Can it be “Your Singapore”?

Can it be “Your Singapore”?

My Kiwi friend who is flying down to Singapore after a long absence of 9 years wrote me a really short email, “What’s this with “Your Singapore”? It can NEVER be mine! How could it be? “.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has a different opinion on that obviously. It has built a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign around the “Your Singapore” catchphrase – one that involves an interactive website where travelers can customize their trips to the island city, book their flights and lodging and soon even have their itineraries sent to their cell phones.

In the past 33 years, Singapore has adopted 3 branding slogans – “Surprising Singapore” from 1977 to 2004, “Uniquely Singapore” from 2004 – 2009 and now “Your Singapore”. Comparatively, our neighboring countries are much more loyal to their branding catchphrases – “Malaysia, Truly Asia”, “Amazing Thailand”, “Incredible India” -in fact, they are still building fresh campaigns around their trusty slogans.

Some renowned companies do not change their slogans. They understand that it takes years, even decades,  to embed the branding message into the minds of their target audience. Maxwell Coffee ’s “Good to the Last Drop” was developed in 1907, Morton Salt’s When it Rains, it Pours was coined in 1914 and the famous I Love New York was conceptualized in 1977. I salute the decision makers of these companies. Many companies changed their branding message because they got tired of seeing the same words day in and day out, not realizing that their target audience does not have such an intimate relationship. I wonder if that’s the case with our STB who tired of “Uniquely Singapore” after a mere 5 years?

Personally, I prefer “Surprising Singapore” if I must choose from the 3 slogans. I just don’t feel that “Your Singapore” would be authentic to most travelers. Like my Kiwi friend asked, “How could it be?”. These wonderful people are just making a short trip here – be it a vacation or a business trip – and thereafter they return to home sweet home. No matter how clean and green Singapore is, no matter how Singaporeans go out of the way to make them feel at home, Singapore is not theirs. Not until they choose to make it theirs.

Possibly, STB’s intention was to make Singapore something to everyone. Ironically, when we attempt to be something to everyone, we will be inevitably be reduced to nothing to everyone.

The modern history of Singapore began in 1819 when Englishman Thomas Stamford Raffles established a British port on the island. We may be less than 200 years old, however, we have a unique and colourful identity with Malays, Chinese, Indian, Eurasians plus many foreign immigrants residing here. By giving a carte blanc for travelers to customize Singapore, what is left of us? What do they think of us? In marketing, we emphasize a lot on unique selling proposition, branding and positioning. By being everything to everyone, we basically become a significant nobody.

I have a Famous Business Slogans category in this blog, however, I probably won’t slot this post in that category until “Your Singapore” has, well, become famous.

4 Replies to “Can it be “Your Singapore”?”

  1. I prefer “Uniquely Singapore”. I’m not into “Your Singapore” too. Honestly, “Uniquely Singapore” captured my attention very well when I was looking for info about Spore from Vietnam.

  2. Hi Ruby … Good to have you visiting. It’s a complicated feeling. Even though I’m not into “Your Singapore”, I’m hoping overseas folks will not have negative feeling of the slogan when they look for info online.

  3. The “Your Singapore” slogan is just plain wrong. The online services are great actually, given that it made things a lot easier instead of checking across multiple websites. In term of personalized services, it’s fantastic.

    I think STB has been a little insensitive to local sentiments about Singapore being invaded by foreigners. There also seemed to be a massive confusion among various statutory boards about their roles. But that said, that does not mean Singaporeans do not welcome tourists. That would be insane.

    I think your friend got it right, will Singapore ever be “his/hers”? Never. I hope this is not an extension to the foreign-talent policy which is still more tied to economic and migration. It sounded more like Singapore is giving herself away to foreign countries, much like how China was at a time in history given away bit by bit to the English. The slogan, by itself, just doesn’t make sense.

    Is it STB’s job to make tourists feel good here? Or is it STB’s jobs to “try and convince” tourists they can make Singapore their home? It’s really two different objectives. Which is why when I first read about this slogan, that’s the first question that popped up in my head.

    But just like most Stat Boards and policies, it’s always the case of “whether you like it or not, we are still doing it”.

    I had my own conversation with STB many months ago regarding some business plans. After the conversation, I walked away feeling these folks don’t have a clue what the new tourism landscape is really about. Midway through the meeting, I decided to keep silent and not reveal any more ideas and details. Why waste time when obviously they’re not going to get the picture?

    They have done some right decisions along the way (particularly provision of adequate hotel accommodation and MICE facilities), but for some others, their responses show the ignorance. Especially for emerging tourism markets, they just don’t know what’s going on.

    Then going through the list of external consultants that provided advice for them, I finally knew why. When these STB folks do not have a good grasp of a certain market, they are easily mis-led by these so-called consultants which are paid tens of thousands, if not hundreds. Who benefits at the end of the day? Not STB, not Singapore and certainly not the citizens and tourists. The consultants basically laughed their ways to the banks.

  4. My personal views on branding is that taglines and logos can only do this much. What’s more important is the actual customer/visitor experience as well as their interactions with the staff on various fronts. Having a fancy tagline without addressing the fundamentals is just an exercise in creative brainstorming.

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