The number of Chinese traveling abroad has grown from virtually zero to more than 55 million in a decade. Yet for many Chinese, global travel remains both unfamiliar and daunting. Approached to change long-standing perceptions, the agency helped Hilton Worldwide’s Hilton Hotels & Resorts brand launch Hilton Huanying, a program to make Chinese visitors feel welcome around the world.
Hilton Huanying (Welcome) proved successful, quickly expanding to 70 hotels in 23 countries. A major cultural movement had begun. Now the challenge was to maintain, or better yet increase, the momentum.
The team identified some valuable contradictions: going global meant targeting local, a simple bath slipper could have a big cultural impact, and the best-selling author of Why Chinese Are Unhappy was the perfect promoter of a hospitality campaign.
Famed East meets West fashion designer Vivienne Tam was invited to create a branded slipper exclusively for Hilton, influential travel author Mr. Hei Jian and popular Shanghai TV host Ms. Wei Wei were recruited as brand advocates, and the agency launched a coordinated promotional campaign on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter. The team localized and translated campaign content for media from China and abroad, attracted over 200 media attendees to local Hilton Huanying events, and generated positive global coverage in top-tier luxury and hospitality magazines.
Even with high expectations, the results were huge: global bookings by guests originating in China increased 129% at Hilton Huangying participating hotels, while Hilton HHonors, Hilton Worldwide’s guest loyalty program, saw its Chinese enrollment grow by 81% in 2012.
Describe the brief from the client:
A welcome opportunity, with tangible results.
We needed to generate loyalty and preference for the Hilton hotel brand among outbound Chinese travelers. To do this, we strategized that we would need to make them feel uniquely at home at Hilton, and identify the most meaningful cultural touchstones and relevant brand ambassadors that resonate with the cosmopolitan Chinese traveler.
Our success would be measured on a quantitative level: the campaign needed to significantly increase in-China-based bookings at participating Hilton Huanying hotels worldwide.
Measuring success by the book.
The agency secured Hilton Huanying event attendance from more than 80 general, lifestyle, luxury, hospitality, art & design and business media, resulting in more than 80 positive stories. Feature articles were successfully tailored and pitched to top-tier luxury and hospitality magazines including Hotel Elite, Peerage, and The Fair. The campaign enjoyed significant television exposure from International Channel Shanghai (ICS), Channel Young and on the mainstream online video site, Tudou.com. As of January 14, 2013, views of the Hilton Huanying event video exceeded 9,000.
True to the campaign goal, the most important results were easily measured. Global bookings by guests originating in China increased 129% at Hilton Huangying participating hotels in the first seven months of 2012. And enrollment in Hilton HHonors, the guest loyalty program for Hilton Worldwide’s 10 distinct hotel brands, saw an 81% increase of enrollment within China in 2012.
Slipping into the Chinese conversation.
Hosting influential travel writer Mr. Hei Jian and fashion-forward TV celebrity Ms. Wei Wei at four prominent China Hilton properties, the agency launched a blogging campaign to encourage consumer interaction, link to Hilton destination videos, and award travel packages to exotic Huanying locales. The campaign launched the first Hilton Weibo channel sharing content with the brand ambassadors’ own popular blog sites and Sina.com’s Weibo, China’s influential Twitter equivalent.
The agency simultaneously promoted renowned fashion designer Vivienne Tam as brand ambassador, showcasing her creation of limited edition Water Dragon Slippers inspired by the Hilton brand’s signature blue color, as the new Huanying brand symbol. Tam’s exclusive design sold out in limited release and its unexpected popularity soon become the creative centerpiece of the campaign.
The agency also promoted high profile Huanying events, and helped localize and translate Huanying content via Hilton’s Global Media Center, providing news and updates for both Chinese and international press.
When East meets West, somebody has to introduce them.
Chinese tourism was becoming a significant new market, and global travel leader Hilton Hotels & Resorts was positioned to grow with it. But expansion included uncharted territory. Chinese travelers were new to the global hospitality industry, brand loyalty was up for grabs, and rapid changes in the cultural landscape made it difficult to pinpoint the appropriate media, audience and message. A coordinated publicity campaign with a keen understanding of both traditional and modern China was needed.
Think big. Get comfortable.
Our insight: the new generation of global Chinese travelers would value the comforts and taste of home wherever they stayed, and would be loyal to the hotel brand that could promise and deliver it. Whether a Millennial or a member of the older generation, we felt all demographics would respond to messages and experiences that honored and celebrated Chinese tradition. To that end, we carefully selected strategic brand ambassadors, staged high profile photogenic local events, and used modern social media vehicles to connect the Hilton hotel brand with the most comforting images of China.