March 25, 2004

Uniquely Singapore

Uniquely Singapore

They used Nick Shinn’s Shinn Medium for the sans and something faux-exotic pseudo-calligraphic for the display. It looks really jerky and I don’t think it’s the quality of the gif.

Posted by Karen at March 25, 2004 10:42 AM in design

Hi Karen,

finally made my way to your blog. Took me a couple of months but hey, at least I didn’t forget.

I met up with the people from STB recently and they told me the rationale for the font.

I’m a bit sketchy on the details but from what i remember, it had to be consistent with the following guidelines:

1. It has to portray the quintessential nature of Singapore
2. Exhibit a duality of a modern city with a rich cultural/traditional backdrop
3. It must be unique
4. It must be exciting

I’m no font expert but I guess it does a pretty good job achieving the points above.

Anyway, about the jerkiness, it ‘s the giff. I saw the original and it was a lot better.

Nice blog. Its so pink.


Posted by: Gul at March 29, 2004 01:35 PM

They must have read you the press release.

To me, it achieves none of the 4 points. How is this “quintessentially singapore” or even “unique”?

Posted by: jimmy at March 30, 2004 01:27 AM

I think there must have been a fifth requirement:
5) It must suck.


Posted by: Hrant at March 30, 2004 04:56 AM

Oh, you know they never say that explicitly. :)

I would like to get the face critiqued, but it seems kinda difficult because it is not a typeface per se but rather a bit of lettering….

Yes, it sucks. But why? That is what I’m trying to get to.

Looking at it again, it seems like they are trying to use the melting pot technique on this font. A bit of Chinese, a bit of Jawi, a bit of Tamil script and then everything in English. A case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts, actually.

Posted by: Karen at March 30, 2004 11:18 AM

frankly, i think i’m the last person in this planet to judge whether a font sucks or not. i’m more concerned about whether its effective.

i think its important to consider other points, such as recall , how it differentiates with the competition (places like Malaysia etc) and how it contrasts with skewed opinions which people may already have about Singapore and how the key audience segments respond to it based on their inherent cultural differences, etc.

if you look at the target markets that they are going after, its mostly from other Asian countries, esp China and India (which, by the way, are the fastest growing tourist segments in Singapore). so the melting pot technique that karen was talking about is absolutely true. the font needs to appeal to these markets.

Another consideration is that the competition for tourist dollars is pretty fierce in the region - can anyone here remember the visit Malaysia logo? Probably not but we see it quite a bit on TV here in Singapore. The point is, these tourist ads are so transient. this implies that the design must also be extrememly transient (easy to recognise and with a high recall value).

People that we have talked to do remember this Uniquely Singapore logo and they do find it “interesting”. Did we talk to enough people? Absolutely not. There could be loads more like Jimmy who don’t think its unique at all. however, i think its hard to deny that it is different.

i’m not too familiar with fonts but i think its going to be hard to find a font that EVERYONE likes and, at the same time, fits the bill strategically.

maybe it doesn’t really matter that its effective or gorgeous or whatever. the bottom line is, the client paid for it and they like it and perhaps that’s all there is to it.

last point: i don’t have access to their full branding findings and I wasn’t involved in the execution of STB’s branding exercise or design. we did our own tiny little independent study for our own purposes. it wasn’t an exhaustive study, so go ahead and take everything i said above with a pinch of salt.

Posted by: gul at March 30, 2004 05:35 PM

Like Karen said, it’s not a font, so it’s not a font that sucks. The design sucks.

When there’s so much wrong with it, it’s hard to critique, but that might in fact be the clue: it’s trying too hard, and as a result failing everywhere. Melting pot is one thing, mosh pit is another.

Is the logo “good enough”? Sure, hell, yeah. Logos don’t change the world. If you fool people into visiting Singapore with a logo, at the end the actual experience of the trip will affect your long-term tourism much more. So it depends how much they paid for the logo! If they paid a lot, they should have gotten something much better - something memorable - this isn’t. And I think it isn’t memorable because it’s not saying anything interesting. Much of the world is a “melting pot” these days.

