Sell Now or Sell Later

The last time I got teary-eyed watching an ad was 2 years ago during the Sochi Winter 2014 Olympic when P&G released this ad to the world. It was a follow-up on their “Thank You Mom” campaign, which was initially launched in 2012 before the London 2012 Olympic with this ad. While dads were wondering when they would get the credit, moms everywhere bawled their eyes out over the ad and the campaign went exceptionally viral in 2014. The amazing storytelling and video production in both ads leave no need for a brand mention or product placement until the last few seconds of the video. For a brand giant like P&G, this approach was affordable.

I have found that for smaller, unknown brands, achieving the same level of impact using the Thank You Mom videos’ sell-later approach may be a bit more challenging. Most companies feel the need to get their name and products in before the 15-second mark, because let’s face it, if you are to invest at least $150k into a brand video knowing that your audience’s attention span is shorter than a squirrel’s, pushing the brand name out there early is important. The cost of doing this though, is losing your message’s authenticity. Have you ever started watching a video without knowing what it’s about, got drawn in by its engaging content, but soon disappointed after realizing it was an ad?

Today I stumbled upon an ad by small brand that not only got me pretty emotional (it’s not even that time of the month!) but also managed to do what P&G did – sell without selling. Watch this:

Sell now or sell later – it’s a tough choice for every ad. The latter, when done right in this “content is king” era, can bring powerful, lasting payoff to a brand campaign.

Our Coffee Pot and the Most Interesting Man in the World

We all know the most interesting man in the world, right? If you don’t, you need to know your meme.

Let me tell you how this man has managed to change my life and that of everyone who drinks coffee in my office. But let me warn you in advance, this is totally a first-world problem, overly dramatic kind of story, so prepare for the eye-rolling.

There are two types of offices in the world: the type in which everyone has a common understanding that they need to make a new pot of coffee after they take the last cup, and the type that has a few bad apples who either are lazy, or don’t know how to open a package of coffee, put it in a plastic thing, and push a button. This second type of office has significantly more grumpy, less productive, more forgetful, less agreeable employees. Guess which type I work in.

So we have been having this empty coffee pot issue for ever, like as long as I’ve been at my company. Other people have tried to put up signs and diagrams of what would happen to someone who gets caught not doing the right thing (tiger and skeleton and blood involved), but to no avail. I was going through a tough time last week with deadlines and PMS, and not having coffee when I needed it was not an option. So I brought out  the passive aggressiveness in me and put this up where the coffee machine is:

And you know what!? It worked! Our pots have not been emptied once since then, even after working hours. Now, when I walk by our kitchen, I hear the wonderful sound of liquid flowing fluidly into cups, and not grunting noises from disappointed men and women. So my coworkers are not idiots who don’t know how to put a thing in a thing and push a button. They’re just very busy, slightly inconsiderate people who need a little nudge. But not just a random nudge, or a tiger crouching blood splattering kind of nudge. They needed a familiar celebrity face staring at them in the eye, tell them what to do. My office is heavily populated by male, nerdy engineers, whose dreams (I speculate) are possibly to become as close to the most interesting man in the world as possible.

So next time when you have the luxury to consider whether or not to hire a celebrity to represent your brand, think yes, because it does work wonder, given the right choice of celebrity. I wrote about how Rihanna and other celebs had done it for brands here.

If you are lucky enough to work in the first type of office, where coworkers care about you and your state of mental health at 3PM, shoot me a line!

(Just kidding. I love my job. And let’s face it, they need me here.)

The Wonderful World of Websites

My company has been going through 8 painful months of transitioning our 12-year-old website with a 70-year-old look into a younger, fresher, more 21st century web portal. This process will likely to last another 9 months or so while we roll the site out globally to another 20+ countries. By the end of this 9 month, however, this young thing will have also become obsolete, because in the cyber world, you become obsolete the second you pause to take a breath.

As I decided to take a breath anyway to look around at what’s going on in the 2014 world of internet and see what we can do to keep relevant, I was blown away with the cool designs and UX of some of the websites out there that I can only dream about having the funding to build. Many of them serve as great inspirations, and knowing that large amounts of research and testing must have gone into building these websites, learning from them can be smart and cost-saving.

From what I’ve seen, scrolling has gone out of favor. You get one screen-fold, but everything you need is there, front and center. Navigation menus seem to have become a creative benchmark for developers. How do we create an easier, faster, more aesthetically pleasing way for people to move from one page to another. These sites have got that down, to a T.

One of my favorites is KEECKER. Although the site seems to be a bit heavy on Flash, which being an SEO person, I can’t approve, but the idea of having navigation menu flat and visible without a waterfall structure is really refreshing. Their video integration is seamless. The way texts and images move as one navigates through the menu is genius, as the complete 360 degree view of the product’s form factor is shown off without forceful effort.

