Every October, public- and private-sector players in South Africa’s transport industry mark Transport Month with events such as seminars, conferences and trade shows. In 2019, the Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) decided it wanted to do things a little differently – while still engaging with the transport trade through the usual forums.
The idea was to launch an online competition to find a catchy nickname for a Gautrain passenger, in order to give riders a distinct persona and bring them closer to the brand.
Flow Communications, the GMA’s digital agency, was briefed to come up with a campaign strategy to drive this idea on social media, generate excitement and attract entries.
Flow was appointed earlier that year with a specific focus on driving lifestyle content on the Gautrain’s digital platforms (as opposed to operational content, which is handled by the GMA’s concessionaire, Bombela) and helping to position the Gautrain as a desirable, lifestyle-enhancing brand. The GMA was also keen to broaden its appeal to include a younger, millennial audience in its marketing and communications.
The GMA set KPIs of attracting 3 000 entries and reaching 150 000 people through the campaign. Flow quickly realised that in order to achieve the desired level of entries, we could not rely purely on an organic social media campaign; there would have to be paid media behind it, to drive entries, interest and participation.
In addition, there would need to be an attractive prize up for grabs to drum up interest and make the campaign a hit. Crucially, there would have to be a simple, no-frills and easily executable competition mechanic: invite people to comment on posts with their suggested Gautrain rider nicknames.
Being a government entity, the GMA could not put up a cash prize but decided to offer R10 000 worth of free Gautrain rides to the winner, plus four lifestyle experiences in Gauteng, offered by one of its tourism partners. There would also be spot prizes and Gautrain cards for the runners-up.
Flow devised a strategy for the #MyGautrain competition, so-named to give Gautrain riders a sense of pride and ownership over the train and the brand.
This strategy hinged on soliciting entries on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and via the Gautrain’s digital touchpoints (such as billboards and in-station screens), as well as Flow building a microsite (www.mygautrain.co.za) to house the competition details and the voting process.
The final – and perhaps the most vital – prong of the strategy was to make use of programmatic advertising and Google Ads to further boost entries and nominations by closely targeting likely entrants and driving them to the Gautrain’s social media channels and microsite.
Once content had been written, artwork designed, the microsite developed and everything set in motion, the #MyGautrain campaign took off like wildfire.
Initially, we built interest and anticipation by posting dynamic and static “Who am I?” images with silhouettes of Gautrain passengers. The posts then evolved into “filling in” these silhouettes with more detail, inviting people to suggest their own nicknames.
Once the entries were whittled down to the top 20 name suggestions, a public nomination process took place on the microsite. Finally, at an event at the Gautrain Sandton station, attended by the top 10 finalists and covered live on social media by Flow, the winning name was announced: “Gaumover!”
Promoted online, through out-of-home media and via radio live reads, the #MyGautrain competition exceeded expectations and attracted more than 3 700 entries and nominations – unprecedented for a Gautrain campaign of this nature.
The campaign had a combined reach of 12.6-million – almost 100 times more than had been set as a target. And, as intended, it involved members of the public – current and future passengers – coming up with a term for a Gautrain rider that the GMA can use in its marketing and communication efforts going forward.
All in all, it was an idea that ended up being vividly imagined and a strategy that was innovatively executed, not to mention great fun! Here are just some of the fun name suggestions (others included JoziRoller, GauBullet and Gautengaleng):
The strategy for the #MyGautrain online competition comprised a number of complex intersecting elements, which had never before been attempted on such a scale in the digital realm by the GMA or its partner agencies, and success depended on these elements all coming together seamlessly.
To meet the target of 3 000 entries and a reach of 150 000, the campaign required the development of content, artwork and a microsite, as well as ongoing community management and engagement to further boost participation. These elements were rolled out via the following platforms:
- Social media (organic and paid)
- Digital touchpoints
- MyGautrain website
- Paid media (online and broadcast)
- Prizegiving event with live rolling coverage
The primary aim was to celebrate the Gautrain commuter, and thank them for almost 10 years of loyal patronage, by asking them to, effectively, give themselves a catchy nickname to use going forward. In doing so, the GMA would involve its customers in a crucial aspect of its brand marketing.
