Singapore Tourism Board shifts focus from pushing marketing messages to community engagement

As per G B Srithar, Regional Director- India, Middle East and South Asia, Singapore Tourism Board, post Covid, young Indian audiences are travelling for exciting and adventurous experiences that align with their personalities, and therefore there is a need to shift from pushing marketing messages to them and try to be a part of the community

Shreya Negi
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G B Srithar

Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has seized the attention of young Indian travellers with its latest creative endeavour, ‘Lost and Found in Singapore’, an interactive web series wherein viewers have the choice to choose their own ending.

Available for free streaming on MX Player, the web series seeks to immerse young travellers in Singapore's myriad attractions, appealing to their passions and adventurous spirits. This approach recognises that young Indian audiences prefer content they choose to watch based on their preferences and mood, rather than content that is imposed on them.

G B Srithar, Regional Director of India, Middle East, and South Asia at STB, revealed that over 6.8 lakh Indian visitors have already explored Singapore up to July 2023, underlining the destination's growing allure.

This in itself is a depiction of the robust trajectory growth that the Lion City is in when it comes to the Indian audiences discovering and rediscovering Singapore, today because the destination has got lots of things to offer- whether it's a bird paradise, a museum of ice cream or even Gardens by the Bay.

He further emphasised that the recently launched web series, ‘Lost and Found in Singapore’, is a part of STB’s plan to engage with the young Indian audiences via innovative and interactive formats precisely because today’s young Indian travellers are not only very discerning but are increasingly seeking unique experiences.

“No longer is it a situation whereby the Indian travellers are going to destinations that they are very familiar with or have got a lot of information but post covid, what has been emerging as a trend is that young Indian audiences or travellers travel for very different types of adventurous and exciting experiences that are also aligned to their passions and travel needs,” he said.

He further emphasised that STB is no longer pushing marketing initiatives to the audience but actually trying to be a part of the community and engage in conversations happening within.

“In this particular case, among the young Indian community, we have to be in sync with what's happening in that community and because the young Indian community is very big on OTT platforms today and want to consume content that they want to see rather than watch what is pushed to them and consume the content at their own comfort and mood, OTT platforms have become very important in India wherein digital and mobile TV penetration is quite high,” he stated.

Commenting on what factors led to the selection of MX player as the streaming partner, Srithar emphasised that since the OTT player offered STB an opportunity to engage with their very rich clientele or audience base, a community of their subscribers, and showcase Singapore’s experiences via the interactive film wherein the audience can choose the different or alternative twists and turns in the story and not just view it from a one-track perspective.

“The simple reason why we picked up an OTT is that it gives us audience access across India because today the psychographics of young Indian consumers who are consuming content primarily in English, but also watch a bit of Hinglish content, without having to cater specifically to audiences tier-wise,” he added.

On the title of the show, he stated that while the idea was to give the content piece a marketing twist, the content of the series is all about the Singapore Tourism Board, welcoming young Indian audiences, in the age group of less than 40 years of age, to come and get lost into the variety of experiences in Singapore and find their passions come alive in Singapore.

Upon being questioned if STB is only exploring the web series format of branded content, Srithar replied that branded content for the tourism player essentially refers to a project that makes sense in terms of uniqueness, innovativeness and storytelling- be it short or long. This also includes Taste Obsession, under which STB is putting out content in the F&B dining as they bring Singapore's taste into India.

“We are actually quite neutral about which medium to use as long as the medium is relevant to the content we are pushing out and is giving us the optimal reach that we want because even though the creative content is important, distribution is key and if it's the distribution is not going to target the right TG and reach, then we will not probably enter the project,” he said.

In his opinion, STB is open to exploring other content formats such as Films and TV series as well, because to them it all seems like various pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, meaning that the audio-visual content or OTT series is just one part of the equation.

“We are prepared to go into any branded content format given that it helps us reach out to the right target audiences and enables us to have conversations that are already happening in the space and audiences that we are trying to reach out to. Hence, STB is open to any good opportunities to get involved in branded content and that doesn't necessarily have to be an OTT series,” he added.

This is the second web series that the tourism player has come up with in the past year. Earlier, it had rolled out a branded content series in partnership with Tripoto, On My Own in Singapore, which is available to watch on YouTube.

Commenting on what makes STB opt for the long-format branded content route, Srithar clarified that the case is not that they are deliberately looking only for long-form content. “All we’re saying is that content is king, therefore if the content is engaging, unique and provides a story that allows STB to showcase Singapore within a reasonable length, say in a capsule of 3-5 minutes an episode, audiences will consider watching it on the go as well,” he added.

“In certain cases where the episodes are on the lines of longer storytelling, we are open to consideration. On the other hand, we are also open to shorter content capsules, given that the message put forth in such capsules is reasonably well. Content, for us, needs to make sense in terms of the kind of stories that are being told using Singapore in the backdrop or even by leveraging Lion City’s experiences to tell that story,” he opined.

Touching upon some of the industry trends prevalent in the domain of branded content in the travel and tourism space, STB’s Srithar suggested that since their role or function is to try and promote the destination and its offerings to the audience, showcasing the destination in a very visually arresting and captivating manner via a good and authentic story and plot as well as having images and genuine experiences that look good on camera is becoming incrementally important as whatever experiences one sees on the screen is about the same experiences that one gets when visiting the destination.

“A lot of destinations are starting to realise that pushing or promoting content in a very visually creative and engaging manner is important and therefore content capsules, films, etc. are set to grow in the country where digital penetration is not only high, but social media is also vibrantly used,” he added.

That being said, he also pointed out that the challenge in coming up with content pieces such as ‘Lost and Found in Singapore’ is that there doesn’t have to be a force fit of the destination

“Today, Indian audiences are very discerning and knowledgeable, therefore, they can see a mile away if it is a branded content piece or product placement which is why it is no longer about promotional content for the sake of it, but is about providing engaging content that is relevant to the conversations that the audience is involved in,” he opined.

Sharing an example for the same, he stated, that even when the characters are engaging in a particular scene, it is important to ensure that it has got a particular backdrop that is both integral and relevant to the plot, because when the audience understands, appreciates and enjoys the story, only then will the audience notice the destination and consider visiting it.

branded content Web series Singapore Tourism Board singapore Travel G B Srithar Tourism Board young Indian travelers Lion City