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.
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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.)
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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

I love Cathay Pacific

I flew to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific and had a stopover in Europe and it reminded me why I love to travel with them. My flight from the UK was with British Airways, who used a long haul plane on a short haul route meaning that some people got a flat bed to have a nap in business class, whilst other business class passengers put up less luxurious surroundings, but like the Murphys I’m not bitter.  There was no invitation to their lounge on the break of the flight in Europe, no real up-selling the benefits of OneWorld at all.

I eventually connected with my Cathay flight at the gate and was told to report to the Cathay counter regarding my boarding pass. The first thing that went through my mind was ‘I hope they don’t bounce me off my flight for some other person’. Instead it turns out that despite my flight being booked through BA; my passport details hadn’t been shared with Cathay for the second leg of the trip. Whilst there the Cathay people asked me if I would like to use their arrival lounge at Hong Kong airport and gave me the pass for it, they then pointed out that gate wouldn’t open for ten minutes and I still had time to use their business lounge before the flight. It was small things that they did that went out of the way.

Onboard, I have a penchant for Hong Kong-style milk tea and Cathay Pacific do a version of it. Cathay’s version of Hong Kong-style milk tea tastes even better if you get them to throw an Earl Grey tea bag into the cup with it, I ask them for this concoction and they don’t bat an eyelid at the weird aging-hipster of an Irishman in row 11 with the odd request. I wouldn’t do it with BA even if they served Hong Kong-style milk tea, because matron wouldn’t be happy.

As you would expect with an Asian long-haul airline there is a decent seat to get some sleep in, and a toiletries bag that is is practical. Agnes B did the design which turned out sufficiently practical you want to take it with you. Entertainment-wise Cathay benefits from Hong Kong’s film industry as well as the usual Hollywood fodder.

All that Cathay Pacific would need to do to be perfect is:

  • Make the shoe locker in their business class seats a bit larger, not everyone wears brogues. They couldn’t fit my Zamberlan boots in let alone cope with a pair of ladies healed boots, a full-sized pair of Timberlands or Jordan 11
  • Allow you to be permanently logged in on their mobile application

Brand extension or violation?

I saw this on the way into work yesterday morning at the café-bar around the corner from the office. I just imagine the lawyers in Sunnyvale hitting the speed dial button for the corporate travel agent and booking a business class return flight to Hong Kong.
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Best Practices for Integrated Mobile Marketing Conference Notes day two

I stayed for the next morning of the conference and saw two presentations by Mig 33 and Enterprise Asia

Mig 33
IMM Conference Notes
Enterprise Asia
IMM Conference notes