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

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.



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 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.




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.

What Pandemic? 3 Ways to Remain Relevant with Chinese Travellers in 2020

What Pandemic? 3 Ways to Remain Relevant with Chinese Travellers in 2020

4 minute read

By Paul Hickey, Hot Pot Strategist


2020 has been a tough year for a number of reasons and no one could have predicted the long-lasting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. As markets around the world went into lockdown, brands felt the immediate impact of store closings and a dramatic drop in international travel. However, as home markets around the world begin to open, many brands are seeing that sales still haven’t returned to pre-Covid levels.

A primary factor for many brands, particularly in the travel and luxury sectors, is the absence of Chinese tourists, who are opting to stay in China and not spend their money abroad. Even as international travel restrictions have eased, domestic China travel is a continuing trend. 

More Chinese travellers are staying closer to home, looking at driving tours or destinations reachable by train. Those willing to travel by plane have fixed their sights on the tropical island of Sanya or the province of Yunnan. 

International travel definitely remains on the agenda for Chinese consumers but safety is their number one priority. Reports indicate that young travellers and those without children are likely to be the first to travel outside of mainland China. 

Given these hesitations to travel and therefore to spend abroad, how can brands ensure they remain relevant to Chinese consumers?

"Get Closer" Through Digital Experiences

Chinese travellers look set to follow the ‘revenge spend’ trend with ‘revenge travel’. Destination choices are likely to be driven by how countries responded to the pandemic and how ‘safe’ they are deemed. Perception about a country’s safety seems to have a strong correlation with the reopening of schools and government announcements about the pandemic.

There are many ways to connect with consumers to ensure that you remain top of mind when travel opens up again. This summer, the Hot Pot China team helped Covent Garden to remain connected with Chinese travellers, even though they were unable to visit. Through an H5 microsite that is available on both WeChat and Weibo, users could create their own personalised postcard and anyone who entered their details had the chance to win gifts from tenant brands such as Charlotte Tilbury and Godiva.

The site featured beautiful hand-drawn illustrations by a Chinese illustrator - giving a creative and culturally relevant angle to the digital assets.

Your brand or destination can remain relevant with Chinese consumers by allowing consumers to connect in meaningful ways through digital platforms.

Covent Garden's Interactive H5 Site, developed with a London-based Chinese illustrator

Agile Store Selection

As domestic travel has boomed, hotspots in China have emerged. Shanghai and Beijing have remained popular but other destinations have also come to the fore. Chongqing, Sichuan, Zhejiang and Jiangsu have boomed in popularity. Yunnan has seen a huge increase in interest given its reputation for clean, fresh air and lots of outdoor activities. 

Sanya has also remained a popular destination and this has seen a bumper year for its duty free stores. Between July 1 and August 18, sales across all duty free stores in Sanya exceeded RMB 5 billion ($720 million), a YoY increase of 250%. Brands should assess and be able to move quickly in determining which locations in China are most suitable for opening new stores or even pop-up retail locations.

Haitang Bay Duty Free Shopping Center, Sanya, Hainan Province, China

Focus on Communities

Chinese communities outside of mainland China still represent a large opportunity for non-China based businesses. It’s important to remain in active communication with these audiences through local channels. 

Beyond that, brands should focus on building communities with which they can have closer connections, not only to drive potential revenue, but also to learn and understand how they can adapt their business to attract more potential consumers. Chinese students are a practical example, given that many still remain in locations around the world and have not been financially impacted by the pandemic.


In Conclusion…  

This year has been challenging for many reasons, and business must remain agile in their approach to reach core audiences, even if they need to find new ways to stay connected with those consumers.

To reach Chinese consumers that are increasingly stay in China and travelling domestically, brands can:

  • Employ digital experience on relevant platforms to create virtual yet meaningful connections with consumers and remain top of mind
  • Consider pop-ups or new stores in locations in mainland China that are seeing increased footfall with target Chinese consumers
  • Focus on local communities, both as a potential revenue source and to gain valuable insights into how to adapt and remain relevant in 2020 and beyond


At Hot Pot China we partner with forward-thinking brands on their China activity. We guide our clients in maximising ROI from their short, medium and long-term marketing activity in China, as well as executing the same in-market.

Contact Hot Pot China to discuss how our team of China specialists can help realise greater value in your brand, digital and eCommerce initiatives.

Realising Value with China’s Digitally Engaged Football Fans

Realising Value with China's Digitally Engaged Football Fans

5 minute read

By Michael Paradiso, Hot Pot Client Director


Chinese football fans are the most digitally engaged in the world, and European football leagues and clubs have been creating experiences exclusively for them.

