Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Method To My Marketing Madness? Humanity

Every once in awhile something nice happens for which one has maybe no explanation. Today was one of those days. It started at lunch with a very nice man named Tom Vovers who had found me on LinkedIn and enjoyed a film I had put up called "The Job". It's a pretty damn funny take on what otherwise is a very serious situation in the job market for executives today. Tom runs HR2B, an executive recruitment firm here in Vietnam and the film certainly makes light of his business. We talked about general things, backgrounds, business and such but I made a point, quite seriously, that humour was a vital component in business discussions today and that an over-reliance on analysis and statistics sometimes just doesn't solve the problem - can comedy? Is there a human element that transends logic?

Later on I returned to my computer to get through the standard 83 emails of the morning and general blog maintenance and there, in my mail, was a note from a name I did not immediately recognize, a Ms.
Amy Anh Dao Nguyen. She went on to explain that she had been a student of mine two years ago at Vietnam National University and had participated in our Brand Management class and BrandMasters social networking group. She's now in Singapore and anticipating graduation from Nottingham University with an offer of a full scholarship for a Ph.D. Having stuck her toe in the job market and realising that's it's a bit of a tough go at the moment, she penned the following to me:

"Just until now I realize that lectures in school sometimes doesn't help much, but networking, as you used to teach us, will decide a lot."

She had directed me to her profile on LinkedIn and I encouraged her to join our group,
Vietnam Marketing Pros. We continued for a few mails and she returned:

"Networking is the most successful door for business. Now I know why you did not much focus on academic lecture but giving us more advice and chance in networking (such as BrandMaster network, Big Show, guest speakers, etc ...)

There are days in working, and certainly in teaching, where you wonder if anything you say or do is hitting any paydirt. Today was two years in the making and to have Amy recognize the core concept or our Brand Management course - that Brand Management is truely, Networking with your customers - was a real joy. Or in her words:

"Yeah, and agree with you about the nerdy stuff, the more I go, the more I know that business school focus sometimes were too irrelevant to real life. While marketing and advertising is about breaking the rule and setting a new trend, business school focus on academic aspects with journals and method, which in fact does not develop the most important and core concept for students: Creativity."

Jeez. My English is ever so slightly better than hers, but I couldn't have said it any better. Thanks for a very nice day, Amy & Tom. You two should get together - There I go, Networking again - being one of those
Brand Provocateurs!

I was told once by a recruiter that I should never send my portfolio to a job without me accompanying it. "You're the product, David", she professed, "It only comes alive when you're there" - because I could shed light on the problem and why the solution worked the way it did. Recently a blog reader commented on my Post-It Notes business cards - "I think there is something in particular about your charm, delivery, and Fortune 500 company (irony), that enabled you to pull this off."

There's another element that lives hand-in-hand with business, crisis, comedy, irony and logic - That element is humanity. The minute we forget that in our teaching, or our learning, we have truely lost the point. Amy & Tom helped me to understand that today.

Detri-viral Marketing: When Web 2.0 works against a brand - How Not To Market in Asia III

Apple, Brand Marketing, Detri-viral marketing, Gapingvoid, How Not To Market In Asia, McDonald's, Microsoft, Product Red, Social marketing, Starbucks, The Gap, Ù2, Twitter, iPod, Web 2.0 Inspi (red), or just ti (red)? I recently saw an entire campaign for a local marketing agency that takes this concept directly and uses the word admi (red) instead of inspi (red) to invoke the name of the company, which happens to be the last three letters of the word and a primary colour that is not blue or yellow. You do the math - and that will lead you to the following equation - did the company come up with this copy/graphic idea themselves, or take it from the more than famous campaign you see here? Go figure. The "Product Red" charity campaign has run globally for nearly a decade as an effort to brand red products with a certain percentage of the proceeds going to help eliminate Aids in Africa. Microsoft, The Gap, Starbucks, Apple iPod and the band U2 have participated and it has probably occupied more public service media space than any other campaign in the world over the last decade. But maybe not in Vietnam. So does that make it fair game for ripping? Or just a last little portion of a diminishing market for stealing stuff and not getting made, almost immediately? I'm betting on the latter.

