During the sweltering summer months of 2012, the air-conditioner strained to deliver a supply of cool air into our meeting room as we discussed big ideas for our 110th anniversary. Everyone was actively encouraged to put ideas forward as we explored, tested, and built ideas.           

During these preliminary sessions, the team was enthusiastic. Many outlandish ideas were aired with the flair of creative risk-taking. Within the space of a few meetings, we had some award-winning marketing initiatives that typically are used to drive sales. 

Everyone was brimming with excitement. Yet there was a shadow of doubt lurking in the back of our minds. That doubt came from the negative undertones that Hong Kong emanated at the time of planning for our 110th anniversary campaign. 

Doom and gloom, loss of direction … people felt that Hong Kong was no longer competitive in the midst of a fast growing China. We were losing the sense of belonging and pride in very our city.  This was further exacerbated by other local media. 

How could we blow our own trumpet and bang our drums when there were larger issues that suppressed celebratory feelings within the city?

We needed to re-group.

We needed to re-think.

We needed a bigger idea.

Just like that, the proverbial “light bulb: flashed on. Instead of just celebrating the SCMP 110th anniversary, we were going to celebrate Hong Kong. Why not? After all the South China Morning Post is a locally established newspaper with a long-standing history woven within the everyday fabric of life in Hong Kong. 

We realised we had the opportunity to use our own anniversary to act as a rallying call to Hong Kong, and that our home has a truly amazing spirit — incredibly industrious, with exceptional skills and business characteristics that are recognised in our region, and tremendous promise in our world-class students. 

We named the campaign “Celebrating Hong Kong: Our city. Our home. Our responsibility.” We set the editorial agenda and planned our events, programmes, and began to develop the marketing communications.

From day one of the launch, “Celebrating Hong Kong” had its own campaign Web site, as well as a designated section within our news portal, SCMP.com. The campaign site housed all the key elements of the campaign and allowed for visitors to understand the purpose and scope of the movement, with sections dedicated to:

In print, online and mobile; through words, pictures and video, the “Celebrating Hong Kong” theme was integrated with editorial pre-and post-event support. We ran fascinating articles about Hong Kong people and their achievements in industry and engineering, uncovering the good news we often forget about and might normally overlook. 

The valuable lesson from running this campaign wasn’t from an operational level or that we managed such a large-scale campaign with a small in-house team. Instead, it was from a conceptual level.

Sometimes it pays in dividends to look at external forces that influence opinions and reflect current market sentiment.

It’s not every day you turn 110, but what a fantastic birthday we had!