Häagen-Dazs is telling its customers, “You have been eating your ice cream wrong.” The attention-grabbing accusation is an introduction to the Concerto Timer, the ice cream brand’s latest packaging innovation.


According to Häagen-Dazs, ice cream needs to sit for a couple of minutes once it’s out of the freezer to reach its optimum taste and softness. The Concerto Timer has been created to ensure that the Häagen-Dazs brand experience continues during that brief countdown. Consumers are invited to point their phones at a carton of Häagen-Dazs whereupon an augmented reality application kicks in to reveal a tiny violinist or miniature cellist playing classical music. Put two different flavoured cartons together and “enhance the performance” as they duet. Quite amazing, really. Sophisticated, luscious, premium and tasteful, the Concerto Timer is a braver idea that’s right on the Häagen-Dazs brand. It creates a brand ritual, something that can be extremely powerful. Brand Strategist Yaacov Weiss sums up brand ritual’s importance pretty well so we’ll leave it to him: “Rituals create a unique brand experience which provides us with a reason, consciously or unconsciously, to want to revisit the brand experience. It imparts something personal, giving us a closer connection to the brand. The ritual also involves the customer with the brand. Acting in a unique way for a brand helps create affinity towards it. It creates a habit, which encourages loyalty. Brand rituals are also “sticky”, they help the customer remember the brand and the brand becomes iconic”  – Weiss, Y. (2010)

Whether Häagen-Dazs Concerto Timer will become the next Oreo Twist, Lick, Dunk time will tell, but we certainly admire the execution.


Today is a day of terror, panic, despair and one-off retail promotion. It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving, the darkest day in the American calendar - Black Friday.

action animated GIF
In 2013, approximately 141 million U.S. consumers shopped during Black Friday, spending a total of $57.4 billion, with online sales reaching $1.2 billion. That’s big money but the main profiteers on this day tend to be big brands and chain retailers. Small, independent, entrepreneurial businesses often get lost in the shuffle (or shall we say scuffle?), unable to match the bargains or the advertising power of their larger corporate counterparts.

In recognition of the important role small businesses play in our lives and communities, financial giant American Express created Small Business Saturday.

In the aftermath of Black Friday, AMX encourages the public to ‘shop small,’ by giving rebates for purchases made in participating stores. The campaign is in its 5th year and has been pretty successful both financially and socially. It has been endorsed and promoted by Obama himself, and last year, Americans spent $5.7 billion in local shops.

The event isn’t without cynics. Some think it’s just another marketing scheme from a multinational corporation, another trick to make people spend more money, a feel-good campaign hiding the dark side of consumerism.

Whether any of that is true or not, there are good intentions here. Small Business Saturday is a reminder that at the heart of successful communities is a thriving small business sector. It sheds a light on what consumers get from small business that they simply can’t get from the heavy hitters – the personal touch, the passion of craftsmanship, the unique experience. Beyond this, the event highlights how supporting small local business begins a virtuous cycle in your community.

See how this local cycle business is making a big impact on its community

Yes, at the end of the day Small Business Saturday is about driving purchasing and profit. But it’s also a celebration of entrepreneurialism and the people that give colour and distinctive character to a community. It makes people stop and consider how best to spend their money. Is a half-priced TV set that will be out of date in six months really worth more than the livelihood of those who make the place you live special and unique? As Small Business Saturday continues to expand its reach away from USA to the UK and beyond, we can’t be alone in thinking that it isn’t.


An hour or two at Singapore airport on a stop over to Indonesia or Oceania is often the closest that people ever get to visiting Singapore. Their loss. 

One of the only pieces of trivia people know about Singapore is that chewing gum is illegal, but that hardly sums up one of the most vibrant and prosperous cities in Asia. The days of strict post-colonial regulations banning such things as rock ‘n ‘roll and video game arcades are long gone. What has emerged in their wake is one of the most culturally diverse places on earth bursting with art, fashion, food, and music.

Named as ‘the world’s easiest place to do business’ by the World Bank for the 9th year running, Singapore has become a diverse community with several professional expats enjoying the opportunities – and weather. And as the host of an F1 Grand Prix and the home of several Michelin Starred restaurants, Singapore is now entertaining on an international scale.

We’ve been locals for 3 years now so we’ve just about got the lay of the island. Here are our recommendations to anyone visiting Singapore:


Din Tai Fung:  An authentic Taiwanese restaurant with a Michelin star, Din Tai Fung is ranked as one of the world’s Top Ten Best Restaurants by The New York Times. Go for the xiao long baos (steamed pork dumplings) and heart-warming steamed chicken soup. 

Maxwell Hawker Centre: The local’s favourite food market. Hundreds of delicacies to try under one roof from fish head soup to the traditional congee with pork and century egg from Zhen Zhen Porridge. 

Labyrinth: The newest face of Singaporean fusion, Labyrinth is the vision of chef LG Han. Be sure to try the signature dish of chili crab ice cream (below). 