Apple, Brand Marketing, Detri-viral marketing, Gapingvoid, How Not To Market In Asia, McDonald's, Microsoft, Product Red, Social marketing, Starbucks, The Gap, Ù2, Twitter, iPod, Web 2.0 Recently my friend, Hugh MacLeod, put up a post on his blog,, that fit in perfectly with a concept I've been working on of late, the concept of "Detri-viral Marketing". Detri-viral marketing is what happens when the collectivity and social nature of Web 2.0 go against a brand or service to send a negative message about what the parent company is doing. It is, essentially, when brands get busted - maybe for stealing an idea, or telling a lie, or just being generally duplicitous in their messages or their message sending. Two-faced as it would be. But one person never makes it happen. A lot of people make it happen. It's a snowball effect. The concept of viral marketing has been well documented over the last decade or so but the concept of detri-viral marketing hasn't really been defined, because probably, in real life, companies would just like this shit to go away. McDonald's has certainly dealt with a ton of it, in Europe primarily, in a consumer effort to illuminate the contents of their food - the "Supersize This" effect, if you will - and McDonald's has been a client of mine - a damn good one I must say - so I must tell you that a lot of the flack they have received is complete and total bunk. If you weren't a fat, stoopid, slovenly, couch potato, looser, you'd know better than to eat what they serve more than a few times week. But hey, these days, even those bums have a computer... so look out brands. These people have a lot of extra fucking time on their hands. They're like the people who don't like smoking - they don't have the time, commitment or gonads to join a real protest group, so they just find errant time in their day to accost smokers on city street corners and be asses because it makes them feel as if they stand for something. (I smoke too.)

But that's not the kind of detri-viral marketing I want to look at today.

Today, I want to look at people who feel they can get something good done, or right some wrong, or change the world just a tiny little bit by joining something and adding their voice to an effort in the hopes that the whole movement will somehow add up to be greater than the sum of its parts. But
let's stick to advertising today. That's enough world changing to get done in just one blog post.

Rewind to 2003. Wieden and Kennedy, the advertising agency in London had just returned from the Cannes Film Festival with the Palm d'Or for the best television commercial of the year for Honda. The spot, called "Cog"
was rumoured to have been the most expensive TVC ever made and reputedly took over 600 takes to get right - and in it's own right is an absolute technical and conceptual masterpiece. I was showing it to everyone I could in 2003 because I thought it was just such a great goddamn idea. See it below.

And then, the shit hit the fan. Two Swiss artists immediately protested the idea that they had sold their artistic concept for commercial purpose but at the same time complained that Honda had "appropriated"
the idea from their artwork.

To understand the world appropriated from the world of artistic criticism let's just be a bit more blunt. It means stolen. Ripped-off. Filched. Pilfered. Nicked. Hi-jacked and just pretty much the idea that the artist, or commercial artist in this case, used another piece of work to base yet another execution
on a core concept that they in fact, did not conceive. Thievery. Robbery. An illegal act. But by the rule of law? Well that's going to depend on a whole lot of judges. Watch just the first few seconds of the Swiss artist's work, below and you tell me how you would rule:

Tony Davidson, creative director at Wieden & Kennedy, said the film carried various cultural references. He told Creative Review: "Advertising references culture and always has done. Part of our job is to be aware of what is going on in society. There is a difference between copying and being inspired by." Mr. Davidson has just recently been made a partner in the agency, based in Portland, Oregon USA and most well known for their Nike work for well more than 20 years. One c
ould do a whole lot worse in the business than working at Wieden and Kennedy and this guy was just made partner. Go figure.

But did they do wrong? Trust me, if the access of Web 2.0 had been present in 2003 they would have taken a complete shit bath for this one. It's pretty much impossible to have watched the Swiss artist's film and not have figured, at least, that the guys who did the Honda spot saw the film. But where's the evidence? And what was the crime?

Did I have sex with that woman? Prove it, baby.

I of course, am not a lawyer, but I've seen my share on TV and I can tell you that the legal clarifications on this kind of thing are indeed fuzzy, and fuzzier from country to country - but I have worked in this business for nearly 30 years and am well schooled in copyright law. Here's basically, how it works: You can copyright what is considered "copy" - that's where the legal terminology comes from - meaning words. And you can copyright imagery - a picture, a film sequence, a visual representation of a concept that is unique. But you can not copyright an "idea", ie: "We should put air into rubber tubes and then put the tubes into rubber casings to make tyres which can then be put on bikes, cars, tractors, etc.". It's possible you could "patent" that idea, but that's a different legal concept entirely. The are also ideas that have become part of what is called the "public domain", meaning that the copyright or patent status has run out and the idea now belongs to the people as a whole - like Aspirin. Anybody can make Aspirin now. Or the Bible. Anybody can print and alter any version of the Bible they want. Or DaVinci. Now we have to watch wretched films about a code he never wrote. Oh, dear, revisionist history. Wouldn't we all love one of his ancestors to have some right to stop production of this dreck? Or is our desire to retain our suspension of disbelief
greater than our desire for the truth? And when somebody can tell me what the fucking truth is, then I will die a happy man. But that's gotta wait.

Today' finale is much less dramatic than that.

Welcome Dr. Thanh. The good doctor, for lack of an idea that accurately emphasized his advertising concept, decided that the Chinese had already done that for him and commissioned a few local artisians to just flat-assed copy a new commercial for him - all he had to do, was change the logo - and Voi la! Vietnamese don't watch Chinese TV - they'll never know! Watch the two following commercials in tandem together. Pay special attention to the almost frame by frame replication of the production in addition to wardrobe and modeling/
action choices. Honestly, this is corporately embarrassing.

