HK Express was founded in 2004, initially serving regional destinations in China. In 2013, it was relaunched as Hong Kong’s only Low Cost Carrier (LCC), with ambitions to connect the city’s residents to destinations across the Asia Pacific region, from Phuket to Tokyo for less.
They approached Saffron to reposition themselves, to leverage their brand to compete on more than just price within the competitive airline sector.
- Brand Design
- Verbal Identity
- Visual Identity
- External Brand Activation
- Digital Design
From low cost to lifestyle enabler
HK Express’ brand was associated with low prices. However, as the airline industry has converged, full service carriers have reduced prices and it has become more important to have a strong brand to differentiate in the market. HK Express’ team recognised an opportunity to reposition the brand, shaking off its reputation of being simply a seller of cheap seats, and instead capturing the imagination of 18-34 year old customers, tapping into the social status associated with travel.
Saffron perfectly understood the challenges and delivered on ideas and execution. Their ideas and energy blew us away. The level of professionalism, quality of work, responsiveness and, most importantly, the people – I could not have asked for more.
Eric Thain, Chief Marketing Officer
Defining the customer
To create a brand idea that was relevant to customers and to develop a positioning that could differentiate them in a crowded regional market, we undertook extensive research into the customer and competitor landscape.
We carried out a qualitative ethnographic study across Hong Kong, Japan and the Pearl River Delta to uncover what drives customers across the region, their needs and desires. Quantitative research then enabled us to measure the competition and create a map of the market that revealed opportunities for differentiation.
Customer personas and messaging
To ensure the brand was relevant to the target traveller, Saffron built customer profiles based on the insights gathered from the ethnographic and quantitative research in key markets. These personas gave HK Express insight into their customer’s lives allowing them to shape their service around potential customers.
Furthermore, the personas informed messaging territories that pinpointed how to communicate to customers with different needs, to ensure the brand was consistently relevant. Our local partner Labbrand helped us ensure the work resonated with the local market.
Spirited by adventure
Insights from the ethnographic research revealed that customers saw travel as a life essential; an escape from the ordinary, an opportunity to discover new places, cuisines and cultures, and HK Express was seen as an ‘adventurous’ brand. This formed the cornerstone of the brand idea, ‘Spirited by Adventure’, reflecting the fact that HK Express connects people with unique travel experiences across the region.
The brand idea was designed to inspire customers to take adventures and staff to maintain the airline’s pioneering mindset. It also inspired the updated visual identity, built on breaking down adventures with HK Express to their most fundamental component: a journey from A to B.
As a brand that earned the majority of its revenue through digital channels – the online store and app – the design needed to work seamlessly across digital touchpoints. Saffron updated the identity to ensure that it supported the brand idea, promoted spontaneous adventure through the simplicity of its interface, whilst reflecting the quality of the service.
Finally, Saffron developed a new tagline for HK Express. The old tagline, “Hong Kong’s low-fares airline” was symbolic of the price-focused brand that it had become. To deliver on the strategy and shift perceptions the tagline needed to change. We honed a new tagline that embodies the brand idea; ‘Your Move’. Designed as a provocation to spark spontaneous adventures, it feeds the traveller’s desire to explore and experience. The tagline is a strong expression of the newly positioned HK Express.
Bringing the brand to life
Saffron designed touchpoints that could bring the brand to life, throughout the customer’s interaction with the brand. Throughout the customer journey, from promotional campaigns to airport wayfinding, HK Express aims to provide a seamless experience.
With a brand articulated from thorough research they can now be confident it will resonate with customers. Powered by an up-to-date digitally-centric visual identity, they can empower spontaneity and inspire adventure in their millennial customers.