Friday, March 30, 2012

Can you recognize its face?

If you see passion, can you recognize her?

Making your passion your work is a lot like marriage. You love the person but doesn’t mean it’s fairytale land that you will live in forever and ever.

After the honeymoon, there are still the dishes to wash, trash to take out and floors to mop.

Passion as work is a lot like that. You may love to work your passion and make passion your work, but passion doesn’t come naked like that.

The satellites to passion are menial boring work. Work you least want to do. Let’s call them paper work, bankers, rent, cash flow, meetings, cold calls. 

Yeah, now you get it.

How pretty is your passion? 

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

What do you love now?

Passion is contextual. What you like now may not be what you like later. Remember how you wanted to be a teacher when you were younger, growing up with teacher parents? Wow, the respect they got. You thought to yourself, “Yeah, that’s what I want to be.” It’s your passion you said.

Then you grew up, you discovered by and large teachers are paid peas for an elephant’s work. Ah, maybe not you told yourself.

Your interest changes all the time through people you meet, work you do, films you watch and books you read. And the challenge is people misread interest for the moment or even an extended period of time as ‘passion’.

Then what happens? You move from one thing to another. Getting frustrated along the way.

What’s your passion now?

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Can passion put food on the table?

Assuming you discovered your passion. (Congrats.)

Now what? Now you have to make sure that your passion makes money. There are only so many socks puppet people will buy, no?

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for passion. Just don’t have too romantic an idea about passion and work and bread on the table.

Very. Different. Things.

Can it be the same? Of course it can. But that takes work. Mountains of it. Can you pay the price?

Doubt it. Because when you bought into passion, you thought intrinsically it means less work. Sorry. Here’s a wet blanket. Passion takes even more work than if you just do regular work you hate.

Why? Because passion demands commitment. 

Are you ready for work yet?

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where is the light?

I was driving out from my neighbourhood yesterday at 9.08am 26 March 2012 and there right in front of me were rays of sunlight piercing through the clouds. As I was soaking it all in, I caught my friend – Kelvin Chan (photographer extraordinaire) catching it on his camera. Teased him via sms if it was nice, he sent this saying it’s taken from his iPhone, no digital imaging, no tricks. Now I get to share it with you (Thank you, Kelvin).

©Kelvin Chan 2012

It’s one of my favourite scenes in nature. Now and then you catch this dance in front of you.

I think I like it because as an entrepreneur you are always looking for the light. It’s like heaven saying, “There is always hope.” Always.

Fiat lux.

I think you get reminders to dispel ignorance every day. And let wisdom pervade above, below and across.

Where is the light? Everywhere.

What do you see in darkness?

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Monday, March 26, 2012

What is the reality of your passion?

Every now and then I am reminded of the pain I was served by the bucket full when I counseled people on their work. Inevitably, passion as a topic will always appear. 

People buy into the whole romance of pursuing your passion and you shall not work another day. BS!

Do I not believe in passion? Of course I do. I even created a model that has passion in it in order to create great work.

Here’s the thing people do not understand. Sometimes passion needs to be discovered. And the process of discovery can be very difficult, painful and map-less. Sorry. You will have to create a path. There is no map. 

Even if there is a map? The map is not the destination.
Are you ready for the pain of discovering your passion?

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Do you have great marketing techniques?

If your marketing techniques work, that’s great. But if marketing were to be an art form, and I would argue that it is, then the greatness of your art will be dependent on your canvas, medium and execution. 

Surely, not every canvas will be the same. And mediums behave differently.

More than that, the greatness of your art form will depend on how you are at ONE with it (I think that’s what Zen masters call it.) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it "Flow".

“Technical knowledge is not enough. One must transcend techniques so that the art becomes an artless art, growing out of the unconscious.” – Daisetsu Suzuki

What is your art form?

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

How are you building trust?

Yes, it is about telling the truth. But surely no corporation would tell every truth about their brand. So what else can you do?

Well, for starters. Empathize. When you can feel how the consumers feel and they know you feel for them - that are one way to inch the trust further.

Secondly, your own self-awareness. What does your brand stand for? How does it speak? You know, the tone and personality of your brand? The manner in which it ‘talks’? It must be believable. 

Whatever you say in your ads, the net take out about your brand must be that I can trust this brand. It’s not about portraying yourself to be a good corporate citizen. What with consumers’ cynicisms today, every word you buy in advertising will be read with scorn.

