Why SingTel chose Gordon Ramsay to push its brand

Who could forget the stunt pulled off by SingTel last year when the telco brought international superstar chef Gordon Ramsay down for a hawker centre cook-off?

Ramsay went head to head with local hawkers to create the nation’s favourite cuisines to see if he could come out on top.

Industry professionals had at that time raised the concern Ramsay’s personality and that of SingTel’s brand might not sit well together. SingTel’s biggest competitor StarHub had also hinted towards Ramsay’s personality being too much for SingTel to handle.

However, during the recent Content 360 conference, SingTel’s Johan Buse said the stunt drew in a 23% increase in brand awareness, proving the critics wrong.

#HawkerHeroes ended up trending for four days with 288.5K unique visitors to the site. Overall there were 386,400 visits to the campaign site in 17 days, while 50% of the visitors to SingTel’s website had never been there before.

(Read also: LOOK SingTel’s Ramsay challenge goes viral)

Nonetheless, the feat was not an easy one to complete and for a telco brand, said Buse, creating conversations is always hard.

However, he admitted that connecting the campaign to the overall SingTel brand remained a challenge. “The next challenge was connecting the content from the campaign to the brand since phones are clearly different from chicken rice,” he said.

While the easier route could have been to just plaster the SingTel brand across many platforms, what the telco wanted was to create a discussion and open up a dialogue. It wanted to evoke a brand connection to what people were passionate about.

“Promote discussion and trigger discussion but don’t try to manage it,” he said. Local radio stations and DJs were roped in to facilitate the conversations and raise the question of whether local cuisine had what it took to match up to international standards.

Another key to successful content creation and engagement is to create tension, said Buse. The Ramsay brand was certain to do this – being both a provocative and polarising name in the food industry.

“Using tension helps create dialogue with customers to shift the mindset about your brand.”

Armed with this, the brand both facilitated channels of discussions with locals and moved away from the image of just being a telco to take on the role of a multimedia company and facilitator of conversations.

(Read also: SingTel’s plans to become a lovable brand)

The voting aspect of the campaign also allowed consumers to feel part of the content creation process where they were able to navigate the direction of the campaign and the food options they wanted Ramsay to have a hand in trying to recreate.

According to Buse, ultimately at the end of the day, the real stars were the local chefs.

“This was less about Gordon Ramsay and more about the local Singapore culture and food people care about,” he said.