A fresh branding emerges from deep dive into Singapore spirit

Passion Made Possible motto goes beyond tourists and businesses to showcase nation's attitude and mindset


IT'S no longer just about drawing tourists or businesses. Singapore's latest branding exercise aims to capture the nation's essence in its entirety.

Called Passion Made Possible, the first joint branding effort by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Economic Development Board (EDB), was launched by Trade and Industry Minister S Iswaran on Thursday evening.

It aims to showcase Singapore's attitude and mindset - a passionate, never-settling spirit of determination and enterprise that constantly pursues possibilities and reinvention - through storytelling.

The campaign adopts an inside-out approach of what Singapore stands for by using local personalities, from entrepreneurs and restaurateurs to sports stars and celebrities, to share their different passions.

An example was a 4½-minute video of wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai, who spoke about his love of nature as he explored Pulau Ubin and the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. This and other clips will be showcased on sites such as CNN, BBC and National Geographic.

The new brand provides the opportunity and platform for Singaporeans and residents to showcase their enterprising and persevering spirit to the world, its assistant chief executive for marketing group Lynette Pang said.

Coming on the back of stiffer competition for tourism dollars from other countries, STB decided to take a different approach from previous brands such as STB's YourSingapore and EDB's Future Ready Singapore.

Singapore's tourism numbers have grown in recent years after a 7.6 per cent dip in receipts in 2015 to S$21.8 billion.

Last year, the number of visitors rose by 7.7 per cent to 16.4 million, while tourism receipts increased by 13 per cent to S$24.6 billion and in the first quarter of this year, there were 4.3 million visitors who spent S$6.4 billion, a 15 per cent increase in tourism receipts over the same period of 2016.

Chief executive of STB Lionel Yeo said: "Today, Singapore's iconic attractions such as Orchard Road, Marina Bay and Sentosa are well known in our major source markets, and we are also well known for our attributes of security and efficiency. We will build on this by telling stories of passion made possible to develop an even more positive affinity between our target audience and Singapore."

The revamped brand, which came seven years after YourSingapore was introduced, took about a year to be conceptualised, starting with qualitative and quantitative research on what Singapore stands for. The research involved close to 4,500 respondents, who comprised residents, industry stakeholders and international audiences in Singapore and across 10 countries and most of whom thought "passion" and "possibilities" best reflected Singapore's spirit.

"With Passion Made Possible, STB is presenting a brand that can tell a fuller Singapore story beyond just tourism... This brand is in line with quality tourism as it will appeal to the more sophisticated tourists who are seeking more aspirational value propositions in their travel," Mr Yeo said.

EDB chairman Beh Swan Gin said Singapore is making the shift from being primarily an investment-driven economy to one that is led by innovation, particularly "seeking to create new products, services and solutions that will have stronger impact in Asia".

"It is timely to send a strong and clear signal that companies can do this successfully from Singapore and turn possibilities into reality," he said.

Other statutory boards and agencies under the Ministry of Trade and Industry will also adopt this branding when reaching out to international audiences.

This would be STB's fifth brand since "Instant Asia", its first brand in 1966.

Not everyone The Business Times spoke to sees merit in regular rebranding exercises.

Associate professor of Marketing at Nanyang Business School and a fellow of the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight Sharon Ng said building a strong perception and brand takes time and constant re-branding of a product "confuses the target audience".

"We want people to have a clear image of what the brand stands for. It is hard to achieve that if a brand constantly changes its positioning and image. Brands need to re-brand when their target audience changes or when society evolves making their existing brand image look obsolete. But these should be done judiciously," she said. But associate professor Ang Swee Hoon from the Department of Marketing at the NUS Business School said the re-branding exercises that STB has undertaken span between six and 11 years.

"By which time, other countries may have developed different stories about themselves to attract tourists. Singapore needs to refresh itself to compete more effectively for the tourism market not only for first time visitors but repeat visitors as well," she said, adding that re-branding is necessary "to rejuvenate the brand so that it does not look tired and not progressing".

"Companies, especially those very much in the public's eye, do that all the time."

Having said that, Prof Ang added that re-branding "should be well thought out because it is a strategic move".

"It is called for when there's a change in the competitive environment and/or customers. The re-branding should speak to how the brand addresses customer needs amid the changing competitive landscape. Competition and customers do not change overnight. As such, re-branding exercises do not occur frequently," she said.

Both STB and EDB did not give the exact cost for the revamp and would only say that marketing the campaign would be where the investments would go into.

"We have an annual budget for marketing, so it's not as if suddenly there is a big change in the marketing budget (this year). It's just the way we deploy that budget (which) will be in support of this 'one brand one campaign' approach so that over time it will gain traction," Mr Yeo said.

STB's previous spending includes S$200 million in Singapore Roars! to attract more travellers in the post-Sars period of 2003, S$90 million for its Boost (Building On Opportunities to Strengthen Tourism) initiative of 2009, and its S$20 million global marketing campaign in 2015, targeted at tourists from seven countries.

On the Passion Made Possible campaign, Prof Ng said: "We can't put a magic figure to this. It depends on how they want to execute this. A global campaign with ads in every country and both online and offline channels will be very expensive. If it is simply changing the slogan and reflecting that on the website and brochure, it will be cheap. It is hard to give a figure until we know the ambition of the rebranding team."

Noting that STB and EDB are having a joint branding for the first time, Prof Ang said it is a noble, but challenging move.

"While few countries have done this, for example, New Zealand, STB and EDB have distinct audiences who have different priorities. It would be challenging to express the same theme in different meaningful ways to appeal to their separate audiences, and not be a source of confusion," she said.

Following its debut, Passion Made Possible will be unveiled in various cities worldwide, beginning with STB's travelling showcase Singapore: Inside Out in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday. It will be rolled out across the Asia-Pacific and longer-haul markets, Europe and the United States, from next month.

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