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Welcome Address By Prof Cheong Hee Kiat At The Mystique Of Luxury Brands Singapore Conference 2018

Welcome Address By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, Singapore University Of Social Sciences (SUSS), At The Mystique Of Luxury Brands Singapore Conference 2018 On Tue, May 8, 2018, 10.00 a.m., Sheraton Towers, Ballroom 2, Level 2

Ms Low Yen Ling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Education and Ministry of Manpower
Professor Nigel de Bussy, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Curtin University Faculty of Business and Law
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning.

  1. Welcome to the Singapore edition of the Mystique of Luxury Brands Conference. SUSS is pleased to partner with Curtin University, Australia to bring this event to our Singapore’s local industry and academic members. This two-day conference will serve as an excellent platform for those engaged in the luxury brands and lifestyle sector to exchange ideas and more importantly, harness a special opportunity to network, share best practices and encourage one other along the critical journey of innovation and digital disruption.
  1. My curiosity is often piqued by how in the world of luxury brands, a simple item, like a leather handbag or watch, could create such an insatiable desire in the hearts and mind of shoppers. (That’s why I suppose this conference is aptly titled “The Mystique of Luxury Brands…”. I trust that we have, amongst us today, many brand and marketing experts who will unveil the great mysteries, charm and allure behind some of their success stories.)
  1. I wonder: why would a luxury brand need to think about new ways of positioning itself and marketing, and doing it differently than the tried and tested ways? A luxury brand has got its exclusive clientele, loyal ones who swear by the brand and eagerly await the debut of the next product line; it is a name that many know though not many can afford, people seek after it, it has unique products and commands a premium in price, and often, it is enduring and grows in value. I was told one can buy a high end product, use it for some time and still sell it for the original purchase price or more!
  1. But then, I’d venture, today, it is not business as usual. The luxury sector has become more competitive, there are new markets to serve, to build loyalty, the new markets are different from the traditional, there are the new rich with different tastes and touch-points, and even the notion of what is ‘luxury’ has changed. Some markets are physically remote to reach by physical presence of the brand. So, while the brand has not changed, or neither its wonderful products, and the allure of the brand is still strong, other critical aspects have changed - the market, desires of people, the business competition, the means of distribution which requires non-traditional marketing, the medium of communicating the brand, the speed and breadth at which brand and marketing messages travel, and digitalisation- that last word which beguiles some but excites others confronted with the digital shifts. So, digitalisation is a great topic for this conference.
  1. Digitalisation is a competitive advantage for companies, new brands, brands trying to break into the luxury market. It is a force to harness for our Singapore SMEs to leapfrog competition and overcome the brand barrier. But, the digital enabling is just an agency to use; behind that digital engine, and indeed, underlying many of the success stories of great brands, is innovation – a cornerstone of many leading organisations and brands the world over.
  1. The argument for innovation, and for strong branding and marketing using the digital medium is not applicable only to luxury brands. As the digital tsunami sweeps the land, all companies that wish to thrive in tomorrow’s markets will need to innovate and digitalise. Even in the world of institutions of higher learning. While they retain their core mission of educating the next generation and cultivating new forms of knowledge, universities must also embrace their ever-expanding role in pioneering innovative ideas that will catalyse economic development.
  1. SUSS is not a luxury brand, but we’d like to think that we dispense high quality education like the high quality you’d associate with luxury brands. Apart from quality, as a matter of fact, our students have the ‘luxury’ of choosing their programme of studies and getting it, and study at their own place, time and pace. As the leading university for lifelong learning in our short 13-year history, we take pride in fostering a strong spirit of innovation. We are a pioneer in online education, we emphasize applied learning using our proprietary learning system and means of delivery. Our students are prepared well for the workplace, to meet the challenges of the digital revolution head on, and contribute to society in different ways with lasting impact. We aim, through our 3Hs philosophy of education, to turn our graduates who will impact their world not just with what they have learned, but also with their desire to serve society. We scratch where the economy or society itches for service and progress - for example, we have in recent years built a strong community of fintech experts and collaborators, along with many successful collaborations with regional e-commerce players such as Alibaba, Tencent and Lazada.
  1. Our 3Hs philosophy is unique and holistic, encompassing Head, Heart and Habit. Let me say something about it:
    • ‘Head’ refers to applying knowledge sensibly and effectively in practice, to be work-ready, oriented to solving real-world problems.
    • ‘Heart’ looks at developing an awareness in our students of social needs and community development, and understanding their role in the future as professionals and citizens in their society.
    • Habit’ is where we inculcate a lifelong passion for learning in our students for professional and personal development all through their careers and to their twilight years.
  1. But, that’s not all we do. As part of Singapore’s aggressive push to prepare our workforce to be agile and future–ready for disruption and new economic growth, SUSS is also one of the six autonomous universities mandated to develop and implement a whole suite of “tech-enabled” Skills Future programmes. A number of large government agencies and private organisations have joined hands with us to roll out continuing learning for their employees, including mid-career switchers or matured workers, to undergo skills upgrading or skills conversion, thereby facilitating their movement into new occupations or sectors with good prospects for progression. Today, I have some of my colleagues from our Centre for Continuing & Professional Education (CCPE) here with me and they will be happy to share and consult with you on how we can collaborate and support you in your employee learning needs.
  1. Finally, whether it is about luxury brands or education or any other emerging good value product or services, I trust the discussions about new branding and marketing and digitalisation at this conference will be enlightening, instructive and inspiring. And, I hope it is directed not just to the good of the brand but also to create greater good for our industry and society.
  1. To our partners from Curtin, I am most appreciative of this partnership that we have started and look forward to many more to come!
  1. I wish you a vibrant and lively discussion later. Thank you.
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