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Brand Leadership Lessons from Air New Zealand January 26, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Branding, Conversations, Marketing, Travel.
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At the edge of the world, a small airline is pushing the envelope when it comes to doing the right things. This is a hallmark of a brand that is going places, even in times of adversity. For example: Air New Zealand.

And here’s how they are getting there.

Pic credit: Flickr – source

1. Be bold in your marketing
Air New Zealand is not shy of stirring a little turbulence in your teacup. Bold, edgy and provocative – that’s how I would describe their recent marketing.

Their ‘Nothing to Hide’ campaign was an excellent take on low cost airlines adding hidden fares. Chief Executive Officer Rob Fyfe even made a cameo appearance in full body-paint as a baggage handler in this campaign. It was extended to airline safety where crewmembers went bare naked in in-flight safety videos.

However, Air New Zealand recently flew into a bit bad weather with their controversial ‘Cougar’ campaign. But there’s really no thing such as bad PR.

In October 2009, Air New Zealand flew probably the first matchmaking flight in the world from Auckland to Los Angeles, complete with its own social media networking site, pre-flight airport party, loads of in-flight merrymaking and a ticket to a gala post-flight mixer attended by 150 single Kiwis.

All these activities fit Air New Zealand’s vision of “putting the fun back in flying”.

Lesson: Let your marketing be bold, unconventional and spoken about.

2. Your product matters

No marketing or promotion can save you if you don’t have a good product or improve your existing product offering.

Today, Air New Zealand is in the news for their newly launched ‘SkyCouch’ flatbed seat in Economy Class.

While it’s too early to predict its success, Air New Zealand can be hailed for bringing innovation to the back of the cabin.

Like an enthusiast commented: “The SkyCouch is up there with EK’s A380 showers and SIA’s double beds. Gotta love the Kiwis!”

Lesson: Never stop working on improving your product/service.

3. Be different to be better

If you are doing something different from the pack, recognition follows you.

The airline industry usually witnesses a “McDonald’s” approach of doing things. If someone is launching a Low-Cost Carrier (LCC), everyone else does the same thing. If you start charging for check-in baggage, everyone else follows suit.

Air New Zealand’s SkyCouch is a daring innovation in terms of product, price and positioning. But this is just one of the many innovations they have been up to in the recent times.

No wonder, the Air Transport World magazine  recently named Air New Zealand Airline of the Year.

Lesson: What are you doing differently to be better?

4. Leadership begins from the top

Positive change begins from the top and flows down the ladder. Under the leadership of Rob Fyfe, Air New Zealand seems to have galvanized itself and embraced ‘an authentic Kiwi can-do style’ of getting things done.

“We operate this airline in a New Zealand way – we’re not trying to emulate a Singapore Airlines or emulate a McDonald’s. We’re trying to go out there day in and day out and trying to be authentic Kiwis and give people a real genuine New Zealand experience,” says Fyfe.

Lesson: Are you the Fyfe of your organization?

5. Innovation Quotient

Air New Zealand recently made the world’s first flight using a sustainable biofuel. It also attempted sending a rocket into space. These are innovations at work.

One of the greatest assets in any organization is its people, their knowledge and attitudes. Harness them well and you have a strong culture of innovation.

Air New Zealand has an interesting programme called Test Flight where employees pitch ideas to the executive team. If the idea is chosen, the person suggesting the idea can get to work on the project itself and get a share of the profits.

Air New Zealand also looks outside its own industry for ideas. “We don’t just look at other airlines, at airports. We look at shopping centres, we look at universities, we look pretty much anywhere to get ideas that we could potentially use at Air New Zealand,” says Julia Raue, Chief Information Officer at Air New Zealand.

Lesson: What’s your organization’s innovation quotient?

6. People make the difference

As a company, Air New Zealand is known to create a work environment that values and recognizes people for their enthusiasm and ingenuity.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that the airline gave its 11,000 staff an extra day off to celebrate their part in winning the Airline of the Year award.

Lesson: How well are your people contributing to your growth? Are there ways to energize them better?

What else can you learn from Air New Zealand? Feel free to add your views and comments.

Be Brand Social in 2010 December 31, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Branding, Conversations, Social Media.
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As the world gets ready to welcome another brand new year, it’s a good time to get a pulse of where social media is headed to in 2010.