For years, the top European clubs have steadily been building a presence in China and battling for share of voice and mind. Yet in a market where no club has home field advantage, clubs have to engage fans in other ways, in an attempt to build loyalty.

In recent years, an increasing number of clubs have taken part in pre-season tournaments in China and hosted events in major cities throughout the country. However, the Covid-19 pandemic abruptly halted those events and forced clubs to innovate. 


The Size of the Prize

Why should football clubs - or any major sports team or league - focus on Chinese fans? In short, there is immediate untapped potential as well as significant long-term growth opportunities.

Although China is still a developing football market, it is nevertheless attractive to clubs and sports brands. There are 237 million Chinese who consider football to be their ‘favourite sport,’ and 308 million Chinese consumers watch football ‘at least once a week.’

Admittedly, Chinese football fans spend less than their European counterparts. Chinese fans spend on average £15 per year, compared with German fans who spend £160 (€178) annually on merchandise, tickets, and TV.

While the average spend per person is significantly lower, the potential size of the Chinese football market is about nine times greater than the German market, and the average spend per person is expected to grow as the number of affluent households in China rises. As a result consumers are increasingly trading up across key categories.


A Digitally Engaged Fan Base

Even more than fans in the UK and Brazil, Chinese football fans are the most digitally engaged fans in the world.

Chinese fans are the most active on social media, with 57% posting memes, video clips and images online, compared to an average of 40% across the other countries surveyed in The Modern Football Fan report from COPA90.

The Chinese fans are also the most active on forums and group chats, with 43% chatting regularly to other fans. By comparison, only 29% of US fans, 31% of UK fans and 38% of Brazilian fans are active on forums and group chats. 

Additionally, more than half of Chinese fans (52%) regularly play football-related computer games.


How to realise commercial returns on the investment

Leagues and Clubs must invest time and financial resources to build their brand and grow an engaged fan base in China. Many sports organisations have set up Chinese social media channels and have a basic fan acquisition strategy. They may even have a local team headquartered in China or more often, southeast Asia. Yet many clubs struggle to monetize that initial investment, largely because they lack a strategic plan for doing so.

The biggest mistake that we observe at Hot Pot is that clubs will acquire fans by the bucket-load and expect that high numbers of impressions leads directly to monetization. More often than not this is proven not to be the case due to shortcomings in a few key areas.

1) Firstly, clubs must develop a unique proposition for Chinese fans. While star players and the culture of the club’s home city can certainly be a draw, players get traded and many fans may never visit the city in question, so there needs to be a deeper, more meaningful connection. What are the core values and timeless themes of the club that are likely to resonate with Chinese fans on a deeper level?

2) Once established, clubs need to focus on targeted fan acquisition through engaging digital content. Align the content with the unique proposition. Focus more on the quality of fan compared with the quantity of fans. Quality fans will have greater loyalty, higher engagement and ultimately will spend more per person.

3) Drive loyalty through CRM segmentation and re-targeting. Build sub-communities and enable fans to share their knowledge and learn about their players and the club. 

Only once the brand and community has been properly established, should clubs turn the focus to monetization. 

One revenue source is to sell directly to fans. Engaged fans will want the latest authentic kit and will spend to take part in exclusive events (offline or digital). Merchandise accounts for 50% of all spending from Chinese football fans.

Another key revenue driver is for media rights. An engaged fan base gives teams and leagues greater leverage when negotiating media rights. One example is the current 3-year deal between the English Premier League and China’s PPTV. Signed through the 2021-2022 season, the deal is worth £564 million over three years. The agreement represents a 12x increase over the previous contract.

A final revenue source is by creating rights holder value. In exchange for higher fees, clubs give sponsors access to saleable assets on digital properties, exposure rights at events, brand rights in China, and player rights for influencer endorsements. A report revealed that two-thirds (65%) of Chinese football fans intend to buy products from a football club’s official sponsor.


The Impact of Covid-19

In response to cancelled events in China and postponed matches back home, clubs have had to find innovative ways to connect with fans. These are some of the best examples of how clubs engaged their fans, and likely attracted new fans in the process.

In April, Chelsea live-streamed a digital interactive show, dedicated for Chinese fans, on Weibo and Douyin, that had 7.5 million views and 2 million hashtag reads. 

The two-hour broadcast featured historical footage, special guests, a musical performance, influencers, giveaways, behind the scenes footage, and fan Q&As.

In May, when the Bundesliga season restarted, Dortmund hosted an offline fan event in Shanghai to view the Dortmund vs Schalke match. The two clubs also collaborated to live-stream the fan event, to allow others to digitally experience the match and the live fan atmosphere in China.

