Links of the day | 在网上找到

The End of Employees – WSJ – temp agencies, zero-hour contracts, outsourcing, asset-light businesses, focusing on core competences etc etc all driven by revenue per employee metrics. You can thank McKinsey & Company for the ‘thought leadership’ that brought on this sorry state

Is This the World’s Most Expensive Strawberry? | Time.com – interesting how the largely ex-pat Hong Kong Mums group kicked this story off. Gift giving is very important in Asia, is this any more offensive than Cadbury Christmas selection boxes, foil laminate packaging like Capri Sun or brittle plastic blister packs

Tucows – AVC – interesting how they morphing into an alternative telco infrastructure company

60% of content created by brands is just clutter | Marketing Week – Havas meaningful brands study

People are quitting gig jobs in the sharing economy — Quartz – not terribly surprising, this is likely to accelerate interest in automation

‘Planet Earth II’ Snapchat Show Will Promote BBC TV Series | Variety – bit size lean back media for millennials

hiroshi fujiwara’s park-ing ginza X SONY collection | Design Boom – great tribute to Sony – now can they just get their mojo back

Harajuku style bible FRUiTS stops publishing after 20 years | Dazed – Noooooo!

Apple tells Australian Commission that their Bank’s acting as a Cartel has a Chilling Effect on the Benefits of Competition | Patently Apple

Bot Traffic Report 2016 | Incapsula Blog – interesting drill down into bot traffic for web properties

Shell begins huge task of decommissioning Brent oil rigs | The Guardian – reduced tax revenue just as the UK goes post-EU with Brexit….

Thousands of College Kids Are Powering a Clickbait Empire | Backchannel – content marketing using university students

Apple iPhone loses Chinese market share for first time as Oppo, Huawei, Vivo gain ground | South China Morning Post – and the iPhone 7 didn’t impress

Emerging Theme Radar – Goldman Sachs – rising importance of lithium and blockchain (PDF)

This Tech Entrepreneur Shares Her Strategy For Managing Remote Workers Globally  – great interview with Tamara Middleton

Oprah Time: reading over Chinese New Year

I have managed to catch up on a lot of reading over the Lunar New Year festival.

Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works is fascinating reading. It talks about how Korea, Japan and China have grown while their counterparts haven’t. Studwell highlights a number of factors that contribute to economic growth:

  • With an agrian economy, a market garden approach to agriculture rather than farming at scale delivers the best results. But only if rent seeking interests are removed through effective agricultural reform
  • Industry requires total mastery of technology – which is the reason why low grade heavy industry is the starting point
  • Exports planned into industrial development from the beginning and a continued relentless focus on exports is required
  • Governments are best at keeping businesses focused on total technology mastery, raising cheap finance and weeding out failures that might be a resource suck

Studwell critiques how different countries throughout Asia have managed to process in this manner including both the strengths and the weaknesses of their respective approaches.

It was fascinating to read how Taiwan managed to succeed in spite of nationalised industries and the challenges in China’s agricultural model.  How General Park ‘motivated’ Korean chaebols and the tragedy of development in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

China’s Crony Capitalism by Minxin Pei explained the mechanism of how corrupt officials, state enterprise employees and businesspeople managed to bilk the Chinese government and people of vast amounts of money. Much of the challenge is structural. China has a federalised government with power lying at provincial, city and county level. Pei is hawkish on the country’s prospects.

For an outside observer Pei’s research into the mechanisms, one can appreciate the challenge that the central government faces in combatting corruption and bad behaviour. President Xi’s ‘tigers and flies’ campaign to root out the worst corruption in the party and business is part of the solution; but according to Pei there is also careful structural reform required. This will only be possible through a massive aggregation of power towards the centre.

Living with the Casio GWF -D1000 Frogman watch

When you typically look at reviews of products, there are usually reviewed over a short time when they are new-and-shiny. Often a products features and character come out over time – a symbiotic process between product and user.

I picked up a GWF-D1000 soon after it went on sale for considerably less than the £800 that it is the current street price. Up until I bought the GWF-D1000 (which I will call the D1000 through the rest of the copy for brevity), I had owned its predecessor the GWF-1000 (which I will call the 1000 from here on in).

So what is the GWF-D1000 anyway?