In his ‘6 Social Media Trends to watch out in 2010’, David Armano says that social media will be ‘more popular, more exclusive and more mobile’.

Among other predictions, Niall Harbison believes social media will focus more on the ‘quality of information’ than the ‘quantity of followers’.

Jackie Huba says that what was hot in 2009 will be out in 2010. Her prediction for 2010: social gets integrated into business functions. And about time that happened.

Marketing Sherpa and MediaPost report that social media marketing budgets will increase in 2010, largely at the expense of other media.

B. L. Ochman predicts that blogs amongst other social media channels will become the hot ad medium of the year and ad agencies will finally take the lead in social media.

Brian Solis reminds us that the future of interactive marketing lies in the ‘golden triangle engagement’ – a converging point of social, mobile and real-time web.

Brian Morrisey hits the ball out of the park when he says that marketers will/should treat social media as an integrated part of a digital strategy, than as a stand-alone area for experimentation.

In ’10 Ways Social Media Will Change In 2010′, Ravit Lichtenberg says that ‘social media will no longer be social media’ but a ‘single, cohesive experience embedded in our activities and technologies’ and ROI measurement of social media engagement will matter ever more than before.

What are your social media predictions for 2010?

My belief is that more enterprises and brands, especially in the Middle East and other social media nascent markets will get on the social media bandwagon with varying measures of success.

Some of the challenges they will face are lack of social media expertise, issues of controlling the message, trying to conform this ‘new social way of communications’ with the traditional way of brand communications, being transparent in conversations,  pains of creating value over noise, constraints in marketing budgets and working with ‘people who know the real deal’, the pressure to prove ROI at the outset of social media engagement, the diverse challenges in communicating with Arabic and English-speaking audiences etc. That was a handful, eh?

My recommendation to brands who are stepping into social media waters in 2010 is to use your social media experimentation to rethink your digital strategy (if you already have one apart from a corporate website). Social works best when it is in sync with your digital activity.

If you are smarter, you should be taking lessons learnt from social media and applying them to your current marketing strategy. You should be thinking more on the lines of what could work better for you in the present than what has worked well for you in the past. You should also be keeping a close watch on your competition as well as what other social media savvy brands around the world are up to. Learning from their successes and failures shortens the curve for you.

Your marketing should be tied to goals – measurable, attainable and contributing to your bottom line. And to get there, you will need to work with pros who straddle the new age domain of ‘integrated’ brand communications with relative ease  – a world where advertising, digital, social media marketing and public relations blend together seamlessly.

This post is inspired by ‘Being Brand Social‘, a recent column I wrote for BusinessToday, a leading business publication in the Sultanate of Oman. The article introduces social media, discusses what’s in it for brands and explains why many brands struggle with social media marketing. Click here to read.

Happy social media 2010 to you!

Image source: Future or Bust. Vermin Inc on Flickr.

The Secret Of Making It Work November 3, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Healthy Living, India, Marketing.
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I recently got an interesting e-mail attachment. Without much ado, I’m sharing it with you:

Suvendu Roy, of Titan Industries shares his inspirational encounter with a rickshaw driver in Mumbai:

Rickshaw Mumbai 1 Last Sunday, my wife, kid, and I had to travel to Andheri from Bandra. When I waved at a passing auto rickshaw, little did I expect that this ride would be any different.

As we set off, my eyes fell on a few magazines (kept in an aircraft style pouch) behind the driver’s backrest. I looked in front and there was a small TV. The driver had put on the Doordarshan channel. My wife and I looked at each other with disbelief and amusement. In front of me was a small first-aid box with cotton, Dettol and some medicines. This was enough for me to realize that I was in a special vehicle.

Rickshaw Mumbai 2
Then I looked round again, and discovered more – there was a radio, fire extinguisher, wall clock, calendar, and pictures and symbols of all faiths – from Islam and Christianity to Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. There were also pictures of the heroes of 26/11- Kamte, Salaskar, Karkare and Unnikrishnan. I realized that not only my vehicle, but also my driver was special.

I started chatting with him and the initial sense of ridicule and disbelief gradually diminished. I gathered that he had been driving an auto rickshaw for the past 8-9 years; he had lost his job when his employer’s plastic company was shut down.

