1. Be proactive. Don’t sit around and wait for things to happen to you, because then you’re going to be mired in crap every day. Anticipate what’s going to happen and do things before they need doing. Skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been. This makes you a clairvoyant who mysteriously seems perfectly prepared.
  2. Begin with the end in mind. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not going to get there. The clearer you are about where want to go, the easier it is to make decisions about what to do and what not to do. When you do this, you waste less time with irrelevant crap, and become a heat-seeking missile.
  3. Put first things first. In a single word, prioritize. The most important thing is usually the scariest or hardest thing, so we tend to avoid it altogether and invent reasons as to why the 2nd or 3rd thing should be done first. But do the first thing first. Use the urgent/important matrix.
  4. Think win-win. The best way to get what you want is to deserve it. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person– why should they help you? What’s in it for them? Nobody achieves great things by themselves.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. It’s always tempting to explain why you’re right. But nobody cares about you, they care about themselves. So understand where they’re coming from, what their worries and concerns are, what they want. And you’ll be better positioned to achieve #4, and get what you want.
  6. Synergize. This has become a dirty buzzword, but the simple original meaning was simply “create outcomes where the wholes exceeds the sum of their parts”. Do things together that you couldn’t have done independently.
  7. Sharpen the saw. Take care of yourself. You gotta be sustainable. Eat, exercise, sleep, rest. Read, learn new things. Take care of your relationships.


I like words. Here are the histories of some words.

Dashboard — originally about keeping mud from horses from getting into your carriage. Today it tends to mean something like a heads-up display.

Digital – A digit was orginally a finger or a toe, from Latin digitus. We use our fingers to count, so numbers became digits too. Or rather – 01234567890 became the fingers and toes of real numbers. The word Bit is an abbreviation of “binary digit”.

Analog computers -> digital computers. Digital everything. Digital devices.


Also latin in origin – Mercatus. It’s related to the word merchant, mercentile, merchandise, mercenary, commerce. “Com-” + “merx” – come together (as in compromise, compounded) and buy stuff.

Also interestingly related words are mercy, merci – related around the concept of a reward.

Also consider Mercury, god of tradesmen and thieves.

Another word for Market was Bazaar, with Italian and Persian roots rather than French and Latin. So I suspect another word for Marketer might be Bazarista.

Innovate. in + novus (new).

Passionate — passion is suffering. Related to pati, pathos
Agile — from Latin agilis “nimble, quick,” from agere “to set in motion, keep in movement”

Invest —

“to clothe in the official robes of an office,” from Latin investire “to clothe in, cover, surround,” from in “in, into” (see in- (2)) + vestire “to dress, clothe,” from PIE *wes-ti-, suffixed form of root *wes- (4) “to clothe” (see wear (v.)).

The meaning “use money to produce profit” first attested 1610s in connection with the East Indies trade, and is probably a borrowing of a special use of Italian investire (13c.) from the same Latin root, via the notion of giving one’s capital a new form. Figurative sense of “to clothe (with attributes)” is from c. 1600. The military meaning “to besiege, surround with hostile intent” also is from c. 1600

Revenue —

Old French, “a return,” noun use of fem. past participle of revenir “come back” (10c.), from Latin revenire “return, come back,” from re- “back” (see re-) + venire “to come,”

Profit —

commerce —

Latin commercium “trade, trafficking,” from com “with, together” (see com-) + merx (genitive mercis) “merchandise” (see market (n.)).

technology —

1610s, “a discourse or treatise on an art or the arts,” from Greek tekhnologia “systematic treatment of an art, craft, or technique,” originally referring to grammar, from tekhno- (see techno-) + -logy. The meaning “study of mechanical and industrial arts” (Century Dictionary, 1902, gives examples of “spinning, metal-working, or brewing”) is first recorded 1859. High technology attested from 1964; short form high-tech is from 1972.

information —

directly from Latin informare “to shape, give form to, delineate,” figuratively “train, instruct, educate,” from in- “into” (see in- (2)) + formare “to form, shape,” from forma “form”

graph —

from Greek -graphos “-writing, -writer” (as in autographos “written with one’s own hand”), from graphe “writing, the art of writing, a writing,” from graphein “to write, express by written characters,” earlier “to draw, represent by lines drawn” (see -graphy).

