Hello Prof and classmates!
Cliff, Yashanti and Dion here reporting on behalf of the State of Fun, Sentosa! *Salutes*
Here’s a quick summary of our presentation.
Building the Dragon’s Favourite Playground
Our client is the Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) which manages and promotes the attractions on Sentosa and the focus of our project was to expand its visitorship from amongst the Chinese tourist market.
How did we arrive at that focus? Well, we looked at the 2016 Singapore Tourism Board report which had a specific section on the Chinese market and were able to draw three main areas of growth potential that SDC could tap on and they are as follows:
Of course, the key ingredient that could make or break a marketing strategy is having a good understanding of our target audience. We discovered that…
- They are mostly novice travellers. The relaxation of travel laws and simplification of visa application mean that most Chinese are either embarking on outbound tourism for the first time (as opposed to in-country travels) or have only started to do so in recent years. Due to inexperience and fear of cultural barriers, they prefer group travel more strongly than experienced travellers.
- They are comfortable with technology and are social media-savvy. This, together with their collectivistic orientation means that word-of-mouth influence generated online spreads fast and strong.
- They have their own ecosystem of social media. Due to the great firewall of China, they have domestic versions of western social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
- They see tourism as “status travel”. Checking off iconic places, monuments and experiences is a kind of currency for social prestige that they seek to accumulate on their travels to facilitate social comparison within their social networks.
Do as the Chinese Do
At the heart of our marketing strategy is how to get Sentosa a spot on their checklists. Our social media strategy aims to build a distinct brand identity that is durable and easily recognisable. To do so, we have to (1) identify the right content, market them on (2) the right social media platform via (3) the right execution strategies.
The Right Content
SDC should portray Sentosa as a place for fun group activities. “Group” speaks to the Chinese’s collectivistic nature, especially for novice travellers who always move around in groups. “Activities” highlights Sentosa’s unique value proposition compared to most other tourist attractions. By giving them an opportunity to actively participate in activities with their friends and families rather than passively observe (at the zoo, for example) they can better create a travel experience that is unique to them, which would help to keep social comparison interesting and fresh.
Here’s an example of what the right content should look like:
The Right Platform
There are three key reasons why we identified Sina Weibo as the optimal platform to market Sentosa’s brand identity to the Chinese.
- Its overwhelming popularity as compared to all other native Chinese social media platforms;
- Its function as an aggregator allows SDC to circulate content on other Chinese social media networks via social logins
- Its unidirectional structure of relationships which allows for more honest and authentic conversations (users are allowed to repost, comment and like posts by others without prior need for mutual followership).
To increase searchability, we proposed that SDC adopt the shortest and most intuitive hashtag (#圣淘沙) to exploit Sina Weibo’s search engine algorithm. This serves to curate relevant content for potential Chinese visitors as well as drive traffic to SDC’s page.
The Right Execution
The last part of our recommendation is a two-part execution strategy to create buzz about Sentosa’s brand identity and drive traffic towards their content on Sina Weibo.
As a top-down approach, we proposed partnerships with influencers and we have three main reasons why we think it would work. First, it is a quick-fix way for SDC to boost its followership by tapping on their extensive networks. Second is that the Chinese cultural trait of respecting authority and valuing expert opinions would make them more inclined to trust the endorsement of an established appropriate influencer. And finally, most influencers gain their popularity by giving us an up-close look into their personal lives. This means that their content is usually more relatable and authentic, all closer to the brand identity that SDC should be trying to push.
To complement the influencer strategy, a social media contest is a bottom-up approach that seeks to create buzz by encouraging user-generated content from Chinese travellers who have been to Sentosa.
Besides expanding their followership and improving hashtag usage, the entry criteria would incentivise users to not only post but also share their content with their own networks to generate more votes for themselves. By extension, they would be helping to share Sentosa’s brand identity as well.
Evaluation and Future Enhancements
In considering the above-mentioned strategies as a whole, we acknowledge a lack in social media analysis specific to Sina Weibo. To figure out the consumption preference of Sina Weibo users (e.g. optimal video length), SDC either needs to invest in these analytical tools or gauge using trial-and-error.
As for the social media competition, we recognise the risk of poor participation rates. To mitigate this risk, SDC must pay close attention to the participation rate online. If numbers fall below expectation, they should roll out small incentives at Sentosa (e.g. free ice cream, free tram rides, etc.) to encourage visiting mainland Chinese tourists to post content of their visit with the appropriate hashtags.
Given that novice Chinese travellers will eventually transition into seasoned travellers with new sets of expectations and preferences. SDC needs to prepare a strategy that will cater to these behaviours. One avenue to do so is to engage them on travel websites such as Ctrip, Qunar, Ali Trip, and Maotuying.
Lastly, once we have built up a brand community, the next step would be to engage them. This will be done via WeChat and its functions which the Chinese are so accustomed to. Some future additions to WeChat may include itinerary planning, hotel bookings, restaurant reservations, transport solutions, and payments to create a seamless, unmatched experience.
That’s all for now!