Analysis: Investors, PR and trust: Avenues SG brand mark could open for local players

Local brands in Singapore have been talked about quite frequently in recent months, especially during the circuit breaker period with calls for Singaporeans to support local businesses during this pandemic-hit year. Most recently, the government has also stepped in to show its support with plans to introduce a Singapore brand mark for local consumer lifestyle products from November this year. The brand mark will be for local consumer lifestyle produces, starting with products related to food and beverage, fashion and accessories, beauty and wellness, as well as homeware and decor.

The move has garnered support from local brands that Marketing spoke to. Brands see this as an effort to further push Singapore’s name onto international platforms and elevate the local brands’ positioning.

Denis Tan, group brand manager of snack company The Golden Duck, said the brand is “extremely excited” about the implementation of a Singapore brand mark, as it is a beautiful “shorthand” way to communicate the “high standards” that Singapore lives up to every day. He added that he sees this move as a “rallying call” for fellow Singaporeans brands to band together a vibrant food hub and community, as they continue to strive for innovation and growth despite setbacks from the pandemic.

Tan sees many possibilities with the implementation of the Singapore brand mark. This ranges from packaging call-outs, collaterals, mentions on its social media channels, PR and more. The brand mark will "dial up the Singapore 'country-of-origin' brand effect that we are immensely proud of," he added.

As a five-year old homegrown brand, The Golden Duck quite literally wears its country proudly on its sleeves, according to Tan, who added that it even has the Singapore flag adorned on its packs and cartons. The Golden Duck currently has presence in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, and Thailand. It also ships its snack internationally through its eCommerce site.

"The implementation of the brand mark definitely signals we have brand Singapore behind us, and especially for our new fans and snackers around the world, it's another reason to confidently enjoy our gourmet snacks," Tan said.

Matthew Chen, CMO of activewear and sportswear Kydra said the fashion industry may not be greatly affected by the implementation of the brand mark. Business may not see drastic changes unless the manufacturing of products is done locally. The extent of the impact will also depend on the definition of “quality” when it comes to local products and offerings, according to Chen. Noting that quality is a subjective variable in the fashion industry, Chen goes on to say he is unsure if the definitions of quality will be able to translate well between industries and benefit all local brands equally. 

Additionally, Chen said there is a possibility that the Singapore brand mark may bring the perceived brand value up. “While this might have a positive effect, it might also mean that consumers will compare locals brands with more established global businesses, and more often than not, the local business will lose out,” Chen said.

However, Chen also notes the positive impact the implementation may bring. “The introduction of the Singapore brand mark shows an interest by the government to support local businesses by providing a recognisable and consistent indicator for consumers,” he said. 

Chen explained that the positive impact could come both locally and regionally. On a local scale, Singaporeans may be swayed towards the brands that hold the mark, especially consumers that are aligned with #supportlocal movements. Meanwhile, on a larger scale, consumers will probably be slower to draw a connection between the mark and the quality it promises. “That would depend on how well the mark is recognised in addition to how appealing the brands are to overseas markets,” Chen said, adding that  overall, if the mark is marketed and managed well to gain more recognition, it would benefit businesses greatly in the long run.

With plans to expand into other markets in the near future, Chen is also hopeful that the Singapore brand mark may provide Kydra an opportunity to use Singapore’s reputation for quality, and allow it to establish trust early with new markets. As an activewear and sportwear brand, Kydra targets young working professionals with a keen interest in fitness, and are usually active and adventurous in their daily lives.

Chen told Marketing that the implementation of the brand mark will add brand credibility, which is "possibly the main goal of any young brand". If the consumer trusts the brand mark, it breaks the initial hurdle of gaining a new customer’s trust, he added. "If the brand mark is promoted properly and achieves this credibility, placing the mark on our consumer touchpoints will hopefully be sufficient," Chen said, quickly noting that this change will not happen overnight.

Additionally, Chen foresees having the Singapore brand mark displayed on its B2B and business channels. This would be helpful in attracting potential investors and industry partners, and recognition of the brand in the industry will be amplified. This is assuming the brand mark becomes a benchmark which brands are being judged on for being great companies, instead of their products alone. 

A young brand with the brand mark might be able to open doors they wouldn’t have been able to without the mark. 

Veteran view

Showing its support to the brand mark as well is Tiger Beer, a brand which originated from Singapore and now has presence in more than 60 countries. Speaking to Marketing, a spokesperson said the brand understands the challenges that local brands encounter in the face of international competition and fully supports the government’s efforts to promote local brands and products in the global market.

The spokesperson added: “We are fiercely proud of our local heritage and are committed to championing all things local – be it nurturing local talents, promoting street food, or supporting the local community.”

Although brands are generally supportive of this move by the government, they are also aware that it is still in its infancy stage, and the impact of the implementation may vary for different brands. When asked of the possible impact this brand mark will have on local brands, Tiger Beer’s spokesperson said it will have to wait for more details to be shared around the official launch and roll-out of the brand mark before determining its true impact on local brands and on Tiger Beer specifically.

Other than local brands, the move from the government has also gained approving nods from branding players in the industry. In a previous conversation with Marketing, most branding players see the move as a logical, timely, and right one. While most of them commented that the mark can help elevate the branding of locally-produced products and give it a fighting chance on a regionally or international platform, Wong Mei Wai, founder, CEO and chief change catalyst of brand change consultancy APAC Global Advisory also cautioned that this implementation of brand mark seem to be a short-term solution.

“What we appear to be doing now is to give our local brand equity a ‘shot in the arm’, due to the pandemic and a need to support brands in this environment, through ‘injecting’ deserving local brands with the Singapore brand equity,” she had said.

"The implementation of the Singapore brand mark needs to be curated so that 'sticking' the mark on, for example, packaging carries meaning beyond the optics - only then can we properly claim to have started that journey to significance for 'Made in Singapore', 'Validated by Singapore' or 'Approved by Singapore', leveraging in what we are known for (such as trust and assurance)."

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(Photo courtesy: 123RF)

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