Rickshaw Mumbai 3
He had two school-going children, and he drove from 8 in the morning till 10 at night. No break unless he was unwell.  “Sahab, ghar mein baith ke T.V dekh kar kya faida? Do paisa income karega toh future mein kaam aayega.” (“What’s the benefit from sitting at home and watching TV? If I work now and earn some money, it will be of use in the future.”)

We realized that we had come across a man who represents Mumbai – the spirit of work, the spirit of travel and the spirit of excelling in life.

I asked him whether he did anything else as I figured that he did not have too much spare time.

He said that he goes to an old age home for women in Andheri once a week or whenever he has some extra income, where he donates toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, hair oil, and other items of daily use. He pointed out to a painted message below the meter that read: “25 per cent discount on metered fare for the handicapped. Free rides for blind passengers up to Rupees 50.”

My wife and I were struck with awe. The man was a HERO! A hero who deserves all our respect!!!

Our journey came to an end; 45 minutes of a lesson in humility, selflessness, and of a hero worshipping Mumbai, my temporary home. We disembarked, and all I could do was to pay him a tip that would hardly cover a free ride for a blind man.

I hope, one day, you too have a chance to meet Mr. Sandeep Bachhe in his auto rickshaw: MH-02-Z-8508.

What this experience tells me is that: even the most mundane, uninspiring jobs on Earth can be made a fulfilling experience with one ingredient. PASSION. Passion brings with it the unique ability to make a difference in your own little ways. Ultimately, the secret is not to believe that you are driving a simple, humble rickshaw, but to believe that you are driving the world ahead in your own special way.

Chipping for Oman at Dubai Twestival February 17, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Oman, Social Media, Travel.
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The Dubai Twestival Tee
Dubai
was one of the 175 cities around the world to organize the Twestival on 12 February 2009. Nearly 150 Tweeters gathered at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi’s fab Barasti Bar for the Dubai Twestival @DubaiTwestival.

Dubai PR agency Spot On @spotonpr estimates that out of the 1,500 Twitter users in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), over 500 are based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Currently, UAE has the fastest growing Twitter audience in the region with over 20% per month. Considering that Twitter was banned in UAE till August 2008, these numbers are quite impressive.

With not more than 15 active Tweeters based out from Oman, we couldn’t have a Twestival in Muscat, so I decided to join the Twestival crowd at Dubai. Even more exciting for me was the fact that I drove down from Muscat to Dubai and back (my first time ever) – a distance of 800km.

The ride was exciting and before I left I was like I need to take something special for the Twitterati in Dubai. I first thought about postcards that capture Oman’s beautiful imagery, but then I hit upon a better idea.

Arun Rajagopal with PK Gulati at Dubai Twestival
If you live in
Oman, you would have definitely tasted ‘Chips Oman’ which is one of the most popular snacks in this country. It’s like staple food out here along with Mountain Dew. So I took bags of Chips Oman crisps across the border, because they stand for Oman (a chips brand named after a country is just yummy!). You might take a look at the Chips Oman page on Facebook as well.

Yes, so I made it to Barasti with bags of chips in hand. It was great meeting a lot of interesting tweeps at Dubai. There was a clear sense of camaraderie that goes with being a part of a small community. And it’s a community that will go stronger and get better over time.

I particularly enjoyed meeting @PKGulati, @Renroon, @divine_dee, @kangayayaroo, @umarpirzada, @ MaliZomg, @Lhjunkie, @mayG_UTP, @mnystedt, @DaddyBird, @skinnylatte, @esperanca, @DrBaher, @dxbluey @Carringtonm & many others. I didn’t get to say hello to a lot of people & I’m hoping to connect with more at the next outing.

I missed out on my Dubai Twestival Official Tee (actually left it on the couch & found it missing by the time I remembered) – that was a disappointment considering it would have made a lovely souvenir for my trip.

Many, many thanks to the organizers of the Dubai Twestival who made it all happen. It’s no small task to put up an event of this magnitude – and the outcome was simply splendid.

