Manulife’s marketer says hijack of social account was a 'calculated risk'

Not many brands have the stomach to pull off as big a prank as Manulife Singapore had on April Fools’ Day. For three weeks leading up to 1 April, nearly 1,500 fans of Manulife Singapore were urged to follow its pseudo Mrs Fortune Teller account unknowingly. The conceptualisation of the campaign started with its creative agency, TSLA, way back in December.

The takeover saw Manulife Singapore silently archiving more than 200 existing posts, changing its handle to @mrsfortunetellersg, and creating a brand new account to take on its identity to throw users who searched for it off the scent.

“We had a few IG fans asking us, ‘why am I following Mrs Fortune Teller?’ We just gave them witty responses in return. At the start of the seeding, we lost some followers, which was very normal, but we have gained a lot more,” said Cheryl Lim, VP, head of branding, communications and sponsorships, Manulife Singapore.

Two weeks into the campaign, Manulife Singapore saw 38.5% increase in Instagram fan base, 248% in impressions, and 534.71% in reach, Lim said.  While the move may seem bold and spontaneous, Lim added that "it was a calculated risk taken with a lot of thought put into aligning the campaign with the brand" and making sure it meets its intended objectives.

“It was not going to be [randomly done] where we just pray for the best. There were measures put in place to make sure that we retain the credibility and reputation for our brand,” said Lim.


Staying on-message

Continuing from where Manulife Singapore’s #adulting campaign left off, Lim explained that the Mrs Fortune Teller campaign aimed to tackle Millennials’ tenancy to shy away from serious conversations about their future and what it holds. The fictional persona seeks to “avert misfortunes" by preparing users for what lies ahead.

To engage its audience, users were encouraged to submit their questions about their future on Mrs Fortune Teller (now @manulife.singapore) insta-stories and dedicated Facebook page. Over 600 questions were received in three weeks. Three ‘live’ readings with influencers Maxi Lim, Noah Yap and Chua Enlai, attracting total combined views of more than 5,600, were held on Facebook and Instagram stories to answer the top questions.

Lim added that the team was very mindful with the tonality of Mrs Fortune Teller. Instead of going dark, mysterious, or even high brow, the team kept the look and feel agnostic, light and hyper-local. She added:

Social does not always equate to engagement. That is a misconception. The live sessions created two-way conversations, which was pure engagement.

Beyond “creative sexiness”, Lim said that at the heart of the campaign, is a strong strategy and execution. ­­­Unlike short-lived jokes made by most companies, the campaign had used April Fools’ Day as a launchpad and sustained for two months. To tightly link the campaign back to Manulife Singapore’s offerings, the tarot cards developed and questions received were also sorted into its product pillars of love, career, family, health and money.

Since the reveal of the April Fools’ prank, the company has launched a retargeting campaign that runs until the end of May to suggest “proposed solution” corresponding to the adulting problem each individual is facing.

An online version of the Mrs Fortune Teller experience is also hosted at its microsite to allow users to simulate a fortune reading based on their specific area of concern. Offline, Mrs Fortune Teller will be hitting the streets of Orchard Road with a roving fortune telling booth and will be giving out her localised fortune cards to consumers.

Last month, Manulife Singapore launched a “stop the drama” video campaign to debunk global stereotype of dramatic heart attacks scenes. It seeks to bring attention to the “dangerously high” lack of awareness on heart attack symptoms in Singapore that deters people from seeking medical help quickly.