Somebody oughta have their Marketing MBA revolked! Aren't we dealing in enough global shennanigans to have this still happening? Can I find a class in business ethics in Vietnam?

And I'm not introducing this to anyone. This thing had 1000 YouTube hits when I got it and it's well over 4000 today. Detri-viral marketing in action - a lot of people, aside from me, don't like it - and a few crafty editors created it - way inside the production I suppose.

The real Maguffin here (An Alfred Hitchcock term that refers to the element that draws viewers and characters into a drama) is when you go to the parent company's website and they wax on and on about their dedication to "intellectual ownership" - that means the ownership of an idea.

They're very proud of the intellectual capital they own in Vietnam, Singapore and Australia and act like they might be willing to spend the resources to sue anyone who might infringe upon that. But they have no compunction whatsoever about just copying artistic stuff from a Chinese manufacturer that I was told they felt was, "Best practice knowledge in the category". Rubbish. Geez. The problem, as I see it here, is not legal. It's ethical. And I can tell you that no creative person worth his/her salt would dare do this low-ball stuff. Why? Because if you ever want to engender a career in the business the last thing you want is to be accused of is copying another person's idea. Or much worse, copying a shitty idea - and that's what's happened here.

I've been having a discussion recently with a company who wants to mount a business idea based on a "model from San Francisco". What the hell does "Model" mean. It means a business plan. But these people seem to have missed the idea that you can't take models from just about anywhere you can find them and have them work in Vietnam without adding value and uniqueness particular to the reapplication. Will pine cones grow pine trees in Saigon just because they work well in Canada?

Artists, MBAs and others. Twitter didn't steal Twitter from anybody. Microsoft probably did steal the Graphical User Interface (GUI) from Apple, but that's history and we're finally seeing the comeuppance. If you want to have a big business success, try having a big idea. Simple? I don't think so. The world is full of small ideas and small thinkers of those ideas. But the world is well fewer with true visionaries who are well paid, well slept and well shagged. Keep that in mind. Detri-viral marketing is now a concept and I didn't invent it, I just coined the term. The world invented it. So let's get to work boys and girls. Let's create something honestly good today.

For more in the "How Not To Market In Asia" series, click below:

I) The Importance of Time, Money, Quality and Knowing How Much of Each You Need to Succeed

II) What's Wrong With the Vietnam Advertising Association?

For more on time bandit idea & business concept filching, para-normal plagiarism, and all out spooky behaviour, check below:

New York Magazine Steals AsiaLife cover from the future!
Dr. Thanh robbed by Chinese Time Bandits!
SDM:Saigon Digital Marketing victim of para-normal plagiarism!
Bono and international do-gooders caught (Red)handed in idea heist!
Saigon Brand Provocateur steals idea from himself!

For more on digital marketing and social networking see:

Xing vs. LinkedIn: Round II
Trial and Error: The New Normal
What's Wrong With My Social Networking? Xing vs. LinkedIn I
Low Tech Germany. Who Knew?
Advertising People and Blogs
How to Write the Best Blog in the World
What If Gutenberg Had a Blog?
If Blogs Are Free Does That Make Them Worthless?
Detri-Viral Marketing II: The Top 10 Social Media Blunders
Bright Lights, Big Internet and the WWED
Saigon Digital Marketing Conference Successfully Avoids Plumbers Convention
A Tale of Many Marketing Conferences
Detri-Viral Marketing I: How Web 2.0 Can Go Against A Brand
Marketing Predictions for 2009
Barcamp Saigon 2008
"Ignore Everybody" is Born: A Plug for Hugh MacLeod
Are the Bloggerati Missing the Market? Asia has Risen,
Into the Gapinvoid - Web 2.0 Social Networking Born 20 Years Ago

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rubber Stamp Post-It Note Business Cards: Recession Profit Stategies #4

Advertising, Business, Business Cards, Career, Creative Circle, Creativity,, Global Financial Crisis, H3, Marketing, Name Cards, Networking, Post-It Notes, Social Marketing, Rubber StampRecently I was on the way to a business gathering and I realized I was out of name cards. What to do? One of the main reasons we all go to these things is the ability to network and meet new people and in Asia, you look like a real dork if you don't have a name card. It's almost a religion here, and the titles one sees when attending an otherwise average gathering border on the surreal. "Deputy Chief Marketing and Information Technology Strategist", "Assistant To The Director In Charge of Other Directors", "CEO, Founder/CIO/UFO"... you know what I mean - but to show up without one means, essentially two things: #1) You can't afford the $6 printing fee, or #2) It's your first time in Asia. I myself was in a pickle - and so it was in a flash that was much more necessity than creativity I snatched a pad of Post-It notes and a rubber stamp I had made with this blog address and began to manufacture cards. The stamp fit quite nicely and they took all of five minutes to make a bundle. Voi la! But the problem of presentation remained. How was I, a guy who professes to be not only a Brand Provocateur, but a Fortune 500 Brand Provocateur going to pass off these pieces of shit as real cards?

