Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Uniquely Singapore, Your Singapore or simply My Singapore?

Cultural biases are relative. An 'Asian' in Britain generally refers to someone from South Asia, i.e. Bangladesh, India or Pakistan. To Singaporeans, being Asian typically means Chinese.
1925 map of Asia

In fact, many are surprised to note that Gulf Arabs, Jordanians, Syrians, Iranis and many others are also Asians. Asia is the largest of the seven continents and comprises a large land mass. Hence, the diverse population mix.
Part of the issue is branding. Branding is the "entire process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product (good or service) in the consumers' mind, through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers."
Branding is important. A brand is a promise to the customer. It informs customers what to expect from your products and services. One expects the same taste from a McDonald's Big Mac in Tokyo, Cairo or Rome. A brand also differentiates your offering from that of your competitors.  
Countries are no different. Brand Singapore has evolved during the last few decades. To most foreigners, Singapore evokes a positive image of efficiency, security, family friendly and, of course, cleanliness. Part of the vision has been consciously shaped by the authorities but, to a large extent, brands are a natural outgrowth of the product.
Until recently, the Singapore Tourist Board's (STB) promoted the city with the tagline 'Uniquely Singapore.' A few days ago 'Your Singapore' was adopted by the STB.
Singapore's civil servants are efficient mandarins and must have evaluated the change methodically. Highly paid Coca Cola executives also systematically analyzed a brand change prior to launching 'New Coke' in 1985.

The 'New Coke' campaign was a flop. Coke was forced to reintroduce 'Classic Coke' shortly thereafter. It seems consumers were wedded to the original brand.
Consistent, strategic branding helps create strong brand equity. A catchy tagline is a must (anyone familiar with 'Malaysia, truly Asia?'). 'Your Singapore' does not grab my attention, at least not yet. Perhaps a multi-million (tax dollars) media marketing campaign will change my mind?!
After all, Singapore, Inc's brand has evolved from a puritanical, sleepy city to a mildly sleazy, litter infested, pavements overrun by cyclists, home of gamblers and casinos. Taglines have to keep pace with the ground realities.
Uniquely Singapore, Your Singapore, My Singapore but, in the final analysis, it's still Singapore!

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