than not, traditional education tends to focus on the 'what is' - the technical aspect of any field of study.  While this is important as logic tells us; before you meddle with science, you better know your compounds - it teaches the individual of what had happened, what had been discovered and how the world is currently working - but not necessary what can happen, what is yet to be discovered and how the world should or could work.  But if we apply 'what ifs' thinking into the equation, learning becomes something else.  It spurs us to question what had happened and how we can change that.  This is the thinking skill, we so desperately need.  Do bear in mind however, a school that teaches only 'thinking skills' - usually dubbed as 'creative', seems to produce students best in fields which don't require a lot of technical knowledge.  It's missing a lot if you ask me because no society is built without technical capabilities.

Although I'm not a big fan of moral police, but if I absolutely have to add another dimension to this so-called 'Perfect Education', it would be 'ethical skills'.  This is an area of contend, even for me, because personally I believe that there is good in human if only they are taught to 'think'.  The greater the ability to think, the greater the ability to connect ideas - good or bad.  Unless, the person is pure evil, there is no way an individual will choose to continue building on a series of bad ideas!

What kind of education is this framework applied?  Any.  In nurseries, in schools, in colleges, in professional courses, in corporate training and in life.  That's how lifehack came about anyway right?  What you do previously and how you can hack it to make it better.  Same principle.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

We are hiring: Driven 'automotive' marketing specialists.

It's going to be tough.  Automotive is a multi-billion industry in Malaysia.  Our GDP relies on this.  One screw up isn't one car sale down.  It sends a repercussion to hundreds or maybe even thousands of jobs being cut.  It's serious business because it involves 8.3 million lives (excluding motorcyclists and pedestrians).  So if you think we are anal about how this business is run and communicated, you are absolutely right. It only looks repetitive if you don't know how to hack it.  The game?  Is to keep repositioning your competitors with what you do.  One step if you're good.  Ten if you're great.

You'll be wanted for accountability - of everything that comes out from your kitchen.  Your pole position is meeting targets, the title on your card is secondary - let us make that clear.  You drive the brand and it drives you.  You are partners, like in any race - man and machine is one.  And let us repeat one more time, in case you missed the first line.  It's going to be tough.  On top of a challenging industry, is another.  We believe in innovating how brands are built by way of integration and collaboration.  We put scientific measures behind our intuitions and have extremely stringent expectations on our fellow brand builders whether from a creative, media or comms specialist aspect.  And most of all, we take pride in providing world-class service to our clients.  They win, we win.  If you can't agree to that equation, you may exit right now.

So if you have what it takes - the desire to not just race but win in the automotive business and you can demonstrate to us why you can do that, we want to meet you.  We're looking for automotive specialists, no longer an account management person or a strategic planning person or a whatever person who can do many things.  We don't care where you come from as long as you can deliver what's to come in the future.  You can be Jack of however many trades you like, there's only ONE thing that we care for you to master - the car business.

In terms of personality requirements, you will need resilience and energy to excel.  A strong character with an inclusive leadership to take the reign is not absolute but from our experience, is a trait will take you very far.

So if you know anything about races, you'd also know second place is the first loser.  Reach out to us now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Milking the future.

My latest research expedition brought me to far flung, long forgotten places that are resting in the dusty recesses of the economy - dairy farming.

Nutshell, we are only 12% self-sufficient when it comes to milk production.  What does that mean?  It means, if we were 100% self-sufficient, milk prices will come down and more people can drink more milk because it's more affordable.

It's quite scary to know that Malaysia lacks a strategy when it comes to food security.  We are too reliant on food imports which is why we're all hurting over our grocery bills today when the Ringgit plummeted.  Sometimes I wonder.  I really really wonder.  I wonder what else can the ministry do.  This is not a bashing post, and I don't doubt some people are really good at what they do.  But the question is what's next?  What's our best game plan in feeding 30 million mouths and counting? While Najib has moved on to the 11th Malaysia Plan, a quick search on the internet seems to me that the Ministry of Agriculture and Department of Veterinary Services are still stuck in the 9th!

Looks like all the attention is focused on building a knowledge-based economy that we have left our fundamental needs behind.  Many are quick to jump into an obvious conclusion - use agriculture to lift up the bottom 40 economy.  This is where we make a grave mistake of assuming poor people are meant to be farmers and urban folks are not.  That's a very strong social prejudice in this day and age, mind you.  In my books, it's equivalent to asking women to stay home.  Agricultural and farming technologies have evolved past mere livelihood to increase efficiency for better yield for better revenues for bigger markets for new economies.  You need someone who is savvy and trained and to a very large extent, passionate about about the job.  And no young urbanite today, likes a dirty job.

So perhaps, it would be wise for the government to consider attracting knowledge-based young entrepreneurs back into the agriculture sector to catapult it to its much needed and deserved growth.  Instead of just flogging dead horses, shoving expired KPIs into the shed and trying to attract those who have no will power to succeed nor excel to be part of their program.  It will bode well when we start with education, to inspire young minds to find success in farming. That this field deserves as much pride as your Silicon Valley-ish start-ups.  We need to look and scrutinize short, mid and long-term plans instead and it seems that there're A LOT to catch up.  Such bright future for us, if only the people at high places are more accounted for.

Got a related project or an idea?  Call me and let's discuss over a mug of milk.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Nine gloomy nine.

Today is Nine Nine.  September Nine.  And boy so much things have happened since October 20th.  This was almost going to be an anniversary post of my last piece.

These days have been gloomy.  Not just physically because of the dark haze blanketing the entire nation region but also of the world and of our country.

My heart goes out to those who are running away from their beloved homes and pleading for help in neighbouring countries.  They didn't have to suffer because it was never their choice for such ill-fated situation in Syria.  Some European and South American countries opened their doors to welcome the worse migrant exodus since WWII really gave me some hope.  Whilst the hardening of hearts of Syria's rich neighbours say so much about their priority.  More and more I realised that civilization isn't about technology development nor economic wealth.  A civilized society is one that learns from its past and put steps into place to ensure it's civilians are and will be much better off than where they were yesterday.  Germany is probably the first nation that stood up and declared assistance and I can't think of a more apt country that one that has been ridden with a supremely bad past.  Nations are not deadwood, they're like brands and if they're like brands, they're like people.  They can have a soul and they can learn to respond to and with humanity.  That's civilization.

Coming back closer to home, whatever happened in Shah Alam stadium is a sports disaster that we wished had never happened.  Yes, what exactly happened?  Fans got unruly?  Fans couldn't contain their frustration?  Frustration to who?  Surely not to our Arab opponents for scoring?  Buried and building frustration towards the management of football in our country perhaps?  When will Malaysia learn the civilized way of showing displease?  Or care enough to stand up for the change or difference when the right time posed itself?  When?  Instead of internalizing everything and lashing it out on our sports friends.  Is education the root of this problem?  Is it work ethics?  Family values?  What is it?  I know what it isn't.  It isn't about football.  It's a hell lot of deeper underlying currents that have somehow weaved itself together and brought about such ill harvest.  So I tweeted to Khairy and asked that he does not give up.  I asked that he will continue to use sports to unite the nation.  And I would have loved to ask him to open his doors to people who are able, disregarding race, gender and religion.  Those who are objective and strategic.  Nation building, ministry building, company building, brand building - the fundamentals are the same.  Rubbish in, rubbish out.  Will he reply?  I don't know.  I guess it doesn't matter because frankly, who am I?  Am no Tan Sri nor Datuk.  Just a little spark.

So there you go.  Darkness looms as we desperately scramble for some hope.  I hope the clouds, haze and smog go away soon and return us some deep blue skies.  Sigh.