Pasarbella: A wonderful farmers’ market with great craft beers, wine, meat, dairy, seafood, fruit, veg, and more. 


KU DÉ TA: Perched above the observation deck of the SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands, KU DÉ TA Singapore boasts a restaurant, club lounge and a breathtaking view of the skyscape.

Potato Head Folk: Whimsy childhood murals on the walls and sculptures fill the space at Potato Head Folk. It also offers a beautiful roof terrace, delicious burgers and amazing cocktails. 

Ronin: Exceptional coffee and excellent sandwiches in this simply gorgeous cafe.


Orchard Road: Walk down Orchard Road by night to see it at its best. 

Southern Ridges Park: Bridges to die for. 

Marina Bay: Stroll around the bay, walk over Helix Bridge and admire the sculptures and incredible architecture before you. 

Joo Chiat: Discover Peranakan culture as you stroll past heritage shophouses, quaint stores and eateries in this charming corner of East Singapore.Chinatown: Heritage in abundance. Experience the original Chinese charm of Singapore. Visit its Wiki Travel page for detailed info. 

Art & Design

Gillman Barracks: Located on a 6.4 hectare site and set amid lush greenery, Gillman Barracks is a contemporary arts cluster in Singapore that is home to 17 international art galleries, three restaurants and the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), which are all housed in conserved colonial barracks.

Having just re-opened after 7 years, the library@orchard is built around the theme “Design is for Everyone.” The next-generation public library includes numerous interactive features and collaborative spaces to inspire and educate. With a collection of comfortable nooks and crannies, the upper level is the perfect place to relax with a design book or magazine.

Red Dot Design Museum: The latest trends in the international design scene with a collection of more than 1,000 exhibits in the field of product design and communication design from over 50 countries.

National Design Centre: Centrally located in the arts, cultural, learning and entertainment district in the Bras Basah-Bugis area, it is well placed to invite the public to learn about design through its exhibitions and programmes. 

Parkroyal on Pickering: Balconies covered in tropical plants provide 15,000 square metres of greenery at this stunning hotel. The award-winning interior is equally as stunning. 


Haji Lane: Enjoy the many independent stylish clothing boutiques of Haji Lane.  

ION Orchard: It cost $2 billion to construct this massive futuristic shopping centre. ION Orchard has become the “centre of gravity” in the retail scene, with spectacular frontage and cutting edge designs and concepts. It brings together the world’s best loved brands for within one development with over eight levels of intelligently designed shopping space – four levels above ground and four levels below – totalling 66,000 square metres.

Sungei Road Thieves’ Market: Singapore’s oldest flea market dating back to the 1930s. Great if you’re looking for retro, vintage items.

sungei road thieves market

Little India:  Crammed into 700 by 500 metres of space, Little India is a little hectic but well worth your time. With markets, food stalls and temples aplenty, it’s an experience for all 5 senses and an opportunity to grab some bargains. 


Ten years ago Uniqlo had just 100 stores, all in Japan. Next year, it will have 840 in Japan and a further 1,170 elsewhere. The two-thousand or so stores are performing phenomenally with the clothing retailer set to amass sales of $14 billion in the financial year of 2014. Uniqlo’s massive growth owes nothing to fortune. It’s a brand driven by an owner-founder who does things differently with a bold vision and a braver outlook in every aspect. His company is already the #2 clothing store in Japan, but his ambition is to make it #1 in every country where it operates.

Uniqlo’s mission statement begins: ‘We consistently provide fashionable, high quality, basic casual clothes that anyone can wear anytime anywhere – and always at the lowest possible market prices.’ And it’s certainly a mission Uniqlo has rigorously stuck to. Anyone who’s browsed one of the brand’s stores or wears its clothing will attest its excellent quality relative to its affordability. Innovation flows throughout the company, from the advanced technicality of its fabrics to the lean, flat, open way the business is organised. Even more impressive perhaps is Uniqlo’s relentless commitment to protecting the planet and securing a sustainable future, not only for itself, but for the whole world.

Commitment to innovation
Uniqlo’s HeatTech clothing range is described on the brand’s website as “cutting-edge fabric which takes body heat and stores it within air pockets deep within the fibres to keep the wearer warm.” The range is a prime example of the innovation behind everything Uniqlo does.

Uniqlo Heatech

Clear vision
While most clothing brand follow trends, Uniqlo sticks to the basics. Its own integrated product planning, design, manufacturing and distribution teams work together to bring Uniqlo customers ‘made for all’ clothing that can be worn whenever and wherever.

Not following the latest fashions means Uniqlo can make massive production orders that its high-street competitors can’t. More items are made, more items are ordered, and as a result, they’re cheaper to purchase.

Uniqlo’s owner-founder Tadashi Yanai ensures that its not just Uniqlo’s clothing that’s high-quality, but its customer service too. His employees are openly encouraged to make suggestions in what is a flat organisation. Every in-store employee is consistently trained in everything from their folding technique to the way hand over things to customers.


Uniqlo’s owner-founder Tadashi Yanai.