In Conclusion

Sports organisations of all sizes are increasingly tapping into Chinese digitally-savvy sports fans to grow their revenues and rights holder value. That said, these efforts take time and investment to properly monetize fans.

  • China has a sizeable and largely untapped base of digitally-engaged sports fans
  • Start by developing a unique proposition for the club / league
  • Focus on targeted fan acquisition - engaged, high-quality fans will have greater returns
  • Expand key revenue streams across fan revenue, media rights, and sponsor value


Contact Hot Pot China and talk to us about how to implement and leverage the above strategies to increase revenues in China.

China Success - 3 Questions with Robin Trebbe, MD APAC, Intersport

China Success - 3 Questions with Robin Trebbe, MD APAC, Intersport

By Jonathan Smith, Hot Pot Founder & CEO


Hot Pot has launched a new series -- China Success -- where we ask 3 key questions to China retail experts.

Jonathan is joined by Robin Trebbe, MD APAC at Intersport, to discuss running, sports trends in China, online sales, and digital channels, among other topics.

Watch the full conversation here:

At Hot Pot China we partner with forward-thinking brands on their China activity. We guide our clients in maximising ROI from their short, medium and long-term marketing activity in China, as well as executing the same in-market.

Contact Hot Pot China to discuss how our team of China specialists can help realise greater value in your brand, digital and eCommerce initiatives.

'618' Netted £110 Billion in Sales. Did you miss out?

'618' Netted £110 Billion in Sales. Did you miss out?

4 minute read

By Adam Sandzer, Hot Pot Strategy Director


618 is China’s mid-year shopping festival. Although less well known than Singles Day (11.11), 618 is gaining popularity. This annual shopping festival starts on June 1st and ends on June 18th (hence the name 618).

This year, the two Chinese giants – Alibaba, including Taobao and Tmall, and reported unprecedented sales of £110 billion ($137 billion) during 618. Alibaba led the way with £79.41 billion in gross merchandise value, and reported £30.62 billion in total transaction volume, up 33.6% vs 2019.

Did your brand miss out on the opportunity?

The short answer is, it depends on your category, as it so often does in China.

Top categories included beauty products, fresh food, medical and health care products, kitchenware, mobile phones, home appliances, food & beverages, baby & maternal products, and home appliances. For brand owners in these categories, this is a must-win moment.

However, luxury and fashion brands were less active during the festival, focused on other events in the China marketing calendar.

Luxury brands are increasingly launching official presences on China marketplaces such as Tmall and However, we see a high degree of caution and scepticism amongst luxury brand executives who have concerns around presentation and discounting and the negative impact on equity and value.

Naturally, the platforms themselves, desperate to elevate their own image and increase the average transaction value, have been pulling out all the stops to make it difficult to say no. We know that Tmall have doubled down on Luxury Pavilion with the launch of Luxury Soho, while have partnered with Farfetch and very clearly articulated their luxury focus. In place of discounts and coupons, the platforms have built a proposition around exclusive product availability, celebrity activations and gifts with purchase.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has abruptly paused brands selling to Chinese consumers travelling internationally and also limited domestic offline consumption. In this context, coupled with escalating global stock issues, participation in previously taboo events, like 618, has become much more acceptable and even attractive. It will be the same when Double 11 comes around later in the year.

The big question is then, how will luxury brands approach these traditionally promotion-driven events?

While luxury brands resisted these promotions as recently as Double 11 in 2019, this year’s 618 mid-year promotion has seen modest discounting on brand owned stores. It is reported that 178 luxury brands joined the promotion on Tmall Luxury Pavilion, including the likes of Ermenegildo Zegna, Cartier, Chanel, Prada, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga. Some are offering deals or special prices, although it must be noted that the fabled slash lines are not universal. The discounts available on Farfetch are much more prominent and aggressive.

Given the current retail climate, platforms have been driving these festivals more than brands themselves. For brands, participating and discounting are more pragmatic and tactical plays than long-term strategy.

Indeed, the buzz from official channels outside the marketplaces such as WeChat, Weibo and Little Red Book is barely audible amidst the noise generated by the much more active and digitally savvy fast fashion, beauty and electronics brands.

In summary, 618 has not yet been afforded top tier campaign status by luxury brands. This is particularly clear when compared to recent 520 activations, where we saw brands such as Gucci put significant investment into creative content and celebrity endorsements. Many luxury clients are more focused on the aesthetically appealing Qixi (Chinese Valentine’s Day, August 25th) and have been for some time.

In a world where commerce and content are increasingly blurred and retail sales are increasingly shifting online, is there much difference between leveraging a high-volume marketplace platform to clear excess stock, in comparison with an offline outlet mall?

