Brand: Gong Cha Singapore
Agency: Huntington Communications
Taiwanese bubble tea chain Gong Cha temporarily exited Singapore in June 2017 when it did not renew their franchisee agreement, after being in the market since 2009. The brand's sudden exit and replacement of all 80 of its retail front by the previous franchisee to a 'Singapore Made' bubble tea brand sent both fans and the media into a frenzy. In the same period, six other new brands, entered with new variations featuring fresh fruit and unusual add-ons.
Gong Cha was quick to announce its promise to return "bigger and better" a week after exiting with the hope of keeping its fans. The brand's Facebook page attracted 20,000 followers after it was set up.
The brand had to deliver its promise of a "bigger and better" comeback and regain market share in the face of an increasing competition and the lack of prominent retail presence at the start.
- The Singapore market was saturated with big chain players offering similar range of tea products, as well as new start-ups entering with novelty selection which fans are willing to pay more for.
- As the brand re-entered the market under a new franchisee, there was a need to understand their target audience quickly to engage them.
- Difficulty in finding popular retail spots undermined the brand's promise to come back bigger and better.
- Fallout between principal and franchisee in the media weakened brand value.
Research and Insight
- Strong share of voice online by fans despite market absence
- A social listening exercise conducted found that Gong Cha's searchability still ranked high on Google Analytics. Fans led most of the discussion, sharing their preference for Gong Cha in comparison to offerings by other brands. Key words that were positively associated with the brand were captured for later use.
- The Gong Cha Facebook community remained highly engaged across the months in anticipation of the brand's return. The fans were suggesting locations and tea flavors that they would like to see return.
- Most bubble tea brands have kept to promotions and the launch of new flavours to engage with consumers
- Besides big chain player KOI who had extended its brand offerings to include a café concept, other brands sustained their popularity by developing new and unusual flavours and expanding their retail footprint.
- Bubble tea is perceived by consumers mainly as an order-to-go product with little touchpoints for bigger engagements.
- Retail brands in Singapore see a growing need to engage with their audience differently beyond product offerings to build brand loyalty in a cluttered marketplace.
- The F&B industry was undergoing two key transformations initiated by the Singapore government – healthier choice and cashless delivery
- The Singapore government launched a national agenda 'War against Diabetes' since 2016 in a bid to rally for the industry to join in the fight against the disease with Singapore having one of the highest incidences of diabetes among developed countries.
- 'Healthier Choice' became a big campaign ran by the food industry to develop lower sugar options, supported by Ministry of Health with a S$15m funding.
- Consumers are increasingly aware of their choices, and more F&B players are aligning product offerings and communications to encourage healthier choices.
Strategy and Execution
- 'Fans-First' engagement to build pre-launch hype: The social listening report pointed to a strong base of passionate Gong Cha fans, who were rooting for the brand's return. We decided to harness the fans' brand love on social media to spread excitement and build hype towards the re-launch.
- The two-week social media campaign teased fans to guessing / suggesting the location and tea flavors that Gong Cha should bring back. It was a platform to collect feedback and finetune the brand's launch offerings, and for fans to be part of the moment.
- 'Tag-a-friend' promotions were rolled out to grow the community organically for brand amplification.
- Social media posts were designed with millennial speak to keep brand relatable to its core target audience.
- Content roll out was bucketed based on timings that appealed best to the different demographics of fans e.g. corporates during weekday lunch.
- Location of Gong Cha's first store was unveiled on social media a day before opening, giving fans time to form and grow a queue, which drew in the crowd and hype.
- 'Top 10 Singapore Favourites' Media Preview: To re-ignite Singaporean's familiarity to Gong Cha, we organized a media drop of Singapore's Top 10 favorite drinks a day before launch. This gave media an opportunity to taste test and provide word-of-mouth assurance of the quality consumers can expect. The top 10 shortlist also provided a more focused approach for in-store and online promotions.
- Expanded beyond F&B media to include both traditional print and new online media for the media drop.
- Gong Cha's Facebook content mirrored the messaging leading up to the launch, encouraging fans to share their favourites. It became a source of content for the media to layer their coverage in anticipation of the return.
- Bigger and Better beyond Product Offerings: Gong Cha did not plan to return as just another bubble tea vendor. The brand's comeback was differentiated by successive announcements in a short period of six months, sharing plans on giving back to the community in various ways. That included the unveiling of a Gong Cha scholarship to provide new opportunities for F&B students; as well as the launch of 'Healthier Choice' options and cashless kiosks at National University of Singapore to drive a change in consumption habits through youths.
- Digital: Reached a total of 4.5 million eyeballs on digital and social media platforms ahead of the launch. Majority of the eyeballs engaged were youths and PMETs which was the key demographics Gong Cha was targeting.
- The Facebook community increased by 30%, growing its fanbase from 20,000 to 26,500 by the first week of launch.
- Every social media post garnered an average of 1,500 interactions per day.
- Over 90% positive product reviews across all media platforms
- Opening Day Traffic: More than 200 people were in line before the opening hour, and total footfall reached more than 2,000 people despite being located in a less prominent spot.