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  1. 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.


    #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.




    #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. 


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

  2. 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!

  3. Like it or not, we will all become leaders one day as we climb the corporate ladder. That is a fact. Whether you have a team under you or you are mentoring a group of interns. 

    Interestingly, leadership requires distinct behaviours and attitudes. It does not operate the same as how you may operate now.

    Think about this - before you are a leader, success is all about growing your own career. But once you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

    In this leadership branding workshop specially curated for the insurance industry, attendees included both the seasoned financial consultants and aspiring agency leaders.

    So if you want to be a leader but you missed my sharing, fret not. Let me recap the 3 proven ways how you can build your leadership brand.


    Tip #1: Know Your Leadership Style

    As a leader (or aspiring one), you should first start by discovering your leadership style.

    Different leaders lead differently. Some lead by example, others by encouragement and surprisingly, some by fear.

    Knowing your leadership style is important because you need to know how you normally act and react to people. More importantly, knowing your leadership style allows you to adapt your style to different situations.

    All leaders have a preferred leadership style. But do note that leadership styles are not static and should not be. All leaders should be adaptive and flexible to comfortably switch between styles. It depends on the situation, who’s involved and what’s at stake.

    For example, when dealing with an imminent crisis, a leader should adopt a more directive style and not appear to be wishy-washy as the team is looking to him for leadership. 

    When interacting with newer financial advisers or younger managers, a leader would be best off with a coaching style.

    As a leader myself, I personally choose among three leadership styles which I can transit effortlessly.



    Tip #2: Express Your Leadership Story

    Ask yourself why people should choose to follow you instead of someone else.

    If you cannot answer this question, then you must do some deep soul-searching.

    All leaders have a brand story. What’s yours?

    Each time you share your brand story, is it able to excite, captivate and attract the right audience? If yes, congratulations! Remember, you need to attract talents into your organization or agency (for this matter) in order to grow.

    In between the breaks, I spoke to some financial consultants who were kind of shy to openly express their leadership brand story. But hey, if you remain shy, then you will be steamrolled by the other agency leaders out there. In any industry, competition is stiff…what more the insurance industry.

    A good piece of homework you can work on is to craft your leadership brand story and say it out loud. Are you excited, captivated and attracted by what you just heard?


    Tip #3: Get Your Leader A.C.T Together

    All leaders must possess a certain set of values. Of these values, I recommend authenticity, credibility and transparency. Put together, they form my acronym A.C.T.

    When leaders get their A.C.T together, magic happens in the organization. Consultants, executives and managers are invigorated because they know the leader walks the talk. He also encourages open channels of communication and there is mutual trust.

    I would love to work in an agency under such a dynamic leader!

    Conversely, imagine you are sloppy, unprofessional, temperamental and worse, you show favoritism openly.

    For each touchpoint, I personally make an effort to ask my team for their honest feedback individually (so no one feels obliged to engage in groupthink). In this way, not only can I improve as a leader, but it also helps uplift the entire mood in the company knowing that I am also constantly improving.

    Remember, leaders are humans and not Gods. The day you stop learning, unlearning and relearning is the day your team (or agency) gets overtaken in the competitive race. And the basic fundamental starts with getting your leadership A.C.T together.

    Leadership is an ongoing and constantly evolving journey for everyone. But the safest and surest way to ensure you are on the right track is to work on your leadership brand =)


  4. It is an open secret that the retail business scene is getting increasingly crowded. In fact, the brick and mortar stores are not doing so well…all thanks to the rise of online shopping portals.

    While shopping online seems to be the cooler and cheaper option for many nowadays, there are things you need to look out for before making that purchase. As a savvy customer, you must be diligent and do your checks first.


    #1: Check The Delivery Terms And Conditions

    Prices may appear cheaper on first sight. But this is before the freight charges. If you are buying from an overseas online portal, you also need to factor in the shopping cost and other taxes (if applicable). These may add up to quite a bit.

    What is worst is if the item never arrives.

    The background checks I will do include:

    • What is the length of delivery? (i.e. when can I expect to receive my item?)

    • Do they ship overseas? If yes, is there free delivery? If not, how much do I have to pay?

    • Is there a tracking number for my item?


    #2: Check The Return Policy

    In fact, I learnt this the hard way. I once bought an item online that was listed as size M. But when I received it, it was size XL. That’s a huge difference. And the product quality was less than acceptable.

