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MCCY clarifies that use of Lee Kuan Yew's image on Yeo's drinks was 'respectful'

MCCY clarifies that use of Lee Kuan Yew's image on Yeo's drinks was 'respectful'

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Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Alvin Tan has said that the use of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew on a drink package by Yeo's was respectfully done. 

Tan told parliament on 3 October that the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) was consulted by Yeo's before it published the design and used Mr Lee's name. He was responding to a parliamentary question filed by MP Poh Li San who asked if the use of Mr Lee's image on Yeo's commemorative packet drinks was in line with guidelines. 

These questions came shortly after Asian food and beverage company Yeo Hiap Sing, better known as Yeo's, put out a special edition packaging of its Chrysanthemum Tea drink to commemorate the late Lee Kuan Yew’s centenary.

Don't miss: Yeo's special edition packaging using Lee Kuan Yew's image falls flat

"MCCY assessed that the use of Mr Lee’s image on the commemorative drink packets was respectful because the intent was to highlight Mr Lee’s contribution to the transformation of Singapore into a green city," said Tan in response to Poh's questions. 

He added that Yeo's clarified that the drinks bearing Mr Lee's face were not for sale but that they were distributed to the community for free. 

Tan's comments come after the commemorative drink packets drew criticism online. Netizens voiced their objections to Yeo's controversial use of the late Prime Minister’s image on their product, according to media intelligence company Truescope. Online conversations about the new packaging have deemed the move inappropriate and disrespectful.

Truescope found that traction on this issue continued since 31 August 2023 following a post by Yeo’s. Notably, the discussion surfaced on popular forum HardwareZone and The Straits Times Facebook Page.  Many netizens have decried this move as both inappropriate and disrespectful, asserting that Singapore's founding Prime Minister should remain beyond the reach of commercial endeavours. Critics have argued that it is disheartening to witness attempts to "milk profit" from the legacy of the late Lee Kuan Yew, even after his passing.

Furthermore, concerns have been raised about the environmental impact of this marketing strategy, with critics pointing out that the packets bearing the late Lee Kuan Yew’s image are destined for bins or worse, scattered on the streets once the beverage is consumed. This, they argue, is a blatant disregard for the respect that he deserves.

Poh brought up these environmental concerns in Parliament and asked how MCCY would ensure that there was no disrespect to Mr Lee when the drink packets were thrown away. 

Tan responded by saying that the public was advised to dispose of these drink packets in an "appropriate and responsible manner". He added that MCCY would consider the public's feedback on these issues in the future. 

Yeo’s chief executive Ong Yuh Hwang clarified to MARKETING-INTERACTIVE at the time that the company had consulted the MCCY and said that its initiative that used his name and image was in line with published guidelines.

The commemorative packaging also deliberately abandoned the brand’s signature bright yellow and red colours and the prominent position of its logo. Instead, a green colour to pay tribute to the legacy of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, explained Ong. 

"We purposefully focused on the educational message of Singapore integrating gardens into our urban landscape," said a spokesperson from Yeo's.

"We thoughtfully found like-minded partner organisations to distribute the commemorative packs in an educational setting," the spokesperson added. "These partners include Gardens By The Bay, the National Museum of Singapore, Children’s Museum Singapore, National Parks Board, army camps, SAFRA clubs and schools."

Related articles:
Yeo's brings chrysanthemum tea to life with multi-sensorial display at Gardens by the Bay
Yeo's and FairPrice launch special edition cans with quirky characters
Yeo's unveils new sleek and modern logo and packaging

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