Viewpoints: Why Hong Kong is falling behind its peers

Hong Kong is fast, busy, bustling and full of life. It’s a place that’s industrious, competitive and incredibly driven - the perfect place to build brands, right? Wrong.

Hong Kong marketers are lagging behind their peers. But why? Has the need for short-term profits and the need for instant gratification on our Facebook feeds short-circuited our approach to brand building? In our need for speed have we become so lazy that we’re falling off track?

The chase for short-term marketing results is affecting brand’s abilities to focus on the long term. Marketers are using shortcuts to keep and attract consumers, which unfortunately results in consumers developing a lack of trust in brands’ owned channels. Two of these shortcuts are the use of one-off celebrity endorsements and neglecting the creation of data-led campaigns.

The Hong Kong market is saturated with examples of campaigns in which brands use celebrities in one-off exchanges as a way of driving engagement on social channels. This is somewhat shocking given that the 2016 Edelman trust barometer research reveals that in Hong Kong, only 36% of the general population trust information shared by a celebrity. That’s not to say that there isn’t value in a strategic and meaningful long-term brand-celebrity partnership.

However, these one-off exchanges are transactional, shallow and although they often bring a temporary spike in traffic, they give marketers false hope that long-term brand building can be done with short-term social media engagement.  The methodical building of a brand and its values is driven by great products/services and top-notch content.

Proving a tangible ROI also points to a larger problem across Hong Kong – the lack of data rigour. In my experience, very few brands demand robust analytics from their agency partners. Brands launch campaigns without clear business/sales/lead generation KPIs. Often, brands somehow believe metrics such as fans, likes or shares are sufficient. The problem is when brands do not demand robust analytics linked to business KPIs, then all but the most data-led agency partners become lazy. This lowers our market’s ability to compete with its regional and/or global peers.

Short-term and often lazy tactics, like using quick celebrity endorsements and non-data supported campaigns, is leading to a significant and damaging lack of trust in Hong Kong’s media landscape.  This lack of trust is impacting our market’s ability to compete.

Edelman trust barometer Hong Kong research indicates that a brand’s owned channels are the least trusted, by both Millennials and the general population, at 35%, when compared to social media (46%), search engines (52%), and traditional media (54%). It’s clear that trust in a brand's owned channels is necessary for a consumer to build brand affinity, loyalty and advocacy. Without this trust, there is a fundamental flaw in a brand’s ability to connect with its audience, convert customers, and in turn, build brands.

For Hong Kong to regain its marketing mojo, it must slow down and regain trust in brands, which can only happen through strategic campaigns that guide long-term brand building.

The writer is Andrew Ryder, strategy director of Edelman Digital North Asia.

Edelman is a member of the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong (CPRFHK).