Brand in crisis: MTR's bad timing
Hong Kong - The MTR has sparked outrage with plans to raise fares again, ironically two weeks after it launched a campaign to highlight how much it cares for the Hong Kong community.
The one-minute long TVC has been running extensively on TV, featuring MTR's technicians who work through the night to keep the trains running for Hong Kong's commuters.
But the fare hike announced yesterday seemed to have watered down the intended effects of the campaign.
The increase is the highest since 2007, following increases in 2010 and 2011 and a hefty net profit of HK$14.7 billion last year.
Richard Tsang, chairman and managing director of Strategic Public Relations Group said he believes the MTR Corporation has a comprehensive network to solicit views from its stakeholders, but it needs to clarify its position as a caring company concerned about the welfare of the community that it serves, rather than justifying its actions by saying it has fulfilled its legal obligation.
"I believe implementing programmes that subsidise the needy in the short term when an aggressive fare raise plan is being implemented will help preserve a good image for the MTR as a responsible, caring corporate citizen while fulfilling its obligations to achieve maximum returns for investors over the medium to long term," Tsang said.
Another industry insider on the creative side said an ad campaign is a "waste of money" when a company say one thing with its marketing and do another with its products and services.
"The planning was horrible. On one hand they spend money in mass communications, on the other they raised fares," he said.
He added any company has to substantiate its claims in advertising in order to build a healthy brand image.
A PR veteran agreed that the most powerful, credible communications is deeds, not words.
"Using paid TV advertising to tell the community-caring story seems a bit aggressive and also poorly timed, right in the middle of the fare rise discussion," he said.
Outside the marketing industry, consumers and political parties are united in denouncing MTR's plan as well.
Wong Tai Sin district councillor Chi-wai Wu told The Standard that the MTR Corporation has spent heavily on advertising campaigns, but seemingly not on railway maintenance and repairs.
He said it is unfair for passengers to pay more for shoddy service.
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- MTR Corporation
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