As 618 results pour in, luxury executives should consider this paradigm shift as they start to think about Double 11 and the broader role of China’s marketplace platforms.


Looking to understand which events in the China marketing calendar are must-wins for your brand?

Contact Hot Pot China to discuss how our team of China specialists can help realise greater value in your brand, digital and eCommerce initiatives.

Uncovering the Truth about Live Streaming in China

Uncovering the Truth about Live Streaming in China

5 minute read

By Paul Hickey, Hot Pot Strategist


Live streaming is the ‘in’ thing right now in China. Many have heard the astronomical sales figures that live streamers, like Li Jiaqi, brought in for brands on Single’s Day in 2019.

Tmall is cashing in on the explosion in live streaming popularity by encouraging brands to utilise in-platform live streaming to drive traffic to products. This growth in live streaming has led multiple other platforms, including WeChat, Douyin and Little Red Book, to develop their own live streaming capabilities. 

While many see the opportunity in live streaming as a quick way to garner massive sales, it’s important to understand what opportunities there are for your brand and what role, if any, live streaming could play. While many brands have seen success, there are other brands that have fallen foul of not following some basic principles and in turn, received backlash from Chinese consumers. Additionally, there have been recent rumblings that many brands are seeing inflated sales figures during a live stream, only to then have a huge quantity of returns, potentially negating the benefits of streaming.

If you're considering live streaming for your brand in China, here are a few fundamental principles that you need to follow, to avoid costly mistakes and common pitfalls.


Establish Why You’re Live Streaming

Given that live streaming has been given so much press, many are looking at live streaming as a quick way to drive sales. However, it’s important to understand that live streaming serves multiple purposes and different categories perform differently on live streaming platforms.

Typically, FMCG, skincare, makeup, snacks, and wine and spirits have all seen strong sales through live streaming. Luxury, however, has seen live streaming be more effective as a branding and awareness channel.

It’s important that you understand why you’re live streaming. If you are looking to sell, then you should take a look at creating bundles or giving a great deal on individual products that aren’t your hero product. Pushing a hero product at a discounted price as part of a live stream can have a detrimental impact on brand image.


Know your Brand 

There’s an old adage - ‘know who you are and deliver it at all times’ - and nowhere is this more crucial than in China. Live streaming may look like a simple endeavour but there are many parts that make up a successful live stream.

One brand that failed to deliver on its own brand proposition was Louis Vuitton. The brand hosted an hour-long live stream session on Little Red Book to launch its summer collection, garnering over 152,000 views. However, there was much discussion around whether the live stream actually matched up to Louis Vuitton’s luxury credentials.

Viewers noted that the set up felt far too simple for a luxury brand and that in turn made the products seem unappealing. Many consumers also took umbrage with the choice of host, commenting that once again, she did not match the luxury proposition of LV. It’s essential that when looking to live stream, a brand understands their own proposition and develops a live stream proposition to match.



The basics are no longer enough. Live streaming is incredibly popular right now and therefore, brands are investing more and more to create a compelling proposition and attract people to watch their live stream instead of competitors.

One area that has seen tremendous growth is the use of sophisticated studio setups. Chelsea FC launched a live stream show on Weibo and Douyin. The Premier League club delivered a two-hour broadcast in a professional China production studio, reviewing Chelsea's 2004-2005 Premier League championship season. The broadcast featured frontline reporters sharing their experience from Stamford Bridge and fans reminiscing about the team winning the championship.

The show garnered 7.5 million total views, the topic "Stamford Bridge Rising'' had 2 million reads and 1 million interactions. 


In addition to investing in a professional set design, another major investment is in the person you choose to host the live stream. Brands have a number of options here. If embarking on a regular live stream (weekly, monthly), then it may be worth investing in internal talent and driving awareness through different channels. However, many brands look at working with influencers and celebrities in order to drive traffic from their fanbase to their brand.

Picking the right person is essential and can differ greatly depending on the objective of your live stream. Recently, Yanghao Luo, entrepreneur and one of China’s original internet celebrities, conducted a live stream that attracted 48 million viewers. Throughout the course of this live stream, he sold over £15.5 million of goods. This success was built on Luo’s reputation having founded his own smartphone brand as we;; as trust built through his work as a teacher. Tapping into this kind of meaningful and trustworthy influence can create big wins for a brand.



As live streaming becomes more sophisticated, platforms are looking at working with brands to establish regularity in live streaming that brings consumers back to the platform on a more frequent basis. For example, Tmall is incentivising brands by giving them prominent positions and encouraging traffic.

This regularity was significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic with brands broadening their live streaming strategies from a purely sales-driven approach to include branding and engagement.