The D1000 is the latest in an a series of G-Shock watches aimed at scuba divers. The first Frogman came out in 1993. The overall design has largely been the same with an asymmetric case and a large display to make operation easier. The positioning of the watches and price points changed over time – some of the previous models had titanium cases and came under the Mr-G sub-brand. The last few models have a stainless steel core case with a DLC (diamond like coating) to protect the surface.

Over time it has picked up features as the technology improved. It became illuminated by a small green bulb, then electro-luminescent material. It moved from relying purely on battery power to having solar cells and a rechargeable battery. The watch became more accurate by picking up time signals via radio from six locations around the world that are calibrated with an atomic clock (precursors to the NTP services around the world that keep your computer and smartphone bang on time.)

The key technology gains over the 1000 include:

  • A dive computer rather than a dive timer (neither matter to me), it has the same basic functionality that dive computers used to have 20 years ago (minus PC connectivity). No big shakes until you remember that it is doing this all from a solar-powered rechargeable watch battery
  • Digital compass which is surprisingly handy, it is very forgiving of the way you hold it, expect this in other Casio watches soon.
  • Temperature reading (again more for the diver) or when you are running a bath
  • The display has been rearranged and a bit easier to read
  • Much better display light and crisper to read at night

The real benefits for me were in the build quality:

  • You get a sapphire crystal rather than the usual hardened mineral glass. This isn’t the first time that Casio has used a sapphire crystal on a watch, but they are harder to manufacture and more expensive than the usual mineral glass face
  • The manner in which the strap is secured to the case has been completely revised. There is are new Allen key screws and a carbon fibre rod to secure the strap to the case
  • The strap is made of polyurethane resin reinforced with carbon fibre. The loop that holds the excess strap length is now a section of stainless steel which has been bent around the strap

How do I use it?

It makes sense to tell a little bit around why I wear a Frogman. I want an accurate watch (who doesn’t?). I want a reliable watch (again, probably a hygiene factor for most people; but one that hints at why the G-Shock has replaced Rolex as the default watch I have seen on Hong Kongers over the past 10 years or so. G-Shock offers robustness that 20 years ago would have come from fine Swiss engineering – at a much lower price point.

I love my Swiss dive watches but there is a time and place for everything.  The knockabout case and its water resistance means that you can forget about the watch. You don’t have to coddle it or worry that it will pick up undue attention. You don’t have to worry if you get a bang on an elevator (lift) door, dropped on the bathroom floor or going for a swim.

The G-Shock is an everyman watch – unless its got a lurid colour scheme it isn’t likely to attract the attention of your average petty criminal. I’ve often taken it off in the office so that I can type in greater comfort and left it there by accident when going home. I’ve never had a G-Shock go missing.

It is relatively easy to use, despite the modal nature of its interface design. To change settings, use functions or see recorded information you have to cycle through a series of text menus – it has more in common with a 1980s vintage video cassette recorder or a DEC VAX. Quite how this goes down with consumers more used to iPads and SnapChat is interesting. Casio seems to do alright by attracting them with bright plastic cases reminiscent of Lego -based colour schemes.

I haven’t dived seriously in a long time, I took up scuba diving while working in the oil industry and have never got back into it since moving to London.  PADI diving at resorts is tame compared to British diving club scene I had been used to.

My work environment is creative which means that t-shirts, flannel shirts,  jeans and suede hiking boots make the G-Shock an ideal accessory. I work in the London office of an American digital marketing agency, owned by a French multinational and my clients are scattered in the different offices around the world of pharmaceutical companies. The functions I tend to use most are the world time, date/time and the night light. My iPhone is now my alarm clock.

The reality is that most of these watches will end up on the wrists of people like me rather than people who dive for a living.

What’s it like to live to live with the D1000

The D1000 is only incrementally heavier than the 1000, it felt a bit strange to wear for about 30 minutes after swapping over to the newer model. But in some ways the D1000 doesn’t yet feel like its my watch.

The 1000 strap became shiny in places over time and more pliable, it felt like it became adjusted to me. Give the D1000 a rub over and it still looks box fresh. The downside is that the strap feels stiff and I still feel its edges on occasion – this isn’t about discomfort, but about the watch not feeling like part of you. There are no shiny parts of wear – it feels less like a ‘personal item”. It lacks what a designer friend calls authenticity; unlike distressed jeans, customised flight jackets or combat Zippos.