It was also an opportunity to reward creativity and incentivise engagement with the Gautrain on social media through the handing out of prizes (some randomly, others on merit).
Equally, the intention was to build brand awareness and affection among infrequent or would-be riders, while cementing and rewarding the loyalty of existing riders.
Through the successful execution of the strategy, and almost 17 000 engagements during the three-week campaign period, the #MyGautrain campaign can be deemed a resounding success.
The content requirements for this campaign mainly comprised creating social media posts (see video for examples) for the duration, to support the artwork and to encourage people to enter, engage, nominate and comment.
Here is an example of one of the posts, with a link to the microsite entry (now disabled as the promotion has ended):
It’s as easy as 1-2-3 to win!— Gautrain (@TheGautrain) October 4, 2019
1. Come up with a catchy name for a Gautrain passenger.
2. Comment on this post, using the #MyGautrain hashtag.
3. Tag 3 friends to take on 4 amazing lifestyle experiences.
The social media, design and content teams at Flow were kept on their toes during the campaign and prior to its rollout, conceptualising and creating content that was sufficiently compelling to entice people to participate in the competition.
Furthermore, the development and writing teams at Flow had to put together the new MyGautrain microsite in record time and populate it with content around the competition.
Central to this campaign was effective community management and constant communications with Gautrain fans and followers, as well as undertaking live coverage of the name announcement ceremony.
The GMA is acutely aware that it has to continually adapt to its audience’s varying needs in order to serve them most effectively.
This includes doing more than merely posting content on social media to gain brand loyalty and trust – it needs to start genuine conversations, and be seen to be listening and responding, and to be on top of trends.
Among the digital trends the GMA is increasingly beginning to explore are video marketing, omnichannel marketing and delivering personalised marketing content. In this specific campaign, it demonstrated that the Gautrain is open to embracing these and other innovative marketing methods to build brand and ridership.
Specifically, the GMA was blown away by the exceptional results delivered by its automated programmatic advertising on the 24.com network – which delivered an exceptional click-through rate of 0.63% and more than 17 000 clicks to the competition page, far superior to (and far more targeted than) the Google Ads figures.
Programmatic advertising is where artificial intelligence is used to buy and place advertisements based on targeting algorithms. It’s estimated that by the end of 2020, 86% of all digital display ads will be bought through automated channels.
A major advantage of programmatic advertising is that it can take place in real time, putting more power in the hands of the advertiser.
Here is a summary of how the #MyGautrain campaign fared on social and digital media channels:
- 12 620 288 reach
- 39 092 clicks
- 3 726 entries and nominations
- 16 974 engagements
- 8 867 total website sessions
- 15 601 page views in October 2019
- Display advertising on the 24.com website – 2.7-million impressions
- 17 265 clicks to the competition page (KPI: 5 000 clicks)
- 0.63% click-through rate
- Total unique users: 558 034
- Google Ads – 9.4-million impressions
- 4 500 clicks to the competition page
- 0.05% click-through rate
- Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – 379 314 total impressions
- Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – 16 974 engagements
- Facebook page interactions grew by 240%
The simple metrics of reach (12.6-million) and competition entries (more than 3 700) alone, far outstripping KPIs, speak for themselves about the success of this competition.
The GMA successfully positioned the Gautrain as a fun, desirable, aspirational and dynamic brand among the primary target audience (audience analysis shows that the bulk of people exposed to the campaign were men and women aged 25 to 35, followed closely by those between the ages of 18 and 24), and consolidated its relationship with existing passengers.
It increased engagement substantially and rode a wave of largely positive audience sentiment throughout Transport Month.
It promoted a sense of ownership over the Gautrain and involved the public in coming up with a catchy nickname for themselves – Gaumover.
Such was the success and innovation of this campaign that a GMA executive used it in her presentation at the 2019 Global AirRail Awards in Austria, on how the Gautrain is responding to commuters’ needs in the digital age.