Updated: Jan 31, 2022
The Huat Pals frenzy has been completely unprecedented – we’ve seen countless memes, desperate pleas from friends over our Instagram stories, and even listings on Carousell. If you and your friends have been on the hunt for Google Pay’s BaoBao (2022's BB Loh), you’ve all been played. There’s only one winner from the craze, and that’s Google Pay. They have single-handedly pulled off one of the most extensive user acquisition campaigns our country has ever seen. So, how did we all end up on this wild goose chase for BaoBao?
In this article, find out how Google designed the User Experience for Huat Pals for the sole purpose of gaining virality.
“Wa, where can I get A FREAKING BaoBao (2022's BB Loh) ?”
The frustration is real. BB Loh has been one of the trending topics on social media in February 2021. Who was this elusive BB Loh, and why is everyone looking for him/her?
Come 2022, we're out with the old and in with the new. The allure of BBLoh is replaced by a new star in town - BaoBao.
I remember back when Google Pay (G Pay) started taking off in Singapore in 2021, Google was extremely generous with its monetary incentives through different cashback schemes to acquire more users. We saw more excitement this Chinese New Year as Google saw a good opportunity to shower us with even more wealth (but really, there’s no such thing as a free lunch – we’ll get to that below).
The sight of this still brings me pain a year later
BB Loh... it's not you, it's me (LOOKING FOR BAOBAO NOW!)
Introducing ‘Huat Pals’ – a social game built into G Pay where you can win virtual angpows ranging from S$8.88 to S$88.88. New and existing G Pay users can play 'Huat Pals' with friends and family for a limited time between 4 to 26 February 2021. The goal of the game was simple: collect all five characters called Huat Pals (Lenny, RaRa, Ah Hua, Neo and BB Loh), and you'll earn a guaranteed angpao worth anywhere between S$8.88 to S$88.88.
And that was basically how the inhabitants on the Little Red Dot had been on a wild goose chase to find Huat Pals. From a UX standpoint, this examination of G Pay’s Huat Pals draws on some fascinating insights on human behaviour and smart marketing tactics.
In 2022, we see 5 new characters: Tiggy, Mala, Reddy (really just Lenny 2.0), Ah Lai (really just Ah Hua 2.0) and BaoBao. We're graced by the OG of course, BBLoh.
How did Huat Pals become such a huge trend in that short span of time? Why is it important for Google to be so aggressive in its user acquisition?
Let’s do a deep dive into Google’s marketing campaign with Huat Pals and how it was designed to be the talk of the town.
Case Study: #StampwaliDiwali – G Pay’s successful venture in India
A familiar sight for Huat Pal fanatics
Google first made its foray into digital payments in 2015 as Android Pay. One of the most successful case studies for Google Pay was its widespread adoption in India. Google Tez ("Tez" is the Hindi word for "Fast”) was officially launched in India in September 2017. Within 37 days of launch, the app had over 8.5 million installations. A large part of G Pay’s success in India can be attributed to Google’s extensive efforts of working together with key local ecosystem players and focusing primarily on small businesses. In 2017, these small businesses formed the bulk of G Pay’s immediate customers as existing payment solutions needed users to go through the trouble of verifying – something which G Pay bypassed. The product was also immediately interoperable with other applications, making it a seamless integration into the ecosystem.
During Deepavali in 2019, G Pay India launched a campaign that quickly gained traction across the nation. The gameplay works like this: Upon collection of all 5 Diwali-themed stamps, users win a guaranteed 251 Indian rupees (About S$4.50) and stand a chance to win 1 lakh Indian rupee (About S$1815). Users stand a chance to win a stamp by transacting on the platform. With such a large pot of money for grabs, the game naturally generated a lot of word of mouth and sent their users scrambling high and low to collect stamps, especially for the rare Rangoli and Flower stamps. This gave users a chance to rally together with peers and family who were on the hunt for stamps that were more scarce.
Does that ring a bell?
The design and success of #StampwaliDiwali seemed to have inspired our G Pay Singapore’s Huat Pals in Singapore. What Google has demonstrated beyond its mammoth financial reserves to undertake such projects, is its creativity to understand and maneuver nuances in cultural differences. Even though Google was a company based in the US, they managed to localise the campaigns successfully.
In India, the campaign was launched during India’s Festival of Lights, while in Singapore, it was launched during Chinese New Year.
G Pay India used popular Diwali motifs as the main visuals for the stamps, while G Pay Singapore similarly characterized their Lunar New Year symbols that seemed tailored for Singapore audiences.
The winning prize money for G Pay India’s campaign was Rs. 251, where the additional 1 after a round figure was considered auspicious in Hindu culture. The angpows in Singapore were given in permutations of 8, an auspicious number in the local context of the occasion.
The successes of gamification have been widely documented in psychology journals. The goal of embarking on such campaigns is to build product loyalty and increase their user base.
Researchers have found that gamification can incentivize and motivate people, as well as enhance their perception and engagement. #StampwaliDiwali started in 2019. It’s not clear why Google decided to run this campaign since G Pay India had already established its clear dominance in the market. But my humble guess is that Google wanted to break into other markets. With #StampwaliDiwali, G Pay started trending on various social media channels throughout India – reaching more users through their extended network. The publicity that #StampwaliDiwali drummed up was the kind many firms could only ever dream of. It was a move that augmented their position as the market leader.
Understanding G Pay’s UX design – a payment experience designed around relationships
Strangely personable, but it's all very much calculated on G Pay's end