Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2010 BMW 740d.

I remember blogging about CAR UK's interview with Adrian van Hooydonk where Stephen Bayley commented how ugly the previous 7-series was.

But this new 740d with x-Drive and M-sport kit is something which I think BMW finally came back to the design philosophy of its family which they've (somehow) departed from.
3.0l, twin turbocharges putting forth 306 horsepower and 600Nm of torque that goes from 0-100km/h in 6.3s (whoa, considering the size), 19-inch wheel (optional 20) with quad-exhaust. Nice. Suddenly the 7-series driver doesn't look so old anymore.

It's strange that a lot of autobrands are revealing their 2010 models now. Maybe to spark some market anticipation in these dark times?


Brand Attributes vs Brand Essence.

Read in Branding Strategy Insider:

What Are Brand Attributes?

Attributes are more often used when referring to products than brands. A product's attribute might be a function or a feature. These functions and features often lead to consumer benefits. However, brands can have attributes too. The attributes may be personality attributes or they may be derived from the brand's products' attributes.

A brand's essence, on the other hand, has a very specific meaning. A brand's essence is its "heart and soul," its timeless quality. It describes who it is at its core. I like to express a brand's essence as [adjective adjective noun], so for Nike, it is "Authentic athletic performance" and for Starbucks it is "Rewarding everyday moments." Disney's essence is "Fun family entertainment."

*** end of excerpt*

Simple concise explanation.

Honda City's 1st official roadtrip.

Last weekend was our inaugural Honda City Facebook event. It was a long and tedious process in organising it because it was our first time. But I reckon, the return of learning is so much more than what we've initially set out to achieve. The second time will definitely definitely definitely be a whole lot better (just love troubleshooting stuff ;).

Just wondering how many of these branded communities actually provide these sort of experience? The beauty of social media is to have many unintended by-products after every 'stimulation'. We may set out to achieve something which at the end of the day, realize that we couldn't. Instead achieve something else instead. How does managing the client's expectation come into play here? Where traditional media has always been providing black and white figures and ROI. Even internet advertising. But social media? How do you measure experience? How do you corelate experience with sales? With brand equity? Social media is the new 'priming' method, if you ask me. At least at this point of time, it'll be hell hard to measure anything tangible to revenue and profits. Hmm.

Having said all that. Do check out the page for more exciting photos and videos throughout this entire week and perhaps next. We've got some really interesting test drive shots ;)

Heartfelt thanks to VM, Team City and of course the Dentsu team. Appreciate y'all!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Augmented reality and social shopping.

Brings us to the fundamental question. Attire shopping for decades have been a physical experience, can augmented reality really pull off? Purchasing something, as we know, is not just a transaction of money. But the entire experience of being able to talk to someone, feel the fabric on your skin, be inspired by the surroundings (which is why designer brands' window displays look more like an art gallery), smelling the new fabric and being cajoled by the subliminal in-store music and messages. With the introduction of technology, what can replace these fundamentals and what can't? And how important even are all these 'senses' in our shopping experience?

Reminds me of couple of years back where the whole hoo hah of Second Life and the MTV Hills/Laguna Beach virtual community. But where is it now?

Looking for Content Strategist and Writer.

We (Dentsu U) are looking for a full-time content writer (preferably with journalism/publishing background, PR experience would be great) who can strategize and produce a variety of content (not limited to text but good English is mandatory) for web, ranging from automotive to travel guides. This person will be working with myself and another team mate under Content Planning & Production. He or she also needs to possess own transport.

We're looking for a mid-weight person (experience not kilograms yo) who is nice. Great attitude determines greater aptitude.

Boys and girls are welcome.

Please mail me here. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cub Prix Malacca.

Compare the Cub Prix race with Super GT. Compare the manner of which the brand is projected, portrayed and received. How do you maintain the sophistication of a global brand without becoming too distant from your market (consider the fine line between aspirational and snobbish)? Reminds me of the grafitti/painting ads of Safari.com (and almost every other telco)in Kenya. Where branding is simple, straightforward and painted on houses. CI? What CI? Where the distortion of the logo is secondary to presence. But it's still seen as an effective form of advertising. Makes me rethink about sophistication in so many different levels.

The pit.

T'wasn't an easy day as we had to conduct a 300-respondent survey under the hostile sun. But it got me to rethink about the process. The effectiveness, productivity as well as morale. Hmm. But all is good when I came back to this:

Kinda cheers anyone up, doesn't it?

Honda Dream the Impossible.

Hmm. What do you think?

Super GT 2009 in Sepang.

