I have to wonder as I scan our new brand campaign, unveiled last week by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
The multi-million dollar marketing campaign built around the phrase "Your Singapore" includes an interactive website (http://www.yoursingapore.com/) where travellers can customise their Singapore sojourns, book their flights and hotels, and soon, have itineraries sent to their mobile phones.
(Pardon my quibble, but if the website is laser-trained on tourists, shouldn't they be able to type http://www.mysingapore.com into their Web browsers?)
Explaining the rationale for the new campaign, just six years after the previous campaign "Uniquely Singapore" was introduced, STB's assistant chief executive of marketing Ken Low said, "A brand's lifespan is six to seven years." Ouch.
One can think of a good number of brand campaigns that have been in play for decades and are still going strong. Perhaps the difference was they were based on a purposeful positioning, and their campaigns had legs. While not particularly enamoured with the "Uniquely" campaign, I have to take issue with Mr Low's remark. Change the previous campaign if you wish, STB ... but don't offer an incendiary statement by way of rationalization.
One other aspect gives me cause for concern. The best country branding campaigns speak not only to the target audience (tourists), but also to the country hosts (Singaporeans). Campaigns such as "Incredible India" not only appeal to foreign visitors, but also instill patriotism and pride in the homeland hosts who are subliminally encouraged to be brand ambassadors. The latest Australia Tourism print ads, too, while not spouting a tagline, effortlessly entice visitors and make Aussies proud. (To view the whole series of luscious ads, click on http://www.tourism.australia.com/content/Destination%20Campaign/Transformation/Partner%20briefing.pdf)
This is a hallmark of good advertising: it portrays what we feel in our hearts the product can grow to become. Good advertising is often slightly ahead of the product -- not in a way that assails credibility, but in a sensitive way that inspires belief in the product's benefits and imparts a greater sense of purpose to those who deliver its brand promise.
By not giving a nod to Singaporean residents, this campaign is missing a golden opportunity to enlist advocates for its cause. And by pandering to the empowered consumer -- even though it does employ all the right social media marketing principles -- the campaign has abdicated our positioning throne, and given away our birthright. If Singapore is what a visitor wants it to be, then what is it, really?
But let's be fair: "Just do it" probably sounded like somebody's naggy whine when it was first unveiled to Nike execs in Beaverton in 1981. It took a few years of inspired advertising before the campaign tagline hit its stride.
Singaporeans might be so lucky to have such a winner on our hands. But I have to say, I'm not holding my breath.