HK Express (not to be confused with Hong Kong Airlines) repositioned from a full-service carrier to a low-fare carrier three years ago. It was important for the airline to continue building awareness of this change and communicate that it stood for value in the market.
With Hong Kong being a travel hub, differentiating HK Express from other airlines was key. The main mission of its third anniversary campaign was to stand out and lure digital-savvy customers in this highly competitive space.
HK Express has been investing more in digital media in the past two years, increasing from 60 percent of its total budget in 2014 to 86 percent in 2016.
The brand chose YouTube for its third birthday campaign in 2016, allocating 60 percent of its budget to the medium. This was their first time using YouTube as the primary pillar.
The goal was to drive mass awareness and a 70 percent increase in ticket sales in Hong Kong as well as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Macau.
The campaign ran from October 2016 with the 'Stay Three. Stay Free' YouTube video in five versions.
It kicked off with a one-day YouTube masthead in Hong Kong to lead viewers to the HK Express website, which earned nearly 10 million impressions. There was an additional 2.9 million impressions on YouTube’s 'TrueView' ad format, for which a viewer watches for at least 30 seconds or to the end of the video (whichever is shorter); or clicks on an element of the in-stream creative.
HK Express segmented its audiences into five particular interest groups like 'family vacationers', 'travel buffs', 'thrill seekers', 'outdoor enthusiasts' and 'shutterbugs' and served them five dynamic creative versions.
Luke Lovegrove, commercial director of HK Express, said, “We were impressed by YouTube’s effectiveness in driving brand awareness." He reported a 145 percent boost in sales during the campaign period of Oct 16-29 (versus the pre-campaign period of Oct 2-15), far exceeding the company's 70 percent target.
HK Express continued to see another 98 percent increase in ticket sales for an additional four weeks after the campaign ended. The airline credits the high level of awareness generated for the sustained sales boost, as opposed to just benefiting from a one-off spike.
Market factors aside, HK Express also generated a record-high 32 percent ad recall, a 67 percent spike in searches during the campaign and a 26 percent lift in searches in the four weeks after the promotion.