Some photos. Was a scorching day but not as bad as Cub Prix in Malacca (up next). Shown below are only exterior and team shots of two out of five Honda Racing NSX teams. Interior shots are forbidden for obvious reasons since that's where almost all of the secrets are hidden. We've got an exclusive interview with Tanaka Hiromasa-san, Project Manager of the NSX-GT Team , explaining the engineering and thinking that went behind the legendary supercars. Delicate job without over divulging.

Here are team Yoshiki and Kunimitsu. Race over to HRM's facebook for more info and photos.

Almost famous. Almost ;)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Featured in Advertising+Marketing Magazine.

We've been featured on Advertising+Marketing Magazine. Although the reporting is not 100% accurate. Correction: This isn't a nationwide roadshow. It's an inaugural roadtrip happening this weekend for 2009 Honda City FB fans which allows them an exclusive test drive opportunity. And the itineraries are exclusive content featured in the page for fans.

Hmm. Yup, the above is quote unquote from me.

But hey, thanks to Honda. Thanks to Mediavest. Thanks to VM. And thanks much A+M for the coverage. We're happy to share ;)

Test drive - Subaru Impreza S-GT 2.0 Turbo.

After hearing so much about the Subaru Impreza, I finally got around to test drive one. Because I vowed I would test out a Japanese turbo following the GTi. And the verdict is. Overated? (Ya, I'm sure it would have been a much different experience if it was the 2.5 WRX but it wasn't available for test drive anyway).

Although, I'm no auto-junkie and perhaps don't know as much about turbocharged cars as all you too fast too furious (self-proclaimed or not) automotive gurus out there, but comparing a 2.0 to a 2.0, the Subaru Impreza failed to impress. Don't misunderstand me, the pick-up and drive was very smooth except for some delay in the vehicle's response (due to the 4WD perhaps?) but it was a little too... smooth? It felt like a more powerful Civic 2.0 with a slightly harder suspension. It felt... Japanese.

The S-GT serves a maximum output of 250PS at 6,000rpm versus 200 at 5,100 from a Golf GTi. Although on paper, the 50 extra horses seem impressive but when it comes to the real drive, it should equal out since the S-GT needs to send power to all four wheels instead of the usual two. Also, I think what breathes life into the GTi is the 6-speed Direct Shift Gearbox which is a dual-clutch automated manual gearbox that allows faster-than-split-second shifts between the current and the next pre-selected gear, while the S-GT's SPORTSHIFT is a 4AT that during sports drive, some power is inevitably lost due to shifts delay. I think most sporty-positioned vehicles come with paddle shifters these days, but I still prefer stick shifters. Somehow it just feels more... 'authentic'. I don't know if the Subaru has better fuel consumption (I reckon, if you're on sports mode, you don't really think about saving fuel, do you?) especially when it's an all-wheel drive vehicle. But comparing kerb weight, it is lighter than the GTi though which really makes me wonder how much difference in terms of stability, does it make for both vehicles to be running on 200km/h.

What surprised me was, I was half expecting a less-than-comfortable ride with suspension that will tone up your bum over every bump. But the Impreza is really, and I mean, really comfortable. In terms of seat support, I think it's more comfortable than the GTi, for long drives especially. And also, apparently the back passenger seats are longer providing more comfort and support. GTi's shorter, so you get legroom but not the same comfort. Well it depends. If you don't intend to take passengers (which I don't plan to), then...

The interior trim is minimal. What you see is only what truly needs to be there, functionally. Therefore the GTi outruns it in terms of functions and features. The only funky part of the S-GT is the Clarion audio system which glow changes colour. So you get this rainbow glow in your car at night. Hmm. Not sure about that, but hey. It's funky. The overall feel is a little plasticky and I think all Japanese makes purchase their door panels, buttons and knobs from the same supplier. They are exactly the same panels, buttons and knobs. For a hefty RM185k, I think you'd expect something more... substantial?

All Subaru cars have a Horizontally-Opposed engine mounted which they call the Subaru BOXER, which is supposed to stabilize the car further, especially during high speed due to the 'symmetrically-positioned pistons that would counteract each other to cancel out engine vibration'. It was raining quite heavily during my test drive, so although I still managed to hit 160km/h comfortably but I wasn't able to really push the car during corners to test if it sticks as well (hey, with 3 other passengers with me on wet tyres, I'm not that crazy, you know). Just for your info, the Subaru clocks in 6.0s from 0 to 100. The above is the Subaru BOXER from WRX not S-GT.

