Singapore’s marketing strategy aims at inspiring consumers before and after their arrival at the destination.
With more than 1 million international visitors every month, Singapore is nowadays one of the trendiest tourism destinations worldwide. Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the Singaporean destination marketing organisation, launched a medium-term marketing strategy (2016- 2020) in order to tackle the increasingly complex tourism landscape and to stay ahead of the competition
With more than 1 million international visitors every month, Singapore is nowadays one of the trendiest tourism destinations worldwide. Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the Singaporean destination marketing organisation, launched a medium-term marketing strategy (2016- 2020) in order to tackle the increasingly complex tourism landscape and to stay ahead of the competition. In a world that is constantly evolving, in which technology facilitates and influences consumer behaviour, destinations need to evolve and adapt to the travellers of today. Here at the #DTTT, we consider Singapore Tourism Board as one of the DMOs that are able to innovate their brand with a strategy that focuses on local people, their stories, passions and dreams, delivering it through effective digital strategies.
STB’s new vision is to deliver "agile, bold and creative destination marketing that inspires and delivers results" to respond to the ever-changing traveller behaviour and to stand out from the competition of worldwide destinations. Singapore’s marketing strategy aims at inspiring consumers before and after their arrival at the destination and focuses on three strategic thrusts:
STB also made a clear strategic distinction between visitors in the passive and active stage. The former identifies the consumers that are not actively searching for information about the destination, whether the latter identifies those that have already expressed an interest for the destination or that already find themselves in the decision-making process for a visit to Singapore.
At the passive stage, the objective is to reach a potential consumer showing Singapore as a potential tourism destination through standard marketing campaigns, media and content partnerships that focus on the attractiveness of the destination and the pre-disposition of consumers towards it. At the active stage, the focus is on closing the deal with consumers and convincing them to visit Singapore. This is done through call-to-action and retargeting activities.
We met three key representatives of the Singapore Tourism Board in order to discuss the choices and drivers behind the definition of this strategy and the new global brand campaign launched in August 2017. These were Shoo Ling (Director, Brand), Terrence Voon (Director, Digital and Content) and Jeanne Ng (Assistant Director Marketing Capability).
To ensure a ‘Great Singapore Story’, it was necessary to rethink the brand and include the cultural and historical roots of Singapore with the aim to reach and appeal to the demanding consumers of the future. Shoo Ling, Brand Director at STB, explained the characteristics and the key concepts of the new brand campaign 'Passion Made Possible'.
The role of the brand in tourism is to keep Singapore as a destination on top-of-mind, ensuring target audiences connect and resonate with the brand. As Ling explained, the first step in the redefinition of Singapore’s brand was the recognition that travellers are changing and their needs are evolving: they want authentic experiences. So it’s important to move beyond just describing the place and things to do and instead offer a multi-layered experience. In this sense, a shift has taken place from a transactional perspective to an attitudinal perspective to convey the idea that, even if the destination changes, the ethos and the fundamentals of what Singapore stands for are timeless.
The brand creation process started with an important question: "what is it that Singapore stands for?". Through an in-depth process in the organisation, STB, together with other governmental agencies worked on establishing the real identity of Singapore, without merely focusing on the tourism proposition. The new brand is pitched using an inside-out approach, taking into consideration the identity of Singaporeans, their passions and dreams, and making them feel represented by the brand. 'Made Possible' represents the obstacles and challenges to pursue Singaporean dreams, but it is also the metaphor for the pursuit of STB’s objectives.
The targeted consumers are people that resonate with this attitude, who are invited to pursue their dreams and passions. The brand also manifests itself in the use of different Tribes such as foodies, explorers, action seekers, culture shapers, collectors and socializers, inspired by local ambassadors. The use of locals and ambassadors is humanising the brand and reflects the many perspectives and experiences that Singapore as a destination represents.
The new website was built keeping in mind the consumer journey while elevating the voice of the destination through the narration of stories. Useful information and “what to see” sections are still in place but the main focal point of the website has changed showcasing the stories of authentic Singaporeans and their passions. For consumers, this provides a multi-dimensional flavour, leaving consumers pleasantly surprised about the experience and content on the website.
