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.


What is strategy? The etymology of the word has two parts with PIE roots – strategos was Greek for ‘general’, or the art of the general, and it was a combination of ‘stra-‘ (stretch, structure, stratos, strong, stride, strict) and ‘ag-‘ (agility, act).

Here are some definitions from acaemics, according to wikipedia:

  • “A pattern in a stream of decisions” – Henry Mintzberg from McGill University
  • “Strategy is about shaping the future” and is the human attempt to get to “desirable ends with available means” -Max McKeown (2011)
  • “A system of finding, formulating, and developing a doctrine that will ensure long-term success if followed faithfully. – Dr. Vladimir Kvint

What’s the difference between a strategy and a philosophy?

A philosophy is about inquiry, about a sense of how things work, how the world works, an idea how things should be. It’s about ideals. A philosophy is embodied, a strategy is enacted, executed.

What’s the difference between a strategy and a principle?

What are principles, anyway? I can think of two definitions. One describes axiomatic truths or fundamentals – ie principles of design, principles of music. They’re kind of like rules, but maybe less dogmatic. We mean different things when we say “he is a man of philosophy”, “he is a man of principle”, “he is a man of rules(?)”, he is a man of discipline. Each thing means something slightly different in a very subtle way.

The other thing about principles – I’m thinking about Ray Dalio now, who has his principles published at He describes principles as concepts that can be applied over and over again in similar circumstances. There are parenting principles, management principles, skiing principles and so on.

What’s the difference between a strategy and a plan?

Casually, I find that people often use the phrase “so what’s the plan?” when discussing something that’s to happen next. What’s the plan for the dinner party tonight? People make weekend plans. (In contrast, people tend to have a ‘life philosophy.’ We tend to ask “what’s your philosophy…” over drinks in the evenings.)

Sometimes we ask, what’s your plan for the future? What’s your plan for the next 5 years? But those tend to be grasping at straws a little, and we don’t expect people to have great answers to those things.

I find it interesting to think about when we ask questions like “what’s your strategy”. I’ve definitely asked it before – I think when people tell me that they intend to make something, implement something, when they want to become something. You want to become a successful writer? What’s your strategy?

It seems to me then that strategy is all about implementation. You embody your philosophy and then execute your strategy, which will involve making plans and so on. The strategist figures out what to do, and what she will do if things change. She will identify what is important and what is not important, what to do with the limited resources that she has, and how to deploy them.

Diagnosis -> Guiding Policy -> Action Plan

President Kennedy illustrated these three elements of strategy in his Cuban Missile Crisis Address to the Nation of 22 October 1962:

Diagnosis: “This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites are now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.”

Guiding Policy: “Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal or elimination from the Western Hemisphere.”

Action Plans: First among seven numbered steps was the following: “To halt this offensive buildup a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back.”

Plan, Pattern, Position,  Ploy, Perspective

Henry Mintzberg described five definitions of strategy in 1998:

  1. Strategy as plan – a directed course of action to achieve an intended set of goals; similar to the strategic planning concept;
  2. Strategy as pattern – a consistent pattern of past behavior, with a strategy realized over time rather than planned or intended. Where the realized pattern was different from the intent, he referred to the strategy as emergent;
  3. Strategy as position – locating brands, products, or companies within the market, based on the conceptual framework of consumers or other stakeholders; a strategy determined primarily by factors outside the firm;
  4. Strategy as ploy – a specific maneuver intended to outwit a competitor; and
  5. Strategy as perspective – executing strategy based on a “theory of the business” or natural extension of the mindset or ideological perspective of the organization.