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Zeman shares recipe for Halloween success

After attracting more than 750,000 visitors last year, Ocean Park has big shoes to fill for 2013.

The annual event has served more than 4 million guests over the past 13 years and it’s not hard to see why.

Aside from innovative themes and well-planned strategic marketing each year, the event remains culturally relevant to the local market.

“It is very important for Halloween to be close with local culture,” said Allan Zeman (pictured), chairman of Ocean Park.

“The first year when we started Halloween we didn’t really concentrate on the local culture, there were mainly American ghosts.

“I have come to realise that local people are very superstitious and somehow they loved to be scared by the local culture. They really believe in their own ghosts and ghost stories that they can hardly get scared by the ghosts from other cultures.”

“So the whole format was shifted ever since. People really get scared but they keep coming back.”

In order to resonate with locals, this year’s Halloween Fest has turned to local actress Helena Law, known for her roles in horror movies, to be the host of one of the attraction.

“Hong Kong people like to see local stars in the event as well as to experience local ghost stories. I believe bringing in Helena Law help draw more Hong Kong people to join this year Halloween Fest,” added Vivian Lee, director of marketing at Ocean Park.

For years, the park has placed a heavy focus on blogger engagement on its marketing exercise. But recent evidences have shown a tremendous shift of users’ preferences to social media, especially when Yahoo recently terminated its Blogging system.

Although the outmoded media is fading, it doesn’t seem to concern Zeman much.

“The wonderful thing about the internet is it can never be blocked. When one media is blocked, another media will raise,” he went on pointing out that social media is believed to continue to grow in the further and it will also be a core focus for the Halloween events.

“In marketing, if you don’t use social media today, you are dead.”

It has become a very important media for us not just for Halloween but for every attraction.

We generally would spend around 20% to 25% of our budgets on social media marketing but is now going up to 40% to 50%. This is a very important media since it is able to reach out almost everyone”.

Lee said the success of social media has mainly been due to stories and feeds.

“We keep generating posts of stories about our animals and events to engage social media users. We try not to be so pushy on commercial so that audience would like to follow news and feeds on our Facebook page”.

This year marks the park’s first attempt to extend the event’s opening hours to a 12 hour full day event, targeting also families and children. Some 16 attractions have also been divided into three scary levels to cater to all age groups.

Zeman said: “In the past, the time you could spend in the event was limited, only one segment in the market was served – Young adults, who join the event for excitement. Families wanted to come but they were afraid. So this year we try to change the format to make it a all day event in an attempt to cater to different needs.”

After the extension of time, Zeman estimates around 25% of this year visitors will be families with children while around 60% will be young-adults. “This year we have something for everyone. It will be a very interesting experiment but I am sure it will be very successful”.

Ocean Park is expecting an attendance of 800,000 for the event this year.

The Halloween Fest will run throughout October.

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