Mar 082014
 
Marina Bay Sands

This post is written as I reach the end of the first week of a three week Vision Critical trip to the Asia Pacific Region. For the last few years I have been spending about ten weeks a year in the APAC region, typically spread over three or four separate trips – because I am convinced that this is where much of the future (especially in terms of commerce, marketing, and insights) is being made.

Singapore Client Round Table
I arrived in Singapore Monday evening and the week got off to a flying start with breakfast with my Vision Critical colleagues from Sydney and from our newly opened Singapore office, followed by a meeting with the CEO of Indian partner, Majestic and lunch with an insight community client, Google. The afternoon was devoted to a client round-table meeting where several of Vision Critical’s clients gather to hear a keynote presentation (from me on this occasion) and then spend time sharing their learning with each other. This event was hosted by Google in their superb offices overlooking the Marina area, with key contributions from SingTel, Sony and others. Client roundtable sessions are a great way for clients to share their experiences with insight communities.

MRMW – Market Research in a Mobile World
Wednesday and Thursday was the APAC incarnation of MRMW, the leading global series of conferences on mobile market research, organised and promoted by Merlien. The keynote presentation was given by SingTel’s Melissa Gil, talking about how their three Vision Critical Insight Communities (Indonesia, Australia, and Singapore) provide them with rapid and cost-effective insight into digital consumers. One of the key points that SingTel made was that the speed and usefulness of the insights they produce mean that the SingTel insights team are involved in meetings and decisions at all levels of the business.

One of the key topics at the Conference was the evolving data protection picture in Asia and on the Tuesday Sue York from the University of Queensland (and curator of content at NewMR) moderated a panel on Data Protection, with Derek Ho (Senior Counsel from MasterCard), Dan Foreman (President of ESOMAR), Martin Tomlinson (Vice President of the Market Research Society of Singapore), and Stephen Jenke (Global Head of Data Collection at Kantar). The key points being made was that the picture on Asia was developing quickly, rules are becoming more onerous, and different countries have different rules.

Google Ray

One of the high points of the Conference was a presentation by David Zakariaie of Glassic who had brought ten sets of Google Glass with him to the event and who co-ran a session with me looking at the technology and the opportunities for market research to utilise this technology. Other key elements of the conference included: using feature phones as well as smartphones, utilising automated techniques for facial coding, video processing, and image processing (in all three cases the main theme was limited, but impressive, success), and moves towards geolocation and geofencing.

Effective Presentation Workshop
On the Friday I ran my “Secrets of Effective Presentations” workshop, which seemed to go down really well. I love workshops in multicultural situations as I am sure I learn as much as the attendees. Some of the secrets of creating and giving great presentations are global, but having a group from a wide range of countries (in this case Singapore, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, and Australia) and with people who have a variety of first languages (and with a mixture of clients, suppliers, and academics) means that nothing can be taken for granted.

Key Singapore Takeaways
Compared with Europe and even with North America, Singapore embodies a ‘can do’ attitude, where the expectation is that tomorrow will be better than today, and that we are on a rapid path to a better, more technical, more insightful, richer society. Singapore also embodies the strength of cultural diversity. Most meetings with clients include people from a wide variety of countries. In order to get to Singapore, and in order to do well, most people have something special about them, and this tends to be blended to create something greater than the parts.

 

Jan 112014
 

Google’s standing with privacy groups and legislators has probably never been lower. Problems include: the recent news that some of Google’s activities have been ruled illegal by four countries (France, Netherlands, Germany, and Spain – with fines being levied by Spain and France), following fast on the heels of Google’s problems in Europe with how little tax it pays, $40million dollar fines in the US over ‘cookiegate’, $7million fine in the US for Wi-Fi data collected illegally from its street view cars, and most recently the concern that Google’s integration of Google+ and Gmail means that people can send messages to you without knowing your email address.

Does any of this matter? Sure Google has been fined, but the sums only account to small change for a company as large and successful as Google. Privacy campaigners are outraged, but usage of Google’s services continue to grow (look at the way Android has quickly become the leading operating system on new phones and tablets). But would governments really try to tackle Google? Could Governments try to tackle Google?

Perhaps there are some interesting lessons in history, especially in the United States, consider two important examples.

Standard Oil
Standard Oil began in 1870 and was a massive success. Standard Oil got rich by increasing the availability oil and by driving the price of it down. By its developments it enhanced the growth of the US, its scientists developed key technologies, and the end customers benefitted. However, its competitors did badly. Using techniques that were legal at the time, and common practice at the time, Standard Oil crippled its competitors and made life very hard for its suppliers – for example giving discounts (rebates) to rail companies for their oil in return for better treatment by the rail companies for Standard Oil, which meant worse treatment for its competitors. From 1906 to 1911 the US authorities prosecuted Standard Oil, using anti-trust legislation, resulting in the breaking up of Standard Oil.

AT&T
AT&T was a powerhouse of US telecommunications, but was derailed by government action. In 1956 anti-trust rulings prevented AT&T from entering non-regulated parts of the IT and telecommunications industry, but by 1982 it had developed a monopolistic hold on parts of the US telephone business. Following action by the government and courts AT&T (‘Ma Bell’) was forced to created seven regional telephone companies (‘Baby Bells’).

So, will any of this happen to Google? Or, will action be taken by Governments elsewhere (either in terms of restrictions or in terms of the promotion of a competitor in the way the European governments helped Airbus compete with Boeing)? It is impossible to say at the moment.

Action was nearly taken against Microsoft in its heyday. Some of its actions were trimmed, billions of dollars were paid in fines, but the wheels moved very slowly. By the time the US and European governments were getting close to real action, Microsoft’s power had already started to wane.

But, if I were to advise Google I would suggest being a better citizen. If push ever comes to shove it is better to have the public on your side.