Open mind essential: KooKen Koo

PresidentKen Koo Creative GroupQ. What does it take to be an agent of change?A. To think beyond the conventional territory, to have an open mind to new ideas, to surround yourself with people who believe in the same principle, and to...


Ken Koo Creative Group

Q. What does it take to be an agent of change?

A. To think beyond the conventional territory, to have an open mind to new ideas, to surround yourself with people who believe in the same principle, and to inspire them to exercise their imagination. That’s it.

Q. How has the client-supplier relationship changed over the past couple of years?

They are looking for more.

Our relationship with our clients has been a very good one, a closer one, because we have always tried to provide inspiring and unconventional solutions to their marketing needs, and because in the ’90s the competition is so fierce.

They know we are looking at it as a partnership, rather than doing a project and giving them the bill. They are aware and appreciative of it.

Q. When you enter a relationship with a client, how do you determine just how open they are to supplier-initiated change?

A. First, we look at their corporate culture. And also, their response to our questions and our proposal to them. That is usually a good hint as to how open they are to change.

Q. How important to the process of change is understanding your client’s business?

A. It’s crucial. To understand our client’s business is the key to determining the need to change. To understand our client’s business involves understanding their industry as a whole, their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, and our client’s own positioning.

Only with in-depth understanding of the business, will you be able to advise the correct process of change for them.

Q. From where do you get your inspiration?

A. From life. Being aware of everyday occurrences, one would be surprised how much inspiration life has to offer.

Not long ago, I was over at my parent’s place and we were talking about jewelery. One of my mom’s earrings is a pearl. At the time I was working on an ad campaign for Hongkong Bank of Canada.

By using the pearl and the Canadian maple leaf, we created a campaign based on the wisdom of the East, represented by the pearl, with the opportunity of the West, represented by the maple leaf.

The campaign has won a Lotus award for the best ad campaign, and, really, that was from a next-to-nothing conversation, on a totally different subject.

The same thing applies to a lot of fields. If you look at the best novels or movies, quite often they are inspired by real life combined with a bit of imagination.

Q. How do you stay on top of trends in your field?

A. Being aware of what the industry is up to, trying to get informaiton about what the best in the field are doing, and trying to create solutions that are a step ahead of them.

When I say you can be inspired by what the best in the field are doing, I don’t just mean locally, but globally. Because different cultures have a lot of other things to offer.

The awareness is a reference, not necessarily a point you follow, or consciously stay away from. That rule applies to any business. You have to know what your competitors are doing to stay ahead.

Q. What would be your advice to clients who have expressed dissatisfaction with their suppliers’ willingness and ability to initiate change?

A. First, one has to find the reason why they are reluctant to initiate change; that is, providing the client values the supplier relationship to start with.

If it is matter of fear of change, then the client’s encouragement can inspire them to overcome their fear and insecurity to initiate change. But if it is a matter of ability, that is a different story. Then the client may want to consider changing suppliers.

In the time of change, a supplier may have certain resasons why they don’t initiate change.

For example, some suppliers get intimated if they are unsure how their initiative will be received – they would rather go conservatively for fear of losing the business.

If they cannot initiate changes because they don’t know how, that means there is a limitation to the talent. If that is the case, the client cannot hang on, they have to move on to find someone that can challenge them.