Lululemon offered dozens of daily live yoga classes and created a list of trainers offering online classes on its WeChat and Douyin accounts. The classes were on every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night to provide free, regular training sessions which can be booked in advance. Using live streaming to engage consumers and bring them into a brand ecosystem, regardless of platform, is a great way for brands to achieve multiple objectives with one activity.


Do What You Can, As Well As You Can

Live streaming is already established and advanced in China, so consumer expectations are also high. They expect live streams to be a seamless experience that is in line with their perception of your brand. That isn’t to say you have to invest in elaborate sets or celebrities but you do need to ensure what you can do is done very well.

One of China’s top live streamers, Austin Li - also known as the Lipstick King - recently ran into trouble during a live stream with virtual singer Luo Tianyi. Luo Tianyi was supposed to perform a song, but the audience only saw Luo Tianyi dancing without any sound due to a technical failure. It was criticized by consumers as being a “gimmick without good preparation.”


In Conclusion...

  • Live streaming is a great way to achieve a number of objectives, including sales, branding, awareness and engagement
  • Plan ahead as much as possible and stick to these essential rules when developing a live stream program
  • Running into live streaming expecting to sell millions of RMB in product without preparation or due diligence will likely end in disaster
  • Monitor the full impact of the ROI, including returns for items where the commission has already been paid to an influencer. Like all marketing activities in China, live streaming must be rooted in commercial goals and be integrated into a broader digital marketing approach.


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.

Hot Pot’s Guide to ShiHuo 识货 - the app for sport enthusiasts

Hot Pot’s Guide to ShiHuo 识货 - China’s app for sport enthusiasts

5 minute read

By the Hot Pot Campaign Team


China’s health & fitness industry has boomed in the last decade, growing at an average rate of 8.6% YoY since 2014. Popular sport-product app Shihuo caters to this trend, providing a content sharing platform for a community of sport-obsessed and athleisure-wearing consumers.

Hot Pot’s Campaigns Team created a Shihuo platform 101 for brands looking to capture this audience, shining the spotlight on a few brands getting their approach right.

What is ShiHuo? 

Loosely translating to ‘Spot the Best Products,’ ShiHuo established itself as a male-centric, sports product platform. Six years after launch, ShiHuo has 4.8 million Daily Average Users (72% male) and is the third most popular app in the sports category on China’s Apple store. Content is focused primarily on those searching for genuine sportswear products, an often difficult task in a market littered with convincing counterfeits. 

The app offers 3 main attractions for users that sit across the conversion funnel. 

Pre-Purchase - Sports & Product Focused Content 

  • The main use of the app is to discover and discuss niche sportswear content, with a focus on identifying genuine products. 
  • Through owned profiles, brands can disseminate product information, launches, offers and interactive campaigns.
  • KOLs provide the biggest source of content, building communities around their valued opinions, including product reviews, unboxing and competition-led campaigns.


  • While ecommerce isn’t directly available on the platform yet, the app is set up to facilitate conversion on external sites with reduced friction 
  • Links are embedded within both brand and KOL content, driving users to authentic and verified ecommerce sites. 
  • Users are thereby protected against counterfeit purchases, in turn driving relatively high conversion rates 

Post-Purchase - UCG reviews

  • App engagement is also very high, largely driven by product reviews 
  • Users provide another layer of product authenticity through reviews of the products, delivery, unboxing and customer service to advocate or critique recently purchase experiences.


How can brands leverage the platform?

Brands have an opportunity to curate a community of vocal brand advocates amongst users who are actively searching to make purchases. Aside from pushing out owned content, there are two main advertising opportunities for brands. 

In-app Media Buy

  • ShiHuo offers a range of different media buy placements that can drive users to their Brand Profile, or direct to their website or ecommerce site.
  • These include ads on the user's launch screen, within the newsfeed and trending content. 

KOL Collaboration 

  • A great opportunity for brands is to collaborate with KOLs and access their evangelized networks.
  • Creating innovative content with KOLs is key to cutting through the noise, leveraging interactive campaigns and giveaways to unlock engagement. 


Case Study - Roseonly

What we loved about Roseonly’s ShiHuo collaboration is the innovative approach to connecting with their target audience. As an online high-end flower shop, Roseonly was not necessarily a natural collaborator for digital campaigns on ShiHuo. However they noticed that a large portion of the platform’s consumers were males purchasing for their partners. 

Launching on ShiHuo allowed Roseonly to tap into a male-dominated community. They tied in to May 20 (I Love You Day) celebrations to challenge couples to share the most stylish matching outfits. To enter, couples needed to take a photo of their outfits, share and tag the brand on ShiHuo. Leveraging an existing network of KOCs (key opinion consumers) and their partners, this thread skyrocketed on the app. The result: nearly 1,000 total entries, 120,000 million impressions and a total of 150,000 votes. 


