Dear Singapore Girl, it’s not you. It’s me.

Singapore girl

In this guest post first published by The Independent, Calvin Soh shares his feelings for Singapore’s most prestigious brand.

I loved you the first time I saw you so many years ago.

Then you were one of a kind. You were confident, brave, your ideas were ahead of its time and you had a spirit no one else had. You were my first in so many ways.

Then, you wooed me like no one else had done before, with your Kebaya, meals by famous chefs, Raffles Class, exemplary wines, and inflight service other airlines talk about. You were business “unusual”.

Then, one day, you stopped wooing me. You became corporate (robotic almost), you cut corners and stopped doing the things that meant a lot to me. I felt like a number. Our relationship became business as usual.

So I looked around and other girls appeared over the horizon. They were still mere copies of you but they were catching up very quickly.

We drifted. I started seeing other people who don’t take me for granted.

Now you’re trying to win me back. With an ad campaign, with words and with clichés.

“The Lengths We Go To”, showcasing the Airline’s unwavering commitment to putting the customer at the heart of everything it does, in all classes of travel.

Everyone from the POSB Girl to Carrier Man says that. If you don’t believe me, google it. No one says you’re not at the heart of everything they do.

“Making every customer feel at home when they fly with us has always been the cornerstone of our service philosophy. Our customers’ preferences have always been the foremost consideration in the curation process for our new products which are sourced from all over the world. This new campaign sets out to reaffirm this commitment.”

So what’s new? You mean you’ve not been doing that all along? The truth is you’re not doing enough and that’s why we’re estranged.

A tea plantation and teahouse in Fujian were selected as the setting as this is the region from which SIA sources Jasmine tea.

Renowned Glasgow-based Andrew Muirhead & Son, Europe’s oldest tannery, was used as the filming location as it is where the leather used in SIA’s Business Class seats is produced.

SIA’s award-winning KrisWorld in-flight entertainment system features films in more than 10 languages, including a selection of critically-acclaimed artistic films to cater to customers’ varied preferences.

You’re going to win me back with green tea, leather and movies? Really? No one else has them?

The Airline’s YouTube page, youtube.com/user/singaporeair, has also been revamped, featuring more interactive navigation and enhanced organisation of content.

Please stop now. I skip videos within the first 5 seconds and stopped reading newspapers and watching TV a long time ago. Just ask Straits Times and Mediacorp.

You can’t win my loyalty, trust and love back with mere words, especially referring to me in the third person.

No, I want action.

And it starts by understanding what I want.

For example, I hate your online booking site more than an ACS boy hates Chinese (I fathered one during our break). I feel you deliberately made it difficult to book so I don’t get to claim my hard earned points. And if by miracle the site doesn’t hang, I find the rules of using my miles skewed in your favour. It’s all you you you.

If instead of doing these ads that I won’t get to see, spend the $5mil redoing your website instead. Make it easier and quicker to redeem my miles. Then do a campaign that says this is how you put me first.

I will watch that commercial, read that ad and click that banner. I will believe the lengths you’ll go to.

And if you want me back, find a way to transfer some of my miles from other airlines over. Can I enjoy some of the perks without having to start from scratch? I have many friends who are relocating to Singapore who’d like that option too.

I know, I know. You can’t transfer miles. Once you start, everyone would want that. But in the past, you’d think outside the box and find a solution. You would invent, innovate, and at least try. You lost your business “unusual-ness”.

These days, I find you’ve become comfortable, complacent and stuck in your ways. Change can be so hard when you’re afraid of losing what you already have. But if you don’t, you will anyway. Just look at the Nokia, Tower Records, The Washington Post and Borders of the world.

The ones that are relevant to me still have the challenger spirit, constantly reinventing themselves, like Apple, Samsung, Nike, and Starbucks.

You had that same spirit all those years ago, it’s embedded deep in your DNA.

So what’s stopping you? Is it the shareholder? Because in the past, when you focused on me, the shareholder benefited. Never vice versa, remember?

But I can’t wait. I’ve moved on. I’ve changed faster than you have.

I now live in exponential times. Nokia was worth US$132bn 5 years ago, and US$7.2bn now. The Singapore property market recession lasted a mere 18 months. My loyalty to brands also fluctuate exponentially.

I’m not the same person 10 years ago. Heck, I’m not the same person 10 months ago.

I’m surrounded by instant access to knowledge. I can find cheaper and better alternatives anywhere. I can also find out if you’re telling the truth or not.

I can block ads, deny you access to information and I have the power of choice. This is the world I live in.

I am now in control, not you. The customer is King.

I’ve changed so much while you’ve only just updated your 70s Abba blue eye shadow.

I’m the one who is far ahead of you.

I’m sorry Singapore Girl. It’s not you, it’s me.

Calvin Soh is an adman turned consumer. He’s the former Asia Pacific co-chairman of Publicis, which was one of the contenders for the Singapore Airlines pitch in 2008. He’s now founder of consultancy Ninety Nine Percent. This article was first published by theindependent.sg.


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