Friday, September 21, 2007


Due to the overwhelming response :) I'm afraid I have to make some slight ammendments to the services Sparks has promised to offer. We will still do trend tracking and insight researches because that should be the basis and foundation of all strategies. However, we will not put a deadline to it if there's the slightest possibility that we won't be able to commit to it. But we will, share the information with our clients as and when our in-house projects complete :) So please hang in there and click here for the mentioned updates on Sparks' services.

And. We're proud to add another category into our portfolio.

We've been getting quite a few enquiries on being part of Sparks' trendspotting and STT (short for Sparks Teen Troopers) teams which is simply awesome. Thanks guys. For you who have applied, please be patient and continue to check back. We want to make sure the framework is ready and good-to-go before getting you in.

We're expanding - someone's coming on board :) But our recruitment still stays and we're always happy to have interns. Who knows when you'll meet a bright spark.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Collaboration with Brand Factor.

We scoured the globe and finally found the right research partner. From today, Brand Factor and Sparks will share research knowledge and resources as well as collaborate on a few exciting insight projects.


Headed by Siew Poh, Brand Factor was established in January 2004 as a total solutions provider in market research. Siew Poh is a specialised qualitative researcher with over 13 years of hands-on experience in moderating groups and conducting in-depth or business interviews. She is highly familiar and comfortable with various methodologies, approaches, areas of coverage as well as projective techniques commonly employed in qualitative research. She has accumulated a wealth of market, category and consumer knowledge through her immersion and handling of countless qualitative research projects from a diversity of product and service categories over the years.

She has a lovely family of four and is very much actively pursuing the key to her 14-year old son's blog.


This small but significant step aims to propel both Sparks and Brand Factor into providing more relevant research and insights with strategic input to their growing pool of clients, especially what's happening on the internet.

Check back for more news to come :)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why isn't the Matta Fair more singles friendly?

What does traveling mean to Malaysians? Do Malaysians ever travel alone and if they do, what are the cultural implications to that? Is it weird for a Malaysian to travel alone? Or is it seen as an achievement? Why isn't the wristband more singles friendly then? Does it tell us something?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sparks Teen Troopers

Enough is enough! Stop telling us, stop selling us, stop selling TO us. Teens have a mind of their own okay?


Sparks Teen Troopers is a special research division that is teen-centric from the beginning to the end. I must thank the guys at The Lab for the inspiration. I think it's an extremely good idea. Teens are not lab rats. Sorry, I mean Malaysian teens are not lab rats. It's time for them to don the coat and tell marketers what to do.

More on the mechanics soon.

Invitation to blog in KM Talk.

First of all I would like to thank Naguib for the invitation. Already I think it's a good idea to expose Malaysians to thoughts about K-economy and management, and now Sparks is invited to be part of the project! It's definitely in line with what Sparks is about which is knowledge sharing and networking. I am pleased :)

(Thanks again!)

And by the way... GREAT NEWS. We are now... official!!

Sparks Sdn Bhd (586958-H)

(Thank you everyone (and God) for making this happen!!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 6, 2007 - posting by Alcatel Lucent Teenlab

Are they telling us the truth?

Market research isn’t really a mystery. Usually, you can pretty much guess what results you’ll get. Sure, there are surprises but more often than not, you can see what’s coming. So to mix things up – and get to “real truth” researchers are now using Ethnography to see if what people report is really what they do.

In a recent article from The Economist, the reporters describe some interesting ethnographic findings that show how telecommunication technology is really being used by people around the world. If you are responsible for products or features, we think you’ll find the article interesting.

At The Lab, we strive to understand the user experience from our kids’ perspective. We aren’t watching them as they do their assignments, but our “diary method” of gathering data gives us interesting insights into their attitudes and behaviors. Most recently, we asked them to tell us about Social Networking with regard to their phone and computer. I bet we can guess what they will say – or can we?

We’ll have those results to share shortly.

(Posted by Chief Alchemist)
Notes from the Teen Lab at Alcatel-Lucent - The Teen Lab is an innovative primary research program focused on soliciting the end-user experiences of kids and technology from all over the globe.

Sparks Lesson: Marketing research is important; quant, qual and the works. But there will still be gaps on the real why people do the things they do. And for this reason, we need to be part of their life. Observe what they do, participate and understand. Like a friend. Brands always talk about being a friend, building a lasting relationship yet when they want to suss someone out, they get a middle person to do the job, they sit behind two-way mirrors, they deduce personalities from numbers. Is that how you make friends? Such an odd advertising world we live in.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Thought-to-ponder Day.

"As our jeep stopped, a cacophony of children ringed us, and our dubhashiya or interpreter led us to the Wanghem, the Angh's 'palace'. The'palace' is an outsize hut, 150 feet long and about 30 feet high from the ground to its ridge pole, built on the same design as the other huts but about four times larger. The Angh needs the extra elbow room as he has a wife (Wang chu), fifteen concubines and forty children." - excerpt from Where on Earth am I? by Jug Suraiya, pg 20.

p/s: bold mine

What makes a king king? The palace or the luxury to have 16 wives (or misfortune, depending...)? Would a king still need a palace if he didn't have such a big entourage? Or was it customary to 'fill up the space' since he could afford it?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Monday, September 3, 2007

Tai chor laa~

I'm sure most Chinese in Malaysia who are Astro subscribers are already familiar with the above video - the story about the magnificent shiny disc hero. Everytime I watch it, it cracks me up (like totally!). I think our hero is well on his way to becoming Malaysia's Golden Horse winner next year.

