Singaporeans are very risk averse and conservative when it comes to money. They are very reluctant to invest in what they perceive as complicated financial products and surprisingly comfortable with low return products. To illustrate the point, there are some $200 billion held in fixed deposit accounts earning a paltry 2% interest. And only 3% of the population has bought into a unit trust or managed fund.

In comparison, some 40% of Americans invest in managed funds.

Early in 2001, DBS wanted to launch a unit trust into the Singapore market. The conventional approach is to create a sophisticated and technical product that carries a sense of formality and authority. It would be aimed at current financial sophisticates and therefore would:

be advertised only in the business pages of the press

would compete with the existing range of unit trusts worth approximately $2 billion

Based on those numbers, a 10% market share ($200 million) would be considered a wild success.

The working title for the product was “The Capital Income Protection Guarantee Fund”.

Basically the fund is a mixture of unit trusts and bonds hedged in such a way as to guarantee a 4% return with a chance of a bonus of up to a further 5%, if the market bounces favourably.

TBWA Singapore believed the real opportunity lay in reframing the competitive context. Rather than trying to win a 10% share of the existing $2 billion unit trust market we thought we could go for a 5% share of the $200 billion fixed deposit market.

In order to do that we needed to totally disrupt market convention.

we needed to be populist not sophisticated

we needed to create a brand with personality not just a product with an interest rate return

we needed a catchy name

we needed to be very accessible: on the high street, in public, in the open

Through concept development research with mums and dads we created the brand Up. The Up idea was really a case of distilling the overall benefit into a single syllable. This made it seem extremely straightforward and approachable. Respondents reacted very positively to this lightness of approach in the groups.

In order to emphasise the approachability of the product we wanted to get out of the niche of the business pages of the press and out into the open. So we created big posters for in-branch use and hanging mobiles to swing off the ceilings. In the launch period every branch was covered in Up material creating a wonderful, bright, fresh face to the bank and big brand stature for the product.

This was supported by early general news press and family tv.

It was unashamedly simple, accessible, fresh and populist.

Up has sold nearly $1 billion in just under a year through three tranches – and is set to sell another billion per year going forwards.

That’s more than 5 times the amount that conventional unit trusts pull in, in their entire lifetimes. And Up did that in under a year!!!

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