Another highlight of my Dubai trip was getting to meet David Koopmans from Melbourne @koopmans but that is fodder for another post! Tweet on, people…

News on Dubai Twestival (very extensively covered in local media):

Snaps from Dubai Twestival:

Pics credit @bojicas

Happy Birthday, Ness! February 10, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations.
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Hope you have a wonderful year & the best of everything. And, looking forward to seeing you soon on Twitter 😉
God bless you!

Five in the Morning from Oman February 9, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Oman, Social Media.
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8 comments
5 O’Clock, originally uploaded by surlygrrrl [ELBfoto].

When Steve Woodruff asked me to host the ‘Five in the Morning Series’ out of Oman, I had no hesitation to jump in the bandwagon.

Actually, running the series from here is a breeze. (Because 5am EST in the US is 2pm in Oman).

I’m going to use this opportunity to turn the spotlight on a couple of bloggers out of the Arabian Gulf region. They don’t educate us on social media per se, but they ‘live social media’ on their blogs by telling the world about the good, bad and ugly in their societies. No holds barred. Plus, isn’t it great to turn the mirror on a part of the world that is so less understood by the whole wide web of the world out there?

So without much ado, let’s get the show going.

Oman:
The Muscatis (Muscati and his spouse Um Faisal which means ‘mother of Faisal’) publish interesting ramblings, musings and outbursts from the land called ‘Oh-man!’ on their blog.

Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Jeans written by Ahmed Al-Omran aims to provide news, commentary, and personal views on political and social issues in Saudi Arabia, with a special focus on freedom of expression, human rights and women’s rights.

Bahrain:
Ammar aka Ammaro is a young blogger out of Bahrain who works in the financial services industry and keeps things kicking in the Pearl Island.

Kuwait:
Two forty eight am (The B-sides) is a blog by Mark and Nat, a married Lebanese couple who are living in Kuwait. Mark works in Advertising while Nat works in TV. Both keep Kuwait on the blogging radar.

United Arab Emirates:
The blog Dubai Media Observer offers a critical view of the media industry in the UAE. If you were looking for a blog that serves you a bit of intrigue, dollops of adventure and lots of controversy, I’d lead you to Secret Dubai Diary. To top it all, Life in Dubai is a great blog written by an Australian expat with thoughts and comments on how it is to live in a city of superlatives.

Big hat-tip to Amjad for leading me to some of these blogs. Thank you Steve for this great opportunity to have a go at ‘Five in the Morning’.

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A few thoughts on Brand Oman January 26, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Branding, Conversations, Digital, Oman, Social Media.
14 comments

brand oman logo

Yesterday, national brand mark of the Sultanate of Oman was unveiled. This logo is an initiative from the Oman Brand Management Unit (OBMU).

Firstly, why is the need for Oman to go into national branding?

It’s important to project a favorable image of the country, especially after understanding how the country is presently viewed within its borders and overseas. There’s a heightened interest about Oman globally, considering its unique tourism appeal and its relative resilience in the current economic situation.

In the words of His Highness Sayyid Faisal bin Turki Al Said, who heads OBMU:

“We’re a relatively small country and generally little known.”

“Now is the time to identify what unique qualities Oman has to offer and balance this with what consumers actually want from us.

“Understand our compelling truth and look at what we have — natural resources, beauty, minerals, culture, infrastructure, education, technology — and then match these deliverables to what is really wanted from a global audience.

Here’s an explanation of the logo mark on Times of Oman.

From what I have seen of the Oman Air corporate rebranding exercise last year, I know that whenever a new logo is unveiled, you have two sides of opinion. Some like it. Some don’t.

A lot of local people do not get that the logo mark is calligraphy that reads ‘OMAN’. (I just did a small dipstick survey). People get it when I tell them it is calligraphy and ask them to read for a word. The hues are very refreshing. However, it’s only when you read the rationale that you understand the mighty burdens resting on the humble logo. Some have said the colors are similar to those in the logos of Oman Oil Marketing Co., Nawras and Renaissance Services in Oman. Read some comments in Sangeetha Sridhar’s post in the Digital Oman blog.

My point is: there’s no going back to the drawing board. From now on, it’s about how effectively you get the message across different touch points about what Oman means as an international brand.

Oman Tourism Logo

This is the current OMAN logo that is used by the country’s Ministry of Tourism, mostly used for promoting destination Oman. It’s likely the new ‘Brand Oman’ logo will take its place. How do both the logos compare?

