SINGAPORE: Singapore is a "global city of influence" and having a presence there is important to build a brand image of prestige, regional marketing leaders believe.

The South East Asian city-state is the wealthiest nation in South East Asia and one of the richest per capita in the world – one in every 36 Singapore residents is a millionaire, according to 2015 data from WealthInsight. The city was also recently named by an HSBC Expat Explorer survey as the top destination for expats.

So high-spending and hyper-connected Singapore residents are considered a barometer for brands seeking to succeed in top-end markets. Lawrence Chong, CEO of global innovation and design consultancy Consulus, believes it is critical for brands to establish themselves in an "image" market like Singapore.

Chong told Marketing Magazine that he defines a global city by four key characteristics: a diverse creative identity, a power hub for global bodies, high levels of logistical connectivity and a strong, positive city brand.

Singapore not only meets this but also serves a dual for marketers depending where they are coming from. For global brands, an established presence in Singapore can lend credibility across South East Asia's developing markets, and allow a brand to test how their products may resonate in the region.

South East Asian brands consider a successful launch in a "global city" like Singapore as a springboard to becoming an international brand, particularly as heavy competition in the city-state quickly determines who sinks or swims.

"It is not a coincidence that many Asian brands do consider Singapore as a logical platform to launch their global branding initiatives," Chong said.

But some international brands are struggling to balance "image value" against "commercial value" in their continued presence there, as Singapore's economy has declined in the past year.

A relatively small population and intense market saturation makes growing revenue difficult, while rising costs and a manpower shortage push business operations into cheaper parts of South East Asia. Coca-Cola is the latest multinational to move operations out of Singapore.

Despite this, the city-state remains a drawcard for many. "Emotionally, Singapore has a reputation for being advanced and sophisticated," said Graham Hitchmough, CEO of Brand Union South & Southeast Asia to Marketing magazine.

"This also makes it easier for Western companies to be innovative in the way they deploy their marketing strategies here, minimising the need for expensive adaptation of global strategies."

Data sourced from Marketing, Wall Street Journal, Forbes; additional content by Warc staff