I'm not exactly sure where this car fits into the people's purse, but it's very niche. Extremely niche. They only sell less than 20 units for the entire year. That's how niche. But all in all. It's been a pleasant experience. For me and one of my more enthusiastic passenger, the drive was considered... boring though. For something in this category. I don't know. Seems like all turbo cars are getting more and more refined. News has it that the new Mk6 GTi will also be more refined with improvements on the suspension in order to put more comfort back to the performance driving experience. More like a BMW thing, isn't it? While everyone says that BMW is passe because they've forgotten what the ultimate driving experience is all about but you have to admit that, they are still the first to put this refinement back into their sporty mass models. And everyone else is still following? If you want the ultimate driving experience. Get an M car.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Visit Malaysia, visit Malacca (our world heritage site).

There've been sparks of nationalism going around these days. Government bashing or ahem, I mean debates are trendy. But I'm considering a more positive way to support my country as part of my responsibility as a Malaysian passport holder (and tax payer). I shall try to share as much about life from this side of our world as possible. These are the textures and tastes, inspiration and intricacy of one out of two of our world heritage sites, Malacca.

And these are my perspectives.

Something about old things looking too new that makes this out of place. But, love the sudden-talent ;)

We are an educated (or civilized) bunch. Consider who this message is intended for. Either 'we' or 'you', the tourists.

I remember it being much tastier when I was really young. And the shop we used to visit, if my memory serves me right, is still there. Over touted perhaps, but sometimes, it's the place they bring you back that's timeless.

The most famous 'ice dessert' for melting days, but not for the faint hearted - Durian Cendol.

Not a fan of the 'King' but, hey, looks good to me.

Fusion of old and new art. And Toon enjoying herself.

Organised chaos.
In absence of Cat, ze German took his place.
The most overlooked texture.

Organised chaos no. 2.

In every city, there is a story of a local hero. A creative rebel.

Vintage but not quite.

Most overlooked texture no. 2.

How technology is picked and chose and for what purpose.

The ideal life.

R&D 2.0.

It's strange to hear that even R&D has a point-oh version. That shows how much social media is driving social changes which ultimately affects political and economic situations and pretty much everything else.

The following excerpt is from Harvard Business:

This global R&D 2.0 strategy calls for a talent recalibration in MNCs' R&D labs in emerging markets. I suggest that multinationals, besides employing technically-oriented engineers and scientists, begin to staff their R&D units in developing nations like India with two other types of experts, namely:

Anthropologists and ethnographers. By having anthropologists study and interact with end-customers in their natural settings, Western firms can learn to tailor their business models and offerings to match users' socio-economic and cultural context. For example, Intel's People and Practices Research (PaPR) employs sociologists and ethnographers who spend months in emerging markets embedded in grassroots communities to identify the latent needs of local consumers. Dr Genevieve Bell, one of PaPR's anthropologists, traveled extensively across China and India observing people in their homes to find out how they use and what they want from technology. Her ethnographic insights shaped Intel's groundbreaking pricing models and partnership strategies for Chinese consumer market.

Development economists. Since the 5 billion people who form the middle and the bottom of economic pyramid earn very low incomes, they can't afford the expensive goods and services designed for (upper) middle-class consumers. Multinationals are reacting to this market reality by having their local R&D engineers design trimmed-down, low-end versions of their high-end products. But that's not enough. To effectively lure low-income buyers into procuring their low-end goods and services, multinationals need the help of development economists who can concoct creative pricing and financing mechanisms, such as microcredit schemes. For instance, Whirlpool is working with development economists at RTI International and the University of North Carolina to create new microfinance models that will enable Whirlpool to cost-effectively commercialize its appliances to millions of low-income households within emerging markets like India and Mexico.

To effectively carry out their global R&D 2.0 strategy, CEOs of multinationals must give themselves a target of staffing at least 40% of their R&D labs in emerging markets with sociologists and micro-economists by 2015. To promptly achieve this goal, MNCs need to cast their recruitment net a bit wider. In India, for example, in addition to hiring the cream of engineering students from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), MNCs' local HR directors should also recruit bright graduates from reputed social sciences institutions like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi.

Goldman Sachs predicts that the bulk of the global economic growth over the next three decades will occur in emerging markets like India, China, and Brazil. But multinationals can't capture this explosive growth unless they first upgrade their technically-skewed innovation model to a multidisciplinary R&D approach.

*** end of excerpt ***

I think everything around us is built for us, which is why ethnography was and should always be part of the design discipline. Whether it is design design, or any other form of creation (product or service) which ultimately serves the people, research should be centered around them. But my question is how 'professional' should these researchers be? Would an undergraduate certificate prove someone to be more adept in observation and asking the right questions and therefore produce better and more analytical results than another? While, ethnography graduates may be trained in this field but it is understandable that they're quite a hefty investment and perhaps may not even take priority in the hiring hierachy. However, having said that, I do believe that individuals who are natural observers who can think in-between fields, can hold equal grounds with those who were nurtured from this stream.