Case Study - Nike

Nike often faces counterfeit challenges in China, so the brand saw ShiHuo as an inevitable match to help their fans guarantee authenticity. We are impressed with the creativity of the campaigns, tapping into the Chinese passion for basketball. Ahead of the FIBA championships, Nike built an interactive H5 that integrated with ShiHuo. Users were asked to vote for the winning teams before matches, with the chance to win a pair of trainers. Continuous discussion of the upcoming matches drove engagement for Nike’s account, with the trainers also taking centre stage.

Over 575,000 users interacted with the account, amassing 1,301 user generated posts and more than 100 million impressions over the entire campaign. Of course the real win for Nike is the half million interactions from consumers that then had access to purchase the trainers, with the campaign directing them through to their authorised ecommerce site. 

While many brands are drawn to the huge user numbers of core platforms in China such as WeChat, Weibo and Tmall, Hot Pot regularly advocated backing these up with a more niche approach. Reaching a smaller - yet still significant - community of highly targeted users through platforms like Shihuo pays dividends in terms of engagement and conversion rates as well as ATV.


Looking to expand your brand within a male-targeted community or looking to learn more about niche platforms in China and how they could work for your brand? 

Contact Hot Pot China to discuss how our team of China specialists can help realise greater value in your brand, digital and eCommerce initiatives.

4 Trends Shaping China’s Luxury Market Amid Covid-19

4 Trends Shaping China’s Luxury Market Amid Covid-19

8 minute read

By Adam Sandzer, Hot Pot Strategy Director


While the Chinese consumer is relatively confident and ready to spend, how will weeks of lockdown and global uncertainty affect their mindset and impact their behaviour? 

Rather than new trends emerging, we have observed an acceleration of existing trends that have gained momentum due to the Covid-19 impact. 

Here are 4 key trends that global brands must watch going forward.


(1) Life as the ultimate luxury

Lockdown at home has allowed consumers to reconnect with traditional pastimes, revisit hobbies, and explore new interests. It has allowed people to reflect on what is important and what gives them purpose and meaning.

For many, there has been a moment of realisation that life itself is the ultimate luxury, with a need to grow both personally and collectively, savouring the big and the small moments. In particular, there has been a heightened appreciation for the value of time, as well as physical and mental health.

All brands are now expected to contribute to society and public good. They are expected to help individuals improve. We expect trends like sustainability and wellness to become increasingly important

We have seen an explosion of self-improvement videos on channels like Douyin and Bilibili, ranging from Photoshop, Excel and video editing, to learning languages and cooking tips. This trend has continued post-lockdown.

Consumers are also taking much better care of what they eat and how they treat their bodies. In line with their purpose and the trend, Nike successfully delivered training videos and content to help people stay fit during the lockdown via WeChat livestreams.

Similarly, luxury hotel, Shangri La, provided online cooking lessons.

We also see early signs of upgraded consumption, with over 70% of consumers booking 4- or 5-star hotels for the upcoming Labour Day (1 May) holiday for better standards and hygiene.

We expect Chinese consumers to value everyday and smaller moments in life even more. Luxury brands should focus on an everyday luxury proposition that connects with consumers beyond special moments or big occasions. 


(2) The Great Digital Migration

China was already streets ahead in terms of digitalisation of marketing and ecommerce. The pandemic and lockdown have further accelerated the advancement of and dependence on digital infrastructure. We find that the strongest digital brands will be the ones to emerge successfully from this crisis.

Screen time increased 26% during CNY this year, compared with CNY 2019. China now represents 54.7% of the global eCommerce market -- double US, UK, Japan, South Korea and Germany combined. Chinese consumers now get more information from smartphones than from real-world experiences!

Chinese consumers were able to attend events online, such as Shanghai Fashion Week. Virtual access to all areas has quickly become the norm and consumers almost expect a front row seat to brand activities, wherever they are in the world.

Live-streaming has been widely discussed, but has now exploded in popularity with the “see-now, buy-now” model. Short video consumption on Douyin, Bililibili and Kuaishou has become commonplace and continues to prove very effective for keeping attention and driving engagement. 

Amid all of this, the key trend is blurring of the lines between content and commerce. The integration of interactive experiences with shopping is irreversible and very powerful. 

The average luxury shopper in China is 15-20 years younger than Europeans or Americans. While offline will continue to play a role, online engagement through content and purchase through eCommerce is their luxury experience, and luxury brands are quickly noticing this.

By the end of 2019, over 90% of luxury brands with a presence in China had established WeChat Mini-Programs and continue to use them for online selling, brand services and VIP customer management. 