Zippo Lighters

This sounds great for the resale value, but I feel that it provides a worse experience for the wearer of the watch.

The reinforced strap does have one bonus, it holds securely to the case. Look at these pictures of my two year old 1000

Casio GWF 1000 Frogman

You can see how the retaining screw that held the strap to the case came undone and disappeared over time. You don’t have these kind of problems with the D1000.

The screen on the D1000 uses its real estate in a different way to the 1000.

Here is the 1000

Casio GWF 1000 Frogman

Here is the D1000

Casio GWF D1000 Frogman

At first the differences aren’t obvious. If you look at the top right side of the screen, the tide and moon segments are replaced by a multi-use screen on the D1000. The small icons for alarms and hourly alerts are moved to the bottom and left of the screen on the D1000, the moon icon now moves to the left of the main screen down from the top right. This probably marginally increases the screen real estate and helps make legibility a bit clearer at night.

GWF 1000

The biggest 1000 feature that I miss is the ability to toggle with one press of the top left button from showing the date on the screen to showing a second time zone; it was extremely handy for work. And having come from the 1000 to the D1000 it was a real ‘what the fuck’ moment.

By comparison I have to press six times to get to the world time screen. Instead, it now toggles between a tide table and the day. Even giving it a two press option would be a better fix than what the D1000 currently has. It’s a small gripe, but it annoyed the heck out of me.

My work around has been to keep the watch in world time mode and if I need to know the day or date, I find myself reaching for my iPhone.

If you are really that worried about tide tables, you will be likely using a specialist service as they vary a good deal over relatively short distances.

If the D1000 still sounds like the kind of watch you want, you can get it here.

The QRcode post

A few years ago, I was involved in a project that used QRcodes on OOH (out of home) activity for a retail launch. QRcode scanners varied in performance. In addition you had to think about:

  • Contrast – did the QRcode stand out?
  • Relative aspect – would it be too big or too small for the audience to scan?

In the UK, QRcodes are seen by marketers as old hat (but then they didn’t ‘get’ them in the same way that Asia did). Other people don’t really understand how to use them.
QRcode 101
Above is the picture of the local cafe around the corner from my office. The QRcode is too disjointed and blurred to read. I asked a member of staff about it and he told me that he thought it was some type of logo…

June 2016 online marketing and technology research slides

Here is a copy of the slides that I pull together (when I have the time) each month of publicly available data that would be of use.

This month I have some new data around search which came from disclosures at Google I/O in terms of search volumes. We talk about social as if search has gone out of style but its growth is still staggering, driven by mobile device penetration.
Google global search volume
Looking at global search revenue over time, Google’s monopoly position becomes immediately apparent.
Global Search Revenues
More details about me here.
Slide20
Full presentation available for download as a PDF on Slideshare

The phenomenon of Hong Kong Strong

Brandon Li put his short film Hong Kong Strong on Vimeo last week. The video sprang up all over my Facebook feed as proud Hong Kongers shared the video. There were a number of things happening. The Hong Kong Tourist Board was having its strategy and spend challenged by some of the public and Wan Chai was shut down as a senior Chinese official arrived in the city for a three-day inspection.

Brandon accompanied the video with a description of how it was made. The film was boiled down from over 1.7TB of rushes.

Oprah time: China’s Coming War With Asia by Jonathan Holslag

Where do I start with a book title this inflammatory? I went to the trouble of reading the book twice before starting this review. In the end, the only conclusion I can come to is ‘Policy Faultlines in East Asia’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Untitled
Holsag marshals a huge range of facts and opinions within the book. If you want to have a basic understanding of modern Chinese state, the book is a good primer.

He provides insight into the Chinese Communist’s Party’s policy cornerstone of territory maximisation. They were happy to put off their agenda for tactical advantage, but never gave up on their goals. China’s neighbours have similar inflexible policy goals. There is is no win-win solution.

Time has brought increased pressures. A fight for resources to fuel further growth and water rights conflicts. Relative declines in economic growth also fuels nationalistic politics. In China, nationalistic sentiments in citizens grew with prosperity. It has become convenient for politicians to tap into nationalistic sentiments.

Holsag doesn’t attempt to provide a solution for de-escalation of these edges. His book only provides a macro-level understanding of the countries involved. For the reader who wants to understand Asia, Holsag’s book is an excellent primer.  More on China’s Coming War With Asia by Jonathan Holsag.