Into the Arctic is another phenomenal site when it comes to navigation: left and right, with the right navigation comes out to play only when needed. Things are kept horizontal and centered. No distractions. (Did you see how clever of Green Peace to use .gp in their domain? It’s actually the country domain for Guadeloupe.)

And then, my absolute favorite, Pharrell Williams – 24 Hours of Happy. I didn’t even know what they did here was possible. What an awesome blend of art and technology. The idea can definitely be reused too, for each hour dot can be one of your products perhaps?

The one not so good thing about these sites though, is that they work terribly or don’t even work at all (in the case of 24 Hours of Happy) on mobile, which is a no-no these days. For this, I’m proud of my company’s website. Our mobile version actually looks better than the desktop one, which is great, given how often people go into a retail store to do research before making a purchase.

Let me know if you know or own a cool website, would love to learn more. And do check out the new NETGEAR website, free user testing feedback is always welcome!


Can I brag a little?

Yesterday one of my Instagram pictures got “regrammed” by Vans Girls, an Instagram account by Vans. It was a picture of me in my DIY studded up Vans shoes, standing on top of my doormat in front of my apartment. Vans Girls probably found my picture through one of the hashtags I used (#vans, #offthewall).

One day later, and the picture has got over 11,300 likes and counting, and is the second most liked post out of the 192 posts by Vans Girls. Of course I’m excited that so many people have now seen the entrance to my apartment. But the thing I’m really intrigued by is why this picture has attracted such a strong response. It’s not any more artistic or eye-catching than any of Vans Girls’ previous posts. The picture took me 5 seconds to take while holding my purse and 2 heavy shopping bags. The lighting wasn’t that great at the top of my indoor staircase. I used Valencia for a filter, which is probably the most simple one out of them all. Is it the simplicity? Is it my humorous doormat?

I really want to figure out a formula for these double taps. We know these taps are money. And there must be a science behind it all.

I’ll let you know.

The real Marketing 101

Never over-estimate the public’s:

1. Taste

2. Intelligence

3. Desire to change (even for the better)

Sometimes, there are disadvantages to growing up rich, attending the best universities, and working at chic, upscale marketing agencies. One of them is you don’t understand what sells to the mass. It’s not your fault. You should even be given credit for thinking so highly of people. But your naivety can be a reason for your campaign’s failure.

Dumb it down. Make it explicit. And test, test, test, with the average public.




It took Kate Upton…

… to get me to scan the first QR code I have scanned in years.

I have always hoped for QR codes to do well and get picked up by the mass the way popular apps do. As a marketing tool, they have so much potential. They can save time and increase accuracy in bringing your audience to your web destination. They can provide real-time online analytic data for your offline marketing campaigns, and solve the attribution questions marketers face everyday, especially with offline marketing. Best of all, for me at least, they give us the opportunity to delightfully surprise our audience with creativity.

The problem is: QR codes are not so sexy. I dare you make the act of scanning a QR code a graceful one. Your hands shake, you try to hold your breath for better camera focus so your face starts to look red and constipated, you start to get frustrated and the swearing starts. All in all, it’s just bad. And most of the time when you get to where you’re supposed to get to, it’s a lousy offer or boring, super self-promoted video. So you learn not to do it again, just like I did.

This ad by Gillette, however, proves how powerful a QR code can be with the right execution.The code is centered on the page, on a big white background (which I cannot stress the importance of), and is HUGE, so it’s super easy for the reader to pick up. Kate Upton, who was the main reason for me to give this ad a double take, is obviously a beautiful, irresistible bait, but Gillette made it a point to have the QR code placed as prominently as is Kate. They knew that what Kate could do in a picture, she could do a hundred times better in a video, so getting people TO the video was what would make or break this campaign.

Since I adore Kate Upton, I can’t tell you how quickly I pulled out my phone and scanned the code, which opened fast. The video of Kate laughing, bouncing, winking and doing all the stuff Kate Upton is known for surely did not disappoint me. And I’m a girl. So I’m sure the boys appreciate this too very much.

Of course, QR codes shouldn’t always take major real estate on your ads, but when given the attention and confidence their potential deserves, there should be no reason why these weird-looking little squares of squiggle can’t be the main success driving factor for your campaigns.


Apple – the Romantic

Apple is a philosophy, a very influential one that spans across areas of art and science. Designers, copy-writers, marketers, coders, even lawyers look to Apple for the cool and “right” things to do. You don’t know what you should do? Go see how Apple is doing it. That’s what I’ve been doing with a project I’m running, and let me tell you, Apple is one hell of an inspiration.