Anyway, what struck me as strange was the outcome of the ad. Its purpose is quite obvious which is to introduce Astro On Demand and make known that it's now available for subscription. I checked out the rates which, I must say, aren't cheap. I wonder how's the subscriber numbers coming along.

Then came one eventful afternoon when I went out lunch at a nearby kopitiam. And guess what? I finally met the real magnificent shiny disc hero selling the EXACT same titles to patrons. Strange. I don't remember TVB series coming in DVD formats. Not until after the series of commercials (above) was shown. I had this real urge to say, "Tai chor laa~" (translates: Watch already lar!) but I was afraid of suffering the consequences later, so I kept my mouth shut. He sounded like a Chinese (as in China Chinese) mafia although I managed to sneak a shot over his goods. This brings a huge question over my head. I'm pretty sure the last thing the commercial intended to do was to indirectly produce real life copycat shiny disc heroes. Instead the ad serves as a reflection of true Malaysian culture. But whatever it is, yea, it caught our attention and told us what we need to know except the pennywise aunties and housewives don't need to be a genius to figure out the difference between RM18 and RM55. One thing that the commercial unfortunately can never surpass, I guess, is delivering real life testimony.

Aunty 1: Eh clear or not wan ar?

Shiny disc hero: Of course la, 'pau ching' (confirmed clear) if not you come back change.

Aunty 2 (who doesn't know Aunty 1): Don't worry, this one very clear wan. I also got!

I think it will be kind of cool if Astro followed up with an on-ground guerilla campaign that really sent out these SD heroes to kopitiams and mamaks. Not to sell pirated DVDs of course, but to induce subscribers, or at least trials. It will surely be fun to see the real mccoy coming face-to-face with the copycat, no?

I'm afraid the concept of piracy in Malaysia is so well-entrenched that it probably takes decades of re-educating our children to get it right. Or. Not unless, movies and videos come for free online - by that I'm not exactly refering to YouTube videos but the On Demand kind. Then, we'll finally be able to say, "Tai chor laaaaa~"

Important disclaimer: Sparks does not condone the support of piracy!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

What's in a clan?

Birds of the same feather, flock together.

This isn't exactly anything new, right? Right. The formation of communities go way back since Adam and Eve went forth and multiplied. People of the same language, religion, race lived, worked, ate, socialised together because they all had a common binding point. Fast forward to future, a new marketing buzzword was form - peer group participation. Within these communities, subgroups were formed according to demographic profiles. And within these subgroups, even smaller nuclei began to develop. Amongst campus students alone, we see people conforming into different fashion styles and hobbies and what have you. I still remember one of my very first encounters of such peer group formation is when cybergames hit the town. Overnight, there were young people recruiting friends into their little clans. A really popular one which I can remember was called Atomic - according to them, they were atomic - quick and deadly in the world of Quake. Subsequently, they formed their own chat channels on the then super popular mIRC - Microsoft Inter Relay Chat. Most of the time, 'outsiders' were allowed to hang out in the channel. Not unless they don't like you, then obviously they can turn you into an instant social outcast, barring you from their chatroom. Such vehemence! I heard someone exclaimed recently that it was IRC which really brought the kids in Klang Valley together. Everyone knows everyone in #mamak and #happyhours. You'd know what I'm talking about if you were born somewhere between 1975 and 1985 :)

Online communities have since evolved into more complex social groups spanning infinitely beyond age, gender, ethnicity and nationality in the virtual world. If you can name a cause, a life dilemma, a social status, even a product which binds people together, add a dotcom and chances are you'll find 'the others' with similar interests. As Gary Marshall puts it, we're lonesome no more :) Check out BMW owners club, local opportunist Tumpang-ers, made in Malaysia indie bands, DiGizens and their friendsters, the albeit small but purposeful Norah Jones fans and something really grassroot, our own footie supporters. The list is growing as more and more people realise the power of a community and the wisdom of the crowd. Even marketers realise the importance of web. But while they still lag in building corporate-oriented homepages and/or ad hoc promotional sites, the real people are starting to evolve beyond those prehistoric usage of the net.

Okay. I'll take one question now.

Your question: Yea, but since broadband penetration is so low in this country and most users are still on dial-up, is there any point building such sophisticated web content and community at all at this point?

My answer: The difference between dial-up and broadband is the amount of time you spend waiting for YouTube to stream (when it starts to stream). Not really on the way you interact with other netizens or communities. You'd still be able to access Wikipedia on the slowest dial-up, no? You just have to wait 10 decades for it to load :) Besides, do you really need to learn how to row before knowing how to steer... a motor boat?


I took this photo while on my recent visit to Mid Valley. I saw a dad and his kid having a ball (literally) on this motion-sensing video game. I guess this proves that video gaming is no longer an addiction men can't seem to grow out off but a legitimate-women-won't-understand hobby that will bridge stronger relationships between new age dads and juniors.

With young families getting all wired up, can video gaming fill the relationship gap between generations? Will kids grow up experiencing a kind of closeness with dad whom the latter never had the opportunity to? The problem with many Malaysian families is the absence of similar interests that help strengthen bonds - parents and children not spending enough time together doing things both parties enjoy. How many of us remember our childhood when we involuntarily tag along to anywhere our parents go? Instinctively pursue what our parents approve of? (With the exception of the few of course... baa baa~)

Fathers of yesterday may lock up the keyboard to force their children to concentrate on other 'worthier' hobbies while dads of today probably enjoy a certain closeness with junior thanks to Sony Playstations :) Since men aren't the world's most natural nurturers, can then game creators design game software that help dads to tutor sons and daughters? Can games be more than just games? When children beat dads in an educational game, will the latter feel elated over his child's obvious improvements or will he feel as though he has 'lost face' because he is after all, Dad?