Singin’ Singapore’s praises

When I was 17 and applying to go to university, I remember having a flick through the University of Luton‘s prospectus (my school really encouraged us to aim high).

The prospectus has stuck in my head for the decade or so because I remember being amused by the university’s list of reasons why I should study there, particularly reason number six:

“Luton has an airport.”

It shows what kind of state my mind’s in at the moment that I have somehow connected Luton with Singapore in a blog post, but heck, I’ve managed it. Give me a second to explain why.

Singapore’s a fantastic example of what can be achieved through clever promotion, branding and creating a ‘story’.
Initially just a trading post, in just over a century it’s managed to turn itself into a vibrant, multi-cultural city full of businessmen, tourists and other rich people ready to splash their cash.

Singapore didn’t really have anything except a busy port, and later on an airport used by travellers as a brief stop-off while their planes refuelled.

Seeing the potential market, but not really having anything to lure the travellers to the city, the clever tourist board set about creating an identity for the place to make it a ‘destination’.


They’re pretty honest about what they’ve done too – the Merlion, the symbol of Singapore, was created in 1964 as an attempt to give the city a symbol, the tourist board says. Having created it, it’s now splashed across every bit of tat you could imagine. Merlion on an over-sized paper clip anyone? Go on then.

The streets, shops and malls have all been created to seemlessly lead shoppers from one place to the next, where they can get out their credit cards in air-conditioned comfort to buy anything from a Luis Vuitton bag to a Hello Kitty dinner service or a lizard on a stick (nope, no idea what these are for either).

Lizard on stick

It’s a perfect example of being entirely market-focused and creating the best from the little you have. Its blatent consumerism is probably not to everyone’s liking, but you can’t deny they’ve managed to make it work.

So anyway, that’s how, in a roundabout way, I started thinking about Luton. Admittedly Singapore has more space and a better climate going for it, but they both essentially started with the same aeronautical focal point.

As it happens, I wasn’t lured by Luton University and it’s airport – instead I went to Sheffield where the promise of old steel works and cutlery factories won out. I wonder if it’d have been a different story if Luton had a giant cat with a fish’s tail outside it’s town hall….

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1 Response to “Singin’ Singapore’s praises”

  1. Rob