Lucky in Love? The Best and Worst of the 2020 Qixi Brand Campaigns

5 minute read

By Paul Hickey, Hot Pot Strategist

Each year, international brands are placing more emphasis on building value in China. Given the current global economic situation, many brands are going “all-in” to ensure the greatest return from Chinese consumers.

Qixi is arguably the biggest Chinese Valentine’s Day (yes, there is more than one of them in China). This Qixi saw more international brands than ever before participate in the local festival.

The results were mixed. From product flops to standout campaigns, we break down some of the successful and not-so-successful campaigns from Qixi 2020.

 

Balenciaga

Typically a favourite of Chinese consumers, Balenciaga’s Qixi campaign fell foul of the online masses. The brand debuted 4 variations of its popular Hourglass bag featuring the text ‘you love me’, ‘I love me’, ‘I love you’ and ‘he loves me’. The visuals for the campaign were decidedly early 2000’s, attempting to evoke a connection with China’s Gen Z who have recently tapped into the early 00’s aesthetic.

Many online comments indicated that the campaign looked strange and that the product itself was not compelling enough to justify its creation. Whilst the brand was trying to tap into a growing resurgence of early 00’s visuals, the campaign likely pushed it a little too far. Chinese consumers are putting more scrutiny on exactly how international brands are targeting them and Qixi is a key part of the China marketing calendar. It’s important that brands trial and sense check campaigns before going live.

 

Prada

Prada celebrated Qixi 2020 by releasing a collection of men’s, women’s and kids’ items featured in a video retelling of the Qixi story. The campaign was focused on the ‘mysterious power of love’ and consumers could purchase the exclusive products through Prada’s own .cn website, as well as its WeChat mini program.

For romantic festivals, brands will often focus heavily on driving female consumption, but Prada seized the opportunity to create a collection that included men, women and children. The retelling of the Qixi story was abstract and had an alluring artistic feel, while steering well clear of any culturally sensitive areas.

  

 

Cartier

For Qixi 2020, Cartier went with the theme ‘How far would you go for love?’. The brand created a video that featured lots of different types of relationships, from friends to couples, each wearing a Cartier ring. 

Throughout the video, 2 men can be seen riding bicycles through an urban environment. Given the context of the video and romantic nature of Qixi, the assumption of many was that it was a gay couple. While homosexuality is legal in China, there is still a level of social stigma around the topic, and as such being explicit as to the pair’s sexuality would represent bold move from a brand like Cartier in China.

However, when Chinese netizens visited the Cartier Tmall store, the image of the 2 men had been given a caption that named them as father and son. Many netizens were quick to comment that the men looked similar in age and the campaign text was quickly changed to say ‘father and son are like brothers’.

This aspect of the campaign has been heavily discussed on social media with many indicating that a positioning as father and son was surprising.

Whilst the campaign did indicate a progressive move towards a celebration of all different kinds of love, the execution clearly lacked clarity and as a result it generated unexpected debate and diluted the intended impact.  Cartier appear to have had different intentions when creative the video (father & son) that had to be rapidly adapted once the campaign met with a social audience (brothers). The change looks odd and ill considered.

 

La Perla

One from the Hot Pot China team.

For Qixi 2020, La Perla and Hot Pot focused on the dream-like aspect of the traditional Qixi story and reimagined the legendary heavenly bridge in the story as a rainbow. We collaborated with the renowned illustrator Julia Long to bring the visual aspect to life through a series of illustrations that mixed the rainbow colours of La Perla’s hero pieces with dream-like scenarios.

   

The brand utilised the imagery across social channels and developed campaign-centric packaging featuring the illustrations. One influencer represented each colour of the rainbow collection through their content and showcased that product alongside the campaign messaging. 

La Perla was able to showcase existing collections in a new light by featuring the product in hand-crafted illustrations and creating special edition packaging for Qixi. This elevation and association with art allows the product to play out in an elevated context to drive desire, engagement and commercial success.

 

Key Takeaway:

When it comes to creating campaigns for key Chinese festivals, brands need to ensure that their messaging is clear and appropriate for the market. When brands get it right, they can elevate the brand in China, generating both a short-term sales uplift and long-term brand affinity.

However, if they get it wrong, it can lead to a short-term negative backlash with longer term repercussions across sales, consumer perception, and brand equity. While not a Qixi Campaign, the recent Jo Malone / John Boyega incident highlights the hugely detrimental ramifications for a brand when a local campaign gets it wrong, very wrong.

It has always been best practice for China campaign planning and creative to be shaped by a relevant combination of local thinking as well as global brand planning. In all cases China creative needs to be sense-checked by the brand team, external partners and the team on the ground. Missing any one of these elements risks costly potential backlash.

Get in touch with us to find out how savvy strategic planning, campaign management and in-market support can help you make the most of the enhanced China opportunity.