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.