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Should your agency start targeting brands in Singapore?

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Mike Thorne is commercial director of Pearlfinders.

From blue chips using Singapore as a hub to test and launch their products into the broader South East Asian market, to the tech start-ups and innovative challengers in the microstate seeking a global audience – there is a huge opportunity for agencies to win work. Whether you already have a presence in South East Asia or are planning your agency’s growth strategy for 2017 and beyond, there’s never been a better time to be reaching out to brands in Singapore.

Two sectors to watch: motors and money

Singapore’s thriving automotive sector has been boosted this year by lower prices for Certificates of Entitlement and aggressive marketing from the top selling brands as they jostle for market share. Car sales were up 117 per cent year-on-year as of July, accompanied by the largest increase in demand for marketing services we’ve observed in any sector. Nearly twice as many brands are looking to appoint agencies so far in 2016, and with Honda overtaking Toyota for the first time in terms of market share, it doesn’t look like competition will be letting up any time soon.

Elsewhere, global financial services giants are battling for market share and trust investing in everything from regional sponsorship and PR to digital localisation and UX to tailor their services to the online habits and expectations of Singaporeans. Just over nine per cent of all forward looking agency opportunities we uncovered so far this year have been in the financial services sector – up from six per cent in 2015. The biggest gaps to plug here are around digital and data as everyone from HSBC to Standard Chartered are turning to technology to drive customer acquisition.

Innovation is the fastest growing source of agency opportunities

Last month Singapore became the first country to launch self-driving taxis – innovation is everywhere. So far this year 34 per cent of briefs that Pearlfinders has identified for agencies with brands in Singapore have been to support NPD and innovation, with FMCG food and casual dining the most NPD-hungry sectors. Specifically, the new development and subsequent promotion of brand new products and variants, many with an eye ultimately on the broader SE Asia market.

This has more than doubled even since last year when only 15 per cent of the briefs we uncovered were as a result of new product launches. Singapore is also an ideal test market for agencies looking to expand into the continent – fine tuning your offer before opening a permanent office or pursuing accounts across Greater China.

More senior marketing budget-holders are being appointed

So far this year, we’ve tracked 250+ new appointments to senior marketing roles in Singapore – from Uber to Unilever, Eu Yan Sang to EY. New marketing budget-holders of course represent excellent prospects for agency new business teams, as they look to make their mark and review inherited incumbents. Singapore’s position as a springboard to the wider region is reflected in the fact that 34 per cent of the marketers appointed are also responsible for APAC, SEA, ASEA, Greater China or similar.

Do you have luxury marketing expertise?

If so, it’s fair to say that there’s a highly concentrated level of demand for your skills in Singapore. From iconic names such as Tiffany & Co, Porsche and Hugo Boss to lesser known brands like Skin Inc and Berry Bros & Rudd, every self-respecting luxury brand is ramping up its marketing spend.

Only 7 per cent of brands in the UK are prioritising high net worth individuals – and just 4 per cent in America – meanwhile, a whopping 21 per cent brands we’ve interviewed this year in Singapore are focused on this appealing to this demographic. In other words, brands in Singapore are three times as likely to be targeting HNWIs as those in the UK.

Finally, I promise I don’t work for the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce!

But, on top of the various thriving sectors and rapidly growing marketing budgets Singapore boasts excellent infrastructure, digital connectivity and regular direct flights from the UK. Besides, post-Brexit, work priced in Singapore dollars works in favour of UK agencies. If you’re ambitious for growth you should at the very least consider how you can leverage existing expertise to capitalise on the current opportunity the country presents.

Mike Thorne is commercial director of Pearlfinders

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