Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Branding Your Life

Every marketing students know that identifying your brand's core values is critical in the competition. Before you even start with the marketing strategy planning, you need to evaluate whether those strategies are nicely aligned with your brand identity or values. Fail to do that, your message would easily miss the bullseye and the customers would not be able to identify themselves with the brand.

Can you imagine McDonalds uses Tyra Banks as endorser? Tyra Banks, eating those 400 calories burgers and standing side-by-side with Ronald McDonalds?? Hei, what are you trying to communicate to all the children out there? Are you now a modelling agency which, uhm, serves burger? This 'go-off-on-a-tangent' symptom is what marketers called "off-brand"

The same concept holds true for human. It is important for us to be "on-brand"; to persistently dig in to our core values and identity, and aligned our day-to-day activities and interests around those values. To use a simpler term: don't try to be someone you're not. Why? because you're better.  

Too often what happen is, we cherry-pick activities that we consider "in". We blindly imitate and follow the vogue, without evaluating whether these fit with our values and goals. We look up to this funky buff up guy and think if we're as outgoing or as lean as him, we would be better. We naively think that if we could afford eating a sumptuous meal, we would be better. When in fact, we are not - we are conforming to others - and sometimes inauthentic - identity. 

Consequences are, first, our friends fail to relate to us. We are, suddenly, sending this inconsistent message about ourselves and they will wonder "Who is this guy, it is as if I don't know him?" Second, in a fight between temporary hype and true nature, the latter will prevail eventually. How long can we stand being someone we're not? The faking will eat us slowly and one day, we're going down with all our guards and pretense. 

So, just like McDonalds who knows their values and personality, you may also want to cherish them and make them your treasured assets. It is in you, your hallmark, and we love you for that. Just like we don't want to see Tyra's smile the next time we order Happy Meal #1

My friend, this entry is for you. I understand what you're going through, but please, hang on there. I pray that God will show His way and that you will involve God in every decision that you are trying to make. Again, we love you and we'll always ready to extent our hands everytime you need one. 

Monday, October 6, 2008

No, I'm not kidding, It's Slank!

If there is one good news in the midst of all the heart-breaking chaotic headlines, it is the unprecedented Slank concert, here in Columbus. Wuooh, I can already sense some hysterical outcries amongst you; Are you serious? Really, Slank?

Yes, and I reiterate, yes!! Slank is coming to town and Permias Columbus has the honor to host the event. In the effort of promoting their first world-wide English-language album "Anthem for the Broken Hearted", they have agreed to share their music with all Slankers in Columbus, the small off-the-radar town but richly populated with Indonesians.

What so unique about Slank, beside their outstanding reputation and best-selling album in home front, is their message of Peace Love Unity and Respect. On the top of my mind, I can only come up with a handful of bands who are courageous enough to make universal peace and unity as their theme/selling points. And Slank is one of the few.

So guys, let's cut the boring appetizer and go straight to the meat. For all Slankers in Columbus, here you go: Indigo featuring Slank

                         click here to purchase the ticket. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Economic 101 for Dummies

I know the word 'dummies' may raise your eyebrow but let me clarify that I am one of those dummies, or should I say, I am one of those who do not understand what is happening to the economy at this particular point in time. And also let me clarify that if you scratch your head trying to unravel the mysterious thread of the economy, you're not alone. And I really understand the frustration of trying to understand and read articles from Times or even The Economists which full of lingo and in the end, still leaving us clueless. Because of this, I took great effort to fathom this mayhem and initiated to write an entry explaining the crisis in laymen terms. So, for the clueless, enjoy it, but bear with me guys, I am not an expert but I hope this rudimentary explanation would, at the very least, give you the 'Aha'

First, let start with the heart of the problem: sub-prime mortgage. It is a loan that is given to unqualified borrowers, a loan that is not supposed to be given at the first place. When the housing price plummeted, the borrowers were running frantically since their house was not as valuable as before. Overall economy was performing badly as well, hitting the unqualified borrowers' ability to pay their mortgage loan. In consequence, mortgage company suffered from loss.

Second, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were those which were greatly affected by this blow. They were not mortgage companies, but they provided financing for banks who issued mortgage. The initial purpose of these companies was to boost people's confidence in taking loans and buying their own house, giving the impression that borrower's loan were safely backed up by the government,when in fact it was not. National Public Radio (NPR) describes them as a mortgage wholesaler for investment banks.

Again, because of the housing slump and borrower's delinquency, their capital were greatly hurt and the government decided to save them from going down. The reasons: they are the world's largest company in terms of the amount of debt issued. Thus, letting these companies go down will crush the financial economy into pieces. So, there you go, $200billion bailout.

Third, AIG's bailout. The reason why AIG was saved (while Lehman not) is because AIG sells credit-default swaps (CDS). This illustration will hopefully help you to understand. If you buy a bond from company A, you might want to protect your investment by buying CDS from AIG. With this, when company A fails to meet its obligation, AIG guarantees that you will get your money back. Put it simply, CDS is your insurance.

To make sure the system works, AIG has to post collateral and the collateral depends on rating given by rating agencies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's. What happened was the agencies sharply downgraded AIG's rating. This means AIG has to post significant amount of collateral - $250 billion in a night - which obviously AIG did not has.

The government realizes that letting AIG goes down means letting all the CDS holders (who think that their fund is protected) go down as well. The ripple effect is unthinkable; other firms will also fail which will lead to more firm failing which will then lead to a financial catastrophe. All hells break loose. Thus, there you go, $85 billion bailout.

Fourth and last point, if all the venerable investment companies were failing, is there any company big enough to withstand the blow? Apparently not, that is why the government was proposing a $700 billion bailout plan, which btw, was rejected by the House. So, what's the next plan? I don't know but the officials are, I believe, working around the clock to solve this problem.

But for sure, this is a historic moment guys, let's try to turn our attention to the news. I hope I have set some basic foundations to help you guys understand the issue further. For those of you who know better, please please please correct me for any wrong statement. I am indeed still learning about the issue and any comment / suggestion would be highly appreciated and anticipated. Lastly, I should give Cheap (aka Stephanus Saputra) the credit for answering my questions, and also to Time Magazine (The Price of Greed by Serwer and Sloan) and NPR's Talk of the Nation for their excellent coverage on the topic.