Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day of Rememberance by Dr Lukoye Atwoli.

If we forget our past, we are bound to repeat it.

One year ago this month, Kenya went to the polls with the hope that we would begin the new year with a new set of occupants in Parliament brimming with new ideas and plans for the nation. Instead, as the year closed, reports of widespread killings, looting and breakdown of law and order flooded the local and international media.

Kenyans spent New Year’s eve huddled in their homes digesting the import of the latest rumour doing the rounds via mobile phone text messages and FM radio stations, and woke up on the first day of 2008 to reports of mass murder and arson in the North Rift, with churches and schools not being spared. Many believed the end had come, and those that could, escaped to the relative safety of neighbouring countries. Others ran to the nearest police stations and churches to seek succour, while young men banded together to defend whatever was left of their families and property.

Although ethno-political flare-ups have been common in Kenya’s election cycle during this pluralist era, January to February 2008 must rank up there with the worst periods in our history. It would, therefore, be the height of folly for us to move into the next year without pausing for a moment to remember what happened after our elections. Though this collective amnesia would just be a continuation of our national character of “forgive and forget” when we are fearful of confronting the unpleasant realities of our past, this time, we must gather the courage to face this particular demon and say to its face: “Never Again!” We must remember what happened last year to begin the process of exorcising this curse of so-called political violence that repeatedly rears its ugly head every time there is some sort of political contest in this country.

As the philosopher Santayana says, ‘‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, and Kenyans should not delude themselves that they can move to build a future without interrogating their past.

Commemoration of tragic events in a nation’s past is one way of reducing the chances of their recurrence. It would therefore be a double tragedy for this country if after so much death and destruction we also learn nothing from the conflagrations of January.

It is necessary that the agencies involved in the humanitarian response to the post-election violence come up with a way for us to keep it in our memory for as long as it takes to ensure that a repeat is practically impossible.

The Government must designate a day when we remember the long dark night of terror that Kenya endured. A date in late December or early January should be designated the Day of Remembrance for all those who lost their lives, limbs or property. If this is not done urgently, it is a guarantee that as soon as the politicians engineer some other crisis to distract the citizenry, the lessons of the 2007 election will be forgotten.

Commemoration will also remind those that are still struggling to rebuild their lives that the nation has not forgotten, and that we have collectively vowed never to go down that road again. Our children will begin to develop a new morality, where it is not acceptable to hack your neighbour to death and burn his house just because you happen to have different political views or surnames.

If our political establishment is reluctant to remember this period for obvious reasons, then civil society organisations must take it upon themselves to maintain it on our national consciousness.
A day of peaceful processions and messages of peace would be a fitting reminder of what we went through.

Celebration of our diversity would also be a useful way to keep us focused on the project of nation-building that began when we acquired a national political consciousness and resolved to eject the colonial government and replace it with majority rule.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer, Moi University School of Medicine, Eldoret (article from Daily Nation Kenya, Tuesday December 30, 2008)

--- end of article ---

Every nation is marred by a moment so dark that it becomes an unspeakable truth for generations to come. Kenya a year ago, was shadowed by what was known as the most violent political upheaval post-independence. We too in Malaysia had our moment known as the 13th May incident. The racial clash nightmare that happened in year 1969. It was so bad that was subsequently swept under the carpet and remained hushed hushed, only worth certain brief mentions in the history text. It was never mentioned for fear of a similar occurence should the opposition win again. But really, if we don't remember it, shall we fear it? As from the article above by Dr. Lukoye, dates of such importance should be remembered and 'celebrated' lest history should repeat itself for those who lapse in memory. Such events should always be forgiven but never forgotten.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Out-of-town notice.

Away in the land of time-stopping sunsets. Will be back after three weeks :)

Have yourself a very very merry Christmas, full of extraordinary lovely surprises and a very very happy and fulfilling 2009.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The new BMW Z4 Expression of Joy.

Why does sportiness always conjure images of performance or aggressiveness? The vroom vroom? Check out new BMW commercial of how to communicate this 'sporty' feeling without shouting, being all laser tail lights, revvvvvving sounds, too fast too furious shots. The new Z4 embodies the true art of performance. Literally.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Does your brand have a social life?

