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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.