"The Global Financial Crisis" and in a jiffy I had a clever opening line for the distribution of some pretty cheesy cards. Opening my card case slowly and casting my sullen eyes upon the soon to be recipients I recited, in a deadpan fashion, how tough the crisis had been on my company and how we had resorted to saving money on all sorts of things, including name cards as I peeled each card gingerly away from the next on the pad. Fucking hilarious. The shits and giggles were almost instantaneous, and a flurry of chuckles and ha-has ensued. It was an immediate hit. Throughout the remainder of the evening I passed them out to the same humourous response and was even prompted by people who had been told what I had to give them one. The next day, hits to this site were up dramatically.

A few weeks later, another opportunity presented itself at a meeting of geeks, designers, venture and tech people, and again, the response was tremendous. One fellow, Min Tran, a right fine graphic designer in his own right, said the card was
"better than design", because the idea was the design. Who knew? I guess necessity, being the mother of invention, knew. It just took me awhile to figure it out.

The moral of this story is not so difficult at all. Sometimes you have to let the situation dictate the terms of the creativity - letting go is sometimes so difficult - but worthwhile in the end. I could have showed up with no card at all and, honestly, nobody would have cared - but instead I took it a step further and ended up with a solution that worked for everybody.

For more
Recession Profit Strategies click below:

#3 The Recruitment Process
#2 Saving On Employee Costs
#1 Falling Economy

For more on time bandit idea & business concept filching, para-normal plagiarism, and all out spooky behaviour, check below:

New York Magazine Steals AsiaLife cover from the future!
Dr. Thanh robbed by Chinese Time Bandits!
SDM:Saigon Digital Marketing victim of para-normal plagiarism!
Bono and international do-gooders caught (Red)handed in idea heist!
Saigon Brand Provocateur steals idea from himself!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Workers of the World Unite - A recession re-imagined - The Individual Collectivist is Born

Lech Wałęsa (IPA:
Lech Walesa.ogg [ˈlɛx vaˈwɛ̃sa]; born September 29, 1943) was an auto mechanic and shipyard worker who became a Polish politician and a trade union and human rights activist. He co-founded Solidarity (Solidarność), the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union , won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995.[1] I first became aware of Walesa in the late 80s as the leader of the Velvet Revolution, a non-violent workers revolution that helped bring Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to the end of the Cold War. This clipping - from somewhere around that time, impressed me for it's simplicity, directness and correctness in the face of uncertain futures. Here are a few other quotes from Walesa that I quite enjoy: On Work - “I'm lazy. But it's the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn't like walking or carrying things.” On America - “You have riches and freedom here but I feel no sense of faith or direction. You have so many computers, why don't you use them in the search for love?” On progress - “He who puts out his hand to stop the wheel of history will have his fingers crushed.” On the opposition - “I got politics and economics moving and then others took over.” On talk - “I must tell you that the supply of words on the world market is plentiful, but the demand is falling.” Interestingly enough, I was not able to find the quote at the top of this page, my favourite still.

The way society functions, we are all encouraged to rely on institutions for security - basically, because they need us to function, but when those institutions fail, where are we to turn? I was asked recently if I had always felt like an entrepreneur, an independent, a free thinker at an early age and in reflection I had to answer, yes. Yes, of course. I'm adopted, so that put me solo from the git-go. I painted signs at 16, opened a video games parlour at 19 and was also a member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in the US from 1974-1976. In 76, I remember going out on strike with the union and watching the union management go from defiant, to defensive to defeat - not even amongst their own ranks could they summon a quorum - whilst management remained immovable. This told me quite a bit - and I also remember having a lemonade stand when I was 10. I proceeded on to university, being quite possibly the only man in the union who had a "Plan B" - actually, for me it had always been "Plan A" - the factories only being a way for me to have made enough money to have funded my education. Later, in the corporate world, I saw social behaviours that mimicked what I saw in the union organisation - the water cooler revolts, the drunken Monday Night Football declarations, the Xeroxed defiance of a populace to afraid to advance into management and risk becoming part of the problem. The black and white photo you see of the solitary worker is from those days - I have kept it all these years, kept in my daytimer as well, to remind me of how I saw myself at the time - an individual, but just another uniformed part of the masses that would board the rapid transit towards the building of a stronger America every day. I remember proposing an idea to my boss, Allan Klein at Leo Burnett, for our client Nintendo. I remember Allan listening, as if he had a more urgent meeting to get to and wrapping up the whole session up with the statement, "David, they haven't asked us for that". "I know Allan", I returned, "But isn't it our job to think and be proactive for our client, to make proposals?" "No, not really, David. Our job is to execute what we're told", he responded. It was well before that day, probably around the time I saved the B&W solitary man photo that I knew that, that kind of thinking was wrong, it was just on that particular day I understood fully that it was really wrong, and ultimately detrimental to the whole place. There was an obstacle in my path and nothing would ever grow there for me. It was time to kick it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Banks, Bombs and Babes: The Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz III to our first Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz was amazing. Our second, off the charts. But now the world has fallen into a global economic crisis and we had to ask ourselves if all the talent we've got prancing around here couldn't be used to alleviate some of the throbbing stress we're all feeling in our financial members - and the answer is of course, yes. This month's physicist is Dr. Kim Loan My Moni and she's ready to probe this financial thing until we all just have a cigarette and doze off. So ... time for the quiz. Below, you'll find a question in Bold Faced Type. Consider the question, come up with your answer, and then "mouse over" (just roll the cursor over it - don't click) the question to reveal our physicist's answer. Should you disagree with it, we'll be more than happy to lock your sorry assets in the safe deposit vault until Dr. Kim can liquidate them.