An equally gung-ho-about-2.0 friend sent me this from mad.co.uk. I didn't have the time to read it until just now and absolutely have to share as it's right up the alley of some projects I'm currently considering working on. It's amazing how things just turn up at your doorstep when you have faith :)

--- start ---

Yann Motte, CEO of Webjam, discusses the part social networks can play in online branding.

Online branding has come a long way since the days when simply having a corporate website was seen as the cutting-edge. With the majority of purchasing decisions now being made online and an increasing number of online retailers, a unique brand web-presence and reputation will only become more essential. It is now common practice for brands to allow consumers to comment on them through blogs and forums and many brands also encourage consumers to share and remix brand content online through social networking sites. Yet, branding through social networks has still not matured into its full potential.

Branding through social networking appears deceptively simple, but is notoriously hard to execute. Not only are consumers extremely fickle about the information they will consent to pass on, but it is also increasingly difficult to be heard in our modern media-saturated environment. Yet, there can be no doubt that social networking can provide a powerful forum for brand building, since the influence of friend recommendations on purchasing decisions is well known. Additionally, social networking is fast becoming the conduit of choice for disseminating information very quickly, by making it easy to spread the word virally to “friends”. Add the ability to reach massive audiences (about whom you can access a lot of demographic and behavioural information) and you have a marketer’s dream. That being said, the interaction is very superficial at present. Brands need to go further in exploiting the potential to engage with their prospective followers that social media presents.

The popularity of the most well-known social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace, meant that they were often the first port of call for companies trying to build their brands through this new medium. However, marketers are now beginning to realise that the creation of a brand profile on these sites does not really achieve anything, since there can be no one to one relationship between a brand and a consumer. Simply having Nestle as a “friend” is unlikely to alter a consumer’s purchasing decisions. These brand “pages” have become little more than adverts embedded in social networking sites.

Brands need to encourage consumer interactivity in order to spread information about themselves across social networks. The future belongs to brands that will not only engage with their consumers but also empower them to create their own discussions on communities that they themselves manage. Consumers will soon be able to repackage the brand in their own words, which they are doing on some forums already, through reviews and recommendations. Brands may soon create their own social communities, with a goal more akin to social publishing than social networking. Social publishing refers to communities of consumers, who are drawn together online to form a community around a brand, a company or an organisation. Although a brand cannot communicate with individual consumers, these communities of consumers can connect and build relationships amongst themselves. These consumers can then collaborate on their own projects, inspired by their favourite brand or organisation - a shared passion for anything from Nike clothing to helping the NSPCC stop child abuse.

Social publishing allows consumer communities to cooperate across a wide variety of content such as blogs, forums, galleries, videos and polls. Through user generated content (UGC), social networking and shared editing of web-pages, consumers with similar interests can now collaborate on a common goal. Additionally, consumers should be able to talk to each other freely and not have the brand as the hub for all communications. However, brands may well choose to support community projects, such as sponsoring events or organising competitions.

Yet, the holy grail for most organisations is to build a character around their brand values that transcends what the product or service itself provides – to move from being a simple purchasing choice to a lifestyle statement. By allowing affinities between personalities to evolve toward affinities with a brand, social networks are a place where marketers can let brand personality blossom. If a brand has succeeded in communicating about its values, then it is normal that users start talking about those values rather than the product itself. For example, if Lucozade values sporting performance, then that is the type of discussions the brand should foster between
its users.

Within a brand network consumers can exchange tips, ideas and opinions not only about the product or service, but also about what the brand means to them or helps them achieve. It is through such networks that online branding will really come into its own.

(underline mine)
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Brands on social network need constant and careful monitoring. Unlike traditional media where bursts come and go, a social network once created cannot be undone less it brings unfavorable speculation towards the brand. Therefore, for those who are planning to go on a social network, be really careful and be ready to sleep, eat the brand, more so than ever now. Once a profile is created, it cannot be deleted overnight as it will leave footprints online. My advise is to engage a trusted team of brand guardians who are an all rounder - savvy in PR, branding, web 2.0, consumers, users, communications, etc - to take care of the profile. Building a presence amongst the consumers means brands have to be accountable and they are liable to questions posed by their fellow peers within the community. Honestly, how many brands can handle that kind of honesty?

