Just Saying

3 stages in the life of a tourism slogan

If history is any indication, many of us will go through these stages of tourism-slogan grief

Here we go again.

Just as we're all coming around to YourSingapore, the national brand got changed.

The new one is Passion Made Possible and I haven't quite decided how I really feel about it.

Granted, if history is any indication, chances are I - and many other people - will go through the standard three stages of tourism-slogan grief.

Stage 1: Confusion

Consider what happened when Uniquely Singapore was launched in 2005. Many looked at it and were overcome with the desire to remark: "There's a typo. Adverbs like 'uniquely' modify adjectives, not nouns. Either you mean Unique Singapore or Uniquely Singaporean."

Of course, people like me - who correct other people's grammar in public - don't generally have a lot of friends or influence, so everyone ignored it and carried on.


When Uniquely Singapore was launched in 2005, many people thought it was vague and not articulated grammatically. When the tourism tagline was replaced by YourSingapore, many were still confused, as no one had a very clear idea what exactly it meant, says the writer. PHOTO: BT, ST FILE PHOTOS

Years later, when Uniquely Singapore was replaced by YourSingapore, many did not even bother to point out the missing space between the two words. Everyone was now accustomed to the idea of a national brand with some sort of typo in it.

That didn't stop the confusion though. This time the problem was that no one had a very clear idea - just by reading the slogan - what exactly it meant.

Mr Robert Khoo, then chief executive of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, put it this way: "YourSingapore doesn't say anything. What it means, I really don't know."

It was, to put it in tourism slogan terms: Uniquely vagueness.

This is very much the stage where I think we're at with Passion Made Possible.


Passion Made Possible is expected to capture Singapore’s essence in a way that makes sense to two very different audiences, but the result is a fuzzy tagline. By omitting the word Singapore, it is even applicable to any number of countries which claim to allow people to pursue their passions, says the writer. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Granted, I understand the difficulty in creating a slogan that is flexible enough to be used to woo both investors and tourists.

As Singapore matures as a nation, it is only natural that it becomes more complex and therefore harder to distil to a single catchphrase. Yet, the new catchphrase is expected to capture Singapore's essence in a way that makes sense to two very different audiences.

The result, of course, is a tagline so fuzzy that it is as applicable to the Singapore Tourism Board as it is to the National Population and Talent Division (Passion Made Babies Possible), the People's Association (PAssion Card Made Possible) and Cold Storage supermarkets (Passionfruit Made Possible).

In fact, by omitting the word Singapore, the slogan is even applicable to any number of countries which all claim to allow people to pursue their passions.

To be fair, it is true that slogan launches are often coupled with other initiatives that help flesh it out and the current tourism video is an excellent one. But it is also true that after a while many Singaporeans stop paying attention to these even as the slogan endures.

Stage 2: Acceptance

After an initial period of confusion, where the new slogan comes in for criticism, Singaporeans eventually come to the realisation that it is just a slogan - and one that isn't even targeted at them.

People learn to accept its flaws and after a while many people even forget what the tourism slogan is unless they happen to see it on a bus.

It is at this point that a committee is formed and consultants are hired to find a new slogan.

Stage 3: Nostalgia

The final stage in a slogan's life overlaps with the first stage of its successor.

As people are still trying to decipher what the new semi-meaningless set of buzzwords slapped together really means, they develop a sudden appreciation for previous sets of semi-meaningless buzzwords slapped together.

When Uniquely Singapore came out, people suddenly started remembering taglines like Instant Asia and Surprising Singapore fondly.

"At least our slogans back then were in proper English," some people no doubt thought.

Then when YourSingapore came out, Uniquely Singapore was instantly regarded as a work of genius.


When Uniquely Singapore was launched in 2005, many people thought it was vague and not articulated grammatically. When the tourism tagline was replaced by YourSingapore, many were still confused, as no one had a very clear idea what exactly it meant, says the writer. PHOTO: BT, ST FILE PHOTOS

"At least, the old slogan meant something, even though that something was vague and not articulated grammatically," people thought.

And in conversations with my friends about Passion Made Possible, I can already sense an affinity developing for YourSingapore.

The sentiment this time: "At least the old slogan couldn't be mistaken as a tagline for Viagra."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 27, 2017, with the headline '3 stages in the life of a tourism slogan '. Print Edition | Subscribe