The exemplary training Yanai provides his employees is only going to get better as his plan to build a Uniqlo university in Tokyo, where 1,500 store-managers will be trained annually, comes to fruition.

Uniqlo locationsAnother of Yanai’s brave decisions is to conduct all of Uniqlo’s business in English. Given that its only presence used to be in Japan, a nation where few people understand English, it was a risk. He foresaw Uniqlo’s potential to become a global brand and this was a key decision in enabling its international growth. English’s status as a worldwide language avoids the tricky silos that many Japanese brands encounter when looking to grow.

Beyond fashion
Uniqlo sustainability
In 2004 Yanai established “the Uniqlo Way” to crystallise Uniqlo’s goal of “Changing clothes. Changing conventional wisdom. Change the world.” And it’s not just hot air either – Yanai means business. For example, Uniqlo’s recycling effort has moved millions of its discarded products to poverty-stricken people all over the world.

Yanai wants to turn Uniqlo into far more than a clothing store. He wants to create an institution. And with the braver way he conducts business and grows his brand, he might just do it.


He’s a film director whose credits include Erin Brokovich, Traffic, and Contagion but now Steven Soderbergh is trying his hand at launching a new alcohol brand.

Steven Soderbergh

It took the Oscar-winner six years to get the Bolivian brandy that he claims “will f*&@ you up” and “make you introinvisible,” to market. Soderbergh credits his creation of Singani 63 to his ability to distinguish between something that is ordinary and something that’s exceptional. It’s the exact same judgement and decision making process he used throughout his incredibly successful Hollywood directing career. Attached to the neck of each bottle is a recipe booklet. Inside is the message: “Singani 63 is the culmination of a 50-year, privately funded project known as the Steven Soderbergh adventure, the purpose of which is to identify the exceptional in all areas of human endeavour.”

The fact that Soderbergh has translated his creative mantra from film to branding is what makes Singani 63 unique. Most brands are created to target a particular consumer group or fill a niche in the market, but this is different. Soderbergh tried the drink in 2008 while filming in Spain and was immediately obsessed by the buzz it gave him. Singani 63 is a brand completely driven by creativity and an owner who simply wants as many people as possible to experience it.


Singani 63’s packaging is contemporary featuring an illustration that pays homage to its Bolivian provenance.


This retro advert featuring Soderbergh and his pipe alongside a rather large sheep and the caption “This Sh*t Will F*ck You Up” is as unconventional as the brand itself.


The photo above is taken from the Singani 63 website shows the famous director ‘taking his horse for a gallop after enjoying a Singani 63‘ (see left). Where did he get that idea from, we wonder? (see right).

Soderbergh alone controls the voice of the brand, and what a distinctive voice it is. Alongside the obvious advantage of having a famous owner, it propels a product that not many people have tried before. At present, Singani 63’s finance comes only from Soderbergh. If the brand is to succeed and achieve the kind of distribution that’d justify all the director’s time and money, it’ll need some serious financial backing from another party. This person or group won’t just need to have capital. They’ll also need to trust Soderbergh’s creative direction 100% because without that Singani 63 is just another brand.


From the catwalk to the supermarket, designers have travelled back to the ancient Aztec civilisation for a heavy dose of inspiration. Beautiful, elegant, fun, playful, bright or black & white – the Aztec theme is adaptable and flexible.

Aztec pattern

Though we understand a large amount about ancient Aztec belief systems, they’re still deeply mysterious to us. Featuring Aztec symbols, motifs and imagery on their packaging, a host FMCG companies are enriching their brands and joining the ancient narratives of a historical population.

Frontera Tortilla Chips use transparent Aztec illustrations to show a glimpse of the product within. The brand is confident, bold and proud. The illustrations are cartoon-like yet remain sophisticated.

This packaging from the Cool Chile Company proves that it just takes triangles, circles, some bright colours, and a little imagination to create stunning premium design. Though minimalistic, the serpent graphic tells an important story: The Aztecs considered Quetzlcoatl or the ‘Feathered Serpent’ a god who ruled over the second era of Aztec creation. Quetzlcoatl was believed to be the patron of arts and knowledge as well as the first to bring a number of food products to the Aztec people.

Included in the food products Quezacoatl gifted to the Aztecs is cacao. That’s why this chocolate brand takes its affiliation with the Feathered Serpent God one step further than design, to naming. Its packaging further reinforces the versatility of the Aztec theme as rich, natural, earthy tones work alongside bright bursting colour.

Tesco Finest ground coffee uses Aztec symbolism to elevate itself to a premium position on shelf and provide powerful, exotic flavour appeal. Sleek black and silver colours bring premium appeal as bright Aztec illustrations provide character and personality.

Azetc symbols bring the weight of history and provenance to a brand. Hair Salsa humorously depicts Aztec figures with added luscious locks. According to the designer, the bottles are actual used salsa bottles. Great provenance and an encapsulating story but would you want salsa anywhere near your hair?

More chocolate. Simplistic elements combine and interlink to give the impression of detail.



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