Top marks for innovative YoHo campaign

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 October, 2004, 12:00am

Telling it like it is turns potentially dreary New Territories' apartments into lifestyle homes to be coveted

IN A PROPERTY-CRAZED CITY like Hong Kong, anyone who lives here must have seen thousands of ads selling properties. Most tell you no more than how big they are, what perks you get and how it makes you feel like you are living anywhere else but Hong Kong.

But imagine an advertising campaign for a property development that mentions little about the flats. It also makes no attempt to fool you that the flats get wafted by Mediterranean breezes. In fact, it tells you straight that you will be living in Yuen Long - a district near the border that gets a bad rap for being far away, old and unattractive.

That was what 'YoHo Town - Transforming Residential Property into a Lifestyle Brand', a marketing campaign by Sun Hung Kai Real Estate Agency (SHKP), was about.

'In the campaign, we didn't mention anything such as sizes of the flats or what furnishing was included. That was not the main point. Rather, we were brand-building, and we wanted to promote happy living,' said Edgar Yang, marketing director of Sun Hung Kai Properties. 'YoHo represents a new life to the New Territories.'

YoHo Town is a 10-year mega town project, which means the developer will not wash its hands of you after you have signed the contract. Rather, the project is about building a brand that has sustainable value.

Another unconventional aspect of YoHo Town and its campaign is that instead of denying its location in an underdeveloped district, it states that in the next decade this is where the young and hip will want to be.

Besides a decade-old mooncake maker and a restaurant that made the news for reviving the old-fashioned dish of 'steamed rice dressed in lard', Yuen Long very seldom is the talk of the town. Few want to visit, let alone live there.

But that is about to change, according to Mr Yang, and when all is done YoHo Town will 'compare to Times Square'.

The campaign also came at a time when the city's confidence and morale needed a boost.

'In May 2003 ... Sars caused consumers to withhold spending and investment. The adverse economic climate of the previous years has also created a sizeable backlog of unabsorbed units and a large number of negative equity property owners,' the proposal by SHKP said. 'YoHo Town needed to overcome these grossly negative factors ... to establish its visionary image and to demonstrate its faith in Hong Kong.'

One of the campaign's objectives was to 'rebuild consumer confidence in long-term property investment', and it is exactly this vision that has contributed to the campaign's victory in the award, according to chairman of the judging panel, Cheong Shin-keong.

The practical results of the campaigns were also impressive. It attracted what SHKP has called 'phenomenal press coverage', with more than 400 press reports about YoHo Town. More than 150,000 people have visited the sales office and more than 90 per cent of the 2,200 units have been sold. A record was also set last year, with 800 units sold on the opening day. It is especially remarkable given that it was not long after Sars.

The prices of YoHo Town units have averaged 10-15 per cent more than those of competitors' units. It shows that SHKP achieved another objective: to convince consumers of its commitment to nurture YoHo Town for the next decade.

Finally, the campaign also highlights an important factor of making a property development appealing: efficient transport links. With the West Rail connection, YoHo Town is easily accessible and a step closer to being the next best thing for the young, hip set.