*Interested in building a social life for your brand? Mail us here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jan Chipchase in Lift Asia 08 part II.

Something else he said.

It's easier to design for single use. Designing for shared use is always harder because it's more complex and there are more variables.

To what extent is this true when designing automobiles? Is there a husband's car and a wife's car? Of course there is but what distinctively separates the two other than usage? Is it the final call of decision made by the husband or the wife? What about the father and son? What about two sisters? Is this what Toyota mean by universal design? But didn't we learn that in order to serve happiness to people, we've got to put them into meaningful clusters to unearth their diverse needs? Remember, it's no more about the sweet spot, it's the sweet spots. So if that's the case, then how do we design a shared space that still maintains the personalization depending on who's using it, when? More space for mom's groceries? Same space for dad's golf clubs? How about a personalized temperature and music controller that remembers the driver? If I'm not mistaken, that is a technology of BMW (who else?). What else?

Friday, December 12, 2008

GM's official apology.

It'll be interesting to see how GM swings back from the rut starting from this statement:

GM's Commitment to the American People

We deeply appreciate the Congress considering General Motors' request to borrow up to $18 billion from the United States. We want to be sure the American people know why we need it, what we'll do with it and how it will make GM viable for the long term.

For a century, we have been serving your personal mobility needs, providing American jobs and serving local communities. We have been the U.S. sales leader for 76 consecutive years. Of the 250 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads today, more than 66 million are GM brands - nearly 44 million more than Toyota brands. Our goal is to continue to fulfill your aspirations and exceed your expectations.

While we're still the U.S. sales leader, we acknowledge we have disappointed you. At times we violated your trust by letting our quality fall below industry standards and our designs become lackluster. We have proliferated our brands and dealer network to the point where we lost adequate focus on our core U.S. market. We also biased our product mix toward pick-up trucks and SUVs. And, we made commitments to compensation plans that have proven to be unsustainable in today's globally competitive industry. We have paid dearly for these decisions, learned from them and are working hard to correct them by restructuring our U.S. business to be viable for the long term.

Today, we have substantially overcome our quality gap; our newest designs like the Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac CTS are widely heralded for their appeal; our new products are nearly all cars and "crossovers" rather than pick-ups and SUVs; our factories have greatly improved productivity and our labor agreements are much more competitive. We are also driven to lead in fuel economy, with more hybrid models for sale and biofuel-capable vehicles on the road than any other manufacturer, and determined to reinvent the automobile with products like the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle and breakthrough technology like hydrogen fuel cells.

Until recent events, we felt the actions we'd been taking positioned us for a bright future. Just a year ago, after we reached transformational agreements with our unions, industry analysts were forecasting a positive GM turnaround. We had adequate cash on hand to continue our restructuring even under relatively conservative industry sales volume assumptions. Unfortunately, along with all Americans, we were hit by a "perfect storm." Over the past year we have all faced volatile energy prices, the collapse of the U.S. housing market, failing financial institutions, a stock market crash and the complete freezing of credit. We are in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Just like you, we have been severely impacted by events outside our control. U.S. auto industry sales have fallen to their lowest per capita rate in half a century. Despite moving quickly to reduce our planned spending by over $20 billion, GM finds itself precariously and frighteningly close to running out of cash.

This is why we need to borrow money from U.S. taxpayers. If we run out of cash, we will be unable to pay our bills, sustain our operations and invest in advanced technology. A collapse of GM and the domestic auto industry will accelerate the downward spiral of an already anemic U.S. economy. This will be devastating to all Americans, not just GM stakeholders, because it would put millions of jobs at risk and deepen our recession. By lending GM money, you will provide us with a financial bridge until the U.S. economy and auto sales return to modestly healthy levels. This will allow us to keep operating and complete our restructuring.
We submitted a plan to Congress Dec. 2, 2008, detailing our commitments to ensure our viability, strengthen our competitiveness, and deliver energy-efficient products.