Terrence Voon, Director of the Digital and Content division at STB, told us about the digital strategies that derive from the organisation's re-branding. His division maintains an online global presence all year round and is divided into two teams. The Digital team is looking after STB's online platforms, the website, social media, and the global digital media investments, also working on data management. The Content team is in charge of all the content that is pushed out across all markets including editorial, videos, images, baseline content and hub content.
While in the past a lot of efforts were focused on pre-arrival marketing, today there has been a shift towards consumers during their stay at the destination. One of the main reasons behind this decision is that, while travellers in the past were used to plan every moment spent in the destination well ahead of time, the younger travellers of today get to the destination with a rough idea of what they want to see and experience, especially tech-savvy Millennials who decide on the spot. STB’s goal, in this sense, is to be able to provide travellers with recommendations about what to do at the destination that is contextual to them at that moment in time, thus allowing them to experience the best of Singapore. This aims to drive visitor spend and increase visitor advocacy for the destination.
From an organisational perspective, two factors have influenced a change towards greater efficiency within STB’s Digital and Content team. First of all, technology has changed and has made it possible to speed up the process of content creation and data research. Secondly, marketing has changed and a restructuring of the process has been necessary in order to activate content in a much faster way and to scale effectively. Purposely built, the Destination Newsroom is a new way of working around content, tracking conversations and trends that are happening on the social front, turning them into insights and from insights into creative content within a 24-to-48-hour span. It is both a process and system used to monitor conversations and identify topics that could be suitable or relevant to market Singapore tourism.
Another change that affected STB is the way in which, as a marketing organisation, all the different parts and divisions have been unified in the process of content production, whether on the brand level or industry-specific level, digital or not. Through the Content Engine, a monthly meeting with all the teams involved in content creation, STB’s marketers come together to discuss trend topics and relevant news, insights and ideas behind the content, in this way facilitating a common unification of messages that are built and spread through the campaigns. This well-structured process is fundamental not only to exchange ideas and creativity but also to speed up operations because the key to efficiency does not only lie in technology or in the mindset shift but in the celerity of content creation. As Voon says, nowadays if you don’t want to be surpassed by competition you have to be quick, on point and creative.
According to Voon, the brand “Passion Made Possible” is great to connect travellers passions with products and experiences they can find and purchase in the destination. STB’s content strategy rotates around this concept. STB uses Google's frameworks as a basis to create content, classifying all content by type (Hero, Hub, Hygiene) and by source (Created, Co-Created, Curated). But there is a fixed process that is being instituted: identifying the business problem, identifying the target audience and the insights, get the correct message and connect it with the brand, identifying the right platform to launch it and measure the content success. Content needs to be delivered in the most engaging way possible, connecting it with the brand “Passion Made Possible” in a useful, authentic and friendly way. The secret to STB’s content strategy is, therefore, to speak to visitors as their friendly local guy, giving useful information and helpful suggestions.
The campaign launched in August 2017 was called internally “One Brand, One Campaign” and it featured over a hundred local personalities across all communications, from the Michelin-starred chef to the man who designs sneakers for Kobe Bryant. All these local stories were used to connect with travellers because, as Voon says, the essence of the brand is about people and that is where passion comes from. So in all the spread content, there has to be passion linked with people and the Singapore story.
From the top of the funnel to the actual content launch there are several steps. In the past, the consumer journey was divided into different stages, from awareness, consideration, research, booking, to the arrival at the destination. About two years ago, STB decided to consider only two stages of the traveller journey: the moment in which they are passive, not thinking about travel, and the moment in which they are active and thinking about travel, researching and booking their trip.
The campaign “Passion Made Possible” sets itself in the passive stage, for it seeks to shift mindsets and opinions and entrench the brand of Singapore in the minds of consumers who are maybe not even thinking about Singapore in that moment, through a Hero level strategy. On the Hub level, the content has to attract consumers when they are actively looking for travel information and choosing the destination. This content digs deeper into the stories of Singaporeans, with longer-form videos and editorial spread through social media and the website.
