Superstars and Rice and Everything Nice

January 17th, 2007   •   10 comments   

I am sure everybody would have noticed lately Singapore’s biggest pop export Stefanie Sun’s elfin face peeping out at you behind a bag of rice. Part of the New Moon advertising campaign for its new brand of rice, she beckons with a disarming “Ni chi fan le ma” which translates to “Have you eaten rice?”

It is interesting to note the marketing strategies of food manufacturers and importers in recent years. What is especially intriguing is how they can take a commodity item – like rice – and put a sexy spin on it to make it more palatable to the market.

Gone are the days where one simply looks at whether the rice is 100% Thai, fragrant, brown or mixed quality. Its no longer enough to just have “xin bi” (new rice in Teochew) to cook your porridge or “cho bi” (brown rice) if you are a health nut. Now you have the battle of the padi brands – Flying Man, Royal Umbrella, Songhe, Golden Phoenix, Royal Pagoda, Thai Hom Mali, Mamalor and what have you.

The question though is whether such strategies are viable over the long term. Celebrity endorsements are terribly expensive. I know because I have engaged one before in my previous organisation. Stefanie herself would be pocketing a cool six-figure sum from this deal.

You need to also consider that the overwhelming presence of A-listers may overshadow the unique value proposition of your product. What’s more, Singapore’s market is notoriously fickle. Today’s Singapore Idol may become yesterday’s sorry news in the blink of an eye. When the star endorsing your product falls out of favour, so will your brand equity.

So will Goh Joo Hin’s latest gamble work? Well, my wife feels that having Stefanie’s face plastered everywhere on TV, bus stops, MRT trains, newspaper advertisements, supermarket counters and so on would definitely attract attention. Some may even be overwhelmed by such “shock and awe” tactics and yield to her sweet and beguiling smile.

Personally, I found it a little ironical that a skinny as reed celebrity like Sun Yanzi can become a carbohydrate queen? Wouldn’t it be better to use somebody more well fed and rotund – Moses Lim or Lydia Sum perhaps – to endorse the virtues of white grain? Both are certainly well known gourmets, at least judging from their sizes!

Then again, perhaps they wanted to attract a whole new generation of hip, young, Chinese pop lovin’ rice cookers. I wonder if they bundle the rice with free posters or lyrics to her latest chartbuster? Hmmm….

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10 comments

  1. posted on Jan 17, 2007 at 3:49 PM

    When I’m used to a particular brand of rice, I wouldn’t want to change, even if Brad Pitt’s face is on the packaging.

    Stephanie Sun would attract the youngsters’ market, not aunty like me.

  2. posted on Jan 17, 2007 at 10:29 PM

    Yep. What you have described is a very common consumer behaviour for what I would term “non-experience rich” products. Because there is a low level of engagement with the product, we prefer not to experiment too wildly.

    To cut it short, people are lazy. Brand switching can sometimes be stressful.

    I am currently reading this book Purple Cow (probably one of the last to do so) and would recommend that you do so too. I see lots of potential for an optical business to do something radically different. Maybe its time to blog about that?

  3. posted on Jan 17, 2007 at 10:40 PM

    On the positive note, other than the recent free abalone give-away that Goh Joo Hin did at Plaza Singapure early this year, I am aware that Goh Joo Hin does make effort to contribute to the community by donating its New Moon rice to a few charities. And the thing is, it makes a point NOT to donate rice that are going to turn bad. In fact, it donates rice in good condition, just like those ready for sale.

    My point is, marketing and whatever aside, a good brand also needs to show that that the company is a socially responsible citizen in the community.

  4. Lee Poh See
    posted on Jan 18, 2007 at 7:36 AM

    who wants to eat rice oredi look like Moses Lim? Of cos is eat oredi can still look slim and pretty like SYZ lah, that’s why her endorsement.

  5. posted on Jan 18, 2007 at 12:28 PM

    Walter, you calling me lazy!

  6. posted on Jan 18, 2007 at 1:30 PM

    Oceanskies,

    Glad to hear that Goh Joo Hin is doing their bit for charity. I agree with you that kind acts which are genuine tells a lot more about a company’s values than its advertisements. This is part of Corporate Social Responsibility. In fact, Cause Related Marketing is one of the new developments in this day and age, where disasters seem to be striking us every which way we turn!

  7. posted on Jan 18, 2007 at 1:32 PM

    Poh See,

    Ha ha… I don’t think eating white rice, which is carbo and calorie rich, can make you slim like Sun Yanzi! Its probably a genetic thing. Some, like my wife, are blessed with good genes that keep you thin. Others, like me, have to run many miles just to keep my paunch in check.

  8. posted on Jan 18, 2007 at 1:33 PM

    eastcoastlife,

    No lah…. I don’t think you are lazy anymore than the rest of us are. Maybe a better word would be inertia? He he…. BTW, I must go visit your shop one of these days at Adelphi. Its quite near my office at Hill Street. 😉

  9. posted on Jan 18, 2007 at 3:27 PM

    Walter says:

    BTW, I must go visit your shop one of these days at Adelphi.

    Been there done that.

    Goh Joo Hin has used Zoe Tay and Fann Wong before in its advertising campaigns. So hiring Stephanie Sun is not totally unexpected. What is expected is perhaps that it is a sign that the two predecessors are ‘on their decline’? And rightly so. One is already a mum of a toddler and the other, aged 30+, has other priorities on her mind now besides her career, like is she going to marry someone who might be jailed soon?

    Goh Joo Hin may be giving fresh goods to charity. But it is selling dented cans of mushrooms and abalones to the public at a discount. Call this ‘corporate social responsibility’? More like ‘cutting loss in a market economy’ to me. I know because I witnessed this happening at the shop when I had lunch at a nearby coffeeshop one day – the one at the entrance to Pepys Road, which leads to Reflections of Bukit Chandu.

  10. Anonymous
    posted on Jan 24, 2007 at 3:44 PM

    They are giving away a free 1kg bag of this New Moon rice with every copy of Her World magazine bought from Buzz.

    Pengz.. Talk about targeting the young crowd. I don’t think I would be a new rice fan just because they gave me free rice to try. I just nonchalently gave the bag of rice to my mum. Hah.

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