Robert Sawatzky
Apr 29, 2021

NTUC FairPrice pivots its messaging toward ‘realistic optimism’

New ‘Lift Up Everyday’ campaign from Iris celebrates small positive self-improvements in trying times, as Singapore's top local brand targets both budget-minded and aspirational shoppers.

Kelvin Tan, head of customer and marketing for FairPrice Group & Lena Liew, client service director at Iris
Kelvin Tan, head of customer and marketing for FairPrice Group & Lena Liew, client service director at Iris

As Covid-19 wreaks devastation elsewhere, Singaporeans have been fortunate enough to live in a largely pandemic-free environment that has allowed a gradual but steady easing of restrictions and a return to most ‘new normal’ facets of daily life.

Capturing the spirit of the times, the city-state’s largest supermarket chain has launched a new campaign that taps into the collective sense of cautious optimism, celebrating the small steps everybody can do to make life a little bit better every day.

Conceptualised and developed by Iris Singapore, ‘Lift up everyday’ is brought to life through a series of in-store and outdoor creatives that are a play on the word “up” denoting positivity and self-development. A ‘Lift up everyday challenge’ social media activation sees FairPrice frontline workers showing off new food hacks like sour gummy-topped muffins or scrambled egg and potato chip fusions in short videos hosted by local influencers like Jamie Yeo, Aiken Chia and Tiong Jia En that encourage the public to join in with their own ‘small wins’ and food experiments.  

In the above video underscoring the self-improvement message, Chinatown FairPrice retail assistant Cai Pei Zhen tells influencer Aiken Chia how she took a new baking course last year and this year is taking up social media since she’s “never too old to learn.”  

“Our focus for 2021 is to embrace and encourage this new brand of optimism we are seeing already amongst Singaporeans,” says Kelvin Tan, head of customer and marketing for FairPrice Group’s retail business. FairPrice, he explains, is doing its part by introducing new services and ingredients to make shopping more enjoyable while challenging Singaporeans to break out of their routines and try new things.


A post shared by AIKEN (@aikenchia)

The campaign marks a shift from last year’s ‘Fresh Start’ campaign, launched at the end of Singapore’s lockdown when everyone’s mindset was to reset to the new normal, explains Iris client service director Lena Liew. The agency undertook extensive online and field research that uncovered subtle shifts in Singaporean attitudes.

“In 2021 we found people were actually starting to have a newfound appreciation for the small pleasures in life,” Liew says, noting the rise in home cooking, hiking, online learning and even a spate of new businesses. “We realised there was this optimism, this passion to actually start improving themselves, a passion for progress. … Not looking for a whole new world, but in taking little baby steps to make life better.”

Setting the mood for the nation

While a marketing campaign celebrating the above themes is not especially newsworthy, its significance lies in the increasingly important role FairPrice has come to play in Singaporean society. A cooperative of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), the nation’s largest supermarket chain employs 13,000 locals, is effectively owned by Singapore’s workforce and has a social mission to moderate the cost of living in the city-state. As the pandemic took hold last year, the company played a special role in maintaining and distributing adequate food and household supplies. Little wonder then, that the brand replaced Singapore Airlines as the top local brand in Asia’s Top 1000 Brands survey, and also took over the lead in YouGov’s local BrandIndex Buzz rankings last year.

Such mutual local affinity has materialised into a recent push from the retailer to include more brands from local entrepreneurs like Jeya Spices, Ebenezer Coffee, Tanglin Gin and to locally source products from seafood to eggs.

“There is no other business like being the national retailer to tap into the pulse of Singapore,” Liew says, who says working with the brand helps a once globally oriented agency like Iris understand Singaporeans better.

As the lead marketer for the ‘people’s brand’, it then seemed fitting for Tan to task Iris with making the ‘Lift up everyday’ campaign also work internally. Hence the decision to involve real staffers often making their first on camera appearances as opposed to slick actors.

The benefits, Tan explains, were twofold: “One is to be able to connect and entice our shoppers to real life experiences that our own staff are going through, learning and revisiting. And second, we wanted to recognise our staffers for making that change in their lives.”

Aspiration vs. Value

Highlighting friendly staff and tapping into a collective mood may well be a winning formula, but Tan has not lost sight of other retail fundamentals, which he notes include value for money, selection and customer service.  

The supermarket’s latest research has suggested that the pandemic has once again made value for money a top concern for Singaporeans. As a result, Tan has elected to change the next upcoming phase of the ‘Lift up everyday’ campaign to focus more on value and to consider how ‘value moments’ can also improve our lives (see video below).

This dichotomy between providing value and enabling aspiring consumers to live better creates a fine line for FairPrice to tread. As FairPrice continues to evolve, it’s targeted three areas for improvement in 2021 and 2022 (explained by Tan in the video at the bottom of the article):

  1. Digital transformation: An omnichannel shopping experience that will more comprehensively connect online and offline.
  2. Customer loyalty: A revitalized construct to allow consumers to see the value and savings in repeat visits not just in one-time sales
  3. Store format reinvention: Based on customer-centric design thinking.

This latter initiative will see the grocer expand what has already taken place at select FairPrice Xtra locations. These stores already feature a wider selection of local, international and healthy foods, combined with added services like upscale coffee, larger displays, wine and cheese and recipe recommendations.

Campaign’s interview with Tan and Liew, in fact, took place in the café of one such location, the FairPrice Xtra at Parkway Parade mall, just steps away from an in-store cocktail and oyster bar with multiple beers on tap.

“Singaporeans want everything,” Tan says, especially the younger generation who are the brand's shoppers of the future. “So we are hoping to create a new shopping environment where we are ahead of the curve.”

“What we found from our research was that expectations around supermarkets are no longer functional," Liew adds. "[People are] looking for an experience—something to actually ‘wow’ them.”

The challenge for FairPrice, however is to straddle the line between aspiration and value. It also can’t stray too far from its roots as the people’s supermarket and alienate its clientele who may feel more comfortable in a traditional retail environment, Tan acknowledges.

The right creative agencies for the job

Helping the retailer navigate conflicting consumer sentiment and its own brand aspirations is its team of creative agencies, led by Iris, which came on board more than a year ago after replacing ADK in a competitive pitch. FairPrice also uses Socialyse under Havas for social media, along with Hogarth for production.

Tan says Iris operates with his team like a business partner, heavily involved in FairPrice’s strategic planning process, anticipating what’s next with tools and suggested options. But he adds it's also a relationship similar to that of close friends. 

“At FairPrice we tend to be a bit safer given that we serve everyone," Tan confides. "But Iris will always bring ideas that push us a little bit forward. There are times that we will say we would like to go for something a little more conventional and Iris will say ‘no’ and pull it off the table. This is the kind of authenticity and honesty that we want in a client-agency relationship."  

He adds: “Like friends, we have dated the last one year. We fought, we cried, we even pulled each other’s hair. But at the end of the day, we really show concern for each other.”

Campaign Asia

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