Zouk’s conundrum: Why is the venue vital to the brand

If you grew up in Singapore in the early 2000s and are a fan of Mambo, chances are you know Zouk. And if you know Zouk, you know probably know Jiak Kim road.

While the nightlife scene is bustling with new entertainment scenes every day, Zouk has been one of the very few clubs that has sustained a disciple of clubbers come rain or shine. However recently news surfaced on The Straits Times that the club might soon find itself in the hands of a new owner as it has already had several offers from both local and international firms. As with any new management, the club is bound to undergo a fair amount of changes.

Read also: Zouk’s closure: Death of a local icon?
Zouk runs marketing campaign ahead of move to Clarke Quay

The news comes amidst the iconic local brand moving to a new location. Following a long drawn out tussle, Zouk’s management was asked to leave its premises on Jiak Kim and find a new home amongst the bustling crowds of Clark Quay.

It is safe to say the future of Zouk as a brand that we know (and love!) remains fairly uncertain.

“The buyers would be looking to buy Zouk for reasons such as strong brand presence and audience. Zouk is bringing the Asian clubbing scene to a world stage and locals are very proud of it. A club is simply a brick and mortar store but what happens inside that space is what makes it flourish,” Charlie Cookson, senior strategist of Landor said.

He added that buyers today are probably smart enough to know that when buying an entity with a strong brand name such as Zouk’s, they don’t just buy it for its name but rather the “soul” of the place. Any huge significant change would end up in loss of yield and return on investment.

Venue matters

Cookson added the change in venue is already playing into its evolving brand image. Mostly a hotspot for local youths, a change in venue to a tourist attraction point such as Clark Quay will no doubt lure in more international club goers but this will also inadvertently change  the brands very much local DNA.

A lot of Zouk’s identity has to do with its current venue – consisting of the three warehouses built on the Singapore River in the early 1900s. It has provided the nightspot with a nook of Singapore that is central and yet unpretentious.

Kelvin Ng, founder of branding agency Acacia echoed the statement adding that the venue at Jiak Kim gave the club a vernacular vibe while Clarke Quay tends to be seen as more manufactured.

“Even with its central location and critical mass, MOS and Zirca failed. The key DNA has been authenticity. Real good music, partly owing to its original location, and an unpretentious vibe have led to its fan base of successive generations of Zoukers and Zoukettes. Any new owners would do well to continue this authentic and vernacular vibe,” Ng said.

Jessalynn Chen, client director of Fitch also added that Zouk’s fate today is a result of a large venue and significant rental, and some entertainment operators have shown to struggle under these circumstances.

“Faced with change (location or ownership), it is now a good time for Zouk to determine how the brand can evolve to represent the music preferences and club community of existing audience, and new, younger goers who are seeking a different music experience.”

Zouk did not respond to Marketing’s queries at the time of writing.



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