The thing I’ve realized is: Apple has never tried to be cool. They are just being who they are, do what they do. They are the cool-setter. The cool follow THEM.

So when Apple decided to start writing poems about the not-so-sexy topic of hardware, of course they managed to make it, too, something inspirational. Their “Designed by Apple in California” ads campaign is a series of just incredible marketing executions. It starts with a video that gives me goosebumps. Then magazine ads which feature Apple hardware with the tagline “Designed by Apple in California” and three to four paragraph poems.

Just like all the product marketing copy Apple has on its website, every sentence of these poems are clear, crisp, sincere, and yet touching. The Apple’s story is told, the Apple’s core is exposed, and you can’t help it but feel a connection with this company.

I don’t think any other company will attempt to do the same thing. It’s often impossible to imitate Apple. But I’m curious to see if this campaign will start a trend for companies to attempt stripping down their corporate exterior and connect with their audience on an even more intimate level than they already have.

This is it.

This is what matters.

The experience of a product.

How it makes someone feel.

Will it make life better?

Does it deserve to exist?


If you are busy making everything,

How can you perfect anything?

We spend a lot of time

On a few great things

Until every idea we touch

Enhances each life it touches.


You may rarely look at it.

But you’ll always feel it.

This is our signature.

And it means everything.




The One Word

A while ago I wrote a post about branding and marketing yourself for more effective job searching. I saw an article by the founder and CTO of HubSpot, Dharmesh Shah, today on LinkedIn that talked about the same idea, but more from a general career building/advancement angle. He emphasized the significance of working towards branding yourself with one word or two that everyone in your professional circle could use to describe you – that one adjective that pops in people’s head when they think of you as a co-worker or partner. Over-used words such as “great”, “awesome”, “hard-working” won’t do much for you these days. Be “relentless”, be “insightful”, be “knows-her-stuff”.

If I had to pick one, it would be “resourceful”. The way I look at everything is: with the right approach to problem-solving, the right tool, and the right connections, no problem should ever be a show-stopper.

Check out Shah’s article here. What is your one word?


I haven’t been this excited about a social media product since Facebook’s Timeline came out. I waited and waited for Timeline with anticipation, speculations and guesses. It was the build-up.

This time, it was a surprise.

Facebook announced Instagram Video this morning at their HQ in Menlo Park. At the very same time, the company released a new update of Instagram, granting access to the new feature to its 130 million Instagram users. Either I was not as on top of social media news as I thought I was, or Instagram was very good at keeping this one a secret. The addition of video to Instagram is a natural step which we all knew the platform was going to take, but no news leaks on the release this whole time? That’s impressive.

I can’t wait to see the extra excitement this release will bring to the social media world in general and social media marketing in particular. We often say if it’s not selling, it’s not creative. Insta video gives brands this amazingly powerful creative vehicle to play with, and now there should be no excuses for marketers not to jump all over it and sell.

Everyone is saying Instagram Video is going to kill Vine, as well as other smaller video sharing apps such as Keek, Tout and Vidoco. And I believe that. The current lack of video editing capabilities in Instagram may leave room for others to compete, but this whole social video sharing space has just got a lot more crowded for the little guys.

Enthusiasm aside, we are seeing pretty significant issues with Instagram today. I have been trying to upload my first video for nearly an hour now and its standing still in “Processing” stage is making me anxious. Facebook is known for their “move fast and break things” motto so this is probably their way of living up to it. They ship, and then they fix. Plus, millions of people are probably trying to do the same thing I’m doing so server issues are unavoidable.

I’m excited to see what’s next. Just when you think Facebook is becoming less relevant, they throw in a little spice just to remind us otherwise.


My Favorite Super Bowl Ad that Cost Nothing (well… comparatively)

I love seeing the patriotic American-ess that comes out of people around Super Bowl time. It reminds me of Vietnam during Asian football (soccer) leagues. We love our little team although they always, never without fail, wins second place. I also like the Super Bowl for the excitement it brings to the advertising industry, it’s like giving old beauty pageants the opportunity to show off and compete once again.

Anyway, Super Bowl this year was made extra special due to a power outage. Somebody is bound to get fired, but stemmed from that was quite a few funny jokes about paying power bill and such, as well as a delightful Facebook and Twitter ad that got me to go “Wow…”. It was Oreo’s post within MINUTES of the start of the outage:

Many other companies tweeted clever things, but Oreo really showed us the true power of social media. I have a feeling they would not have paid millions for this 30-second ad if they’d known they would have 35 minutes to engage with million of bored people who turned to Facebook and Twitter for entertainment.

20k likes, 7k shares, 15k retweets, and millions of impressions, Oreo should win the best social media marketing campaign of the Super Bowl.

Check out this video to see why Oreo has been doing so well in social media, with the help of its creative agency 360i.