Home to approximately 3.5 million people, the city-state has the largest foreign currency reserve per capita in the world with an exceptionally high quality of life. Singapore attracts some of the brightest minds globally, making it a strategically critical market for banks, advisory and trading firms as well as fund managers.
However, in this brand-conscious market, reputation and brand experience are arguably among the most valuable assets a company has. So how do you build that against international competition and a savvy local knowledge base?
To take a step back, our firm - Ryan Financial Communications - partners with the world's largest investment banks, fund managers, law firms, corporations and brokers to shape, refine and protect brands in Asia, including Singapore.
We advise companies daily on both overall strategy and daily tactical activity to help sharpen brand focus in the Singapore market. If we had to identify one area that is critical to that process, it would be the importance of tailoring and developing locally relevant content that engages local stakeholders – whether they are private banks, regulators, industry bodies, other banks or the government.
As communications strategists, we use a number of tools to hone brand image. This includes profiling in traditional media (such as local business dailies The Business Times, Straits Times and The Edge) and development of smart thought leadership content for distribution through traditional platforms, as well as video, podcasts and events.
A channel for thoughtful, localised content that B2B brands seem to under utilize, however, is digital and social media. Many financial, corporate and professional-services firms are still taking a cautious approach with this option.
We Are Social, the leading social and digital agency, estimates that Singapore has the world's second highest social media penetration rate at 59 per cent (more than double the global average of 26 per cent). Additionally, Singapore's internet penetration rate is at 73 per cent, more than double the global average of 35 per cent.
Despite this boom, B2B clients are still tentative when it comes to digital and social engagement in Singapore. Just this week, we met with a global fund-manager client with over half a billion dollars in assets under management. Singapore is a key market for the company’s products in private banking and it is exploring new ways of developing the brand for local stakeholders. During our meeting, we presented ideas around digital and social engagement with that community. However, the client preferred to focus on traditional channels, such as print media. The firm’s representative remarked that he has not been able to secure brand and communications on the boardroom agenda for many years, so a foray into social media may be a step too far.
So, while digital disruption may be at the top of our and many PR company agendas, it has yet to make it onto the radar of the majority of B2B clients. Quite often the ‘buyers’ of social and digital media – usually senior management and board members – are not active consumers of the content and so do not have a full appreciation for the depth of disruption. Reticence also comes from a fear of ‘going against the industry grain’ and potentially taking a misstep in the eyes of local and global regulatory bodies.
However, where we do see B2B companies embracing digital disruption is in the financial technology segment. Savvy ‘fintech’ companies –which are often shunned by traditional media and channels of public communication - are developing smart, locally relevant content and disseminating it via digital and social media platforms that tap directly into their buy-side financial community. LinkedIn, which has over one million users in Singapore, is a favourite for fintech clients looking to build their brands and engage directly with target communities.
So bottom line, if you are a B2B firm, looking to build better brand recognition in Singapore, focus on thoughtful, localised content creation. Put yourself on the forefront of discussions about the trends and issues impacting your clients in Singapore and continue to innovate and find new ways of presenting that content to engage target audiences. Consider creating visually compelling infographics or video infographics; becoming an active participant in locally relevant LinkedIn discussion forums; or producing thought-provoking podcasts.
Hopefully next year we will see a financial institution, law firm, resources group or real estate company leverage these tools and make the list of Campaign Asia’s top 20 brands in Singapore.
Lauren Goble is executive director at Ryan Financial Communications, a strategic, corporate communications firm with offices in Singapore and Hong Kong.