"Can't we just nuke all the bad banks with suitcase bombs?"

For more quizzes, check here:

Iran's Ahmadinedschad - The Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz VII
Did Sarah Palin Just Nuke Herself? - The Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz VI
Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz V
Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz IV
Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz III
Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz II
Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz I.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Hair Job II: Nothing Much Happened Again Today In Vietnam: VII

Berlin, David Bowie, Hair job, Humor, Humour, L.A., new york, Nothing Much Happened Again Today in Vietnam, Rod Stewart, Stylist, Swiss Army KnifeI was originally attracted by the price. As things get tougher the world over, saving over 50% on a hair job can be a big deal, especially for a guy. Previously I had gone to the same hair shop for over two years - the criteria being that they had trained salon stylists, as opposed to the bowl-over-the-head oriental barbers, and that they had a competitive price. My price for a haircut and highlight (streaks of lighter colour as opposed to a complete dye job) had been 250,000 Vietnamese Dong (vnd), or around US $17. To get the whole thing done for just vnd 100,000 (more like $7 US) seemed a bargain too good to be true - and probably any woman, with a sixth sense regarding beauty purchases, would have known that it was. But I, in an effort to maintain a tight budget, trundled on and into the shop at the appropriate time. I had visited a few hours earlier to meet the staff and inquire about price. With minimal English (they understand perfectly, the words "haircut" and "highlight") I was assured by an attractive seemed-to-be-owner that the job could be undertaken upon my return.

Once back in the shop, I found two females sleeping in the barber chairs for lack of customers and was ready to get to work. A male stylist was summoned from the back of the place and once surveying that he had the proper gear
(holdster with professional shears, combs, clips, whatever) I proceeded to be draped in silk and appropriately sprayed down for the shear. And a fine job he did. With a little instruction, just here and there, he proved to understand not only the mechanics of the work but the values of design, pyramidal composition, layering, lift and drape. He was good. Maybe too good for this place. Cutting finished we were now ready for the "highlight" part of the job - and that's when the trouble began. Failing to find the previous owner-to-be- there was absolutely no understanding whatsoever amongst the now remaining staff that I had requested the second procedure, but with yet more encouragement I managed to find a hair sample book on my lap and proceeded to riffle through the pages in search of blonde. As you might imagine, the colour palate for this hemisphere is radically different from that in the west and an almost dizzying array of Auburn to Chestnut to Mahogany takes up over 95% of the book with "Madonna 101", the standard bottle blonde colour, occupying just one sample - so I picked that one. Pandemonium ensued.

The universal Vietnamese symbol for
"We don't have that", "We're out of that", "We have no fucking idea what you're talking about" is an inversion of the palms skyward, elbows bent, and a rotating of wrists that produces a blender-like motion in the air in front of the communicator's mute piehole. Translation: "You're fucked". It was then, just as nicely explained as they were capable of, that they didn't have the blonde colour and I would have to choose from the remainder of browns in the book. "But that's not a highlight", I protested to deaf ears, "Highlight means lighter and yadda, yadda, yadda" - as I went just so abso-fucking-lutely nowhere. This job was over. And I would have to find my highlights in another shop. I paid for the haircut, a more than fair 20,000 dong, and was dejected onto the street like a pinball through the black hole of hell in a game of flipper-the-foreigner. "Go fish dude". That's how it works sometimes.

Now on the street I was essentially like a car which had had bodywork, bondall and primer but no primary paint job. A half-baked job now looking for completion on a budget of 80,000 dong. Good luck.
A survey of shops in my not-so-large four block radius neighborhood will reveal no less than 30 hair shops. They're everywhere, as are the customers, and apparently have not seen yet fit to establish a local business organization that will help them get some handle on proper pricing and services - prices vary wildly. From an arguable 80,000 dong tint job at a shop who didn't have my colour I was now wading through a plethora of the joints with estimates going all the way from 150,000 dong to 280,000!

