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Digital Marketing In Singapore Vs. USA

In Singapore, it’s well-known that many digital marketing strategies are adapted from the US market. Regardless of which agency or expert you consult, it’s likely that their techniques are influenced by American pioneers. The US is often seen as the hub of innovation and creativity in the digital realm. However, after spending the past 8 years immersed in digital marketing in Singapore, I’ve observed that not all US-derived methods are directly applicable here. Let me outline four key differences I’ve noticed, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

First Difference: Platform Preferences

In the US, marketers have a plethora of advertising channels to choose from, including Snapchat, Twitter, Quora, Craigslist, Pinterest, along with the ubiquitous Facebook and Google. The variety can be overwhelming. However, many of these platforms haven’t gained widespread popularity in Asia. For instance, Twitter holds just over eight percent of the social media market. Therefore, we typically advise clients to focus primarily on the two major platforms: Google and Facebook.

From my personal experience, I’ve experimented with spending on different platforms like Yahoo, LinkedIn, and even Carousell. In short, Facebook and Google remain our top choices. It’s not just about the user base; the sophistication of the advertising platforms is crucial. For example, when Facebook ads were first introduced in 2009, their targeting capabilities were quite rudimentary. However, with time, they have collected more data and improved their machine learning algorithms, resulting in much more precise targeting today.

Second Difference: Strategy Approaches

In the US, many renowned marketers such as Russell Brunson or Ramit Sethi rely heavily on fully online sales funnels. By leveraging automated webinars and email sequences, they can sell high-ticket items ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 or even higher without ever meeting the buyer in person. In my experience, this approach is far less common in Singapore. Among the more than 100 accounts we’ve managed, only one employs a completely online funnel for a high-ticket product, which is a physical hair treatment device, not an online course.

In Singapore, an online-to-offline (O2O) lead generation strategy tends to be more effective. We often run online ad campaigns that direct users to a landing page with a call-to-action for an offline offer, such as a free consultation, trial, or site survey. The final transaction then takes place offline.

I believe the discrepancy is due to several factors, one being the size of the country. In the US, consumers are accustomed to buying from businesses that are geographically distant due to the country’s vast size. Conversely, in Singapore, everything is close by, and people prefer face-to-face interactions. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered some of these habits, and there may be further changes in the future.

Third Difference: Cost of Advertising

Advertising costs are significantly higher in the US compared to Singapore. In the US, the most expensive keywords on Google, particularly in the finance, legal, and education sectors, can cost upwards of $50 per click. In contrast, similar keywords in Singapore range from $5 to $10 per click, making the cost per click in the US about 5-10 times higher. Since platforms like Google and Facebook use an auction-based system, prices are driven by supply and demand. Therefore, when people claim that these platforms are saturated, I would argue otherwise based on this evidence. Despite the comparable standard of living between the US and Singapore, the lower cost per click here suggests there’s still substantial untapped potential in online advertising across Singapore and Asia.

Fourth Difference: Regulatory Boundaries on the Internet

Can you say anything you want on the internet and get away with it? In Singapore, the answer is no. Singapore was among the first countries to introduce legislation to combat fake news and regulate online content. When referencing marketing campaigns from the US, it’s crucial to exercise caution. Statements permissible in the US might not be allowed or accepted in Singapore. It’s essential to check the local regulations first. Certain sectors, such as private education and healthcare, are heavily regulated under acts like the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act. For instance, you cannot claim to be the number one in Singapore or assert that your product is the best. Recently, some advertisers in the financial sector received warnings for using fear-based tactics to sell courses.

Crafting effective advertising and digital marketing requires finding the right equilibrium. It is crucial to avoid misleading advertising while simultaneously generating excitement and interest through your claims. Mastering this balance is the hallmark of a proficient marketer.

The US market offers a valuable source of inspiration for our digital marketing initiatives in Singapore. However, it’s important to exercise caution when adopting their strategies. Context is key, and without careful consideration, one can easily encounter problems. Observing the US landscape reveals significant opportunities within Singapore and Asia that we can leverage. We must learn to adapt these strategies to fit our unique environment.

Ted is the co-founder of Ice Cube Marketing, a Google Premier Partner digital marketing agency in Singapore that has been operating since 2015 and has helped more than 500 SMEs grow their business through Facebook and Google ads.

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