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Trend-leading companies not perceived as employers of choice

9 May, 2013

Brand Reputation Watch

  • Survey reveals customer focus now a basic expectation of brands and companies
  • Local brands still playing catch up with international trend-leading companies
  • Increase in level of digital engagement among trend-leading companies but further opportunities still exist
SINGAPORE – Trend-leading companies attribute their success to continuous innovation and a focus on customers, however few are regarded as employers of choice, or perceived as contributing to sustainable development through positive corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
These are some of the insights drawn from the recently concluded 2013 Brand Reputation Watch (BRW) - What Drives Trust and Why It Matters published by Hill+Knowlton (H+K) Strategies, in partnership with TNS.

The annual survey seeks to better understand consumer perceptions of trend-leading brands across five key themes: brand image, customer engagement and transparency, employer branding, corporate social responsibility, digital/online behaviour and online interaction.

“It is interesting that companies viewed as trend-leading were not necessarily perceived as great places to build careers. Success can be a double-edged sword. The relentless focus on driving product innovation and new launches might have a role to play in fuelling these perceptions. There are companies can certainly do more from a communications perspective to leverage their external branding efforts by turning this inwards to catalyse internal ambassadorship as a way to build greater job satisfaction,” commented Jamie Morse, managing director of H+K Strategies Singapore and deputy managing director of H+K Strategies Malaysia.

Neel Banerjee, director of customer experience & loyalty at TNS added, “Whilst many companies have used career development, money and work-life balance to attract and retain talent, they have missed the opportunity to really deepen employee engagement by bringing their brand to life internally. Companies that successfully use this “internal branding” and connect it with their “external branding” will be able to establish distinctiveness and have the best chance of mastering sustainable growth over the coming years.”

Local brands still lagging behind international brands in winning trust
2013 Brand Reputation Watch also found that international brands outperform local brands with a reputation index score of 73 vs. 59.While Singapore consumers are more familiar with local brands, international brands score higher on the individual reputation components of Overall Reputation (68% rated international brands excellent/ very good vs. 52% for local brands), Favourability (62% vs. 50%) and Quality of Products and Services (59% vs. 45%). The two most relevant dimensions of reputation were Trust - international brands outscoring local brands by some margin (71% rating this attribute positively vs. 65% for local brands) and Market Success (69% vs. 55%).

On balance however, as the study revealed, the overall reputation score for Singapore companies at 68 lies well within the Top 33 percentile of TNS’ reputation benchmarks for South East Asia (61) while international brands in Singapore perform close to the top 10% percentile (76).

Singapore Airlines ranked third (81), scoring behind Johnson & Johnson (86) which came in second, and Samsung (92) in first place.

Increase in level of digital engagement among trend-leading companies, opportunities still abound
While level of involvement and usage of digital, online and social media platforms did not appear to have grown noticeably, Singapore remains one of the most digitally connected countries in Asia. One in three netizens (27%) say they post something online at least once a week, and digital has increased in terms of relevance among consumers in the evaluation of brand reputation. The quality and ease of locating desired content are part of this equation and shows the rapid evolution local consumers are experiencing in the use and relevance of social media.

Morse added, “The infrastructure for broader digital engagement here in Singapore is in place to enable brands to further exploit communications opportunities with consumers in cyberspace. According to a Fibre Index Study done by OpenNet last year, internet daily usage frequency increased from 76% in 2011 to 87% in 2012. Digitally savvy Singaporeans are well-connected and can consume more digital information in less time than most of their counterparts in Southeast Asia.

However, the trend of investing in impactful communications through digital platforms is still in its infancy. In 2011, Singapore’s digital spend in advertising was only 8% of the total advertising spend. This is low when compared to Japan (21%),

Australia (19%) and the United Kingdom (33%) 1. Many brands are still focused on creating “sexy” campaigns while neglecting the basics. Whilst eye-catching campaigns surely help with brand promotion, in order to be seen as trend-leading, brands need to invest a greater level of resources into day-to-day engagement with consumers as this will shape lasting, positive brand perception.”

According to Neel Banerjee, the 2013 Brand Reputation Watch (BRW) - What Drives Trust and Why It Matters validated the growing influence of the digital space among general consumers. “Facebook connects more than 2.7 million Singaporeans2 while Twitter has more than a million users in Singapore3. More importantly, new platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest saw massive growth of 8121 per cent and 623 per cent year-on-year in Singapore alone4. It is not a surprise that brands that are present on these platforms are rightfully on top-of-mind recall and therefore, seen as trend-leading. However, brands that are actively engaging with their customers on these platforms – building communities, responding to posts and demonstrating transparency – are deepening their relationship with customers and really encouraging bonding with the brand,” he said.

The survey also saw a continuing trend from last year where CSR was not a major consideration for Singaporeans when it came to brand reputation. Banerjee added, “There has been a slight shift but it is still not an important element in the eyes of Singaporeans; it is a “nice to have” at the moment but it doesn’t mean that brands shouldn’t be involved in giving back to society or helping to shape a better tomorrow. Demonstrating this commitment could help to build a more sustainable brand for the long-term.”

About the 2013 BRW - What Drives Trust and Why It Matters
The 2013 BRW - What Drives Trust and Why It Matters, a study conducted for the second year running in partnership between TNS and H+K Strategies Singapore, is aimed at understanding consumers’ perceptions of trend-leading companies in Singapore. It polls more than 800 respondents in Singapore with questions related to the overall reputation of companies and attributes that drive this reputation. The study this year has expanded to include Malaysia, and covers 30 prominent international and local companies, in each country.

The research surveyed a sample of over 800 Singaporean consumers drawn from a range of demographics across ethnic, age and occupational metrics. Brands evaluated in the research include 30 prominent international and local brands, such as Samsung, Apple, Toyota, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, DBS/POSB Bank, HSBC, Citibank, MediaCorp, SingTel and Singapore Airlines.

These were selected based on the number of mentions in a separate survey, which asked consumers which top-of-mind brands they thought were seen as “trend-leading”. Sectors included in the research are alcohol and cigarettes, automotive, household products and toiletries, food and beverage, consumer electronics, financial services, media and telecommunications, retail and travel and leisure.

The survey added Malaysia to the study for the first time this year, reporting similar results in both countries concerning trend-leading brands. Areas of commonality included the primacy of customer focus, use of technology to drive market advantage and having a good track record and reputation.

About TNS
TNS advises clients on specific growth strategies around new market entry, innovation, brand switching and stakeholder management, based on long-established expertise and market-leading solutions. With a presence in over 80 countries, TNS has more conversations with the world’s consumers than anyone else and understands individual human behaviours and attitudes across every cultural, economic and political region of the world.

TNS is part of Kantar, one of the world's largest insight, information and consultancy groups.

Please visit for more information about TNS and our offer in Singapore.

About Kantar
Kantar is one of the world's largest insight, information and consultancy groups. By uniting the diverse talents of its 13 specialist companies, the group aims to become the pre-eminent provider of compelling and inspirational insights for the global business community. Its 28,500 employees work across 100 countries and across the whole spectrum of research and consultancy disciplines, enabling the group to offer clients business insights at each and every point of the consumer cycle. The group’s services are employed by over half of the Fortune Top 500 companies.

For further information, please visit us at  

About Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Inc. is a leading international communications consultancy, providing services to local, multinational and global clients. The firm is headquartered in New York, with 90 offices in 52 countries, as well as an extensive associate network. The agency is part of WPP, one of the world's largest communications services groups.

For further information, please visit us at

Media Contact
Yeoh El Lynn
Business Development Director, Asia
Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Tel: +65 6390 3366

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