> the client paid for it and they like it
> and perhaps that�s all there is to it.

The US government pays for and likes cluster bombs too.
I’m more worried about culture than pocketbooks.

Focus Groups: Everybody should know how notoriously fickle they are. It’s not that people are out to trick you, it’s what they actually feel about a logo, which they can’t usually even realize much less verbalize. People are conditioned to express themselves in formulaic, predictable ways. What they actually feel -the basis of their true long-term behavior- is much harder to extract.


Posted by: Hrant at March 31, 2004 01:51 AM

Here’s the article on the new logo. “A straw poll of 10 Singaporeans found that all did not like it.” My italics.

A slogan that sells?

New name, new image, new campaign. But is Uniquely Singapore catchy enough to draw in the tourists?

By Ginnie Teo

1. very special, unusual or good
2. not the same as anything or anyone
3. only existing or happening in one place or situation

ALL CHANGE: One of the Uniquely Singapore ads says: “If your guidebook is more than eight months old, burn it.” This highlights how Singapore is an everchanging place, where bar-top dancing and reverse bungee are now allowed.

Uniquely Singapore. That’s how Singapore wants the rest of the world to think of it as, but does the tagline work?

‘It’s a catchy name. We think people will like it,’ says Mr Ken Low, director of brand management at the Singapore Tourism Board, which unveiled the country’s latest marketing tagline last night.

‘It neatly encapsulates the Singapore experience - we are unique. Two words that express so much,’ he adds.

The tagline will be used to promote Singapore as a destination to people around the world through print and TV advertisements here and abroad. Images will highlight how Singapore is an ever-changing and cosmopolitan nation.

STB took eight months to come up with the campaign, working with international branding consultancy firm FutureBrand, which was responsible for the branding behind the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Watch Channel i news clip here

In focus groups and workshops, FutureBrand interviewed 400 people including travel agents, tourist guides, tourists and Singaporeans on what would make a good marketing hook.

But a straw poll of 10 people in the travel and advertising industries indicates that it might take some time for the slogan to sink in.

Ms Susan Teng, chairman of outbound travel for the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, says: ‘The word ‘uniquely’ is a bit of a tongue twister. It’s better if it was just ‘unique’.’

A travel agent who declines to be named describes the tagline as clumsy and adds: ‘I don’t even think it’s correct grammar. Shouldn’t it be Uniquely Singaporean?’

But Mr Maurice Williams, marketing director of Sentosa Leisure Group, says it is ‘general yet flexible’.

He adds: ‘While we are confident that the new campaign will succeed, the challenge is for all industry players to develop unique products and services and even a story bank for STB to publicise.’

But worse news for the STB: A straw poll of 10 Singaporeans found that all did not like it.

Dr Edmond Chong, 49, a general practitioner, says: ‘It’s not very original or catchy. What we need is something people will look at and not forget - and this is not it.’

Student Ron Tan, 16, says: ‘It sounds shallow and superficial and it’s so cliched. At least Malaysia’s tagline rhymes.’

Ms Foo Chai Fong, 45, a corporate support officer, says: ‘It doesn’t sound very welcoming or exciting. My first reaction to it as a tourist would probably be ‘Huh? What have you to offer me?’ ‘

Tourism authorities and branding gurus say a good brand name can do wonders for a country’s image.

Associate Professor Prem Shamdasani, who teaches marketing at the National University of Singapore, says branding is a powerful, concise way to communicate a country’s attractions.

‘It is done to create a distinctive image in the minds of people.’

While he is ‘neutral to slightly positive’ about Uniquely Singapore, he says: ‘It doesn’t really capture the essence. So what is so unique about Singapore?’

Branding can also change a country’s image, with Thailand being a good example.

FutureBrand’s senior consultant Anjali Grover notes how the country decided in 1998 that it needed a revamp as it was getting a reputation for being a cheap destination for backpackers.

