When Ocean Park launched their Halloween Bash in 2003, they already had a strong product and marketing plan. However, they also needed to convince consumers to buy into the Halloween experience and see Ocean Park as the venue at which to do so. In other words, they needed to create a brand.
"There is a big difference between a product and a brand," says Royce Yuen, managing director of Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, the company selected by Ocean Park as partner for the campaign. He explains, "A product is something that has been created or manufactured, but a brand is something the consumer actually chooses to buy. For example, when you choose to buy Coca-Cola, it is the Coke brand that you choose to buy, not just the sugar and water that make up the product."
Professional, patient and willing to listen
Ogilvy & Mather's account management team set about understanding the product and defining Ocean Park's needs. The "International Spirit Convention" event had been planned around a variety of Halloween attractions, including four haunted houses, a Scary Zone and a kids' attraction called "Pumpkins for Munchkins". However, Ocean Park is a well-established leisure attraction and most Hong Kong residents know what to expect if they go there. Even with such a unique product, the marketing team therefore needed to persuade people to revisit and experience Ocean Park in a new way.
"Our job was to rejuvenate the Ocean Park brand," says Mr Yuen. "The existing brand was about education, nature and excitement, so we focused on re-emphasising the concept of excitement." The strategic planning team worked on the idea that "the less you know [about the International Spirit Convention] the scarier it is and the more fun you'll have", and used their in-depth knowledge of consumer behaviour to create the angle, "Go to Ocean Park International Spirit Convention if you dare".
It is this ability to see a product from a customer's point of view that underpins a successful campaign. "Consumers are not just wallets on two legs," comments Mr Yuen. "As marketers, we need to understand their behaviour and motivation in order to encourage them to buy."
The media planning team worked out the best mix of media through which to communicate the brand concept. They chose a wide range of media, including interactive cinema adverts, in which an actress placed in the audience appeared to respond to the advert by running out of the audience screaming with fear. They also chose to broadcast TV adverts late at night, to better target the teenage audience and reinforce the fear factor.
It was then up to the creative team to build tools through which to communicate the brand angle. Art directors created graphic images such as the ouija board and ghostly portraits, and copywriters generated the text. They worked together to create integrated text and visuals which encouraged consumers to imagine they were communicating with spirits "on the other side" and built a sense of fear, excitement and anticipation. The results were spooky. For example, adverts placed beside MTR escalators generated ghostly apparitions which flashed momentarily in front of commuters' eyes, before disappearing again into the advert.
Finally, the concepts were brought to life by the production team, which created print, radio, TV and cinema adverts. There were also karaoke promotions, a mini web-page offering downloads of a ghostly "Screamsaver" and online games; and visual promotions such as in-park decorations.
Mr Yuen says that a successful marketing campaign is one that satisfies the consumer better than the competition could. In this case the consumer wanted a more exciting experience at Ocean Park. With anticipation built to fever pitch and an innovative product, the campaign generated record sales - proof that brands can be created for all manner of products, even ghosts.
Entering the field
Many fresh graduates see marketing as a glamorous career choice. However, Royce Yuen of Ogilvy & Mather is quick to point out that many aspects of the job can be tedious, particularly in the early years. To succeed, marketers really need to want to work in a creative environment. Mr Yuen explains, "Brands emerge through consideration of both hard data and intangible ideas. The process involves continuous negotiations and many disagreements. You have to be very professional, patient and willing to listen, whilst being assertive enough to present your own ideas."
Nonetheless, for those who are determined, there are a number of entry-level options. Graduates with a business or marketing degree might enter the field as an in-house marketing assistant and participate in marketing activities or research. Other options include joining an advertising agency as an account executive, where strong client relationship skills and business sense are key.
Also, within agencies, junior art directors or junior copywriters are likely to have specialist training in design or languages and literature. Strategic planners tend to build on a background in psychology or research and media planners utilise their numeracy skills and negotiation experience. However, producers tend to gain experience in TV and film production, or publishing, before joining an advertising agency.