Newspaper backs relaunch in a big way with eye-popping readership campaign


About six weeks ago, we implemented the major multi-platform re-launch of the 108-year-old South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s premier English-language newspaper.

Our bright new design, content and brand positioning were accompanied by a bold new advertising campaign to beat the rainy blues of Hong Kong’s dreary wet May. It resulted in great reader response and a threefold increase in our new iPad edition downloads.

Then came the sun-drenched heat of June. With the noise of the brand campaign still buzzing in the market, our next task was to make sure our less-frequent or prospective readers tried out our new printed newspaper. Being the most established platform, print is also the platform which is most resistant to shifting reader habits and perceptions.

We needed a mechanism to drive trial and establish awareness before folks went away for their summer holidays. Yet our traditional readers are typically “promotions-resistant.” Many programmes we have run in the past saw the usual trickle of a handful of participants, seemingly too affluent or too busy to bother. We needed to take some risks and break new ground.

So we thought big: Big Mac big. I mean a promotion of the scale even McDonald’s would be proud of, dreamed up and brought to life by our humble in-house marketing department.

Not that we’re trying to go mass-market like McDonald’s. That’s just the surprise. Despite a relatively up-market and niche readership of affluent English-language readers in a predominantly Chinese-language speaking city, our “Summer Prize Celebration” was probably the biggest giveaway promotion Hong Kong has seen in recent years, and most likely the biggest in our newspaper’s century-long history.

We also wanted to create a promotion that not only built trial but also projected more warmth and fun into our rather lofty and dry long-standing brand image. This meant surprising our non-readers or even apathetic current readers with something unexpected in scale, something they’d sit up and notice.

Armed with HK$1 million in prizes, we were the Post with the most. We secured amazing luxury items, from a new convertible VW Beetle and a luxury spa villa holiday for four in Phuket, to a champagne party for 30 on an authentic Chinese junk, plus VIP trips to Singapore and bottles of vintage Chateau Lafite Rothschild. With our basket of goodies in hand, we rolled out a mega mango-yellow themed campaign, just to make sure it wouldn’t be missed.

We deliberately chose up-market prizes to surprise and suit the refined tastes of our more affluent audiences. We chose mango yellow to differentiate from our brand campaign and to give a punch-packing theme to the promotion. The resulting look was a delicate creative balance of being fun without looking trashy.

The promotion was three-tiered, with the first tier being a “Collect and Win” grand-draw mechanic, encouraging readers to collect three consecutive days of papers, cut out tokens, affix to an entry form and mail in. This physical evidence of print-copy readership was important to ensure people were getting their own copies of the new paper.

The second tier was “Text and Win,” with over a dozen high-value daily drawing prizes, and the third was an “Everyone’s a Winner” scheme that texted back to every correct entrant a special offer or gift if they entered the Text and Win promotion.

We spread the word on Facebook and through partner databases, and launched a promotional mini-site where readers could download entry forms and check out more details about prizes. We advertised in office lobbies, dominated newsstands, and even woke prospective bilingual readers up in Chinese on radio. The noise in our own pages was loud thanks to collaboration between marketing, editorial, display advertising and production, giving us daily ads, skyboxes, printed inserts and floating “page stealers.”

We’re still counting entries, but safe to say it’s been incredibly positive. At minimal expense — most of the prizes and media were donated or bartered — we’ve managed to achieve a very exciting and noise-generating promotion that has so far received thousands of entries — with Collect and Win entries equating to around 10% of our circulation, and each of those entries representing three newspaper copies.

So, mango yellow has been a happy color for us this summer, and running an over-the-top promotion to heat up interest has indeed proved fruitful. With a significant increase of traffic from our promotional Web site to our core brand Web site, and a subsequent spike in walk-in subscriptions, we’ll hopefully continue to see more growth in the months to come.

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