‘It had to upgrade itself. Amazing Thailand is a simple tagline which worked wonders for the country,’ she says.

Still, taglines can go awry, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

In November 2002, Hong Kong Tourism Board’s British office launched a campaign with the headline ‘Hong Kong will take your breath away’. It was aimed at the British market.

Though appropriate at the time, it conveyed a completely different message four months later when Sars struck.

The advertisements were quickly pulled.

Countries also have to be mindful that they do not make empty promises.

Mr David Ketchum, chief executive officer of branding firm Upstream Asia, says: ‘They should not be a slogan of words that you put on promotional literature. When the campaign is executed, it’d better explain to me why Singapore is unique.’

He adds: ‘Uniquely Singapore stops halfway. It sounds more like a description.’

Prof Shamdasani adds: ‘Branding is about making a promise and delivering on that promise.’


REGIONALLY, Singapore faces catchy competition - Malaysia has its Truly Asia tagline, Thailand uses Amazing Thailand and India relies on Incredible India.

STB’s first branding image exercise dates back to 1984, when Surprising Singapore was unveiled. It ran for 11 years until 1995.

Its last major branding exercise took place in 1996, with the slogan New Asia Singapore.

Along the way, market-specific campaigns were rolled out, such as Singapore Roars! in June last year and Make It Singapore last November. These two were unleashed following last year’s Sars outbreak which saw tourist arrivals plummet.

While they gave the industry here a much-needed boost, Mr Low says that ‘it’s time to do something a bit more relevant, to take it to the next phase’.

He adds: ‘Competition was catching up. Many other destinations were calling themselves New Asia too, to the point that when people said New Asia, they thought of Shanghai.’

The STB remains mum on how much it spends on its branding campaigns, but it is estimated by consultants to be anywhere from $30 million to $60 million.

At least for Singapore’s competitors, the money appears to be well spent.

Singaporean retiree Elsie Tio, 55, says Malaysia’s Truly Asia slogan is ‘very catchy’ and ‘after hearing it so much on TV, it’s caught on’.

In fact, Mr Low observes that since 1999 when Thailand and Malaysia came up with their taglines, ‘the visibility of these destinations have jumped and overtaken us somewhat’.

Post-Sept 11 and the Bali bomb blasts, the travel landscape is also a tougher one to crack.

Uniquely Singapore, the STB hopes, will lure the visitors.

‘We want to see good sustained growth in visitor arrivals and tourism receipts,’ Mr Low says.

‘At the same time, we want to win the hearts of Singaporeans so that they will become good ambassadors.’

They should have just use a bitmap font to show exactly how barren we are as a country. He he. Babyless.

I think one of the problems with the design is that it is caricaturish. Like using a chop suey font for a Chinese restaurant menu.

Arthur of alt.type recently alerted me to the Dubai lettering. I don’t like it either.

Posted by: Karen at March 31, 2004 02:10 AM

My impression is that Singapore can appear truly unique (especially in the regional shpere) by seeming non-Asian, and maybe more ITSELF -in a confident way- instead of trying to be everything to everybody. Maybe less fun, but more elegant. Am I way off?


Posted by: Hrant at March 31, 2004 02:59 AM

We are known as “Disney with the death penalty” and the air-conditioned nation � highly regulated, so it might be fun to sell ourselves as a kind of Orwellian state � I can just imagine the Magritty visuals for the campaign. Although that would be very very far from the truth.

I much prefer the old lettering for Singapore which I find captures the island-in-the-sun character stylishly.

Posted by: Karen at April 1, 2004 11:05 AM

Its not so much the ugliness of the font that bothers me.

The whole thinking that went into this branding exercise seems a little tired.

Malaysia’s done it … and gasp! singaporeans are actually singing along to the Malaysia … Truly Asia jingle. The horror!

Let’s hire an international consultancy, do focus groups with 400 people, and find out what’s unique about Singapore that can attract tourists in droves.

