Surekha Ragavan
Aug 23, 2021

Singapore’s top 100: Self-care movement converts to dollars for brands

The strong performance of homeware brands and healthful foods is indicating a move towards a more purposeful, Instagram-led lifestyle in Singapore.

Homeware brands such as Ikea have performed well as more Singaporeans look to elevate their homes. (Shutterstock)
Homeware brands such as Ikea have performed well as more Singaporeans look to elevate their homes. (Shutterstock)

This year’s list of top 100 brands in Singapore, part of our Asia's Top 1000 Brands research, is proof that lifestyles on social media—especially those centered around self-care—are quickly materialising in real life. This is especially true in the home appliance and furniture category, indicating a heightened interest among Singaporeans to pad out their homes with nice things.

As a result, appliance brands Panasonic, LG and Philips remained comfortably in the top 10. Jacob Wright, chief strategy officer at BBH Singapore, said that it was a “bumper year” for TV and air-con sales.

“As large swathes of Singaporeans have been working from home for the past year, we have been putting our poor beleaguered air-con systems through a workout the likes of which they have never experienced before,” said Wright. “A clunky inverter that was good enough to cool a room in the evenings for a couple of hours is not up to working for 12 hours a day, especially not in the hot weather we've been experiencing this year.”

Other high performers in this category are Sharp, Daikin and Hitachi which climbed 28, 16 and 37 spots respectively.

Biggest gains in top 100
Brand 2021 rank 2020 rank Change
Farmland 24 421 397
Telegram 100 209 100
Sheng Siong 30 99 69
Toyota 54 117 63
Old Town 88 143 55
Hertz 70 118 48
Quaker 4586 134 48
Dynamo 69 109 41
Eu Yan Sang 71 110 39
Hitachi 69 106 37
Biggest drops in top 100
Brand 2021 rank 2020 rank Change
Coca-Cola 72 17 -55
100 Plus 50 11 -39
L'Oreal 98 62 -36
Maggi 62 29 -33
Johnson & Johnson 79 46 -33
Toshiba 73 41 -32
Gucci 57 27 -30
Louis Vuitton 89 60 -29
Amazon 93 64 -29
Haagen-Dazs 83 55 -28

Ikea also climbed 14 spots to 26th place, owing to the multi-purpose roles our homes have taken on. “Home has expanded from being a hideout to becoming the headquarters of our lives,” said Belynda Sim, head of cultural intelligence and strategy director at TBWA Singapore.

“The pandemic has forced our humble abodes to take on new roles as the office, gym, self-care space, school, 24/7 restaurant, and entertainment centre. With more time at home, people placed a new importance on creativity and productivity­—increasing efforts to better their immediate surroundings and selves through home and self-improvement.”

For instance, local real estate company Stacked Homes debuted its YouTube account last year and has amassed just under four million views to date by publishing home tour videos in the style of Architectural Digest’s famed tours.

Food as a wellness battleground

This year’s rankings also show that processed food brands that are typical favourites in Singapore dropped significantly in brand strength.

Processed food brands
Brand 2020 rank 2019 rank Change
Nestle 13 6 -7
Maggi 62 29 -33
Meiji 32 15 -17
Kellogg's 66 56 -10
Coca-Cola 72 17 -55
Haagen-Dazs 83 55 -28

According to a consumer study by McCann Worldgroup, one in five people globally say food is their wellness battleground.  Richard McCabe, chief strategy officer, APAC, at McCann Worldgroup said that questions around the sourcing, access, experience, and purpose of food have also risen. 

“In addition to this uptick in people trying out new healthy things, many were potentially less exposed to convenience food drinks in public spaces, with food outlets frequently closed,” said McCabe. “This could have played a part in changing the relationship with some food items.  At the same time, there have been many news stories in the past year, on the impact of food with some of these brands [that have dropped in rankings]. This would have no doubt create a shift in consumers perception and trust.”