Also, the new Brand Oman logo will not only be used to promote the tourism aspect of Oman, but also the national, international, commercial, industrial, economic, cultural, sports facets of the nation. I expect this logo to be present on any banner to do with Oman with a national or international purview… from summits, events, activities, campaigns, tournaments, festivals… you get the big picture.

It’s very disheartening that the Brand Oman website is not up and running. Please note that it’s www.brandoman.om and NOT www.brandoman.com.

In this age of social media, there’s no better medium that digital to reach out your message in a more compelling and conversational manner. I will recommend a URL that does not have ‘brand’ in it. To an end user, the word brand does not mean anything i.e. convey a positive, impressionable attitude. It’s more about ‘OMAN’ than the ‘BRAND’.

Try this: http://www.brandoman.om vs. http://www.amazingoman.om or just http://www.oman.om

Assuming you haven’t visited the website, which URL gives you a better image of the country?

A new print campaign has appeared in the local newspapers unveiling the logo with a message ‘Our universities are our legacy’. It’s too early to comment before knowing how it will unfold.

The challenge in the coming days is how interestingly OBMU will tell the story of Oman to the world. How various communication activities pertaining to Oman that happen across diverse touch points will be synergized to convey a single message, both locally and internationally? How will you bring in the voices of the amazing mix of people that make up this country?

All the best, ‘Brand Oman’!


The Best of Mack Collier January 18, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Social Media.
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A couple of days ago, good friend Mack Collier celebrated his birthday. An acclaimed social media consultant, trainer and speaker, Mack is the man behind ‘The Viral Garden’, an influential marketing/social media blog.

His blog features a weekly ranking of the Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs and also a useful Company Blog Checkup series. His motto is “Don’t focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate.”

‘The Viral Garden’ is a must-read if you are a social media newbie or a brand looking to carve a space in social media or an accomplished marketer looking for voices of reason in the age of conversation. It’s a great testimony of Mack’s short yet highly impressive journey in social media waters.

Personally, what I like most about Mack is his very endearing nature, his passion to focus on human connections and the way he puts across his message in very simple and direct terms.

As a dedication to Mack on his now very belated birthday, here’s a pick of some of my favorite posts from his blog. I must confess that I was not a regular reader of ‘The Viral Garden’ back in the days, but today I had a great opportunity to go through his great work.

1. Both social media evangelists & traditional marketers have to shed the ‘only I know my stuff better’ stereotypes and learn to work together.

2. Don’t focus on using social media to ‘create’ community, focus on using social media as a way to connect with your customers and join them in THEIR space.

3. Social media is NOT a marketing channel; it is a TWO-WAY communication channel. It helps enable trust between a brand and its consumers.

4. How can you bring more value to the world of social media?

5. New to Twitter? How to transform your Twitter experience.

6. A flyswatter case study on how to have fun with your marketing.

7. How to market like a rockstar. Another post on how marketing can be a fun process.

8. 10 ways to excite your blog readers. Another one here has more tips to grow your blog’s audience.

9. How to grow your social media audience. Do you target the ‘A-listers’ or you follow the ‘smart peeps’? Lots of great comments in this post.

10. This is one of my favorites where Mack tells us not to ‘overthink’ social media and to remove your ‘perfect filter’. I suffer from the same disease to get the right posts and am considering Mack’s advice to get over the bend this year.

11. Some very sane advice to companies who are thinking about engaging bloggers and social media influencers.

Hope you enjoyed ‘The Best of Mack Collier’.

Happy Birthday! January 5, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations.
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With Connie Reece, originally uploaded by arunmct.

Have an amazing day, Connie! Hope you have the most wonderful year ever – with lots of joy, peace, good health and prosperity.

P.S. You rock.

Make the change for 2009 January 1, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations.
2 comments

The Coast is Always Changing, originally uploaded by Luka Skracic.

On Guy Kawasaki’s post ‘Signs of the Times’, Tanya Chadwick hits the nail on the head with her sage comment on how one should deal with these changing times.

“For me and mine, it just means do more of what we are already doing… Work hard/er, live right, treat others as you would expect to be treated, save more, grow what you can and keep on living each day to the fullest.”

This is what I am doing this year. What about you?