Thursday, October 22, 2009

Singtel Mio versus Starhub: Is There Brand Loyalty?

This branding piece was contributed by the generous, Dr.Lau Kong Cheen. As an expert in branding, one expresses one's leadership through knowledge, opinions, and provocative thoughts. Here, he provides contrastive and comparative analyses about two distinct brands (in Singapore) and their leading marketing strategies:

In the beginning, there was one, now there are two! I’m referring to pay-for-view TV services. One of the biggest, talk of the town is the successful bid by Singtel in winning the exclusive rights for reselling EPL matches through Sintel Mio. Starhub not only lost the bid, but is anticipating losing part of its customer base. It is projected that quite a substantial number of Starhub customers may, either, be crossing over to Singtel or subscribe to both providers. Thus, is there any brand loyalty from among Starhub’s customers? Doesn’t the Starhub brand mean anything to them after all these years? Let’s take a closer look at this and examine the situation.

Firstly, let’s look at what the Starhub brand mean to customers from the perspective of relationship. What is the basis of this relationship? To many football enthusiasts, the relationship was based on Starhub’s ability to offer them EPL soccer. It is this mutual interest in EPL that kept the relationship going. The brand loyalty towards Starhub was manifested with customers staying on despite the rise in prices for EPL TV packages over the years. In other words, EPL was the basis of the relationship for this large pool of football fans. What happens now is that Starhub cannot offer EPL football to this group of customers starting next year. Thus, the common interest that anchors the relationship is broken. It is akin to your good friend whom you used to play football with everyday, telling you that he is no longer interested in the game. As such, you will not be spending time together anymore (given that friendship time is spent over a game of football). Now, here comes along an acquaintance (Singtel Mio) who develops an interest in football and offers to play together with you daily. A new relationship develops. This is exactly the case for Singtel Mio. They know what Starhub’s football customers want and they are able to exclusively offer it at a lower price!

Secondly, it may not be two brands that we are looking at here, but THREE. It’s the EPL brand. It could likely be that for most football fans, their brand loyalty is to the EPL brand. Not Singtel Mio, not Starhub! So, there was never a loss in brand loyalty. To these football fans, Starhub and Singtel Mio are only channels for them to stay and cultivate their relationship with the EPL brand. To some, they may see these two brands as entities that stand between them and the EPL brand. That is, possibly, the reason why they are often upset when the prices for football channel subscription increase. This is because they perceive these brands as introducing more obstacles (i.e. cost) between their “love” relationship with the EPL brand.

In conclusion, if Starhub or Singtel Mio wants to develop brand loyalty, it needs to revisit the basis of its relationship with its customers. If they are just perceived as providing a functional means to a greater emotional experience linked to EPL, then they have failed in building their brand. They have to elevate themselves from just being mere providers of content to being a provider of an entertainment experience that appeals to its different segment of customers.

Dr Lau Kong Cheen is a Branding Consultant at Temporal Brand Consulting (


Lim Leong, Reeves said...

Agree. Customers' loyalty should be tied to the provider and not the content. Its a loyalty litmus test for Starhub. Singtel and Starhub should start looking inward on how to greater gel in their customer's experience with that of the brand rather than the channel. Some thoughts.

1) Cross platform experience. Redefine the EPL channel experience. Utilize cross media platforms to provide a basis for 'live' football discussions etc. Both are providers of mobile phone, TV, internet services. Use them to gain maximum advantage and loyalty.

2) Start brand tribes. The buzz that is going on now is because viewers care but for the wrong reasons. Turn it around, use the buzz to work for the brand. Have them talk about how great is the service but by first being remarkable. Singtel is given an opportunity to do so now.


Enrico Varella said...

Thank you, Reeves for your analysis. You have approached it from the branding/marketing angle. Certainly, the experience is tantamount to creating loyalty from consumers. Tribes are vital to sustaining the brand's reputation, through positive word-of-mouth spread. Yet, brands must back it up consistently with reliable products.

Consumers care by buying the product, and supporting the brand. I appreciate you for your support of this platform of learning and communication.