How Hostelworld, Google Zoo and Lucky Generals got the world talking

Hostelworld, Google Zoo and Lucky Generals helped young people staying in hostels to communicate more easily by adding a clever bit of functionality to the Hostelworld app. The work won the Power of Partnership category at Campaign's Marketing New Thinking Awards, held in association with Sky Media.

The Speak the World Google Cloud translation feature made the app user instantly fluent in up to 43 languages, perfectly expressing Hostelworld’s core benefit of helping travellers connect.

To make this new functionality famous Hostelworld put it to the ultimate test. People say that humour doesn’t travel, so it sent the comedian Phil Wang to Indonesia to try to make the locals laugh in a language he didn’t speak.

Communication matters

Modern marketing is all about collaboration, but sometimes actually doing it can feel hard. Clients, agencies and media partners all seem to have different agendas and communication between them is blocked by politics and bureaucracy.

This case study shows collaboration doesn’t need to be like that. It’s the story of how a client, a tech titan and a creative agency all made the effort to speak one another’s languages, so they could help young travellers do the same.

It proves the key to unlocking collaboration is simple communication.

Speak the World generated 183 pieces of coverage across 15 markets with a combined reach of 561 million. It vastly exceeded the KPI set for views of the promotional video, and smashed targets on app installations. Acquisition costs plummeted more than 300%, dropping from €4.3 per app install to a mere €1.2.

Thanks to this innovation, and the conversations it took for these partners to implement it, well over a million new conversations have been started between strangers who don’t speak a common language.

A brand that wants to help young people ‘Meet the World’

Hostelworld is the of hostels. Travellers can use the Hostelworld mobile app to research and book a place at more than 33,000 properties around the world.

The real selling point of hostels is their friendly, social, open environments. When you stay in a hostel you meet likeminded travellers from all over the world who will gladly share tips on what to see in the local area and advice on where to go next.

This uniquely social experience has given rise to Hostelworld’s brand purpose and endline – to help young travellers "meet the world". As an entrepreneurial brand, it is always looking for new ways to do this.

Which is where Google comes in.

A company that loves to focus on user problems

In late 2016, five Google employees went to stay in a hostel.

They noticed that, while the hostel was a friendly melting pot of different nationalities, there wasn’t as much conversation as there could have been – because people simply didn’t speak one another’s languages.

They also noticed that every traveller had a smartphone with them.

So they thought: "What if we could use mobile technology to help start more conversations? In fact, what if we could use Google Translate to make travellers instantly fluent in over 20 languages?"

It was an interesting idea, but without a big advertising budget to promote such an innovation, how would people hear about it?

A third partner was needed.

An agency that loves a challenge

Lucky Generals is Hostelworld’s agency and has a history of creating engaging, shareable work for the brand.

It was only too happy to get behind the nascent translation idea and think about a way to make it famous, without having to spend a fortune.

Communication, communication, communication

Working together as a cross-functional team, Hostelworld, Google and Lucky Generals pushed the Speak the World project forward.

Communication between the three partners was key. Phone lines were always open and emails exchanged daily. They also ran collective workshops, briefings, and weekly status calls to ensure that every partner understood what the others were up to and to work through key decision points during the project.

Importantly, these conversations weren’t just happening at a strategic level, but at a technical one as well. Hostelworld’s product designers, Google’s engineers and Lucky Generals’ producers were as much a part of the conversation as the marketing managers, creatives and account people.

The fruits of the partnership

In May 2017, the Speak the World feature went live on the Hostelworld app.

The user experience was elegantly designed to help young travellers start a conversation in any one of 43 languages, in as few steps as possible. It was extremely easy to select the two languages users would converse in.

All the user had to do then was speak into the phone, which would automatically translate into the other language. It enabled two users to see the screen from opposite sides so they could place the phone between them as they talked.

And to help travellers really break the ice the feature had an optional ‘talking mouth’ interface so they could hold up the phone and appear to speak the language for real.

To promote Speak the World a demo video was needed, but it had to be able to earn attention and shares. It couldn’t be a dry functional affair.

So, what’s famous for not translating between cultures and languages? Humour.

To prove this was no longer the case Hostelworld sent comedian Phil Wang to Indonesia, armed only with the app, to see whether he could make the locals laugh.

The result was a video that was seeded with online publishers, posted and boosted on Hostelworld’s social channels and even broken up into cost-effective trailers on YouTube and Snapchat. 

The Results

The results of this initiative have shown just how powerful communication between different marketing partners can be.

Speak the World generated 183 pieces of coverage across 15 markets with a total potential reach of 561 million people, according to Hostelworld PR tracking.

Hostelworld targeted five million views but achieved 13.7 million, according to its own social tracking, almost tripling its KPI.

And what about installs of the Hostelworld app – the key measurement of success for an online business?

Hostelworld says its acquisition costs for new app installs plummeted more than 300%, from €4.3 to a mere €1.2.

Arguably the most important statistic is that there have been more than 1.25 million clicks on the microphone so far. That’s 1.25 million conversations between strangers that could not have happened without the ones between Hostelworld, Google and Lucky Generals.

It’s all about communication

This is a story about the power of communication – not just between young travellers, but also between different marketing partners.

By taking the time and effort to learn one another’s language, they enabled hundreds of thousands of Hostelworld customers to do the same.

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