One thing's for sure, they know how to spot a foreigner who's got a big fucking problem. I didn't see anyone else walking the streets with a 1/2-done hair job, that's for sure.

Berlin, David Bowie, Hair job, Humor, Humour, L.A., new york, Nothing Much Happened Again Today in Vietnam, Rod Stewart, Stylist, Swiss Army KnifeAfter a flurry of unsuccessful negotiations with more than five shops, in an effort to get something close to 80,000 dong, I settled on a place for 100,000, after getting them off their original quote of 120,000. I'm convinced I met every gay man in the neighborhood after this ritual and was more than happy to check my head in with what seemed to be a family of stylists - a woman, her husband and two cute sisters - either one of which the male owner was proffering for me to be interested in romantically. I chuckled that off and sat down for the cap. The device with which one administers a highlight job is a rather unattractive shower cap, tied beneath the chin with a little lip of a visor at the forehead and about a hundred holes covering the hairline of the cranium through which very small chunks of hair will be pulled by a crotchet-like hook, producing sort of a mad scientist look before the colouring solution is applied. That done, the solution, a pasty blue goo in a bowl, is painted, with a paintbrush, onto the hair sticking out of the cap. It smells caustic and you look like a complete idiot during the process. Only a person of true unadulterated vanity would submit to the procedure holding a vascilating uncertain hope that, somehow in the end, they would actually look better for it. It takes a real suspension of disbelief to do this.

20 minutes with the goo and you are almost ready to have the stuff removed - thirty minutes in my case as she sits me down in the chair for a final moving about of all the hair with the paintbrush and a hand-sign that says
"five minutes". After that one is ushered to the shampoo section and given a thorough washing, scrubbing and massage from which you do emerge, I would certainly say, refreshed and then ushered back out to the front room for a blow-dry, gel and style - but this job was 1/2 done at one shop and 1/2 done here so the stylist is at a bit of a loss as to what she thinks I was going for in the first place. For my assessment, I'd say I was going for Bowie, but ended up with Rod Stewart instead - and that, as even all my veteran friends of the 70s will attest, is not a particularly good thing.

The big shock of hair that sprouts from my widows peak in front had become a neon sort of balloon yellow and the spikey roostery things in back were more of a platinum. I have no idea how this happens but with me as the stylist, uh, creative director of the job at hand, had no one to blame but my budget conscious self and proceeded to thank the staff, pay them and go on my merry way. Bad hair jobs are almost a hallmark of foreigners here. As the prices are so much radically cheaper than those of most western countries, the entire foreign population seems to go around getting themselves transformed into the likes of exotic endangered bird species on a daily basis. For the likes of the hair and nails on the women of the majority of the foreign influx, they are, for the most part ... horendous - and none of the Vietnamese ever seem to notice. They think all foreigners look like this - they've seen them on TV.

The rest of my evening was spent trying to figure out quite what to do next. I had dinner and having not been noticed by anybody yet, went home to hide.
The Swiss Army Knife, given to me by my ex-mother-in-law, has yet to see a problem it can not handle. It's little saw has tackled rose bushes at my overgrown lakehouse - the corkscrew, tamed any number of wine bottles and the auger, bored through a number of leather objects, including belts, to produce holes where no holes had been before. The little scizzors have come in handy as well, and tonight would be a test of their true fortitude. Could they swim their way through a virtual forest of oddly colored hair and cut out only the portions I didn't like? Could they master the intricacies of 21st century hairstyling to birth a Bowie from a Stewart? Could they? Could they?

Over the next few days, a number of you will see me. Do not be kind. Be honest. Brutally honest. One friend saw me recently and didn't even understand I had had my hair done, but truthfully, he doesn't know fuck all about these things. A few days ago another friend asked me if I was going for the LA Bowie or the Berlin Bowie. I said, "LA when I'm sober, Berlin when not". He thought that was backwards, but appropriately Bowie-esque. All you will need to do is figure out whether I have been drinking or not to tell me if I have succeeded.

Maybe NY Bowie is somewhere in the middle - or maybe just me.
Again, nothing much happened in Vietnam today.

For more in the "Nothing much happened" series, check below:

VIII People Are Just Dieing To Get Out of Here
VII The Hair Job
VI Happy New Year! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!
V The Vietnam sNews
IV At The Center of Miss Universe
III My Walk in the Park Today
II The Stevie Wonder Post
I Ear Cleaning

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Recruitment Process: Recession Profit Strategies #3

Coke Habit, Crazy Deranged Fool, Dean Martin, Devil, Gods, Heaven, Hell, Hieronymous Bosch, Lord, Recession Profit Strategies, Recruiter, Recruitment, Satire, The JobUnderstanding the current economic situation and the US unemployment rate of over 8%, many of you will be entering the job market, if not already in it. Before we get to the lighter side of this story, always remember: The choice is yours. Picking the wrong job can be more disasterous than having no job at all. That said, the following story regarding the recruitment process may more fully illustrate the point:

A guy dies and St. Peter tells him he gets to choose between Heaven and Hell? And the guy says, "What's up with that?", and St. Peter sez, "Well truth is we can't decide what to do with you. In your life you did some good things, but you did some bad things also... I know you took care of the wife and kids and got em' through college, but you were sleeping with your secretary and pilfering money from the company for your coke habit, so God let you decide."