Edelman’s trust barometer 2016

Edelman’s Trust Barometer has become a kind of zeitgeist meter for the kind of people who go to the World Economic Forum at Davos.

This year Edelman talks about the Grand Illusion, that everyday people will follow the global elites. Income inequality and a growing realisation that the future won’t get better has gradually changed perceptions. It is yet another data point that signals the death of the American Dream and according to Citi the end of Pax Americana.

It is also worthwhile looking at BAV Consulting research on ‘the best countries in the world’ to see how country brand equity are now perceived.

More information
Prepare for the Post Pax-Americana era, says Citi – FT (paywall)
2016 Trust Barometer: Divide Opens Up Between Global Elite And Public | Holmes Report
U.S. News & World Report, WPP’s BAV Consulting & The Wharton School on best countries in the world | PR Newswire

Jargon watch: McRefugees

McDonalds Restaurants in Hong Kong is famous to Economist readers for consistently providing the best value in the publication’s ‘tongue-in-cheek’ ‘Big Mac Index’ McDonalds Chinese sign

The restaurants are ubiquitous, offering cheap consistent food. And many of them remain open 24 hours a day, which contributes to Hong Kong’s ‘up all night’ lifestyle alongside the ubiquitous convenience stores. They are a neighbourhood haven to office workers, students and those on shifts. Their relative low costs mean that they prove attractive to homeless people. McSleepers and McRefugees were the interchangeable labels given to the homeless people sleeping in McDonalds to escape the oppressive heat of summer or the cold around lunar new year. It became a thing in the media last year when a woman lay dead in a restaurant for 24 hours before being discovered. The tragedy masks the unintentional social role McDonalds is playing for the poorest in Hong Kong society.

More information

Hong Kong ‘McRefugees’ up sharply, study shows – Hong Kong Economic Journal Insights

Save our McRefugees: Woman’s lonely unnoticed death in Hong Kong McDonald’s highlights need to help homeless | SCMP

Hong’s Kong’s lack of affordable housing fuels ‘McSleeper’ trend, where the homeless sleep at McDonald’s | SCMP Homeless woman found dead at Hong Kong McDonald’s 24 hours after she sat down as unaware customers ate | SCMP

‘McRefugee’ reunites with son in Singapore through media report on Hong Kong’s McDonald’s sleepers | SCMP

The lonely life of the McSleepers, the poor who call McDonald’s home | SCMP

Happy mid-autumn festival

Especially to my peeps in Hong Kong
Happy mid autumn festival

Throwback gadget: Nokia E90 Communicator

The last time I was excited about about anything coming out of the World Mobile Congress was 2007. It was held in early February 2007, some four months before the launch of the first iPhone. Nokia was king of the world, their beautifully made hardware was made with magnesium alloy chassis’ on the E-series business handsets. Symbian was a user friendly if flakey operating system.
Nokia e90 and 6085
Nokia took business smartphones to the next level with the E90 Communicator; a powerful handset with a full sized keyboard hidden beneath the exterior of a candy-bar phone.
Nokia e90 and 6085
The e90 was a leap forward from the previous 9X00-series communicators in computing power and connectivity. The E90 supported Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, numerous bands of GSM, UMTS cellular radio and HSDPA – which heralded a near broadband web experience – network permitting. Beyond connectivity, the phone sported a decent-sized screen some 800 pixels wide, a full keyboard that I managed to type blog posts on in real-time and a GPS unit that allowed you to tag photos on Flickr or use Google Maps.

There was also a built-in camera that was ideal for use with Skype when you had a wi-fi connection. Setting up an IMAP email account was a doodle. And unlike one of the current crop of phablets I could fold the clamshell case and put in the side pocket of my carpenter jeans. I used the E90 Communicator as a lightweight laptop replacement, similar to the way I currently use the MacBook Air.

The achilles heel of the E90 Communicator was the Symbian software. I had some 3,500 contacts at the time in my computer, when I attempted to synch it across to my phone it bricked. I had to have it reflashed. It was not a memory issue, but that the OS seemed unable to handle a business contact book. I managed with a sub-set of the contacts on there. Eventually while in Hong Kong on business, the phone stopped holding a charge, it would chew through a battery in 30 minutes. I got a replacement battery for it but it made no difference. Given that mine was a developer programme model phone, no one in Shenzhen would attempt to repair the device.
Nokia E90
The sticker in the back of the phone was like kryptonite for the most hardened shanzhai hardware hacker.

