Friday, 28 September 2007

Myanmar - Behind the toolshed of the global sandpit

It has been a while since I posted anything but it is Saturday and 3 times a year China reshuffles the week to make a 5 day holiday in to 3 days, so alas today I am at work, and since I know that nobody actually reads my blog I (and is blocked in China) I feel at ease in writing opinions that may actually be unpopular.

So I am watching CNN last night about the plight of the monks in Myanmar, and how they are taking this opportunity to plug their i-report feature on their website (which of course over time will render journalists obsolete in all stories except ones about dogs that can surf). They are receiving and broadcasting footage and images of the 100,000 monks on parade.

Myanmar, I have learned has a military control government, and the reporting has centred around how they are suppressing the protests by force. The world is outraged. It must be because I even got an invitation in facebook to join a group that supports the monks in Myanmar. The situation is so serious that even the nuns are getting involved (which the military really should begin to worry about if Buddist nuns are anything like the Catholic nuns that I grew up with.)

All I heard from the global press was condemnation of the government and the plight of these monks.

Analysts have asked about the effect of this on China,( the US have slapped sanctions on Myanmar and even Condoleezza Rice has expressed "empathy" which is probably as much as you are going to get from her.

They even went so far as to put "visa bans on 36 members of the Myanmar junta and their families" (I would be interested to see how the US will react to 10,000 visa applications from monks seeking refugee status in the US.)

So in these turmulous times, I often ask the question, WHAT STARTED ALL THIS? Was it because a leading Monk official was brutally beaten the arrested after expressing displeasure at the mistreatment of small children? NO

Was it because of actions by the government to ethnically cleanse the population of buddhist in Myanmar? NO

I was perplexed. What would cause 100,000 monks to hit the streets for 3 day in protest to a Military Government?

The answer (based on this informative FAQ by AP was rising fuel prices!

I don't think you understand the importance of that last statement so let me emphasise the statement again in UPPER CASE.


Is your blood boiling? Are you up in arms? ........... no?...... neither am I.

I appreciate that this may seem insensitive and my statements may have a certain "Let them eat cake" feel about them but is there no better atrocity to protest over than INFLATION?

I could go on but I won't. I am sure that I am once again misguided and I am sure that there are many many more issues that led to this tipping point but of all things that could potentially throw a nation into turmoil and potentially overthrow a government and cause all sorts of global condemnation, please tell me is more than price fluctuations of a commodity that in the last 50 years gone from $2 per barrel to $60 per barrel.

Incidentally, what is the price of Myanmar produced opium based products these days?

Monday, 20 August 2007

Shanghai Welcomes Further Criticism of Chinese Products

For Immediate Release

21st August 2007 [Shanghai] In a recent conference on China's export policies organised by the Shanghai Bureau of Shuthefuckup, a spokesman for the Bureau stated that he welcomed the criticism from the US. He stated that this kind of international watch dogging was exactly what China needed to motivate Chinese manufacturers to up their game. During a break from a sessions on Convincing Your Trade Partner that It's Not Dumping if You Make a Profit he said "History has shown us that anyone that the US bitches about, inevitably ends up being the leader in that field. Take for instance Japanese car and electronics manufacturers. Household names like Toyota, Honda, Sony, [and] NEC are all the result of years of PR smear campaigns telling the US consumer that Japanese products are shoddy."

He said that the only regret that he had in the recent recall announcements were that companies under scrutiny were not Chinese companies, and that he was actually quite concerned that both children and adults would be affected by the lead contained in the painted toys. He explained "Only last week, I had to take my sons Malibu Barbie off him and replace it with a cheaper Chinese imitation. I really feared for his health as he spends much of his free time licking the paint off the doll."

Asssociated Presss

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

The Global Sand Pit

For many years I pondered what real qualifications do you need to get into global politics but recently, watching the to and fro between China and the US has led me to believe that all you really need is a good primary school education. Consider the most recent exchanges of possibly the two most powerful nations in the world today.

This is brinkmanship at it's best.

US: You have too much of a trade surplus so rather than trying to be more globally competitive lets increase tariffs on Chinese products like bra's and t-shirts.

CN: Fine! But if you we're going to dump a big chunk of our $1 trillion USD on the open market to cripple your currency.

US: Oh Shit, that's not good. In that case let's create a smear campaign against China made toys and fake a story of cardboard in pork buns.

CN: Hmmm, just for that, lets announce that US made GE turbines are unsafe.

US: You want us to stop selling arms to Taiwan you'd better increase the value of the RMB
CN: You want us to talk to North Korea for you better shut the F#%K UP

US: Your human rights record stinks.

CN: And where are those weapons of mass destruction?