    Questions you should ask yourselves include:

    • Do they entertain returns? Who pays for the return? 

    • Is the return process cumbersome?




    #3: Check The Reputation Of The Online Store

    Online stores pop up so frequently. And almost all require you to key in your credit card details before making the purchase. 

    Giving away your credit card details is like handing your house keys to a stranger. You never know what you are going to get yourself into.

    Always check the reputation of the online store. Areas of concern would include:

    • Is it trustworthy? 

    • Is it a secure site? Check if the URL starts with https which means all communication between your brower and the site is encrypted.

    • Does the website look like a cheap rip-off?

    • Are there any other red flags? Worse, is it a bogus store selling fake goods?


    Despite all the complaints I’ve heard from clients, students and friends, I am still a great fan of online shopping as there are really good genuine deals. All you have to do is to do your homework first. 


  5. I used to have bad skin in my younger days. It was so bad that the acne spots were big and red. And because I thought pressing the acne would help them heal faster, I would happily squeeze them. But I was dead wrong. The constant squeezing of the pimples led to many post-acne marks.

    When I realized what I had been doing was so wrong, it was too late. I swear I kicked myself hard enough for that lesson to be learnt the painful way.

    Moving forward, it was only when I started understanding more about my own skin and how to care for it that things became better.

    I can’t claim I have perfect skin now. But at least I know it has improved significantly to the extent that I receive compliments from my workshop participants. And I am happy to share what really works having tested so many different products.

    In this blog, I am going to share the 3 tips you should adopt to get great healthy skin. I personally swear by them. They have been my guiding principles over the years.


    #1: Know Your Skin Type

    This is a big one which many people neglect. Don’t feel obliged to buy just because the salesperson is pushy or super nice. Also, don’t blindly use what others buy for you. They may not suit you.

    Different skin conditions require different solutions.

    You really need to determine your skin type and how it behaves throughout the day.

    Does your T-zone tend to be oiler than the rest of your face? What do your pimples normally appear? Or do your skin feels tight when you try smiling?

    All these are tell-tale signs that a different skin type requires a different skincare routine.

    Using the wrong skincare will not only not solve your problem, it may even make it worse. Imagine if you use cream-based products for your oily skin problem, it is just like a nightmare waiting to unfold anytime.


    #2: Read Skincare Labels

    Sorry people, but I don’t go for brands. Just because Brand X is a huge brand does not necessarily mean the skincare product suits my skin.

    Instead, I follow a more tried-and-tested method of reading skincare labels. Just like how we read food labels to know what we are putting into our stomachs, so too must we read skincare labels to understand what we are slapping onto our face.

    Before buying any skincare, turn the product to the reverse side and look at the skincare ingredients. 

    The ingredients will always be listed in descending order of weight. Because many products are water-based, aqua or water will almost always be listed first.

    Next, check for the active ingredients. Active ingredients are like the star ingredients of the skincare product. They need not always be listed towards the top of the list.

    For example, if you are looking at a brightening product, then you need to check if Vitamin C is present. If it is present, then check the percentage. For Vitamin C to be effective, it has to be between 10% – 15%.

    Lastly, check if the skincare product contains any possible irritant(s) to your skin. Based on your skin type, you wouldn’t want to aggravate it further. Assuming you have dry skin, you would never choose a product that contains alcohol as that ingredient itself will dry out your skin further. And if you have clogged pores currently, then you must choose non-comedogenic products as the ingredients have been specially formulated to avoid clogging your pores.



    #3: Be Diligent

    Great healthy skin does not happen overnight. 

    You cannot be eating fried foods all the time and hope all the acne disappear.

    Similarly, you cannot start using your skincare products for a few days and hope they will miraculously solve all your skin problems.

    It does not happen this way.

    The human skin is a living organ and the skin cycle takes about 6 weeks to renew itself. Therefore, you need to be diligent and adopt good habits such as having a skincare routine that sticks with you over time.

    A proper skincare routine that is easy to follow would be the basic 3-step skincare comprising cleansing, toning and moisturizing. Do this twice a day.

    Remember, you only have one face and you use it daily to face others in all human interactions. When you start taking care of your skin (which I regard as your best asset) and treating it well, your skin too will reward you by taking years off your face.