On the other hand, Milo and Ayam Brand rose in rankings despite bearing processed food items—but this could be attributed to these two brands carrying a more local association compared to Coca-Cola, Nestle and the like.

Eu Yan Sang, a chain that has gained fame for traditional Chinese medicine and herbal products, debuted in the top 100 this year following a commendable rise of 39 spots to gain 71st place. BBH’s Wright attributed this to the brand sitting at the intersection of a major trend that was accelerated by the pandemic.

“People are gravitating to wellness in all its forms; they are looking to connect with their cultural roots and there has been a boom in interest in plants, growing and nature,” he said. “Globally the ‘cottagecore’ aesthetic has been integrating all of this— from Taylor Swift's ‘Folklore’ album with its stripped-back folky feel to Instagram posts of afternoon tea and floral dresses.”

The local version of ‘cottagecore’ is aptly named ‘kampungcore’, a lifestyle that shows more Singaporeans flocking to nature reserves, growing their own foods, and learning to cook traditional recipes. 

“A strong current within ‘kampongcore’ has been an interest in wellness from local herbs and traditional herbal medicines which Eu Yan Sang is obviously well placed to capitalise on,” added Wright.

Fast fashion overtakes luxury

While Chanel gained eight spots in this year’s rankings, most other luxury brands including Louis Vuitton and Gucci performed poorly. The explanation of this, according to Wright, is a practical one.

“As a marketer, my job is mostly to pull the irrational levers and make people want something that they have no need for, so I'm not always the biggest fan of ‘rational choice theory'.  But in this case, it's justified,” he said. “With limited opportunities to peacock and show off to whichever gender you are most attracted to (or want to assert status over) there is no rational need to buy luxury fashion right now.”

This also points to the strong performance of fast fashion brands such as Zara, Uniqlo and H&M as consumers turn to loungewear and more affordable everyday clothing.

Uniqlo's 'At Home' range has proven popular in the past year. (Shutterstock)

Additionally, movement restrictions might mean that consumers are not visiting malls as often as they used to and are resorting to buying apparel online.

“When people don’t have the chance to physically see and try-on products, they are much more comfortable buying something that costs $30 as opposed to $300,” said TBWA’s Sim. “Even policies such as 14 days free return are not enough to win over the large proportion of Singapore consumers who have only ever bought clothes in physical stores in the past.”

Sim added that breathability is becoming an increasingly important factor in Singapore’s humid weather and WFH arrangements, which explains Uniqlo’s aggressive pushing of its ‘Uniqlo at Home’ range that utilises its cooling AIRism technology.

The battle of ecommerce

One of the biggest success stories this year is Shopee, which climbed a whopping 164 spots to debut in the top 100 at 48th spot. Its closest rival Lazada also climbed 20 spots to 75th spot. This is in contrast to the performance of Amazon which dropped 29 spots this year.

“Lazada and Shopee both have a big insight that Amazon lacks,” said BBH’s Wright. “They have both created experiences you can browse, and enjoy the satisfaction of hunting for deals in a myriad of gamified ways, something that we know Singaporeans love to do.  So at a product level they provide a much better experience for consumers here.”

On the other hand, Amazon’s approach in Singapore has been to “frictionlessly fulfill consumer needs”. Its user experience is based on search where a user finds the product they want, buy it with one click, and have the item delivered within a few days. But Wright said the rankings prove that shopping is not just about fulfilling needs—it's also a leisure activity. 

On top of that, Amazon is significantly pricier than its two local competitors, and is seen as such by consumers. Wright added that Lazada and Shopee advertise constantly whereas Amazon is far less visible. 

“Whatever you think of the quality of Lazada's current creative, it's inarguable that it's omnipresent on Youtube and has a strong presence around town,” he said. “As we should all know in our industry, the most certain route to market share gain is to outspend your competitors.  In ecommerce marketplaces, top-of-mind awareness is key and Amazon are just not competing in terms of media spend.”

Campaign Asia

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