Specifically, we are committed to: - produce automobiles you want to buy and are excited to own - lead the reinvention of the automobile based on promising new technology - focus on our core brands to consistently deliver on their promises - streamline our dealer network to ensure the best sales and service - ensure sacrifices are shared by all GM stakeholders - meet appropriate standards for executive pay and corporate governance - work with our unions to quickly realize competitive wages and benefits - reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil - protect our environment - pay you back the entire loan with appropriate oversight and returns (underline mine)

These actions, combined with a modest rebound of the U.S. economy, should allow us to begin repaying you in 2011.

In summary, our plan is designed to provide a secure return on your investment in GM's future. We accept the conditions of your loan, the commitments of our plan, and the results needed to transform our business for long-term success. We will contribute to strengthening U.S. energy and environmental security. We will contribute to America's technical and manufacturing know-how and create high quality jobs for the "new economy." And, we will continue to deliver personal mobility freedom to Americans using the most advanced transportation solutions. We are proud of our century of contribution to U.S. prosperity and look forward to making an equally meaningful contribution during our next 100 years.
--- end of statement ---
These days, we're seeing so many official statements crawling online. I guess the net really does help in disseminating these important information to the right target. Realize how GM uses 'you' instead of the usual 'the American people' when referring to the third party as, well, third party? I guess that's because of how press releases are now syndicated to uncountable news sites, they will be shared (like how I did it here) and we're all bound to come across the same statements. Well, at least they did one thing right so far. They managed to address the reader in the most personal form possible, albeit in such an impersonal manner. They've addressed the 'yous' correctly.
First step right.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jan Chipchase in Lift Asia 08.

A profound statement - a prohibitive sign crops up when X number of people are behaving in the said prohibitive manner. Below the X number, perhaps a 'tut' in most Asian countries as a sign of disapproval or a frown or a raised eyebrow or even a simple displeased shake of the head in other lands will seemingly do the job - which is to communicate annoyance due to the disapproval of a certain behavior/mannerism.

But my question is, what is the number which X represents? Whether in whole or percentage that so call 'official-ize' this prohibitive behavior?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Social anthropology or art?

The Room Project by Annette Merrild, a classical and fine art student by nurture, but her work speaks volume of anthropological values. What started as a home project armed with a camera and a curious mind, had become a much followed series by itself, commanding attention from the art world all around. How often is it for anyone to be allowed to disrupt one's most private physical place which is the home with a clear intention to share it with strangers? How much of this 'notice' is shared with the owner to ensure that he or she is still willing to participate? And for those who did, to what extent did the owner allow raw footages of his/her home be taken without tidying up beforehand? Of which the result may still represent the culture of the country (as testified by the furniture, pieces of instruments, decorations, etc) but may have tainted our impression of the owner's real personality (when most of his/her stuff has been taken out of the picture, literally)? In what countries then, would the residents be okay with showing the world who they really are versus who they really are individually?

So which is it? Science or art?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Once again, the norm is challenged.

I've been faithfully keeping up with Malcolm Gladwell's books. The first two were smash hits and so is the third. I think any decent planners should have read at least one of his books.

Outliers disrupts the norm of societal beliefs and the conclusions we so often jump into when associating success with innate intelligence when it could seriously (and most simplistically) be a series of fortunate events happening to person A over person B. Of course, intelligence isn't some trivial fact that's easily dismissable but like basketball players, after being over a certain height criteria, the feet don't measure up as much anymore. Same goes to intelligence, hence I guess there is ultimately a limitation to the phrase 'brain over brawn'. In this century of knowledge economy, everyone cites the importance of smart working over simple hardwork. Malcolm Gladwell plays the devil's advocate in putting that phrase which so often is the cause of the common misunderstanding of 'taking the easy way out' into the interrogation room and in doing so, interrogates it well. Maybe our forefathers had it right all along. It's the hardwork spent toiling the soil that brings in the greatest harvest.

Mind opening.