chart —

from Middle French charte “card, map,” from Late Latin charta “paper, card, map” (see card (n.1)). Charte is the original form of the French word in all senses, but after 14c. (perhaps by influence of Italian cognate carta), carte began to supplant it. English used both carte and card 15c.-17c. for “chart, map,” and in 17c. chart could mean “playing card,” but the words have gone their separate ways and chart has predominated since in the “map” sense. In the music score sense from 1957.


contain, continuum, continue — from com “with, together” (see com-) + tenere “to hold” (see tenet)

procrastinate — french/latin —  pro “forward” (see pro-) + crastinus “belonging to tomorrow,” from cras “tomorrow,” of unknown origin


Online ads

I sometimes take screenshots of ads that I encounter online. Here are some that I was keeping around in a folder.


“Take a tour” is a decent call to action. Using a quote was also a nice touch. I don’t think I clicked through, but the mere-exposure effect is starting to set in.


I think I was curious to click on this one just because the logo was so cute, with the dog. But I bounced pretty quick.




I thought this was pleasing to the eye.

copywriting-stats-for-nerdsThis wasn’t an ad – this is what you get when you right-click on a YouTube video. I thought it was funny. It’s nice to see personality, anywhere.


^ I really liked this one. I was tempted to click through just to learn more about the kind of team that would use a phrase like that in its sales copy.



I think it’s clever to have an ad that says “learn more”, especially when the reader isn’t ready to buy yet. I was curious enough to click through. But I can’t remember what was at the other end, so…

Indian Copywriting

When I visited India last year with my parents and wife, one thing that stood out to me over and over again was the subtle way in which copywriting in India was different from copywriting in Singapore or the USA.

Here are some examples:




Can you sense it? I might need to list out more examples to really capture it. A couple of points I’ve noticed:

  1. There’s this unabashed, straightforward aspiration for ‘the good life’ – the premium life, privileges, high-status.
  2. There’s a sense of cuteness.

I’m remembering now there’s a magazine that had an ad that said something like “your intellectual indulgence”. That phrase is something I can’t see being used either in the US or in SG. There’s a sort of seductive intimacy to it.

I’ll add more examples as I encounter them.




All SG Stuff – LHL


VulcanPost – Singapore Twitter users

Guest posts:

Guest post on beeketing

Statement stuff – herworld

free my internet 1

The future of “social shopping”

Wat is the real meaning of social in this day and age? things are picking up new names, just as how a phone is no longer a phone but a supercomputer communications device…

similarly the future of social is different from the past of social. it’s interesting that nobody has completely figured it out yet, probably because it’s hard. Amazon, Google and Facebook are all working on this problem from different angles.

It’s very, very interesting to me to see how “social shopping” and “social commerce” have emerged as ideas over the past few years. In both cases, the term “social” is obtained directly from social media.

A simplistic way of thinking about it, which I’m not a fan of, is the idea that social shopping is the attempt to recreate the offline shopping experience online. So people can shop online with their friends. According to Wikipedia, ” Social shopping attempts to use technology to mimic the social interactions found in physical malls and stores.”

I actually disagree with this. I anticipate that the social interactions found online are going to be quite different from the social interactions found in physical malls and stores. There may be some skeumorphic mimickry- perhaps an app or bot that helps you to suss out a product might be called a “personal shopper”.

In reality, I think social shopping is going to be something fundamentally different, the way a commercial airplane is fundamentally different from a bird, and the way Facebook is different from an address book. TBC

Where marketing is headed

What people will want to read is things like tools and kits. Zoom out and talk about how even jobs are things that are marketed. Lifestyles are marketed. How we spend our time. We live in this massive sort of panopticon and the watchers are us. Reality is a sort of black mirror episode.

When researching a blogpost I wrote a while back “is marketing evil”, I came to the uncomfortable conclusion that consumers are hopelessly outgunned by marketers.

Not every consumer is equal, and not every marketer is equal either, but the system of incentives is structured in a manner that rewards the best marketers for the ability to manipulate the masses or some subset of consumers.

