Buffeted by last year's economic downturn, marketers in Hong Kong were generally unwilling to launch aggressive marketing promotions or brand-building campaigns. "None really stand out. It is more a general movement towards re-investing in the brand and taking some time to review where they can take that brand into the future," says Richard Thomas, chief executive of DDB Hong Kong and Guangzhou. "We have seen this with our clients such as Vitasoy, Knife and even McDonald's."
After a tough first six months of the year, Universal McCann Hong Kong managing director Chris Skinner says the performance of finance brands and mainland China's renewed growth helped steady the Hong Kong economy, particularly in the fourth quarter of last year. But the tactical, value-related messages spawned by the downturn also drove creative throughout the year. Thomas says the idea of managing risk underpinned campaigns in the financial services sector, and retailers played heavily on frugality and managing personal and household budgets in their communications.
Lilian Leong, managing director of Leo Burnett in the market, says strong emotional messages also ran through much of last year's work, citing examples by the Bank of China and Wellcome. But she states that in 2010, the focus is on direct messages and winning market share.
"Right now I see a lot of work that is very visual and not very emotional," Leong says. "It's about telling consumers very clearly about the benefits of the product. This is a time for growing after a period of contraction. It is about recovering business and trying to get ahead of the competition."
Danny Mok, CEO for Grey Hong Kong and Shanghai, says that a quirky marketing trend that emerged last year was the use of the lang mo-a young female amateur model. "They worked for brands or products as image girls, event promoters, hosts in TV programmes and even as talent in print ads and TV commercials. They created lots of media coverage, which was welcomed by brands that target a male-skewed segment like IT ."
Looking ahead, digital continues to loom large. "With the emerging popularity of social media sites like Facebook in Hong Kong, it's viable for marketers to drive consumer activation through a focused yet cost-effective digital campaign with direct response and measurable results," Mok says.
Leong says the explosion of digital media will force advertisers to find new ways to engage people, particularly 'Generation X', who are now in their forties. TVC-centric Sony is now including more digital aspects in campaigns. "Messages are tailored to the medium and are bringing people into deeper communication with the brand," she says.
Hong Kong Top 20 brands
16 Cathay Pacific
17 Circle K
19 Hang Seng Bank
1 TVB Jade
2 ATV Home
3 TVB Pearl
4 ATV World
5 HD Jade
1 Headline Daily
2 Oriental Daily News
3 Apple Daily
4 Metro Daily
This article was originally published as part of the 2010 Top 1000 Brands report.