Beyond catering to the island's love of gadgets, brands that make real effort to speak directly to Singaporeans have the best chance to reach the top of the market's ranks.
With its small stature and big ambitions, Singapore punches well above its weight in terms of impact on the marketing communications industry in Asia. As the country celebrates its 50th anniversary (SG50) in 2015, it does so as one of the strongest country brands in the world, having become a futuristic and multicultural global city and one of the world’s major commercial centers in record time.
But have we considered that perhaps Singapore’s greatest achievement lies in having evolved from being a city at the crossroads of trade to a city at the crossroads of thought? A marketplace where ideas meet and grow.
While its enviably strong country brand sets the standard for branding excellence in the marketplace, its role as the epicenter of globalization in Asia has attracted bellwether brands such as Unilever and P&G to establish their Asia-Pacific headquarters here to hone and define their strategies for Asia and beyond. Without the crutch of a large domestic consumer market, brand work done in Singapore must work harder in order to work regionally, or even increasingly globally. The market’s small size means you don’t have the luxury of resting on your domestic laurels.
The consumer is not a moron
David Ogilvy famously said this and truer words couldn’t be said of the savvy consumers of the Little Red Dot, as Singapore is affectionately known. While few in number, Singaporeans are a highly sophisticated demographic that have the rare combination of high levels of disposable income, education, digital connectivity and access that allows them to own or experience most any brand firsthand. In a place where most consumers are either using your brand or know someone that does, living up to your brand values, or brand integrity, becomes more important than ever.
The savvy, affluent, well-connected nature of Singaporean consumers has other implications. In a crowded, highly competitive market brands must go beyond the obvious to have an impact and break through the clutter. With the highest smartphone penetration rate in the world at 85 per cent, Singaporeans have constant access to content on the go, exemplified by the fact that this is one of the few places on Earth where Wi-Fi really does work on the subway. This means brands must continuously consider how to capture the attention of their target, with what message, where and when as they are constantly on the move. The other challenge is keeping up with Singapore’s tech-savvy consumers whose media and digital habits can be ahead of the curve, especially when it comes to new apps and social media usage.
We love our gadgets
It is perhaps no surprise then that consumer electronics brands dominate the top spots of the Singapore brand ranking – with Samsung, Apple and Sony leading the charge. Also noteworthy is the fact that of the top 20 brands in Singapore, 12 are Asian, half of them in the consumer electronics category. Their dominance in the ranking is partly due to them being top-of-mind because Singaporeans use so many consumer-electronics products on a day-to-day basis. But we can’t ignore the fact that their prevalence is also driven by their global image as much as their local efforts. The other similarity among them is their creation of seamless customer journeys from product design, to in-store experience to post-sales service. This consistency in branding and messaging across the customer journey is something all brands in Singapore would be wise to work on.
Local players make their mark
Flying the flag for local companies in the ranking are three Singaporean brands that have cracked the competition to make lasting impressions on the market’s demanding consumers. Supermarket chain NTUC Fairprice and sports drink maker 100 Plus held steady in their positions. Meanwhile multimedia and ICT brand Singtel made a major leap from #32 in 2014 to #13 in 2015, following the January launch of its customer-centric brand transformation, the first revamp for the brand in 16 years. Part of Singtel’s success came down to tapping into local behavior, insight and culture.
With SG50 dominating the nation’s calendar this year this is a trend that we increasingly see as brands make greater efforts to speak directly to Singaporean consumers. It will be interesting to see in next year’s report whether SG50 celebrations and tributes moved the needle for brands, and how they change and embrace the future as we move beyond the Jubilee year.
Fiona Gordon is Group Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Singapore