As part of our look at Singapore's top brands of 2018, under the Asia's Top 1000 Brands report, we found that Singapore consumers see NTUC Fairprice, 100 Plus and Singtel as the strongest brands to originate from their country. What are they doing right that others can learn from? Five in-market observers suggest what is behind these brands' appeal and what it will take to uphold that status.
Vivan Yeo, general manager, Performics Singapore
These brands and their experiences are easily accessible and largely perceived as ‘friendly’ and ‘approachable’. They have been keeping up with consumer lifestyle preferences, such as Singtel enabling the booking of appointments at their shops to overcome long queuing issues, and NTUC introducing a good selection of Korean/Japanese grocery, NTUC Finest [premium products] and providing 24-hour shopping – all of this makes a difference.
Local flavours will always be important. While global brands bring new dynamics, local brands use deep localised consumer understanding to bring a personal touch and build affinity over the years. As long as local brands continue to be progressive like they have been today, their businesses should continue to grow and expand.
Frederick Tong, strategy director, Ogilvy Singapore
Familiarity breeds fondness. By coincidence or design, NTUC Fairprice, 100 Plus and Singtel have been part of the local landscape for long enough to sink roots in the collective consciousness and arguably become the de facto option in their respective categories.
Fairprice is the supermarket with co-op roots that isn't out to fleece the working class. 100 Plus is the drink you reach for when you exercise (or don't want to feel the guilt of gulping a soft drink when you're reminded at every turn "Let's beat diabetes"). Singtel is the reliable juggernaut that's been around since the days of payphones and landlines, and has in recent years been working to soften its image. Their performance in this ranking may be Singaporeans' way of embracing the familiar in a city that never stops changing.
Will these come under threat from global brands? At a business level, perhaps. 'Disruption' is an overly-bandied term but it's up-ended many industries and brands, so never say never. At a brand affection level though, I doubt it. To big global brands, Singapore is just a (small) market; to local brands, Singapore is everything – and Singaporeans can feel it. There's something to be said about reciprocity, and I suspect there will always be a place in Singaporeans' hearts and lives for homegrown heroes to whom they mean that much. There might just be some things that Ma’s millions and Zuck’s zillions can’t supplant.
Ranga Somanathan, CEO, OMG Singapore & Malaysia
Being homegrown brands, I believe that there is a bit of nationalistic pride involved in creating this appeal, regardless of what the research points towards. They also benefit from their long-established presence in these local consumers’ lives.
NTUC has a diverse portfolio of brands, touching the lives of consumers in positive ways and therefore enhancing the brand’s affinity among its consumers. Having said that, without knowing how the questions were framed, I would have expected Singapore Airlines, Scoot and Grab to be on the top of the list.
Given their high level of international exposure, Singaporeans are very open to global brands, as much as they are to local brands, so long as the brand delivers a meaningful experience. As such, none of these brands are immune to the threat of new entrants. They will have to continue to up their game or face the risk of being replaced when a newer, better and cheaper alternative comes along, be it local or international.
Ben Poole, APAC managing director, Reprise
The common thread among these three brands is that people have a daily or weekly buying relationship with them. They are therefore very intertwined into people’s lives, and there is of course a celebration of these brands being local and not global.
100 Plus is a very simple product that has had little variation over time. It is physically available everywhere. It tastes good. It is associated with sport. If you want one right now, in Singapore, the chances are you can find one within five minutes.
Singtel is a Singaporean power brand, a locally-born global company that people are proud of. And the experiences you have with Singtel as a customer are getting better over time. They are constantly innovating for the customer. As long as it continues to focus on the customer, Singtel will continue to protect and grow market share.
100 Plus faces a different kind of threat. People are interrogating their food and drink ingredients more these days, asking is it healthy, is it too sugary, and so on. There will be new entrants into this category, and 100 Plus will have to retain dominant shelf space, communicate the health benefits of the products and look to diversify its product range to match the evolving expectations of consumers.
NTUC Fairprice faces the greatest threat of the three brands. Grocery buying habits are changing globally, with more frequent, smaller basket sizes for busy people who are not planning well in advance. Delivery to your doorstep and click-and-collect are increasing customer expectations. Lazada and Amazon are the new competitors. NTUC Fairprice will have to invest and think like a digital company to prosper in the future.
Kim Hoeu, APAC head of paid social, Essence
These three brands are your everyday brands catering to local people across age groups. Lots of Singapore millennials have grown up with these brands around them and perceive them positively. As the saying goes — “catch ‘em young and watch ‘em grow” — and these brands have done just that. Years ago, they became a part of the Singapore household, made strong brand connections and, since then, have continued to find the right messaging and mediums to connect with their diverse customer bases.
These brands make an emotional connection with their customers through their sponsorships and partnerships, such as with the SEA Games, the Race Against Cancer, and boxer Muhamad Ridhwan. These are selected carefully to ensure that they align with the brands’ image and values. By creating an emotional bond, affinity is more likely to be developed and brands can be better remembered. Of course, they also have to respond to a need.
With new disruptive players entering the market like Honestbee and Netflix, things are in a flux. In this dynamic environment, it is vital for these three brands to further understand the changing needs of their audiences and potential customers: who are they? What do they need? What are they interested in right now? They also need to innovate on the advertising front and be relevant, approachable and memorable. They could even look at partnering with new players to ensure they remain relevant and meet the changing needs of their consumers.