From a technological perspective, it is very important to dig deeper into target audience insights since this is the first step to create qualitative content. In order to focus on audience insights, STB’s technology team created the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network, a data management & analytics hub to draw analysis and insights from multiple and different data sets.
This system gives the possibility to respond relevantly to specific targets, generating leads and driving conversions. Another tool that was developed by STB is the Data Management Platform, specifically for marketing, where information such as cookie data and digital identifiers are used to create custom audiences that are then plugged into the programmatic environment to create more personalised content. This enables them to have a centralised view of how they want to reach consumers digitally and a central hub for information that aggregates the latest destination content and services, facilitating its distribution and updating seamlessly across partners and platforms. The focus is on driving “audience quality” instead of just metrics such as reach and impressions.
In the coming years, Voon foresees three major changes in the digital environment:
With a fast-changing marketing landscape, it is important to be updated about global marketing trends in order to face the daily challenges of modern DMOs. We met Jeanne Ng, Assistant Director of Marketing Capabilities at STB, who explained the role of the STB Marketing College, a newly created training and development programme. The aim is to improve marketing capabilities among STB’s employees and STB’s external tourism partners in Singapore. The idea behind the institution of a training course was the need to prepare tourism professionals for rapid changes, with the consequent need to adapt marketing strategies to evolving consumer needs. Six digital learning modules were created: brand, consumer, activation planning, activation execution, strategic planning and tourism ecosystem.
These interactive and digital e-learning modules are always available for the employees to guarantee an ongoing training, which is then paired with face-to-face learning opportunities and workshops. Industry partners can also benefit from the training through a complementary tourism partner marketing capability programme in the form of, for example, lunch and learn sessions where knowledge is shared. The idea of providing the service both internally for staff and the industry is possible to achieve.
As a destination marketing board, it is fundamental to develop marketing capabilities and this means working closely with partners so that everybody's competencies are lifted together and there is a continuous knowledge exchange between STB’s internal staff and external tourism stakeholders. With a constant learning process, ideas are discussed among all counterparts and shared to reach a common goal. Therefore, the knowledge exchange allows everyone to learn about new theories, apply them, test them and share them in a process of constant learning with one another, in a win-win situation. It is clear, that STB is passionate about learning, as Jeanne Ng told us, and this is a clear example of how serious a brand campaign is taken into consideration by its creators, even within side initiatives: learning itself is a journey towards Passion Made Possible.
As a DMO, and as any kind of tourism company in the digital realm, it is very important nowadays to ride the wave of the evolving digital trends and technology. It is not easy, though, to innovate a destination brand and consolidate its position in a market with such a rapid evolution. Trying to unify such a diverse and fragmented sector made of different subjects and products under one unique destination brand, while being certain that the identity of the place is kept authentic, is certainly a challenge for any DMO.
The Singapore Tourism Board has definitely succeeded in innovating with their brand and keeping it authentic and timeless while riding the wave of marketing trends and at the same time adapting it to the needs of today's’ travellers. Organisational and operational changes in their structure help them to remain agile in the digital landscape, introducing a participative process involving internal skills and passions.
The Destination Newsroom and Content Engine is a great example of projects that lead the way among DMOs and will help STB remain competitive. The involvement of external stakeholders in the learning process through the launch of the Marketing College is a great opportunity to exchange knowledge and become one team united in the promotion of tourism.
STB's modern brand is ready to take on the needs of today’s travellers, seeking a more personalised communication, based on an innovative concept focusing on local people and unique experiences at the destination. This helps to increase the destination attractiveness and gives a strong voice to the residents and local ambassadors. STB was able to shift the perception of Singapore as a destination from a futuristic and bustling city to an authentic place with passionate people. Here at the #DTTT, we consider this to be a great success and there are many aspects both internally and externally that other destinations can learn from.