8 months later, they must have decided that just about every other thing is unique about singapore. Take a look at the posters - durians, esplanade, orchard road, satay sticks, etc.

Its the buzz word these days isnt it? The folks behind the big branding push seem to equate ubiquity with effectiveness. We see your logo everywhere, hence your branding must be strong, hence we create branding awards and pat you on the back. Well done, you’re one of Singapore’s brand leaders.

A truly strong brand invokes values, feelings. Its almost like a word association game. Try associating a value or feeling with the following Singapore brand award winners - OCBC, OSIM, Infomatics … and one thats truly head-scratching: Goh Joo Hin. Who? After googling them, I found out they sell mushrooms and abalone.

Posted by: jimmy at April 2, 2004 02:30 AM

one more point i forgot. hrant’s absolutely spot on when he said:

“…more ITSELF -in a confident way- instead of trying to be everything to everybody”

Half the problem with Uniquely Singapore is just its too safe and predictable. Maybe they should have hired Sagmeister to do it!

Posted by: jimmy at April 2, 2004 02:38 AM

Here’s an idea for a slogan:
“Not just Asia.”

Karen: still bouncy-bouncy! :-(


Posted by: Hrant at April 2, 2004 03:35 AM

I think Letterror did a good job with Twin for Minneapolis. I don’t know enough about the place, but I think a big family of variants is needed to put across the multi-faceted aspect of any city.

The other entries look too mechanical. My second favourite entry is by Eric Olsen.

Posted by: Karen at April 6, 2004 11:05 AM

Daddy brought me to the esplanade (reminds me of those gigantic bras that granny used to wear.) yesterday to listen to some woman play the piano and we ate satays and sambal stingray after that.

Aunty gonna visit us in a couple of weeks (Shes Taiwanese you know) cus she cant get enough of them durians here. She says they sell durians in taiwan but its very expensive there and are kinda dried up and tasteless. I think she wld enjoy the satays and stingray too. I hope she’ll bring back some braised eggs from the 7-11 there. :)~~~~

I was in Japan (Okinawa) during my school holidays last year and I craved satay. Kinda reminds me of yakitori but yummier. Especially the spicy curry sauce. YUM! I dont get those in Japan.

Daddy came back home drunk last night and punched mummy in the face. I was very sad. I saw Daddy crying later that night and asked him why. He told me that he spend weeks on a proposal and mock ups for this company who was interested in getting a website but later pulled out cus they think all their competitors has websites and they dont want to be accused of copying.

They decide to spend their budget in hiring a few models clad in bikinnis to distribute fliers instead.

8 Years old.


Posted by: Myron at May 19, 2004 11:06 PM

I have a problem with Twin: I think it’s too “playful”, for lack of a better word. I don’t mind unserious (in fact I can sometimes enjoy it), but I do mind anti-serious.


Posted by: Hrant at May 20, 2004 12:41 AM

Hrant, we’re all lost. What’s the difference between playful, unserious an anti-serious?

Font examples for each might help… ;)

Posted by: Karen at May 23, 2004 10:17 AM

> What�s the difference between ….

Two gallons of whipped cream?

Seriously ;-) maybe the difference between playful and unserious is that the former is balanced while the latter is wanton; as for anti-serious, maybe it means the attitude that other people shouldn’t be serious either. But who the hell knows, I guess.


Posted by: Hrant at May 23, 2004 12:19 PM

well, the difference between 2 gallon’s of whipped cream? who cares? as long as i can eat them all in a single serving… what’s all this about fonts and stuffs like satay and yakitori(ooo, i love those food… yum…)? well, i say, as long as you can eat them, they are good… pray for not getting indigestion…

Posted by: Matashiki at July 19, 2004 02:40 PM

Maybe we should have used this instead :D

Posted by: Randy at September 24, 2005 01:13 PM

Hehe, how did you find that?

Posted by: Karen at October 8, 2005 12:43 AM
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