I was soaking in the Mid-Autumn Festival mood along the 40m long illuminated Disney Tsum Tsum tunnel. While marveling at the pretty lights and cutesy lanterns, it was obvious that this exhibition was (yet) another huge hit.

Disney is a masterclass when it comes to the art of branding. 

Here are 3 branding lessons we can learn from Disney.


#1: A Brand Must Constantly Innovate

I remember watching the animated musical The Little Mermaid back in 1989. It was a box-office hit.

Then came Beauty and the Beast in 1991, Aladdin in 1992, Toy Story in 1995, Monsters Inc in 2001, Finding Nemo in 2003, Ratatouille in 2007, Frozen in 2013 and Zootopia in 2016. This list is non-exhaustive as there were so many hits after hits. I just listed the ones that I could still remember after so many years.

If a brand rests on its laurels, it will never have the impetus to seek continuous improvements. Constantly coming up with new offerings allows the brand to stay fresh in the minds of the audience. And innovation is key. In Disney’s universe, every character and plot is unique. There is no rehashing of the same old ‘been there done that’ formula.

By constantly innovating, Disney ensures there is something for everyone. Its multiple-offerings menu – from superheroes (think Marvel’s cinematic universe) to digital animation (think Pixar) to galactic futuristic (think Star Wars) to cartoon-musicals (think Walt Disney Pictures), Disney has them all.

Learning Lesson: Are you the disruptor or the disrupted? By constantly innovating or coming up with new versions of an existing product or service, you will continue to delight your customer base.


#2: A Brand Must Be Good At Storytelling

Disney tells stories. Every character has a personal story behind him or her. In many instances, we have a hero who is flawed in many ways. Through his struggles, trials and tribulations, he is made to journey along to seek that breakthrough and resolution. And when he has fulfilled his destiny, he returns with new powers to claim his rightful place in this universe.

Does this sound like the storyline and plot from The Lion King? Yes, the young Simba had to rough it out and become more matured in his ways before returning to reclaim his throne as the rightful King. How about Judy Hopps, the female bunny from Zootopia? She had to go through so many rejections, tests and challenges before achieving her childhood dream of joining the Zootopia Police Department.

Learning Lesson: A personal story always tugs at the heartstrings. Craft a good one and then share it with the world.



#3: A Brand Must Have A Signature Core Product or Service

Now this is a crucial. Think of Disney and what is the first character or movie that comes to mind?

I can bet you 9 out of 10 people will associate Disney with Mickey Mouse.

Mickey Mouse is the signature icon.

Similarly, does your brand too have a signature core offering? That offering could be a product or a service.

Being that iconic signature of Disney, Mickey Mouse has endeared himself to generations of people. 

Learning Lesson: Do you have a signature product or service that gets everyone excited? I have. Hope you have one too =)


PS: And boy was I tsum tsum-ed tonight! 


Junior college (JC) or polytechnic (poly)?

The JC or poly decision is a constant debate that the graduating students of secondary schools have to address. Not only are the students themselves involved, so too are parents, teachers and friends.

Having had the privilege to engage thousands of students from the secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities through my workshops over the years, let me share my thoughts on this perennial topic. After all, I was also a product of Singapore’s education system.

In my opinion, there are 5 considering factors one should bear in mind before making that sacred choice between JC and poly.


Consideration #1: The Learning Environment 

In all respects, learning at JC is much more conceptual. It’s always about concepts and theories. So you really have to be someone who loves such stuff.

For poly, the focus is more about applied learning. There is direct relevance between study and work. It is an open secret that almost all poly courses now have a compulsory internship for Year 3 students ranging from 6 weeks to 6 months. In comparison, there is no internship for JC students.


Consideration #2: The Curriculum

Choose JC if you are the academic type and prefer to dive deeper into a content area (e.g. Science, Maths or Humanities). This offers you a wide range of options for university courses thereafter.

Choose poly if you are passionate about a specific area that is related to your career aspiration. Some secondary students know exactly what they like to dabble in (e.g. coding, model aeroplanes, video production etc) that leads them to choose a poly education as there are diploma courses that are directly related (e.g. Diploma in IT, Diploma in Aeronautical Engineering, Diploma in Film, Sound & Video).


Consideration #3: Future Aspirations

This is a big one.

JC students graduate with an “A” level certificate. And the premise is that it is a stepping stone to university. But I have seen “A” level students who fail to make it to the university. In other words, if you don’t make it to university, then the “A” level certificate is pretty much useless.

Poly students graduate with a diploma. And poly life prepares students for work life. While some poly graduates continue further studies at the university, a bigger portion of poly graduates start working immediately upon graduation. The yearly Graduate Employment Survey for poly graduates is testimony to this as it compares the drawing salaries of the different poly courses for graduates.

I have yet to see a Graduate Employment Survey for “A” Level grads.


Consideration #4: Time Management

I see a JC education as an extension of secondary school. Classes typically start and end at the same time everyday (excluding remedials and CCAs). You continue to wear a school uniform and engage in daily rituals like flag raising in the parade square.

JC students enjoy a structured time table, study the same subjects and take a summative examination twice a year. So if you are someone who loves things planned out for you, then go for it.

Poly students have more freedom to decide how they plan and use their time. There is no uniform so you have to decide what to wear each day. More importantly, there are foundation modules (in Year 1) and specialised ones (from Year 2 onwards). This means you really need to know your inclinations and manage your time wisely. The polys adopt a modular assessment setting (similar to universities).


Consideration #5: Working With Others

In JC, students stay with the same group of people throughout their two years. In this way, you can build stronger bonds.

In poly, students have to work on projects with different people. This is how the system works and will suit you to a T if you are a people-person.


At the end of the day, there will always be supporters of both the JC and poly education system. As an educator myself, I say perhaps the best way to help you make that final decision is to attend the open houses of both JCs and polys to see if you like what you see and can adapt well. Adaptability is important as you do not want to waste the next two or three years of your life feeling miserable.

All the best!


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