"Well, that seems fair", the man replies, "let's take a look."

The first stop on the tour is Hell. They descend in an elevator in a long dark shaft but strangely, just like earth, as they descend deeper it gets cooler instead of hotter. As the doors open up the man is greeted by the view of the most beautiful casino he has ever seen. Long maroon velvet curtains drape the bar and tables and Dean Martin is , Martini in hand, singing with a piano and a sax player and Louie Belson on drums. It's positively fucking charming. Everyone is in black tie and the women are fabulous. The man is handed a complimentary cocktail and ushered to the Devil's table under a great chandalier. He speaks with the Devil for a few minutes with all the questions about hell a man might have, based on what we hear on earth, and the Devil says, "Oh, that rot. You know those PR bastards. God's got a million of em and they do a real blackwash story on this place. I need to look after that more". The man agrees and finds the Devil to be a perfectly likable fellow. He bids him farewell and hopes to see him again.

The next stop is Heaven. As they exit the elevator, the man is greeted by a pastoral scene of upscale American suburbia. The sun shines, hills roll, birds tweet, dogs chase boys on bikes riding down the street throwing newspapers at porches, and the sound of a couple of guys mowing their lawns can be heard as the milk truck rings his bells with the freshest delivery of the day. It's positively fucking charming. The women all look like June Cleaver and the men like Cary Grant. The man meets God as the Lord is pulling himself out of the pool at the country club after a couple of laps. "Let's drop into the 19th hole for a Manhattan and talk a bit, shall we", the Lord asks him. "Sure, sure", the man replies.

"So whaddaya think?", asks God to the man. "What's it gonna be? Heaven or Hell?"
The man stumbles for a second but regains his composure and addresses the Lord in a straightforward manner. "Well, your excellence, if it's all the same to you, may I be perfectly honest?"

"Of course, my son", the Lord replies.

"What you've got here in heaven is just positively fabulous. I mean, everybody looks so happy and the dogs are cute, and whatever...but to tell you the truth, Hell didn't look so bad at all. I mean shit, uh, shoot... Dean Martin's there and that's not so bad is it?"

"Oh, that Deano"
, the Lord chortles, throwing his head back in a cheerful chuckle. The man continues, "... so all-in-all, I just think I'd fit into Hell better and in that way everybody will get along better for eternity".

"It's your choice", the Lord says to the man. "Peter", he yells, "give him Hell!"

On the next trip down the temperature is rising so quickly that by the time they arrive the man has taken off his tie and is sweating profusely and begging for water. The doors open. Burnt corpses are dragging themselves across the floor with large steel balls chained to their legs as the curtains burn and screams of agony can be heard for miles. The piano collapses in a heap of ash. The Devil arrives, cloven and carrying a Satanic pitchfork as he laughs evily amidst the flames "Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha", he echos into the hollow chambers of the deepest darkest catacombs of the forgotten.

The man is shocked! "Devil", he says, "what happened to the casino? The cocktails? The beautiful women? Dean Martin?"

"Jeeziz kid", the Devil replies, "Whaddidja stay in the same job yer whole friggin' life?

Before, we were recruiting you. Now you're on staff!"

Thanks to Hieronymous Bosch for the illustration of "Hell" and to the ,"Crazy Deranged Fools" group on Facebook for encouraging both fortitude and humour in the face of uncertain odds.

For more Recession Profit Strategies click below:

#4 Rubber Stamp Post-It Note Business Cards
#2 Saving On Employee Costs
#1 Falling Economy

For more in Political Satire and Satire see:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Saving On Employee Costs: Recession Profit Strategies #2

Advertising, Brand Marketing Training, Falling Economy, Mexican American, Recession Profit Strategies, The Job, Will Work For FoodRecession? Global economic meltdown? Wait a minute...the savvy executive can see a way to profit from even the worst of times. In this video, the role of employee and employer are reversed, and that indeed might be the way out of the current mess our previous employers have gotten us into. Make sure to scroll down and "pause" the lite-green podcast button in the right sidebar to stop the background music while you play the video.

For more big ideas go here and show your staff how to market their way out with smarter thinking.

For more Recession Profit Strategies click below:

#4 Rubber Stamp Post-It Note Business Cards
#3 The Recruitment Process
#1 Falling Economy

For more in Political Satire and Satire see:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Brand Marketing Staff Training in Vietnam: The Pitch

Most of you are aware that I do Brand Marketing Training for Universities, Advertising Companies and Clients intensely involved in marketing but I thought I'd take a few minutes and explain exactly what that means and how it may benefit your company - especially in Vietnam.