Marketers come up with all sorts of defensive arguments- explored in great detail by Tom Albrighton- but centrally, marketing works. It manipulates consumers. Manufactures consent, purchase. If it didn’t work, nobody would do it. Why would anybody spend money on marketing if it didn’t ultimately yield results? (It gets complex- some marketers make a living through deception, claiming to make a difference but not really).

But the point is- there are people, there is an industry that’s spearheaded by people who are highly competent at manipulating others, and they’re rewarded for it. This doesn’t look good for the consumer. A cynical view might be that we’re all living in a complex human farm, and we are each other’s captors, we manufacture the products that we want each other to buy, and we work hard at exploiting one another so we can afford to be exploited ourselves.

A rather depressing view. On the flip side, it’s also quite clear that consumers have more power than we’ve ever had before. This is mostly a consequence of access to information. A lot of exploitative marketing and sales and capitalism comes is rooted in information asymmetry- the media shows you a nice picture, the Marlboro man, actors smoking, doctors recommend it. Our forefathers had much less access to alternate sources of information.

Today we know that cigarettes are bad for us, that excessive sugar is bad for us, fast food, processed snacks… designed to exploit human weaknesses- the parts of our brains that light up when we eat a bag of chips. If you take a really macro view, a lot of large organizations are built around keeping humans locked in those predictable patterns of consumption, in chasing those stimuli-driven hits. In that sense, fast food and soda and chips don’t look very different from cigarettes, and opium before it. (Opium and tea, supplied by the East India company.) I can’t help but see some slight parallels between that and linkbait headlines. Create demand, who cares if it’s vacuous.

What really helps, what really matters, creates real value? Lasting contributions? The Internet. The ipod, iPhone, hardware. Laptops. Mobile. Asana. Trello. Google calendar.

Consumers have never had access to information the way they do now.

In the past it was homogeneous signals coming from those who controlled the means of distribution- the media. (Before that it was those who controlled the means of production). Both production and distribution have never been easier then today. Authority is earned rather than bought. But money is still powerful. Money can buy you the best talent- or can it? What are the motivations of the best talent? Who is the best marketer in the world, and what does she want? I turn to people like Paul Graham, Seth Godin, Mark Andreesen, Gary Vaynerchuk… (apparently Mark Cuban did b2b work before doing what he’s doing now?). Paul said that the best engineers get to work wherever they like so they pick whatever is most interesting. Whatever feels most meaningful. Google, Apple. Seth seems to be spending his time influencing other marketers- so he’s doing meta-marketing, trying to inspire others to inspire others.

Singapore Startup Marketing Consulting

Last week, my NS buddy John told me that he was launching his first proper startup – and he asked me if he could buy me dinner and have me go over his marketing plan with him.

I said yes, of course. He let me choose; I suggested that we go to Morganfield’s at Star Vista for some hickory BBQ ribs. There’s something about the view there that I really like. I joked that I wasn’t sure if my advice was worth such good ribs.

We reminisced about army days, talked about our experiences getting older, learning more about ourselves and all that good stuff… and then we dived into his plan.

His plan was generally sound – he’s a smart guy with a good appreciation for business fundamentals – but I immediately spotted a few weaknesses. His content strategy was under-optimized for his context. A few of his brainstorm ideas were duds that weren’t going to work for his particular industry. He was looking to hire someone full-time way too soon, without having yet developed a sense of the precise tasks he needed them to perform.

John had really done his homework and done all the preparation he could – it really showed in his plan. It was really comprehensive. He had a really good sense for how to create a good user experience for his product – he cared about it, and he was going to make it work.

By the time we polished off the ribs, I realized that I had actually saved him months of wasted time and energy. It wouldn’t have been an exaggeration to say that he saved several thousands of dollars by buying me that plate of ribs.

Would you like a startup marketer with 4+ years of experience to look through your plans, give you feedback, and so on? Hit me up: visakanv at gmail dotcom



This post is a collection point for discussing the marketing of Singapore as a brand, as well as marketing that happens specifically within the Singaporean context.


I keep encountering ads about Wander’s Krystal Choo, but I never hear anybody talking about using the actual Wander app.