Staff Reporters
Jun 29, 2020

Asia-Pacific Power List 2020: Edward Bell, Cathay Pacific

Edward Bell has proven to be a steady captain even in turbulent times. Before the pandemic hit, he had led the airline onto a new and successful brand platform infused with more purpose.

Asia-Pacific Power List 2020: Edward Bell, Cathay Pacific
Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers

Edward Bell

General manager, brand, insights and marketing communications
Cathay Pacific
Hong Kong

Returning member

Since taking over as the chief marketer for Hong Kong’s flagship carrier in 2017, Edward Bell has proven to be not only an able navigator charting the airline’s long-term course but also a firm hand on the rudder in turbulent times. 

While a major restructuring and a data breach dominated Bell’s early tenure, he steered the agenda toward brighter skies with the May 2019 launch of the new ‘Move beyond’ brand platform. The work, delivered by Publicis and VCCP after Bell jettisoned a 25-year relationship with McCann, sought to set a bold, progressive tone, which centred on excellence and continuous improvement. Importantly, it also spoke to employees as well as the public. The initial campaign drove 1.5 billion impressions and increased awareness, consideration and favourability across key markets. 

Cathay’s commitment to that new positioning got its first test right away when a billboard showing a gay couple stirred up some controversy in Hong Kong. Bell stood by the ‘Move beyond labels’ ad, and the greater purpose of inclusion it represented, applying behind-the-scenes pressure to make sure it stayed in place. He later let on that it wasn’t a complete surprise that it stirred up a hornet’s nest, adding that the controversy ended up demonstrating that those calling the ad “immoral” were the ones out of step with society.

Bell and Cathay then carried on exercising ‘Move beyond’ with campaigns around new routes, relaunches of its first- and business-class experiences and the introduction of a revamped in-flight entertainment offering. Under Bell, the airline has also worked with Digitas on using machine learning, attribution modeling, smart bidding and auction-time bidding to wring more ROI from search-engine marketing.

In recent months, with business at a standstill due to the pandemic, Bell has dialled up social content to inform and reassure customers about Covid-19 precautions and lighten the mood (check out the ‘Till we fly again’ video, shot by homebound staff who spotlighted household items that resemble travel landmarks).

Bell, who before Cathay Pacific served long and successful stints at FCB and Ogilvy & Mather, remains an outspoken advocate for both Cathay Pacific and the wider industry, with his opinion regularly sought at events. We expect he’ll play a key role in reviving Cathay’s business as people begin to travel again.

Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers


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