I wish I could say that marketing education in Vietnam has been keeping up with the demand but alas all University programs fall far short of what multinational companies believe to be even acceptable entry level training, and the two private institutions that I'm aware of - ARTI: Run by the Vietnam Advertising Association and VietnamMarcom: A private institute, are primarily concerned with making a buck and don't employ any full-time foreign professors (yes, there are cost/profit issues involved) - but for any business that works on a multinational platform, the staff needs to be able to work with various people from various countries and I can provide an introductory coaching experience that's been successful across Asia and the United States as well - something no local institution can.

Many multinational companies in Korea, Japan and China are fond of offering corporate training for their staff's in Asia and in Vietnam it's no different. It's cost effective, builds moral and comaraderie within working groups and after a semester with me - trust me - they'll be ready to play in the big leagues with all the confidence, planning and big-idea-ness that it takes to win clients, bosses, friends and markets. Anyone who really wants to scroll through my CV can see my LinkedIn page but for the short version, suffice to say that I began in Asia with Leo Burnett Korea and ended up with my own agency, CarlsonCreative, Inc., in Seoul for six years that serviced British American Tobacco, Samsung, LG, Hyundai and the like. Do look at the LinkedIn page or contact me for more background detail. Following are a few examples of how this might work for your company, followed of course, by some basic financials.


a) BRANDING WORKSHOPS - Ask what a brand is in Vietnam and you'll get a thousand answers - many are right - most are not. My 15 week course at Vietnam National University previously, was extensive, but I have now boiled a 700 page textbook (The New Strategic Brand Management - Kapferer) down to an easily digestible short course with examples from the real world (Ogilvy's 360 Concept, SWOT Analysis, etc.) These days the concept of a brand has extended itself into social networking sites like FaceBook and LinkedIn and even to Twitter, YouTube, Mixx, Digg and the like. Thanks mostly to this blog I am now extremely well-versed in the Web 2.0 world and have a firm stake in it. I like to use the term Brand Provocateur to describe the ever-thinking marketer who is never afraid of exploiting whatever media will extend their brand's communication strategies. Our group at VNU was called BrandMasters and you can see some of our group in the photo to the right below on Teacher's Day.

b) TEAM BUILDING - Sometimes the concept of working across strategies (Sales/Marketing/Media/Research/Account Service/Creative) is foreign to Vietnamese employees. It's certainly not taught in the schools. With a group project over a number of weeks, team members get to work in a real-life format but with a fictional client, taking away the barriers of, "We've never done it that way", or "They'll never buy it". I use my own team's work on Nintendo as a case study in selling video games to an adult market - born out of a research study. Our efforts yielded 2 1/2 times the projected sales and were the forerunner of Nintendo's Adult Wii efforts today. The case study is now taught at Northwestern Illinois University's Kellogg School of Management , home of Philip Kotler, by Jana O'Brien of Right Brain Consumer Consulting, our Research/Media leader at Leo Burnett, Chicago.

c) PRESENTATION SKILLS - Some people should be speaking and some should be doing PowerPoint slides - others, something else. Everyone needs to know how they can best add to a successful presentation, and it's not always by being the best speaker - it's by focusing on strengths - and making them work for the team. This was part of my VNU course but also involves how we, at CarlsonCreative in Korea, beat Diamond/Bates 141 on British American Tobacco by commandeering and re-branding the library bar at the Ritz Carlton Seoul with our campaign theme line (Club Finnesse) for BAT's largest Korean Brand - as the venue for the actual presentation, complete with a grand piano player and bar staff service for non-alcoholic drinks and snacks - an out-of-the-box, but right on target presentation idea that drove the brand message home and won the account for a very small company. Jon Taylor, the President of BAT Korea and now CEO of BAT Russia can be available to provide a reference if necessary.


The course rate is $45 an hour and a suggested short course is 6 weeks with three 90 minute sessions per week. This fee includes my writing and customization of courses to individual client needs. That works out to around $1200 total and can invlove any number of staff - 5 minimum, and up to 10 max. I use a retainer fee of 1/3, a midterm payment of 1/3 and completion payment of 1/3 billing system. Other details and course options can be discussed per individual clients.

Do consider a training course for your company, if you're a manager - and if you are staff and think it would be helpful, forward this web page to your boss. It's amazing what can be accomplished in a short period of time, with a motivated and cared-for staff. If you just need cheaper employees, you might check here<.

For more on Creativity, Education and the like, check below:

"Do Our Schools Kill Creativity?" - Sir Ken Robinson
Brand Marketing and Staff Training in Vietnam
2009 Marketing Predictions
The Language Barrier - An Asian Business Conundrum

The Wild Wild East Dailies

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
Find me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Read my blog: The Wild Wild East Dailies and keep up on our efforts with aSaigon/CreativeMorning.