The £1.6m “GREAT names for GREAT Britain” campaign is asking social media users in China to give Mandarin names to 101 locations and attractions across Britain such as The Shard, haggis and the Cotswolds in an effort to attract tourists to all regions of the UK.
Each week, ten themed items to be re-named will be released on Chinese social networks such as Weibo and WeChat with a call to action for users to enter their suggestions on VisitBritain’s “Love Wall”. The campaign will run for ten weeks and the final list will be revealed in March 2015.
Despite the fact that Chinese social media platforms require a new approach, VisitBritain is taking cues from the success of its other social pushes such as “Paddington’s Britain”, which encourages visitors to take their own selfies at locations around the country using the hashtag #PaddingtonsBritain. The campaign has resulted in roughly 107,000 entrants since its launch on 13 November.
The organisation has also launched a Tumblr page for Great Britain in an effort to create content on sites where people are already spending their time online.
Chinese people have positive perception of Britain
A report in September by market research agency HPI showed that after China itself, Britain is the country the Chinese perceive most favourably.
Joss Croft, marketing director for VisitBritain, told Marketing Week this campaign is largely about tapping into this insight by providing the Chinese with reasons to visit the country.
He also says the biggest challenge is getting tourists to explore all regions of Britain and not just London or larger cities.
“We wanted to increase positive perceptions, particularly of the countryside,” he says. “It’s about driving motivation and making people consider us as a destination.”
The UK saw 196,000 visits from China last year with £0.5bn spent, up 64% on the previous year.
Still, Croft says that while China is the top traveling population in the world, Britain is looking to grow its proportion of that travel with a goal of 650,000 visitors from China and £1bn spend from Chinese travellers by 2020.
Industry partners on board with new names
The campaign strategy comes from the fascination in Chinese culture with giving Mandarin names to things or people.
VisitBritain plans to work with Google to make the names “official” through Google maps, and the organisation hopes that local regions will embrace the names through translated signs and plaques.
“The industry is really getting behind it,” Croft says. “Our trade partners all have activity surrounding the campaign.
“If people like the names these items and places are given, hopefully they’ll use them in their own marketing collateral.”
A 90-second video and four 15-second spots, as well as print, out of home and digital media will support the campaign, while information on applying for a visa will be supplied through a partnership with UK Visas & Immigration and the Home Office, who partly fund VisitBritain.
VisitBritain on track to deliver four-year objective
Croft says VisitBritain are on track to deliver the four-year GREAT campaign objective of creating an additional four billion visitors to the UK and £2bn in tourism spend, with plans to launch the next activity for the campaign in the new year.
An annual review in October revealed that in 2013/2014, marketing activity had already delivered £1.8bn of this visitor spend target.
“We’re funded by the taxpayer, and we have to return on that,” Croft says.