McCann Worldgroup’s Cathay Pacific team scooped Hong Kong’s most prestigious marketing awards with their innovative campaign around Betsy, a craft beer with altitude
Spare a thought for the poor airline chefs next time you’re groaning over an unappetizing offer of chicken or fish at 35,000 feet. Most of us are unaware of the effort that goes into countering the impact of altitude, humidity, noise and cabin pressure on passengers’ palates – which can be impaired by up to 30 percent.
While some airlines try to adapt their food recipes to perk up the tastebuds, the team at McCann Worldgroup Hong Kong went a step further and brewed up a unique idea for their client Cathay Pacific: the world’s first beer tailored to taste best after the fasten seatbelt signs are turned off. So Betsy Beer, named after Cathay’s first aircraft, a 1946 DC-3, bubbled her way into existence.
As McCann Executive Creative Director Martin Lever explains, this wasn’t simply a way of improving the dining experience of first- and business-class passengers by tapping into the surging global popularity of craft beers.
“In the airline world, there’s a problem of perceived product parity. Innovative initiatives and engaging storytelling can help brands rise above this problem,” Lever says. “That’s exactly what Betsy Beer was designed to do.”
With help from a team of expert brewers, Betsy was tweaked for high-altitude. She’s about 10 percent fizzier than her sea-level rivals, adding what’s known in the food and beverage trade as “mouthfeel.” Betsy’s made from wheat and is unfiltered, which makes her tastier – and with higher levels of vitamin B to help kick that jaded feeling after a long-haul flight.
They combined Hong Kong honey and dragon fruit with Fuggle hops from Britain to marry flavors from Cathay’s home base with the beer’s U.K. launch destination.
Betsy proved an immediate hit with Cathay’s customers: the initial batch of 4,800 bottles ballooned to more than 50,000 after just one month.
Not a bad entree into the craft brewing world. And from a marketing standpoint, the returns were staggering. McCann estimates the beer generated media coverage worth more than 100 times the campaign budget, reaching an audience of more than half a billion people. The return from spending on advertising was also about 100 times, the company says. Crucially, three-quarters of customers surveyed said the beer enhanced the Cathay experience.
The campaign won McCann Worldgroup Hong Kong the Grand Kam Fan award at the HK4As – the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies in Hong Kong – late last year, as well as Kam Fan and a Gold in the Design & Crafts category. All of which garnered their client the prestigious Client of the Year title.
“We started a global conversation about Cathay’s premium offering and spirit of innovation,” Lever says. “And with so much earned media exposure, brand awareness got a real shot in the arm in markets where traditional spend is limited.”
Big Fish, Biggest Pond
Cracking the China conundrum: how to magnify your voice in the world’s biggest marketplace
It’s a problem every international brand faces in China’s massive market: how to get your name known, let alone talked about and valued. Fragmented, vast, often insular: Traditional marketing strategies can mean tossing bundles of money into a bottomless well.
When Cathay Pacific wanted to integrate and rebrand its Dragonair unit as Cathay Dragon its marketing team at McCann Worldgroup knew which way they had to turn, explains Executive Creative Director Martin Lever. “There’s only one way to capture imaginations across the whole of China if you have a minimal budget: think social!”
They found three engaged-to-be-married travel influencers from China’s top three social travel platforms and got them to compete for a chance to be married on a Cathay Dragon flight, have a reception in Cathay’s First Class lounge, and a honeymoon trip with Cathay Pacific. Then they invited the whole of China to take part through voting and user-generated content.
The campaign more than doubled brand awareness, with package sales 47 percent above target and earned media coverage valued at HK$2.6 million, McCann says. In addition, it generated 638 million hashtag impressions, and was the leading hashtag on Weibo’s travel category.
“By having a big emotive idea strategically amplified by the right social influencers across relevant platforms, we were able to ignite a massive conversation – and drive the levels of brand and product awareness that traditional advertising channels would have struggled to deliver,” says Lever.