How Hong Kong Tramways plans to stay connected to youths in the city

Hong Kong Tramways (HKT) has been a staple part of the Hong Kong transportation system since 1904. Known to locals endearingly as the "Ding Ding", the trams have stood as a witnessed to the development of the country’s economy and population.

As it turned 117 years old, HKT embarked on a slew of marketing activities to make its presence in Hong Kong felt. The turning of 117 also coincided with the brand’s its entry into the Guinness World Records for the largest fleet of double-decker trams in service. To celebrate the monumental occasion, HKT decided to hand out Free Ride Day for all passengers on 18 August 2021. The day of free rides also coincided with the success of Hong Kong athletes at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Meanwhile, it also partnered up with the Pantone Color Institute to create a new signature green shade that pays tribute to the trams running across Hong Kong.

In a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Nixon Cheung, head of commercial and brand at HKT said after a century of existence, the brand wants to remain an icon of the city that would make Hong Kong-ers proud. Cheung shared that HKT has also recently tied up with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, and the renowned musician Chiu Tsang Hei, to re-arrange a music piece by using the very signature “Ding Ding” sound.

"We see this as an amazing way to make our brand’s famous sound even more memorable, and to cope with our lifestyle image as perceived by many,” he added. Cheung said that the brand takes great pride in its history and the image it has been creating since 1904, and truly believes that while it may be “old in age”, it remains “young at heart”. He added,

With numerous partnerships with local and international brands, across a wide range of collaborations, we want to make the brand more fun for everyone, and to become a brand that is more than a transportation.

Cheung, who has been with the brand over two years, said that to reach out to a younger audience, HKT is also forging relationships which add value to the younger consumers’ lives.

“When it comes to partnerships, we forge deals that allow us to break through the geographical constraints, and have our presence around the whole of Hong Kong,” he said.  The brand is now looking to make its presence felt through the 120 shelters it manages and its over thousand POS points. “No matter where you are and what you are interested in, we are trying to get involved and offer a tram option for many as a way to support us,” he said.

For its OOH offerings, HKT currently works with JCDecaux for the tram body ads, and CODY for the tram shelters. For tram body, it’s obvious that the slow tram speed has become a distinctive and incomparable advantage to make sure the long exposure for the ads, Cheung explained. On top of that, the likeability of the brand makes it easier for the marketers as it ensures positive publicity. Meanwhile, its tram shelters are also generally surrounded by traffic every day, which allows creativity from the brands. The sheer size of the shelters ensures eyeballs at every turn, Cheung explains.

When asked on the pandemic’s impact on its OOH offerings, Cheung says the company was able to ride it out as the market remained competitive and its partners JCDecaux and CODY continue to deliver quality work and innovation such as the Bright Ring Tram for the tram body, and the Skyview format for the tram shelters.

At HK Tramways, the vision for the Cheung’s team is always to preserve this Hong Kong icon with initiatives that could make everyone proud. The most successful showcase for 2021 is definitely the Guinness World Record that HKT has claimed, and the whole marketing campaign that was builts around it from the pop-up store, to the free-ride day and of course, the naming of “Hong Kong Tram Green”.

“The response was a surprise for us to be covered everywhere from online medias, social platforms, KOLs, magazines, newspapers and more! Countless citizens and pop-stars have been showing their support to our campaign, and immersed into the pride and joy we target to bring to the city and each of them,” said Cheung.

He added that when the brand strikes partnerships, it mostly does so with local players as it part of its missions to showcase the “Made in Hong Kong” spirit.

So which unchartered territory will the brand head to next, we ask. Cheung said looking ahead, HKT will be working on STEM projects with the vision to not only support the smart mobility initiative from the government, but also to actively pass its engineering knowledge to the next generations.

“We are looking forward to work with schools, parents and also partners to achieve this common goal – making the Hong Kong Trams a part of the next generations’ common language, and to eventually become a pride that we all hold in our heart,” he said.

Meanwhile in 2017, Hong Kong Tramways unveiled a new logo together with the new launch of a creative campaign to convey the brand's strategic promise that passengers will find happiness on Hong Kong's iconic trams. This marked Hong Kong Tramways' first re-brand since 1974. The updated logo was said to reflect the fact that it was the most affordable and greenest mode of transportation on Hong Kong Island, and features the narrow double-decker with a smiling face. According to Stepworks, the agency behind the creative project then, the brand and the agency worked on the refreshed image for two years.

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