Surekha Ragavan
Aug 31, 2020

Singapore’s top local brands: NTUC FairPrice and DBS champion nationalistic spirit

ASIA’S TOP 1000 BRANDS: Hyperlocal marketing and a strong digital footprint have paid off for some of Singapore’s biggest household names.

Singapore’s top local brands: NTUC FairPrice and DBS champion nationalistic spirit


What do you think is the strongest local brand in Singapore? By ‘strongest local brand’ we mean a brand that originates from Singapore, has the best reputation and resonates most strongly with those living in this market?

When posed the question above, Singapore respondents to the Asia's Top 1000 Brands survey seemed to unanimously chime ‘FairPrice’. The country’s largest supermarket chain overtook Singapore Airlines this year to be crowned the top local brand, and it’s entirely deserving.

The brand has wholly championed a spirit of community during the pandemic, whether it’s through support of its senior citizen shoppers, limiting purchases of essentials when ‘panic buying’ hit some months ago, or implementing fixed prices at this time. It doesn’t hurt that the brand managed to digitally adapt at rapid speed when the pandemic hit.

“Adapt or die is generally the motto for businesses,” said Alex Woodford, vice president, client partner, APAC at Essence. “The FairPrice Online site has seen a huge increase in online visits in the first half of 2020, and its online offering is evolving with the times.”

And marketing wise, it hasn’t been too shabby. Last year, the brand went all out for its ‘Worth the Trip’ campaign by BBH Singapore. And this year, upon handing its creative mandate to Iris, FairPrice conveyed a message of hope as nationwide lockdowns eased.

In the supermarket category, local chain Cold Storage dipped 12 spots to 39th place this year, an indication that it doesn’t quite capture the local spirit in the extent that FairPrice manages to. Plus, the mandatory pivot to ecommerce when the pandemic hit meant that brands that snoozed, well, had to lose.

Julia Wei, managing partner at AKA Asia said: “We see some challenges for brands that have made the transition to ecommerce and may have seen drops in rankings due to customer experience and fulfilment issues. Some have had to quickly make this transition due to urgent circumstances in the early part of the year. The consumer is now spoilt for choice across many categories and can choose to move on from any experience that causes more friction than ease in their lives.”

Local crown jewel Singapore Airlines, meanwhile, justifiably suffered losses in both workforce and profits due to the wide-reaching effects of travel bans.

Ranking Top local brands in 2019 Top local brands in 2020
1 Singapore Airlines NTUC FairPrice
2 NTUC Singapore Airlines
3 Singtel DBS
4 DBS Singtel
5 Creative Tiger Beer
6 Tiger Beer Charles & Keith
8 Charles & Keith Breadtalk
9 Old Chang Kee Creative
10 Breadtalk Capitaland

This year, DBS asserted a big win as it climbed 18 spots to 38th position in the overall list. According to Essence’s Woodford, this can be attributed to the bank’s impressive marketing efforts including its widely lauded mini-series, Sparks, which revolves around the daily lives of bankers.

“[Through Sparks], DBS has reimagined marketing for banks by employing storytelling to connect with its target audience,” said Woodford. “The series, which debuted its second season last year, is inspired by true stories of DBS-supported social enterprises, and explores social issues including plastic pollution, food waste and social inequality. This aligns with modern consumers’ growing preference for brands that share their values.”

It must also be added that the aggressive marketing of Grab in Singapore—coupled with a monopoly of the ride-sharing market following its absorption of rival Uber—has also resulted in local taxi company ComfortDelGro slipping in ranks this year.

“While ComfortDelGro is a very local and well-known brand, it could be argued that the connectivity and user interface of competing apps are more appealing, and potentially the product too,” said Woodford.

“With a more diversified choice on Grab including ComfortDelGro taxis, ride options can be more tailored to consumer needs, and when combined with confident marketing, you have a winning combination.”

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