Over 150 luxury brands are now available on Tmall Luxury Pavillion with Prada finally taking the plunge and gaining 54,000 followers in the first month. 

Louis Vuitton and Lanvin have also recently dabbled with livestreaming on platforms like Little Red Book.

However, consumer feedback consistently suggests that while playing in the right areas, luxury brands are failing to truly hit the mark in terms of presenting a premium and aspirational proposition online and are lagging behind their beauty, fashion and even sporting counterparts.

Local beauty brand Perfect Diary launched their colorful eye shadow collection in collaboration with The Discovery Channel. Chinese beauty brands are capturing the attention of Chinese consumers with increasingly sophisticated and aspirational propositions and a growing sense of patriotism.

In sports, Chelsea Football Club’s live-streaming of archived footage featured a studio setting and KOLs. It is a great example of the standard being set to attract attention and gain influence in China. 

Luxury brands must invest in order to meet and exceed the level of content, KOL collaborations, promotions, and online-to-offline integrations that is expected by today’s modern luxury consumers. Brands must focus on localised assets, innovative content, and tech developments to remain top of mind.


(3) 'China Proud'

In 2019, approximately 70% of luxury sales to Chinese consumers happened outside mainland China. Given the current travel restrictions and uncertain timeframes, we expect this to dramatically shift to domestic consumption. The Economist predicts this pattern will continue until at least Q1 2021.

Recent surveys by and Oliver Wyman have concluded that an overwhelming majority of respondents will prefer to travel domestically for the foreseeable future. While we do not believe that a reluctance to travel will persist longer term, we see this as an opportunity for brands to up their game on home turf and ultimately tip the balance.

The government is also actively looking to stimulate domestic consumption with reduction in tax rates, distribution of coupons and even a shift to 2.5 day weekends in some provinces.

It is still early to understand the full long-term impact of these measures, but the reported sales increases that luxury brands are showing for March and April validate this trend.

That said, footfall to malls and department stores has remained relatively slow and it could be that much of the shift and growth will come from online, with physical stores acting like virtual showrooms and store staff becoming personal shopping assistants. Estée Lauder and Cle de Peau continue to use in-store staff for live-streaming products.

It is also interesting to note the shift towards ‘Made for China’ products and China-first product launches such as Dior’s Gem Clutch -- a bespoke hybrid between fine jewellery and fashion handbag - launched on WeChat and a VIP live stream event.

This is the time to double down on domestic consumption and invest in growing reach and driving traffic to commercial touch points to capture customer data and build personal, long-term relationships.


(4) Brand Values & Immersion

Chinese consumers do not want to just follow brands anymore; they want to truly immerse themselves in brand content and be inspired. As the luxury industry becomes more accessible and inclusive, luxury brands must continue to communicate and interact through values to form lasting and deep connections. Storytelling needs to be precise, specific and insight-driven.

During the lockdown, the most agile and adaptive brands focused on strengthening customer relationships. And customers had daily connections through direct communication with sales staff and product promotion via WeChat. This two-way interaction is highly personalised and this level of service must continue.

Nike’s ‘Back to the Beginning’ campaign targets aspirational Chinese sports women, by amplifying true stories of athletes who overcame limitations to become world-class. The campaign garnered 90 million comments on social media channels and saw a 55% increase in female audience engagement.

BMW’s short film entitled “A Letter to 2020” presented a timely and sensitive message of hope to commemorate China’s gradual recovery and return to somewhat normal life. The simple style and emotional script creates an aura of approachability.

We have also seen an uplift in collaborations between brands and local artists. These collaborations have increasing appeal for Chinese consumers seeking to upgrade their consumption habits with cultural references.


In Conclusion...

These 4 trends are not new, but they are accelerating as China reacts to Covid-19, meaning that they are increasingly urgent for global brands looking to build and maintain connections with Chinese consumers.

  • The pandemic has refocused priorities and firmly positions life as the ultimate luxury
  • China already led the world in digital migration, and their recovery is happening sooner because they can adapt faster
  • Chinese consumers will look to spend more and travel more within China
  • Brands that provide an immersive experience, connecting community, interactivity, and commerce, will win


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.

Love in China - Why So Many Valentine’s Days?

Love in China - Why So Many Valentine's Days?

4 minute read

By Paul Hickey, Hot Pot Strategist


Perhaps now more than ever, any celebration that brings people together, whether virtually or physically, is a welcome relief. Thankfully, China has a plethora of such occasions. March 14th every year sees ‘White Valentine’s Day’, typically celebrated by women giving gifts to men. This year, whilst many brands used the day to promote gifting products, they also used the occasion to spread a message of support and community to their followers across China. As we move forward and a level of normalcy begins to return in China, there are more key dates to share the love.

