In light of Singapore’s 54th National Day and Bicentennial celebrations, Meltwater raises its glass to the ever-evolving island state and salutes its achievements. From a small fishing outpost in the Malay Archipelago to a global financial juggernaut, we take a glimpse at the Lion City’s success story.

On 9 August 2019, the mighty little country of Singapore celebrated its 54th year of independence. Affectionately nicknamed The Lion City, it also commemorated the 200th year of its symbolic founding by the British. Its long-established and famed reputation in the global arena has been repeatedly mentioned in the news and favoured by international statesmen but what makes this city work like the proverbial clock? We take a look at three recent events in social media and delve on the Little Red Dot phenomenon.

How did an island state manage to garner much attention from the rest of the world? It is safe to say many factors have contributed to this renowned status. Establishing strong relationships with pivotal powers such as the US, China, Israel and the European Union were integral in Singapore’s early days as then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew led the country’s development of its financial, industrial and defence foundations. These relationships proved to be beneficial to establishing more extensive links with the rest of the world as Singapore’s rapid success in building its infrastructure attracted many keen observers who wanted to use it as a template for urban development.


The Jewel in Singapore’s Crown

Singapore’s ultra-high-speed efficiency and undeterred efficacy in carrying out tasks and running operations have always been on the world’s radar. From housing millions in a densely-populated city to building transport networks to improve accessibility around the country, Singapore has achieved its position as one of the world’s most livable cities in less than five decades. In the last two years, Singapore held the historic meeting of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the insane global success of Crazy Rich Asians, and launched Jewel, an entertainment and retail destination, the sparkling gem embedded in Singapore’s crown – the Changi International Airport.

Jewel Changi was launched with much fanfare, with heaps of superlatives being laid upon its crystal dome from around the world. With millions passing through the turnstiles of Singapore’s airports annually – 33 million passengers on the last count for this year – undoubtedly many more would have basked in the architectural monument meshing the beauty of foliage, retail therapy and top-notch customer service. Undoubtedly, the HSBC Rain Vortex is the pièce de résistance of the Jewel. Drawing the visitor in with its grandeur, it is no surprise that the cascading heavens of the Jewel is perfectly named. 

Unsurprisingly, there were a total of 35,000 mentions of the Jewel’s Rain Vortex. From that total, there were more than 5,200 unique mentions of HSBC’s patronage of the waterfall in the Jewel and they were predominantly positive (57%), commenting on the grandness of the structure and how beautiful it was while on the other hand, naysayers (9%) highlighted it is another man-made feature for the concrete jungle.

However, an interesting angle we will explore today is the marketing aspect of branding and sponsorship of a structure like the Rain Vortex. The remaining 29,000 social mentions did not directly mention HSBC’s patronage of the structure. Is HSBC not maximising its social media marketing efforts? Arguably, brand sponsorships are positioned from a different marketing angle and the main driver of this strategy is to strengthen its brand recognition. Good examples of sponsorship are the naming of stadiums such as the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, UK and the countless logos found on sports’ jerseys. This ubiquity between brand and the structure will undoubtedly take time to catch on with enthusiasts and visitors but nonetheless leave a lasting mark on people’s minds.


Perfect For Historic Summits & Crazy Rich Asians

Singapore’s greatest strength and strategy is its ability to become a coordinator of global discussions and its enviable diplomatic resonance with the rest of the world. Sharing its knowledge and experiences is relatable for aspiring developing countries to build their own plans from a proven template. However, there needs to be special considerations for each plan and Singapore regularly exports its expertise to support other countries in their efforts. Having hosted the world’s most esteemed international security ministers and officials at Asia’s premier defence summit the Shangri La Dialogue since its inception in 2002, Singapore had the complex framework and protocols in place to seamlessly organise a historic summit a week later. Building on these strong bonds, other countries recognise Singapore as a great facilitator for hosting events, such is the case for the Trump-Kim summit. During the summit, Google also reported that there were over two million hits for the search term “Where is Singapore?” while Meltwater estimated Singapore earned an equivalent of more than $700 million in advertising dollars.


Being a Hollywood movie comes with a propensity to exaggerate situations; Crazy Rich Asians symbolised Singapore as a getaway for the extravagant and ostentatious. Being one of the world’s financial hubs and the premise of the movie’s plot, it comes as no surprise that it highlighted the extravagant parts of the island state. From the Marina Bay skyline to luxurious homes on Sentosa, there are reasons to believe the movie did leave a skewed perspective on what Singapore really looked like. Between the August launch till the end of 2018, there were more than 72,000 social mentions linking Singapore to the movie, many of them (58%) of expressing that Singapore looked like a “fun place” and made them want to visit. On the other hand (20%), presumably locals said the movie was not a true reflection of life here in the Lion City.

With media intelligence tools such as Meltwater, this wealth of information can be harnessed from social media and user-generated content to further shape future strategies and policies to build a brand, especially one such as the Lion City. And beyond the sheen and glamour of the cityscape’s bright lights, a significant pattern underlines all of these insights – the Singapore brand remains a marketing strategy that needs to be studied in greater detail to fully evaluate the breadth of success it has achieved in the past five decades.