But if you can say it in a sincere manner and empathize with the consumer, generally consumers give you some leeway to believe your message. They know, you are a business entity, you are there to sell. They allow you that. They just don’t want to be suckered. No one likes that feeling.

You are funny with the jokes that you tell. If you explain the punch line, you probably aren’t that funny. 

Why should they believe you?

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Who will write your obituary?


Every. Single. Day. 

When you are gone, we hope there is enough good stuff for us to summarize into a nice little story. 

Perhaps one that will make us cry writing it because we miss you

And makes us smile because your life tilted ours positively. 

What are you leaving us? 

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What is your language hiding?

Most people know you should not underestimate the competitor. But how many can truly do it? How often do you hear people in your organization running down the competitor? Or gives comments that you wonder where it originates?

For example, “we should not worry about XYX, they are too big. They will ignore us the small fry.” Or “we should not worry about ABC, they are too small, what can they do to us.”

Anytime someone talks like that I am curious as to what those words are hiding. Especially, when it is hidden with marketing sound bites.

It’s also a signal perhaps someone from within the organization should be saying, “Let’s have a second look.” 

How vulnerable do you think you are?

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Monday, March 19, 2012

What’s hitting you soon?

It shouldn’t take a crisis to make you realize that you have done things wrong in many ways. In fact, all crises creep up on you. When it hits, you just label it as a very bad ‘accident’. Or a ‘crisis’.

Did these phenomena all start small and accumulate enough criteria to fulfill before they become a crisis? (Ok, the word ‘crisis’ will not make you pay attention to this entry. It’s too ‘uncommon’. It’s not real.)

Let’s use the word problem. Before a problem became a problem did it not start with a seed and slowly accumulated enough points to qualify as a problem? Go ahead. Choose one problem you faced today. Back track. Somewhere along the line if you had not ignored it, this problem would not have happened.

Stuff creeps up on you. You ignored it. It becomes a problem.

What internal sirens do you have?

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Why are you not progressing?

Sometimes you maybe too attached to the memories to what has worked. You are after all just memories of what we have been. Memories make you what you are today. Put another way, your history made you.

So you are attached to your history. Of what worked and what did not work. Suppose you did not have the shackles of history, what would you do?

A new marketing manager who takes over your place and is supposed to clean up the ‘mess’ you have created now. What will he or she do?

This person wouldn’t be attached to your history and that new perspective makes it easy to make important decisions.

What is holding you back?

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

How are you recycling?

If you are an experienced person in your field, it’s good to want to share and pass on the wisdom. It’s also very good to have some humility.

We understand your experience can only be won on the battlefield of the marketplace. The rest of us know, no amount of creativity can surpass the time you spent creating those credentials of yours. But pride in your work should be balanced with humility. Otherwise, your arrogance locks the door to opportunities. 

Don’t let your experience go to waste, but don’t let it get in the way either.

What do you have to share?

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What’s in your recipe?

In nature, things very rarely work on its own. 

Everything is inter-related. A plant needs nutrients, water and light to grow. For the lion’s pride to survive, the rain has to stop so the wilder beast would migrate to other water holes close to the lion’s territory. 

You want good health? Eat a balanced diet, rest, exercise 30 minutes a day, drink lots of water. 

You get the idea.

So, I find it interesting when marketers tend to rely on just one thing or one medium expecting it to deliver optimum results. If you want optimum results, you must know what is the combination of things that will deliver the results you want.

What’s your combination?

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What if it is a piece of art?

What if you treat what you sell (ok, ok what your R&D department or your boss forced upon you to create) as a piece of art you created?

Would that inspire you to think of a better way to market your brand? Think of a better story to tell? One that is immensely more motivating for your consumers?

So, if you imagine the pen you are selling as an art piece of your creation. You would tell your story with a different sort of passion. You wouldn’t just be a product manager. You would be an artist.

What is your real job?

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Monday, March 12, 2012

What street fights have you been in?

Sometimes applying what you learned in your years of marketing and applying it, is a lot like learning a martial art and hoping for it to work in a street fight.

You know your basics, your patterns and your set sparring steps – whether it be one-step or 3-steps or whatever your sifu taught you. But knowing these or even having a ‘formula’ as to what works in sparring sessions is very different in a street fight.