US: Yo mamma so fat...... (well you can see the direction this is heading)

It all going to end in tears.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Mercenary Artists

I looked up the origins of the word "freelance" and found it was a medieval term that refered to soldiers (or lances) that would fight for money or land. So really another word for Mercenary. Which is ironic since I often associate freelance with artists, designers, journalists or writers. People generally who are pursuing an artistic endeavour. I don't often find freelance accountants, or freelance physicists. Oh and the ironic part is that I don't meet too many freelance people who have a great deal of money or land.

What if all the world's freelances banded together? That would be quite a formidable army! They would put the "expensive-lances" out of business.

There is a opportunity there........

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Pringles from Intel = Printel??

I just read an article this morning in about intel's plans to release a quad-core processor next year. AMD I believe is doing the same thing. Now, before you criticise me for being technically ignorant, I will first admit that I am an amateur geek. I am the kind of person that obtains joy not from inventing a new way of doing something but the kind of person who breaks something and then has a great deal of fun trying to fix it so that it is back in the same condition as it was before so I can use it for something else.

So back to my quandary about the duo, duo2, quad-core processors and however many chips Intel or AMD wish to stack together in the future.

Have we already hit the holy grail of processor speed? A couple of years ago when Pentium 4 chips were still in vogue, the speed that they being offered to mass consumers was in the vicinity of 2.8 GHz. Then the Parallel Processing craze took over and the speed of the individual chips of a duo was dropped to 1.83 GHz. The notebook that I am currently using sports a 1st generation Duo with two 1.66 GHz processors.

My question is: If all the new rage is stacking processors that are two thirds the speed of the fastest mass produced processors from two years ago, Has Intel given up on making faster processors? Have we hit the proverbial one minute mile of processors speed? Have we all but resigned ourselves to the fact that you can't fly across the atlantic?

If the speed at which we are now computing is not the result of faster better processors but by how many processors you can fit in a box then has Intel effectively redefined the consumer expectation? Does the consumer no longer want the speed vs size ratio to increase and are they happy to accept that the current pinky sized processors will never get any faster?

Parallel processing is a term that I heard at university more than a decade ago and I am sure that professional geeks have (armed with a soldering iron on the floor of their parents garage) plugged multiple P4 chips to a single computer in a quest to make it go faster.

What I am dumbfounded about is the lack of consumers outcry. Has our lust for speed blinded us to the fact that instead of being sold a faster better car, Ferrari has simply made a bigger car that can fit two v12 engines in it.

Has Intel (as the uncontestable market leader) simply dictated what the market should think? Will Intel's marketing campaign next year simply be "4 Chips Good, 2 Chips Bad"?

If this is really the case then this strategy can be applied to many other consumer products? Will be see the return of platform shoes under the tag line "Dr. Martin's Duo Sole".

The only intelligent thing that I can say further about this..........Oink!

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

My Thoughts on Creativity

Marketing has always been my passion which is why after a decade in the conference industry I decided to embark on providing a service that can really help brands and business connect with the people they need to in a better and more effective way, beyond what I was providing to sponsors and delegates attending my events.

Too many books and articles that I have read have told me that marketing is an increasingly difficult business. Too many media channels, too much clutter and consumers who are becoming wise to the BS that is out there. Many of the friends that I have spoken to have even told me that I was nuts to try to build an agency. I was told horror stories of long work hours and crazy deadlines. So why am I still obsessed with R3TRO?

Well the answer is simple. Every successful campaign that I have seen, read about, been involved in has been ridiculously simple. The most successful ones are for brands that have one single message that is communicated in a manner that exploits what people already believe. I also believe that whether you are young, old, black, white, yellow, male, female or a mixture of all these features, people are fundamentally the same. Marketing then becomes art imitating life rather than life imitating art.

The rest of it is process. Thomas Edison once said "Genuis is 1% Inspiration and 99% Perspiration." To be inspired is to be emotionally affected by external forces. To be creative the ability to create something from nothing. Creativity as such has no place in marketing. You cannot develop a successful marketing campaign by pondering clever ideas in isolation.

And then in a moment of clarity it came to me. How can I offer a down-to-earth crap-free marketing methodology to my clients? It was simple. By simply removing creativity from the equation and replacing it with inspiration. R3TRO is about looking back for the idea that already exists to inspire your next campaign.

Of course this is no revelation to people in the Advertising industry. Advertising is not about creativity at all. Creativity is simply a mask that is worn to disguise the reuse of old ideas that people have generally forgotten about. But business is not stupid and even if they do not see the situation as I see it, when was the last time you were pitched an original idea?

Forget the "original idea" as the core to your campaign because people just can't relate to it unless your business has the kind of marketing budget to brainwash your target audience. Rely on what they know and can relate to and develop something that inspires your customers and facilitates that emotional connection to your product.

At the risk of preaching, if you are responsible for a brand, or a product, to really communicate your message affectively, be inspired by your customers because only then will you be able to inspire new customers.