The culture of brand collaborations in Hong Kong

On of the more unusual aspects of marketing in Hong Kong is the amount of co-marketing deals and the unusual nature of these tie-ups. For instance last year I saw high-end Japanese streetwear brand Neighborhood have it’s brand on Coke Zero cans.
Coke Zero x Neighborhood limited edition cans
This was used by Coke Zero to promote nighttime cycling. (It would be cooler and Hong Kong looks spectacular at night.)
Untitled
Meanwhile McDonalds is usually better known for tie-ins with Sanrio character franchises. However, now it is running a promotion with Singapore-based personal care brand Walsh. Think of Walsh as similar to Cussons in the UK. With certain breakfast dishes, consumers get a bottle of body wash free.

Here is the TV advert being run to support the promotion. And no, I can’t really make that much sense of the synergies either, but it seems to work.

Green Tomato Pointcast technology showcase Coca Cola Opener App demo

Green Tomato are a Hong Kong mobile agency that I have a lot of time for. They were responsible for TalkBox a proto-OTT voice messenger solution. TalkBox moved way from being a consumer product to become an enterprise push-to-talk competitor. More recently Green Tomato have done a lot of work on the integration of mobile apps, with ‘other screen content’. They have done great work on digital retailing experiences in Hong Kong. Unfortunately their work has been ahead of its time and risks eclipsed by other people building on the likes of iBeacon.

I particularly like the demo below. It works with a Coca-Cola video advert to increase engagement. It could be applied just as easily with with traditional media like cinema or TV advertising or new video advertising formats on YouTube or YouKu. It makes the advertising spend work harder which is one of the key reasons why Mondelez are so excited by mobile marketing.

The challenge with this technology is that it makes the job of creative directors harder. Interaction becomes a key part of the experience rather than just a story amplifier. The technology is less amenable than social media to be bolted on to the side of a campaign like a rocket motor.

More information
Green Tomato

Living in a mobile laboratory

According to a commentator in the Hong Kong Economic Times: Hong Kong consumers spend 129 minutes a day on their mobile devices, 90 per cent of that time is using applications and mobile internet-enabled services.

According to Hong Kong government statistics mobile penetration is 223% compared to 128% across the EU, though many of these are accounted for by cab drivers who double as a booking office for other taxis using a string of handsets spread across their dashboard.

Sometime after the summer in Hong Kong, the MTR (think Transport for London running the tube system) changed the message on escalators to the following in a grating passive-aggressive female voice:

Please hold on to the hand rail, don’t keep your eyes only on your mobile phone

Your mobile bill comes with a 12 dollar surcharge to contribute towards the cost of providing mobile access on the underground rail system, yet people don’t talk on the phone, they watch videos, play games, use messenger applications or update their Facebook page.

WhatsApp enjoys an email-like ubiquity, with AllthingsD claiming 50 per cent penetration for Hong Kong back in August this year. That sounds a bit low based on my empirical experience.

There are five mobile network operators for a city of seven million people resulting in price and feature competition:

  • Mobile data is basically all you can eat
  • LTE and Wi-Fi are easy to come by
  • Free local calls
  • Competitive IDD services
  • OTT video services are commonplace for Cantonese speakers
  • Some operator brands, notably 1010 try to differentiate by customer service and providing a sub-Vertu concierge service to business customers

Mobile tends to start filling micro-pockets of time when one might read a book or a paper, on the commute, in a taxi, at a restaurant or bar. It is often common to see couples sitting together at a table, not talking or acknowledging each other’s existence instead engrossed in their smartphone or tablet.

All of this phone use means that consumers have a battery pack that they take with them which can recharge a phone or a tablet over a USB connection. It is no coincidence that Huawei’s Ascend Mate 2 incorporates this battery pack functionality into the tablet, as the primary upgrade this time around.

More information
Hong Kong Economic Times commentary on ‘digital’ over-use (in Chinese)
Office of the Communications Authority – Key communications statistics (in English)
The Quiet Mobile Giant: With 300M Active Users, WhatsApp Adds Voice Messaging | AllthingsD
CES 2014: Huawei announces Ascend Mate 2 | NDTV