In the market, consumers change all the time. Trends, fads or even information and news about your category can change the way your brand is consumed. In the market, your competitors change all the time. Not just the characters that runs the department or brand but the way they will try to outsmart you. In the market, regulators may like to change their minds all the time.

Having a set of basics is a start. Applying it in the right context, that takes experience.

What do you know about yourself?

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Friday, March 9, 2012

How do you feel when plans do not work?

No one needs to tell me being an entrepreneur takes longer, is harder, and hurts more than anyone will tell you about. Or you would expect. Not that anyone will tell me.

But I think the journey of an entrepreneur can be a great lesson for any marketer in any small, medium and immensely huge behemoth corporations.

I think one of the best lessons is when plans do not work and the values of getting lost. Both makes you learn how to manage anxiety, create and keep walking.

What do you learn when you are lost?

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

What did you learn today?

Using versus understanding.

Being a user doesn’t make you an expert. More than being a user, you need to understand.

It is interesting that there are still marketers out there who feels, being a user of social media automatically makes them good at social media marketing.

It’s also interesting that some other marketers feel they know all about the utility of a website. Just because they have had a website for a very long time.

I surely hope, just because you can make a cup of coffee from instant coffee powder, doesn’t make you a barista.

How will you unlearn?

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How long have you served?

In one of the scenes in “The Patriot”, Benjamin Martin (a character played by Mel Gibson) told his son, “That Gates is a damn fool. Spent too many years in the British army, going muzzle to muzzle with Redcoats in open field. It’s madness. This battle was over before it began.” He was referring to the inappropriate tactics deployed by the Continentals against the British.

I am reminded of this scene each time someone gets too comfortable with their tactics or when someone gets too lazy to innovate.

You see something working well and you copy it, whether it is a formula you have perfected or one your competitor has deployed. 

Sometimes that can be a formula for disaster.

Better yet, I think, invent new tactics. Let your competitor keep up. And yes, potentially even flank your competitor.

Is your battle over before it even began?

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where’s your confession booth?

The fear of failure can lead you to strive and work harder. It can lead you to success. But the fear of failure has a very detrimental side-effect; it can make you ignore facts that point you to potential failure.

Because you are so obsessed with avoiding failure, you do not even want to entertain the fact that you maybe failing. So, you turn a blind eye to what is presented before you. You ignore every well-intentioned advice. 

In fact, if you had faced the facts early, you maybe able to avert failure. But no, you prefer to surround yourself to ‘yes men’, people who will reinforce your beliefs. You prefer to interpret results and numbers in a context that will look more beautiful to you.

What are you denying today?

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Where’s your marketing enlightenment?

Let’s face it.

You are unlikely to achieve your marketing nirvana. 

The nirvana of your marketing plan is pulled between your fantasized ideals and intolerable anxiety. The former, you are too afraid to reach, too much work, too little time, your boss will never say yes. The latter, you confuse it with risk and so you will never do it.

The safe passage for you it is then, good sir. Always somewhere in between. Neither here, nor there.

All fine and good. Just don’t push others to push the envelope.

If you enjoy seeing places you have seen but never been, you are better off watching the National Geographic channel,

How’s your marketing heaven?

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Is your gene signaling at the right time?

Something is wrong if you are doing the same thing you did last year. If you are feeling cozy, ring that internal fire alarm. If your marketing bed feels comfortable, wake up.

You maybe failing to realize that you are being repositioned. You may be a victim of your own laziness, your ego and your own comfort.

What’s to love about change anyway? It means effort, it means discomfort from unfamiliarity. But change is necessary for survival. Heck, it’s necessary to thrive. That’s how homo sapiens got here.

In nature, forest fires happen and the forest renews itself.

What’s your renewal mechanism?

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

What’s your special sauce?

Once you have reached a certain formula for success for your brand – you know the kind of promotions that works, the hot buttons to push, the right words to say – what else do you do?

Do you leave it? Let’s not fix what is not broken, you tell yourself? Not realizing that “not broken” doesn’t mean functioning at its optimum.

I liken it to dishes you cook every day - same style, same vegetables, same sauces. After a while….


So, marketing is much like cooking it can actually taste better with a little dash of irrationality, a sprinkle of risk, and a trickle of unknown. That should spice things up.

Do you like the taste of your marketing?

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