Brand Singapore retains rank on ‘Soft Power 30’ list, fares poorly on culture and global engagement

Brand Singapore has retained its position at number 21 in the annual ‘Soft Power 30’ ranking a list from strategic communications agency Portland that evaluates countries on a wide range of parameters including government, education, the state of digital advancement, ease of doing business, the cultural impact of the country and the extent of its global engagement. 

Singapore tops the list on enterprise for the fourth year running – having overtaken Switzerland in 2016. Enterprise measures the attractiveness of a country’s business model, its capacity for innovation and its regulatory framework.

It however lags behind on culture and global engagement. According to the Soft Power 30 report, the culture sub-index tracks the annual number of inbound tourist arrivals, music industry exports and even global sporting success in order to gauge the international cut-through of a country’s cultural output. The engagement sub-index measures a country’s foreign policy resources, global diplomatic footprint and overall contribution to the international community.

A press release on Soft Power 30 said: “Singapore’s leading performances in business-friendliness and talent competitiveness, as well as healthy levels of foreign direct investment continue to be key contributing factors to its world-beating score. framework. This is boosted further by increasing strengths in innovation and research and development, seen in growing patent numbers and high rates of R&D spending.”

The Singapore’s Economic Development Board had launched a campaign called ‘Impossible SG’ late last year, pitching the city state as the perfect location to start and grow a business

Singapore is also in the Top 10 of the digital sub index. It is however let down by its performance  on ‘culture’ and ‘ global engagement’. The report said: “Singapore continues to lag behind other major developed economies, preventing the city-state from climbing higher up the ranks of The Soft Power 30.

“Nevertheless, the index registered a slight improvement in Singapore’s international polling performance, following the high-profile Trump-Kim summit, Singapore’s ASEAN chairmanship, and the release of the Hollywood movie ‘Crazy Rich Asians’.”

Portland’s general manager for Asia and creator of The Soft Power 30 Jonathan McClory said: “Singapore’s soft power lies in its unique combination of business-friendliness and digital readiness; crucial as companies around the world race to develop new technologies and reach new consumers globally. 

“Singapore’s innovation-driven policies and strategic location in Asia have attracted numerous tech giants, start-ups, and global talent, helping the city-state to earn its reputation as a global tech hub.

“To improve its overall rank however, Singapore should double down on efforts to showcase its rich and diverse culture and continue to take leadership on global challenges including religious tolerance, data protection, and urban sustainability.” 

Showcasing local culture has been a huge focus of the Singapore Tourism Board with various initiatives under its ‘Passion Made Possible‘ campaign, including a S$1 million campaign with four content creators launched earlier this year as well as a marketing innovation programme with a budget of S$1.3 million .

Singapore is the only country from South East Asia to make it to the Soft Power 30 list. Other Asian countries on the list include Japan at eight (down from five last year), South Korea at 19 – it has been climbing one rank every year since 2016 – and China at 27, holding its position since 2017. 

When it comes to the Top 10, France is at number one, the United Kingdom has lose a rank and is at number two, while the United States at five has been declining every year since 2016 when it was at pole position. Germany retains its position at number three.


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