The Key to Brand Campaign Success and Standing Out in a Crowded Marketing World - Dennis Owen - Marketing Buzzword

I cringe every time I see another article with a title that goes something like this…. “How to Create Content that Goes Viral”.  Firstly, no one has that figured out as an exact science otherwise you’d see brands creating viral content over and over. 

Secondly, it’s the wrong focus.  It “should” be about creating great content for your customers that is either helpful, educational or entertaining. If my team begins to work on a campaign and it doesn’t address at least one of these three points, the idea gets tossed in the trash.

I can’t tell you what is absolutely going to make your campaign successful. Only you can determine what that looks like.  However, I can definitely share my thoughts on what I believe are three of the key ingredients for success.

A core ingredient for campaign success is creativity.  When you can’t “pay” for brand attention, it forces you to think hard about generating content and to make it interesting for your customers to want to engage. 

Like many companies, airlines typically don’t have large marketing budgets, and the only way to stand out is to be as creative as possible.  This doesn’t always have to require large amounts of money

How can a brand or marketing team ensure creativity in the workplace? In my view it has to start with the work culture.  Are you providing a space where creativity can thrive?  Is it an open culture where the team efforts are prioritised higher than individual efforts?  Do you have a work culture where no idea is too crazy.

If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then you already have some of the key ingredients to ensure creativity thrives, thus helping you create successful campaigns.

The second key ingredient to ensure campaign success is resonance.  Whatever your campaign is about, it has to make sense to your core audience.  It attracts attention if it means something to your audience personally.  If it doesn’t, they will quickly ignore the message you are trying to convey and you would have a wasted your time generating that content.

A third key component to campaign success is timeliness.  It’s important to talk to your audience at the right time.  It wouldn’t make sense to talk about a summer airline fare sale at the end of August, for example.

 Lastly, but just as important, is a component that is elementary in nature but often forgotten. The campaign needs to be simple.   The simpler the campaign, the more likely people will understand it.  If you have to explain it, it’s too complex.

With these three ingredients for campaign success, let’s now take a look at a recent Hong Kong Airlines brand campaign and see how it stacks up to the areas of creativity, resonance and timeliness.

As an airline we wanted to create some fun content for April Fool’s Day. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that people would be talking about April Fool’s Day on the first day of April, so why not jump on that trending band wagon? 

We wanted to do something that was believable, but also kind of “out there” in terms of subject manner.  It had to be creative.

We already knew we had the timeliness factor as it was April 1. There would be social media chatter where this campaign was to be centered.  That left the creative work that had to resonate with our core audience.

While we were working on the creative content idea, we wanted to ensure we stayed on brand.  One of the main brand pillars for Hong Kong Airlines is “Truly Hong Kong”.  In other words, as a Hong Kong carrier, we want to showcase the spirit, the elements & the qualities of our home base to the world, as we grow from a regional airline to a global airline.

After some fun discussion, my team decided to focus on the street/restaurant scenes of Hong Kong (like the wet market) that people were likely to recognise and respond to, and depict those ideas as an in-flight experience in a fun and unique way.  That covered the subject matter of the three simple photograph visuals that we had in mind. 

The first visual was “hanging fowl and pork” (siu mei).  If you walk anywhere along the streets of Hong Kong, the sight of geese, pork and chickens are proudly on display in restaurant windows, enticing customers to enter. 
HK Airways Photoshoot
Another experience people often have in Hong Kong is eating “dim sum”. Nothing says Hong Kong more than dim sum!  It’s a staple of the Hong Kong dining experience. This would be our second visual.
HK Airways Photoshoot
For the third image we wanted to give a nod to Hong Kong’s past (vintage store) and show something that would resonate to a child growing up in the city for this last visual we created props around well -known candies and plastic toys that one might find in the street stalls of Hong Kong.
HK Airways Photoshoot
After bringing together in-flight carts, and doing a bit of shopping around Hong Kong for items such as dim sum trays and candies of the past, we were ready for the photography shoot with our cabin crew.

I’ll let the visual work speak for itself.  But it’s clear that the campaign was creative, it was timely and it resonated well with our core Asian audience.

How successful was the campaign?  We got over 5000 social media mentions globally in 48 hours, potentially having been seen by almost 3 billion people.  We received key posts by influencers in Thailand and China that created significant buzz in those countries and the story was picked up by numerous media sources around the world as one of the top April Fool’s posts in the airline space.

And the key to this brand campaign success?  It was the three elements of creativity, resonance and timeliness.  While those aren’t the only determiners for success, they certainly worked in the case of Hong Kong Airline’s April Fool’s Day campaign and we will always keep these in mind for future campaign success.

The Author – Dennis Owen

Dennis is the General Manager, Branding and Social Media for Hong Kong Airlines and previously spent a number of years at Cathay Pacific Airway looking after a number of roles including Brand, Social Media and Marketing in the Americas.

You can find out more about Dennis Owen below . . .



Dennis Owen - Branding & Social Media at Hong Kong Airlines


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