SingTel’s plans to become a “lovable” brand

After years of bearing the brunt of local frustration over 4G networks, broadband services and handset malfunctions, SingTel has been making big plans to win over locals.

Traditionally, the brand handles much dissent about its services. An easy place to see this is on its Facebook page, where consumers regularly air frustrations there. Marketing earlier published a piece on the high levels of complaints it gets on social media.

However, SingTel has been taking steps to change public perception. The past year has seen it take several bold moves in its campaigns. For example, its Hawker Heroes Gordon Ramsay stunt (pictured) last year, which created a huge buzz online and in local media. It also engaged local comedians such as Dee Kosh and Hossan Leong to engage fans on social media.

This was on top of its annual title sponsorship of the F1 Grand Prix in Singapore each year.

Marketing spoke to the man behind SingTel’s brand image, vice president of consumer marketing, Johan Buse. Buse doesn’t deny that in the past, the brand has been “institutional and cold” in its communications.

But Buse, who has previously held roles at other telcos internationally such as Croatian Telecom, T-Mobile and Axis, also rationalises that the telco industry is a difficult one in which to deliver a good customer experience in the first place. He likens it to insurance and finance, with its many contracts and inflexibilities.

Also, he said: “SingTel is probably the most established brand (locally). People have a high level of respect but also a lot of expectation. Just like how if you buy an expensive car, you expect more from it. And we have no problem with that.”

But he adds that since more than a year ago, the brand has embarked on a journey to become warmer and in turn, well loved. “Ultimately, my belief is that a company needs to have a soul.”

“There are a lot of things we bother customers still, but we can do better. There are some pain points that we can handle better for sure,” he adds.

This includes moves such simplifying its many different brand product names such Explore, Extreme Broadband to names such as SingTel Broadband and SingTel Fibre Entertainment.

As for other pain points for customers such as data roaming, where many get confounded by data charges, it has introduced initiatives such as free daily roaming packages, where for $15 daily a user can have unlimited data abroad.

Meanwhile, its marketing will become more integrated and singularly themed, though Buse declined to reveal more on upcoming campaigns. As for moves such the campaigns it did with Hossan Leong and Ramsay, expect more of these from SingTel.

Is it working?

It’s been one year in to this approach – have consumers been convinced?

“It’s early days, we track it and we’ve had some positive response but it’s like knowing someone for a long time – your impression of them doesn’t change so quickly. The first results have been good, but we have a long way to go,” said Buse.

However, without revealing interim brand results, he adds that he believes that people are beginning to notice. “They can see that the campaigns are different, warmer, more engaging and less top down in communication. The days of taking the supplier-customer approach are over,” said Buse.