Singaporeans love shopping. Orchard Road remains one of the world’s top retail centres. This makes Singapore an interesting case for creative marketing
Soon Su Lin, Chief executive of Orchard Turn Development has one of the most interesting jobs in the world. He has a wonderful asset, possessing the three core strengths of a marketing proposition, location, location, location. He also faces tough global conditions which impact on plans in a multitude of ways.
One of my fondest memories is walking down Orchard Road in Singapore for the first time, quite a few years ago. It is one of the great shopping experiences globally (even to a shoppaphobic like me). I still have a great pair of sunglasses from the trip, and the next-day suit acquired was only recently pensioned off.
But the global credit crunch continues to penetrate into marketplace activities around the world, even to the best-known of retail locations such as Singapore.
To understand what’s happening, global generalities have to be connected with local and specific evidence. Singapore for example, might be expected to share some features in common with ‘little tigers’ in other regions.
The term, was originally applied admiringly to the dynamic growth of Singapore and the other Asian economic growth regions.
Four of the Pacific Rim territories have been called “Economic Tigers” due to their aggressive economies.
They have included South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Since Hong Kong has been absorbed as the Chinese territory of Xianggang, it is likely that its status as a tiger will change. The four Economic Tigers have even challenged Japan’s dominance of the Asian economy.
More recently, other regions have been identified as economic tigers. No longer, however, is the term associated with unfettered economic success. Ireland (the Celtic Tiger), and Iceland (the Nordic Tiger) have had particularly severe economic setbacks after a period of growth.
Dubai, the Gulf tiger, also has had to cope with the wider global issues influencing its economy.
The Singapore situation
Reports from around the world confirm shared experiences.
One prosperous professional in Singapore [Johann, a public relations consultant] typified the pressures on the economy in 2009, telling the BBC.
“I am looking for on sale or clearance items. I am not even contemplating any big ticket items, he said.” Retail sales in Singapore have continued to drop, but shops are reacting by continuing to offer huge discounts. During the renowned June sales period price cuts of 90% were common. It is a risky tactic that reduces inventories, but can undermine revenues. Food in Singapore is relatively cheap. But alcoholic drinks are not. Recession has not stopped people going out, but bar owners note that drinking habits have changed.
“You see a different trend now,” said JR Wong of BQ Bar in the city’s Boat Quay area, “People who used to drink a lot of wine or spirits are now going for beer.”
India’s Tigerish growth
From India a similar story can be heard. One professional in North Delhi noted:
We used to visit only exclusive stores ..and spend [thousands of rupees] on branded clothes. I don’t like wearing anything locally made, I want international brands. I work in a place where all my clients and colleagues wear smart clothes and it would hurt my confidence levels if I’m not dressed like them. But it is a huge burden on my pocket. So now I look for discount offers where I can buy two or three items of clothing for the price of one”.
Dubai, the Gulf Tiger, has also had to adjust to a period in which growth by earlier standards had suffered.
Tigers when threatened fight back. Dubai, Ireland, Iceland, are finding their own ways of recovering from the global squeeze on their economies. That will be some comfort to regional economic leaders.
Singapore and its location
Singapore’s economic strategy has always been linked to its location, and will continue to be so. The term Location location location is widely attributed to the British property tycoon Lord Samuel although it may have been in use earlier in American business argot. Recently there has been a popular TV show of the same name and implying the same link between property value and location.
New marketing thinking
Changed conditions call for new thinking. What insights, for example, might be taken from books such as Herd, which seek to rethink contemporary marketing? According to the author of Herd,
[Mostly] things don’t start with special individuals – it is the rest of us and our willingness to adopt something that we see around us that really matters in the spread of behaviours and ideas through populations. Cultural Change is co-created. Individuals including project directors and their marketing strategists have their parts to play in that process.
Social media have helped generate new products and new markets. The up-market resort of Punta del Este in Uruguay has strengthened its business through parties of young rich Europeans and Americans organized on Facebook, and flying in on privately commissioned jets.
Many social commentators have been reaching the conclusion that leadership has also changed, and that again it is changing to deal with complex projects involving a range of leadership responsibilities.
What Tigerish responses might be expected in Orchard Road as Soon Su Lin’s new project unfolds?