Circos Brand Karma

Official Blog of Circos

Postcard from Indonesia

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I had the pleasure of presenting at the inaugural Asia-Pacific TripAdvisor Master Classes in Jakarta and Bali with Alvin Ch’ng, Commercial Director APAC for TripAdvisor, and Siew-Hoon Yeoh, Producer of Web In Travel (WIT).  We did 2 classes per day per location, and along with local hoteliers like Susanna Yong from Shangri-La Jakarta and Kevin Girard from the Conrad Bali, managed to share a lot about what we were seeing and what some hoteliers were doing to get ready for the digital marketing wave.

When I arrived in Bali, I had a few hours to kill, so I decided to hop in a cab and go to Tanah Lot.  This is one of seven sea temples along the south-west coast line.  There’s another one within walking distanced called Pura Batu Balong which I also visited.  As we’ve been expanding rapidly this year, it had been a while since I took anytime out for myself at all, so the few hour break was a much needed “work snack.”

On the perch of one of the cliffs I watched waves come in from afar.  When I visit my resort clients, I’m so used to going to their beaches to see the waves coming at eye level, the new perspective at Tanah Lot from a great height above was both refreshing and revealing.

Waves begin their formation miles from shore.  As they move closer, they either gain momentum and become larger to form white cap curls that surfers love to sneak under for a ride or they fizzle out and go flat.  The rate at which the waves come in, whether they become a curl or not, is consistent, persistent, and fast.  Who says nature moves at a slow speed?  I used to be a lifeguard, but I can imagine how overwhelming (and scary) slow swimmers must feel when they get pounded by unrelenting waves.

And it was with this realization that I understood how brand managers must be feeling with all this new digital stuff coming at them.  New digital stuff pops up constantly; some end up becoming powerful waves (like Facebook), others fizzle out (like interactive TV).  Some surprise you because they break the old patterns (like touch device — remember the tablet PC or Apple’s Newton?), some are highly anticipated but end up failures (like MySpace, Google Buzz).  What tool do you pick when things are constantly changing, and you can get swallowed up at anytime and end up with sand up your nostrils?

The answer lies in who you are.  Just like it really doesn’t matter what swim trunks you wear or what surf board you have if you know how to swim and surf, brand managers who know how to market will ride the wave of meaningful waves and skip the ones that fizzle out.  Will they make mistakes?  Absolutely.  But on average, the good ones survive, just like good surfers get good waves most (but not all) of the time.  And like people learning how to surf, as brand managers get better at marketing, they’ll be able to ride larger waves, experience thrills, and earn bragging rights that no one else can.

An invisible hand has been guiding me, Mario, George, and the rest of the company in this direction already. This started after the Brand Karma party at WIT last year, which showed us that in addition to the Brand Karma tools, the company, as a group of people, had something else valuable to give.  The question we’ve been wrestling with has been how to communicate that, make it actionable, as well as make it scalable.  So we’ve been purposefully quiet since then, trying to organize ourselves to grow into this new shell after much soul searching.

We had planned to launch our new initiative starting in August, and Bali, being the last speaking engagement for me in July, serendipitously gave me a vivid metaphor of the challenges our customers face, and reaffirmed my belief that we’re moving in the right direction.

Thank you, Bali.


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