F1 Nightrace does wonders for Singapore brand

Posted September 26th, 2012

The eyes of the world looked at Singapore and its impressive skyline during the F1 Nightrace last weekend. This attention helped Singapore to position itself as a first world metropolis in the heart of Asia.

I'm the first to admit that I am not a racing enthusiast. If anything, I follow the global circuit from the fringes, reading up on Vettel and Hamilton once in a while. So when my client Audi invited me to their F1 Party at Singapore's Fullerton hotel, it was more the experience and the people that made me look forward to the event. Together with my colleague Havard, our coach/trainer from Bangkok who was visiting for a week, I arrived at the venue just over an hour before the race started. Up on the roof terrace 7 pm was the perfect time to take in the course and the impressive Singapore skyline in the diminishing light. As darkness fell and the lights came on, this time with F1-colours on the Marina Bay Sands mall and many of the CBD skyscrapers, I could only imagine what the image to the outside world would be - and indeed, through the race I received a few SMS from Europe asking about the feeling "on the ground" and commenting on the impressive pictures they saw.

Extending the F1 Nightrace in Singapore for another five years was a brilliant move - yes, Singaporeans will complain about traffic jams due to road closures (I almost missed my SMU 'Advertising' class last Thursday night), but secretly they'll be proud of their city state, its success becoming visible to the world during the event. The overseas' reporters that have been sent to cover the race would make sure they earn their keep by reporting from the fringes of the event, covering Singapore's economic performance and achievements in technology, education, architecture and culture. These stories are always valid, but it takes an event like the F1 Nightrace to put the focus on Singapore.


“Cool Cash” – a new book for (would-be) Entrepreneurs

Posted September 18th, 2012

Have you always wanted to make your hobby into a job? Or do you just need to earn some extra cash? The new book by Jorg Dietzel and Ivan Ho, "Cool Cash", out this week, can help. Pick up a copy at Amazon, any bookstore or at a reduced price at the launch on 24 September, 17.30 hs, SMU Admin Building, Level 6.

The email read "Hi Prof, you don't know me, but I have an idea..." and it made me curious. Who was this NUS student who wanted to write about hobby jobs, and had already interviewed a dozen of people who had followed their passion? We met, and decided to co-operate: He'd source the cases, I'd add some branding and marketing insights and ask my staff to help with research, make an introduction to my publisher.

A year later the book is out: "Cool Cash" looks at over 30 cases of people who stepped out and made their dream happen - from dog-walker to swimming-instructor, baker to dancing-coach. The background chapters beyond the interviews look at what it takes to find your passion and how to make a plan, stick with it and make it happen.

Initial feedback is promising: "I need this!", friends are posting on the Facebook-page. We hope that the How-To-Lists we compiled, together with the real-life interviews with young and old entrepreneurs will inspire people in Singapore and Asia to make the leap of faith and start earning some "Cool Cash".


Country Branding Gains Importance

Posted September 18th, 2012

With markets in Asia competing for tourists, talent and investment, having a clear and differentiated country positioning is more important than ever.

It was the morning after the Olympics 2012 in London. I got up early, dressed in a suit and tie (for once) and drove to the office, then walked over to the BBC Singapore studios in Shaw Tower. They had asked me to do a live interview with London on how the Olympics had helped Brand GB. I talked about tourism, about attracting talent and investment. A good country brand, a market that stands for something, can also really help exports - think fashion from France, food from Italy or cars from Germany.

And international events can help since they generate a lot of free global media coverage that the host nation can leverage; Singapore did that with the first Youth Olympics, and every country brand is looking to use the world's attention for the World Cup or Olympic Games to portray itself in the best possible light.

But they also need to resist the temptation to overpromise: Beijing did a great show in 2008, but when it came out that the little girl we saw wasn't the one that was really singing, viewers started wondering what else had been faked. In London's case, it helped to have an open, even controversial debate beforehand, and an opening ceremony that had a sense of humour. (And even a very funny TV series, "2012", that fictionalises the preparations for the event and what could go wrong.)

And events shouldn't be a stand-alone; it makes sense to integrate them into a campaign (the UK's "Great", Singapore's "Uniquely Singapore"/"Your Singapore" and even the Philippines' "It's more fun in the Philippines" which does a great job capturing the Filipino spirit of seeing a silver lining even in the most dire circumstances).

But beyond the pretty pictures and smiling faces, infrastructure, security and local development need to catch up - to make sure that the tourists that have visited the country due to convincing and inviting branding, will return.