While I think R&D 2.0 sounds really cool and brings research to a whole new level but I don't necessarily agree that it is one person's job nor an exclusive department. Every micro-system in place to serve the bigger operation should be consistently monitored and constantly improved on. Which is more important? The system that's in placed for the people, or the people who are manning the system? I think both are important. To perfect the system for the people manning it and for those who should benefit from it. This does call for some sort of ethnographic study, no? It is a very heavy investment. But the difference in deliverables is in the details of all these micro functions, no? Times are bad and perfectly understand that. So instead of hiring engineers and ethnographers, the engineers should learn ethnography, no? But hey, if you're the size of Intel or Nokia. Why not?

Kia Forte Koup TVC.

Forget about the car (nice try though). Forget about the. Ahem. Creative idea or storyline. And the song irks me. But what I would really like to draw your attention to is the shooting angles. Especially the 13th second, and the last frame at 28th. The car did not skid, drift, or do anything funky stunts, but it's all shooting tricks and smart editing to achieve the same 'performance' effect. Nice.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Civil servants to not use the Internet?

"They are also not allowed to go into online chat sites and use the Internet for their own personal reasons or business and political activities"

So. Meaning kita kembali ke bawah tempurung ya?

Like I mentioned before. IF. This post is the last you'll ever read from this blog. Please visit me at you-know-where with chicken rice. Thanks.

Green Buddies Drinks.

Our monthly drinking session to discuss about green stuff.

Deutsches Haus seems like a green enough place to talk green.

Always the greenie dilemma: Is it okay to eat pork? Or should we all save the pigs and become vegans?

Chris animated with Amirul and his ice lemon tea.

Serious discussion taking place.

Stop judging. Nawwar is cool enough to not care the stares she gets while getting on with the green job just because her ignorant and selfish colleagues (read: us) decide to have beer with roast.

Je je trying to be cute.

While Sue Yin doesn't even need to try.

Burp. Good work everyone.

So we've started the in-house monthly recycling program, green-letters to talk about our initiative and stir awareness of green issues and looking into cost cutting measures in terms of office purchase, in order to be more careful with spending, and spending only on eco-friendly products.

Next up, volunteered by Amirul, we should be cleaning some waterfall somewhere ;)

By the way, the above photos were taken by the Nokia E71. On a totally separate unrelated note, whilst the phone has excellent usability (especially for data usage), the camera is (as you can see) far from average. E series is mostly targeted to business execs with a hell lot of data usage but who says data doesn't come in photo format? Hmm.

Browser for the better: Microsoft's attempt to feed America?

Text in white box says:
"For every download of Windows Internet Explorer 8 from this site, we will donate 8 meals to Feeding America to help accelerate an end in hunger in this country. Internet Explorer 8 is completely free and comes with exciting new features including Accelerators, Web Slices and In-Private Browsing. To learn more about Internet Explorer 8, click here."

While it is a very commendable action taken by Microsoft, but I've got a question with regards to the positioning of the Microsoft brand in this 'seemingly' noble and innocent cause. When I read it. The first thing that came to my mind, is how a noble intention can backfire and tarnish the brand. So you're Microsoft. You're big. And you can feed a lot a lot a lot of Americans anytime. For free (because you said Internet Explorer 8 IS downloadable for free). But you're not doing it. Because we're not downloading it. I can't help but carry this image of poor hungry Americans being held hostaged in my head. So whether THESE people got fed, depends on whether WE google with IE 8?! That's absurd!

While we're not saying that it's a bad idea. But I think the angle of communication could be better. We've talked so much about social business. Profitable social business with no unnecessary guilt trips. So yea, I do understand that downloading IE8s IS profitable business to Microsoft. But to hold people (hungry ones and internet users) as hostages? Hmm. Bad idea. Perhaps it could have been better, if the brand had 'partnered' users in a different way to feed America? Perhaps it could be as simple as, taking the first step to feed 10,000 hungry Americans EVERY DAY, and for every extra download, we'll donate more meals? Or prolong the feeding program? I just think it's a really bad idea to put a condition to doing charity. If there is a 'if you do this, then I'll do that' clause then it's not very charitable anymore is it? There is no such thing as conditional charity! You either do or do not. The 'bigger' person (in this case, is big ol' Microsoft) should just take the lead and make that change.

Well, you be the judge.