May 20th - 520 ‘wu er ling’

May 20th, known as 520, originated as a result of Chinese internet slang. 520, pronounced ‘wu er ling’ has phonetic similarities with the phrase ‘wo ai ni’, which means ‘I love you’. As this phrase began to grow in popularity, it became associated with the date May 20th. The occasion is widely celebrated in China and due to its digital nature, is very popular online.

Last year, Estee Lauder teamed up with their ambassador Hua Chenyu to release 3 exclusive lipstick shades engraved with ‘520’. By using their male ambassador to promote these exclusive products, they were able to appeal to his fans and promote the idea of self gifting. The campaign proved successful with pre-sale orders reaching over 10,000 units within 24 hours of the video going live.

August 25th 2020 - Qixi 

Qixi, which this year is on August 25th, is based on the story of a cowherd and weaver girl. The two were lovers but unable to meet and were separated by a heavenly river. Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month (Qixi), a bridge would form to unite them. The celebration dates back millennia and today, many Chinese couples celebrate the occasion in a similar fashion to Valentine’s Day, sending gifts and arranging dinners with their significant other. Shopping malls, brands and ecommerce platforms all across China see this date as a significant part of their marketing calendars and it is celebrated more widely than its February 14th counterpart.

Last year, Budweiser’s ‘all love is love’ campaign generated significant buzz. The campaign showcased a diverse cast of couples in video and photo content. As well as this, they released special edition bottles that when paired together, showed a couple kissing. The campaign promoted the idea of diversity and all love being valid and this resonated well with their target consumers, reportedly achieving well over 2 billion impressions across multiple touchpoints.

February 14th - Valentine’s Day

February 14th is celebrated in China, although thanks in part to the fact that the celebration stems from the West. Tier 1 cities typically celebrate the occasion more than lower tiers. The celebrations in China are much the same as they are globally, with couples gifting each other a wide range of items. This year, given the seriousness of the situation in China, many brands used the occasion to focus on sharing a message of love and positivity for all, rather than purely gift giving and romantic love. 

Brands still took advantage of the commercial opportunity, Louis Vuitton released a mini-program featuring gift recommendations, but in its content decided to focus on love as a collective rather than purely romantic, generating over 100,000 WeChat views.

March 14th - White Valentine’s Day

White Valentine’s Day is the least celebrated of all options listed but that’s not to say it should be overlooked. The celebration stems from Japanese and Korean culture and is focused on women giving a gift to their partner to say thank you for their Valentine’s Day gift a month previously. 

Many brands create content that promotes white, black or grey products as well as items that would be ideal for gifting. This year, Tiffany created content that showcased different products for different relationship types including the one with yourself. The content was viewed 80,000 times on WeChat.


China clearly loves to love and this year has seen a shift away from pure consumerism to utilising campaigns and content to send support across the nation. As the current situation continues to evolve, it’s important that brands understand how campaigns can resonate in the market in a way that feels authentic to consumer sentiment.


At Hot Pot China we partner with forward-thinking brands on their China activity. We guide our clients in maximising ROI from their short, medium and long-term marketing activity in China, as well as executing the same in-market.

Contact Hot Pot China here to discuss how our team of China specialists can help realise greater value in your brand, digital and eCommerce initiatives.

Brands Leading with Positivity in China

Brands Leading with Positivity in China

3 minute read

By Jonathan Smith, CEO & Founder


As brands globally look to understand the “new normal” brought about by the Covid19 virus, we take a bitesize look at how brands in China adapted their messaging during the crisis.

Below are a few brands that have adapted their messaging in China so that it still reflects their core brand identity, while acknowledging the impact Covid-19 is having on consumers. This balance is critical as brands craft messages that are consistent yet still sensitive.


李宁 LiNing: China’s leading home-grown sports brand.

“Waiting for you…” A simple but powerful reflection on the target audience’s motivation for sports: striving, hard work and camaraderie will all return.


网易严选 Wangi Yanxuan: Netease's eCommerce platform

Netease replaced their intended large-scale OOH advertising with a clear and simple message of solidarity - asking people to stay at home and “wait for spring to arrive”. The move was widely praised online for its anti-consumerist nature at a time of hardship for the nation.


McDonald’s China

McDonald’s China quickly adapted imagery to be in line with consumers everyday reality - the wearing of masks. Here they lead with a message focused on the positives of lockdown, namely being together and making memories as a family.


LeLeCha乐乐茶: Makers of premium tea with soul

LeLeCha乐乐茶 staff adapted their logo cups to express messages of solidarity and fortitude in the fight against Covid-19


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.