CFO World

Ovolo's latest campaign reflects onsite and digital investment into experience

Group head of marketing shares the brand vision behind the latest NFW campaign and the latest digital tech investments to improve customer engagement

Ovolo’s marketing chief says the group’s latest ‘No F***ing way’ campaign is the latest reflection of how the boutique hotel brand is evolving its ‘effortless’ experiences both onsite and digitally.

The latest ‘NFW’ campaign debuted earlier this month with a mix of above-the-line and below-the-line activity aimed at showcasing Ovolo’s new flexible cancellation and rates policies. Ovolo group director of marketing, Stephen Howard, said the three-month campaign is designed to introduce two new offerings while emphasising the brand’s commitment to making things more transparent for customers.

The new rate policy sees guests given back the difference should the price of their room drop between booking and check-in. The flexible cancellation policy, meanwhile, replaces the usual lost booking fee within 24 hours of a stay with a smaller cancellation and exchange fee.

Campaign execution includes advertising in Virgin’s Voyeur in-flight magazine, investment into search, PPC and display advertising, a digital information portal, and social awareness through both look-a-like audience targeting. Ovolo also uses a mix of influencers for both brand awareness and to foster user-generated content.


“It’s about making an impact – we want to make a statement while getting key information out around our brand propositions,” Howard told CMO. “The advertising is quirky, which we did on purpose, to show the eclectic mix of people coming to Ovolo properties.”

For example, the print advertising includes the tagline ‘NFW! All the freedom, none of the BS’. The hotel sites also utilise a mix of contemporary art and music as a brand trademark.

Howard said the NFW campaign was informed by a number of key mantras. One is that “happy guests are loyal guests”, while another is that “employee engagement is key to achieving happy guests”. In this vein, Ovolo has built out strong internal communications and training program, he said.  

The other brand pillar is a commitment to ‘effortless living’. To do this, Ovolo offers technologies such as Amazon Alexa voice-activated speakers and Apple TV in rooms, USB ports in its power plugs, and a range of staple signature ‘freebies’, such as free in-room mini bar and social happy hour, Wi-Fi, self-laundry, breakfast and 24-hour gym access.

Ovolo was established by Hong Kong-based founder, Girish Jhunhjunwala, in 2010.

“By listening to our guests, one common theme kept arising, and that was ‘freedom’,” Jhunhjunwala said in a statement. “We believe hotel guests deserve to feel a sense of freedom during their stay -  freedom to enjoy Wi-Fi, to eat and drink their mini-bar dry, to switch or change a booking if needed without the stress, and to know they will always get the best rate.”

Howard said the NFW campaign was already recording wins, with a year-on-year rise in online engagement and prospects spending an average of two-and-a-half minutes on its supporting ‘efftherules’ site.

“Digital is a key funnel for hotels, as direct site bookings is a key strategy for all hotel businesses,” Howard said, adding the ultimate measures of success are an increase in direct client bookings as well as improvements in sales revenue.

Alongside the campaign launch, Howard said Ovolo has made a number of fresh digital investments, all aimed at making digital experiences easier for customers. One of these is an artificial intelligence-based bot, which has been trialled across a couple of its hotel sites and will launch across all sites this week.

“We’re seeing great conversion rates with the bot, with more than 80 per cent who engage ending up booking at our properties,” Howard noted. “We’ve also recently changed our booking widget to make it easier for customers, and we have a real-time view of our competitors in the marketplace. This is not just other hotels, but also online travel agents, so we can see where we’re being undercut and can rectify those situations.

“We’re putting a lot of effort into the website journey to make that effortless as well and make it easier for customers.”

The Ovolo hotel group incorporates four hotels in Hong Kong plus six in Australia. Last year, the group also launched a new brand, Mojo Nomad, with its first properties in Hong Kong and Scotland and plans for an Australian launch soon.

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