Written by Greg Clark and Andrew Stevens
Singapore’s remarkable story, and journey to success from an impoverished colony in 1965, to a world leading city in 2012 offers a strong organising narrative for any brand strategy and presents many examples of how a successful place can be the platform to contribute to success for business, people, investors, and communities.
‘Location branding 2012’, published by PublicAffairsAsia and Ogilvy PR in September 2012, recognises Singapore as the strongest brand in the Asia Pacific region. Singapore also finished 29th in the People section of the 2011 Anholt-GfK Roper City Brands Index, while it also has the distinction of being one of only five cities in the overall top 30 Index list that is outside of North America, Western Europe, and Australia.
Singapore’s brand platform
The city-state of Singapore is an important case. It exists as a city and a nation, projecting itself to the world as an Asian megacity, while also benefitting from many of the aspects associated with nationhood. Either way, it is a city-state which, with the assistance of strong branding, has catapulted itself from a Third World to a First World City in only 47 years. Brand Singapore has helped to attract the investments, business, trade, tourism and talented human resources that have made Singapore such a success.
Singapore’s branding has Government led, more specifically by the Prime Minister’s Office. External marketing is undertaken by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), but the overarching Singapore brand message of the government is disseminated by a whole host of boards, state-owned companies and community associations.
Singapore has employed a richly diverse set of initiatives to promote its brand over the last 30 years, including tourism campaigns, the hosting of major international events such as the Formula One Grand Prix, the opening of integrated resorts, and exporting expertise to other Asian countries such as China.
“Uniquely Singapore” was a campaign designed as a means of demonstrating the “warm, enriching and unforgettable” nature of Singapore to the rest of the world. After five successful years, the campaign was replaced by “YourSingapore” in 2010, an all encompassing, visitor-centric, media campaign which focuses on using the internet and extensive social media, as well as the more traditional TV and hosted advertising campaigns.
The concept of the ‘Garden City’ has long been an intrinsic part of Singapore’s brand. Koh Buck Song, author of Brand Singapore, argues that the city-state, in recent years, has made the transition to a ‘City in a Garden’; a concept which ‘redefines the idea of an urban landscape in a natural setting while aligning with the global trend of growing environmental consciousness.’
At the government level, the city’s ‘Renaissance City Plan’ is also dedicated to creating a world-class cultural and entertainment district. More specifically, the most recent phase of the plan, RCP III (2008-2012), “seeks to develop distinctive arts and culture institutions and content, nurture a dynamic arts and culture ecosystem, and cultivate culture-loving audiences, supporters, patrons and partners.”
The next step
Singapore’s success at attracting international firms, investors and talent will continue. Its next step is to balance this with more attention on mobilising Singaporeans behind the next steps in its global success and to promote Singaporean science, know how, firms, services, and products, in addition to its strengths as a location and destination.
Koh Buck Song, author of Brand Singapore, furthermore argues that the city-state should focus its attention on Singaporeans and how they perceive the Singapore brand. Song says that in order for the world’s image of Singapore to change, the reality has to change, arguing that the city-state needs to focus more on embedding Richard Florida’s three Ts, talent, technology and tolerance, while simultaneously working to clarify and distil its brand message.
Top image credit : Photobank gallery