Q&A with Singapore Tourism Board marketer Lim Shoo Ling

SingaporeThe government tourism body of Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board, has been in the news a lot lately. One of its ads went viral for the wrong reasons, and it recently struck a global marketing alliance with Singapore Airlines.

In an interview conducted by email, STB’s deputy director, strategic marketing and brand, Lim Shoo Ling, tells Mumbrella if the YourSingapore platform will be replaced, how to define brand Singapore, the main things it looks for in an agency, and its most effective campaigns to date.

It’s been some time since STB appointed JWT as its new advertising agency, but there hasn’t been any dramatically different advertising yet (STB is still using the ‘YourSingapore’ slogan). Why is it taking so long to get new work out?

Once every two to four years, STB carries out an agency Request For Proposal. This helps to keep things fresh and lets both STB and the agencies review what we did well and what could be improved. Thus in April 2013, we appointed J. Walter Thompson, XM Asia and MEC as our creative agency, digital and digital production agency and media agency, respectively.

Specifically for JWT, their role includes developing broad ideas and concepts, and leading integration of plans from each of the appointed agencies and STB’s PR agencies in the respective markets.

Since their appointment, JWT has assisted with continuing existing marketing campaigns in China, Australia, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. With JWT and the other agencies, we are rolling out more new marketing campaigns in the next few months.

YourSingaporeWe hear that YourSingapore will be replaced by a new slogan and positioning this year. Any truth to that?

We currently have no plans to replace the YourSingapore brand. YourSingapore is not a slogan.

The STB account is said to be one of the trickiest in Asia to work on for advertising agencies, because there are so many stakeholders and because Brand Singapore is so difficult to define. What is STB’s current definition of Brand Singapore?

In recent years, the way that people plan and book travel has shifted from passive content consumption to the active engagement of empowered individuals, primarily due to the dominance of digital and social media. Our YourSingapore brand articulates Singapore’s value proposition as a destination which encapsulates what travellers seek – a personalised travel experience.

With the myriad sights, sounds, tastes, culture and attractions in Singapore, we have many world-class offerings providing visitors with a wide range of experiences to choose from. These qualities of our destination are underpinned by the ease and accessibility that our infrastructure offers, empowering travellers to create an experience, according to their individual preferences and interests.

We have been working closely with our core agencies on creating customised and differentiated marketing campaigns for our respective target markets, and this has been an exciting challenge which the agencies have risen to, and enjoyed.

Singapore was recently dubbed “misery city” in an article by a BBC journalist who lives in Singapore. What do you makes of her assertions, and do you think her views, and the views of others who have read the article, have damage Singapore’s allure as a place to visit?

Singapore is home and inspiration to Singaporeans and many non-Singaporean fans and friends.  No country or society is perfect, and we are certainly a work-in-progress ourselves.

We accept that not everyone is a fan, but are also heartened by the positive support and encouragement from others (see recent articles on our street food, arts scene and conservation efforts). Ultimately, Singaporeans will decide how we progress as a country and as a people, and external feedback can be an important input into this process.  We hope to continue to make a modest contribution to the global conversation on what makes for a liveable and sustainable city.

On a lighter note, the fact that everyone has a different take on the city is what makes it rich and interesting for exploration, and is also the very embodiment of YourSingapore.

Recent articles written about Singapore include Singapore’s Best Street FoodIn Modern Singapore, Some Wax NostalgicGreen Acres by Singapore’s Skyscrapers and Art Stage Singapore Ups Its Game

Which markets will be STB’s main priority in 2014?

Our top visitor markets continue to be a priority in 2014.

What are your hopes for 2014 in terms of visitor numbers?

For 2014, STB has forecast visitor arrivals to grow to between 16.3 to 16.8 million (this is an increase of about five per cent to eight per cent from last year), and tourism receipts to be in the range of $23.8 to $24.6 billion (about two per cent to five per cent).

STB will continue to pursue quality tourism growth, a model of tourism development that emphasises significant economic contribution, innovative and productive tourism enterprises and an engaged resident community.

Which has been the most successful campaign in the history of the STB in terms of the increase in visitor numbers after the campaign launched?

Generally, we do not link visitor numbers directly with marketing campaigns, since there can be many factors affecting tourism numbers concurrently. Nevertheless, we are happy to share some of our recent campaigns that have gained good traction.

The “New Discoveries” campaign in China has won fans through components such as a microfilm starring Taiwanese actress Ariel Lin.

Our Australia campaign, “Get Lost and Find the Real Singapore”, also helped to change perceptions of Singapore among Australians.

The “The Holiday You Take Home with You” campaign in India has done well in the digital space.

STB is known to be one of the tougher clients to work with among advertising agencies in Singapore. What are the main things you look for in an ad agency to keep you happy as a client? 

Since 2011, STB has adopted a visitor-centric approach to marketing, developing strategies and campaigns that are specifically geared towards addressing the evolving needs of consumers from Singapore’s key tourism markets. In line with this approach, the key things STB looks for in an advertising agency is their ability to deliver solutions based on in-depth market knowledge and consumer understanding, a proven track record in building global brands, and a strong network and presence in STB’s key markets. Most importantly, we want to move beyond the traditional client-vendor relationship and prefer to work towards a committed and mutually beneficial long-term partnership.


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