SCMP Saturday, May 12, 2001

Pride of Singapore's red lion a tough act to follow


As Hong Kong's $9 million dragon takes its first tentative steps in the harsh world of professional branding this week, it finds itself up against some formidable rivals, many of which are a good deal older.
Singapore - which enjoys a long-held rivalry with Hong Kong - adopted its own red lion logo in 1986, although its motives differed from those of the SAR.
While Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said Hong Kong's new marque was designed to help the SAR promote itself more effectively overseas, Singapore's Lion Symbol is intended primarily for domestic use. "We introduced it back in 1986 after conducting a competition with ad agencies and amongst ordinary people. It is designed to help in the process of nation-building," an official from the Ministry of Information and the Arts said yesterday. "Lions have always figured in the history of Singapore since the 13th century."
The visual marker was developed because there were restrictions on use of the national anthem and state flag, and policymakers felt the need for a sign that was distinctive but more flexible. Guidelines released at the time said the Lion Symbol was to be deployed "whenever possible, in any material, for the purpose of identifying with the nation and with the endeavour to achieve excellence for Singapore."
The official guide for the city state - whose name means Lion City - says the logo appears in the colours of the national flag and symbolises courage, strength and excellence. Its five-barred mane represents Singapore's self-adopted ideals: democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. The same qualities are said to be represented by the five stars of the national flag.
Singapore's lion logo has come to be recognised - within the country at least - for the qualities officials had hoped for. But internationally it remains in the shadow of film-maker Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's lion, which has been roaring since 1924.