Singapore is a major hub of the global economy. Along one of the city-state’s main business arteries, you’ll find the local office of Superson. How on earth did a Helsinki-born marketing communications agency end up in Southeast Asia? Some might think that London, or perhaps New York, would be a more fitting location for a company with international aspirations. According to creative director and film producer Antti Toivonen, a partner at Superson Singapore who’s lived in the tropical city-state for the past decade, the focus of the world economy has shifted to the East. As far as marketing and advertising are concerned, markets like London and New York are already close to a saturation point. Or in local vernacular, Singlish, “over oredi”.
- Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, among others, form a huge ecosystem of hundreds of millions of people around Singapore which is the home base to the Asia Pacific regional offices of many Fortune 500 companies. What this means to Superson, is that the business opportunities are here.
Until now, a handful of international marketing giants have been the only major players in the market, but their ultimate focus has and always will be on the West. Their Asian offices and clients often don’t lead these networks and their ways of working has caused a lot of fatigue amongst marketers.
- This is a fantastic opportunity for small and agile independent agencies like ours, because marketers are tired with the old agencies’ stiff and staid approach. That business model comes with a lot of baggage and is hard to change without breaking it entirely. What we have to offer is something fresh, something for 2030 rather than 1990. Our team here has a long local expertise as well. We’ve seen too many Western companies thinking that opening in Asia is a walk in the park. But it’s not. Local experience, cultural knowledge and rapid adaptation are keys here While many European corporations, including Finnish ones, already have a presence in Singapore, the idea is not to build an air bridge between Singapore and Helsinki.
- Rather, we want to focus mainly on the companies and products for emerging markets. If a Finnish company needs a hand in Asia, we’re of course happy to help. Our Asia pool of specialists are mostly local and therefore have a profound understanding of this environment.
“We’ve seen too many Western companies thinking that opening in Asia is a walk in the park”
A rapid revolution in working culture
When Superson Helsinki started out back in 2012, its specialist concept was both new and cutting edge. The household names of today’s sharing economy, Uber and Airbnb, were still in their infancy, so it was no surprise people took a while to grasp Superson’s business model. That has changed since. The company’s specialist model is pioneering in Singapore too. Compared to Europe, the Asian market is quick to embrace and adopt anything new. According to Antti Toivonen, working culture as a whole is changing at a staggering speed.
- Freelancing, temporary jobs and self-employment are becoming feasible options. Such flexible ways of working used to be frowned upon, but as people have started seeing beyond the traditional 9-5 options, they’ve also started seeing the benefits of self-employment. The mindset is changing. The state has also played a key role in the increase of self-employment. Owning a small business is seen as the future, as employment is being disrupted. Courses in entrepreneurship are just one example of how Singapore is steering the society in this direction.
- In Asia, things tend to happen at a much faster pace than in Europe. Within a short period of time, for instance, four WeWork co-working spaces have opened along the main stretch of Singapore’s Central Business District alone.
Finnish flavours with an Asian twist
Officially in business since February, Superson Singapore is already in full swing. Currently the main focus is new business acquisition, but a variety of projects have been kick-started, too. A community of approximately one hundred specialists is ready to take on projects across the South East Asian region.
The Superson Singapore business model has its roots in central Helsinki. Antti Toivonen has made the tropical island his home, but direct flights between Singapore and the Finnish capital have, however, let him visit Helsinki frequently. Toivonen has spiced up his recipe for success in Singapore by adding in local cultural flavours – and soon the public will have the first taste of this fascinating mix.