Did Singa's 'resignation' letter lack kindness?

Mixed reactions to kindness group's latest campaign to generate feedback

A clever move to generate publicity or an unkind and distasteful stunt?

This has been the question on many people's lips since Singa the Lion "quit" on Wednesday.

The loveable mascot - who represents the Singapore Kindness Movement - "wrote" a letter saying he was "too tired to continue facing an increasingly angry and disagreeable society".

But his "resignation" later turned out to be a media campaign "to generate conversations and reactions online". And while it has clearly succeeded in this respect, with hundreds of responses on the Net, the campaign has left opinions divided.

Most media experts who spoke to The Straits Times said it was a good way to stir up conversations and had helped the movement by providing it useful feedback about Singa's relevance.

But others said they found it misleading and even unkind.

Mr Darren Pachai, 30, who works in the banking industry, posted on The Straits Times' Facebook page: "Singa's faux resignation is the epitome of unkindness.

"The brains behind the latest faux should resign for tugging the empathy of many generations who grew up with Singa."

Information technology manager Ray Azhar, 41, said he knew Singa was not serious about quitting. However, he said: "I don't see the humour in it. It also makes over-generalisations about Singapore being ungracious.

"I worry about my 13-year-old son, who may not understand the sarcasm or the hidden message. He may think that it's okay to give up being courteous."

But Ms Veronica Zuzarte, a communications director at media company Sixth Sense, felt the campaign was a "clever move" to bring Singa back into the public eye.

She said the iconic mascot, who debuted in 1982 "hasn't been as easily recognised by Generation Y, so that could be why he's sometimes ignored. Humanising him pulls in emotions and passion for Singa and what it stands for".

Dr Ganga Dhanesh, who teaches modules on communication at the National University of Singapore, said the discussions online give "invaluable feedback to the campaign team, feedback they could have never hoped to generate through formative research".

Mr Earl Tan, director of communications agency Paprika, did not feel the campaign was misleading.

"It's a mascot who 'wrote' the letter, it's not a real thing... We should be open about it and take it with a sense of humour," he said.

Asked what he thought of the negative reactions, Singapore Kindness Movement general secretary William Wan said: "They're entitled to their opinions... at least people are not indifferent."

He added that the organisation was examining the feedback, "to look at the relevance of Singa and how to move forward from here".

And although it is too early to analyse the responses, the movement wants to listen and "digest".

"If we want to be a people's movement, we must listen to people," said Dr Wan.

On the same day that Singa "resigned", another letter was sent to all primary schools, saying that the cuddly lion was going to "teleport" to "another universe... far away".

There have been past cases of publicity stunts that went wrong - like the time a wild "bear" spotted at an Ulu Pandan bus stop in 2010 turned out to be a man dressed in a costume to launch a new shaver.

But MP Baey Yam Keng said the recent case is different.

The former public relations managing director, who represents Tampines GRC, said: "In the case of the wild 'bear' ... public safety was in question and it was not clear who was behind the campaign."

By contrast, Singa's "resignation" does not affect public safety. Dr Wan has also been talking to the media to clear up any doubts.

Other Internet users had a more light-hearted take on the affair. Mr Peter Limb posted on the movement's Facebook page: "Dear Singa, you will be missed, especially by my kids!

"I suppose if your resignation inspires people to find their 'singa' within themselves, this is truly for a greater cause!"

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg