The popularity of a little cartoon piggy is doing wonders for brand Britain, writes Tom Pattinson
Peppa Pig, the children’s show that follows the life of an animated British piglet, is incredibly popular in China. It has racked up over 18 billion online views since its launch, whilst a recent viral video is poised to whisk five-year-old twins Mi Ni and Mi Ai from rural China to the gates of Buckingham Palace – creating a major win for Brand Britain along the way.
After watching an episode of Peppa Pig online in which Peppa visits the Queen at Buckingham Palace to go ‘splashing in puddles’, the twins made a video for the Queen, asking her if they could visit her in Buckingham Palace and splash in puddles together. The video went viral after the twins’ mother shared it on social media platform Weibo and in a matter of days it had caught the attention of the British Ambassador Barbara Woodward.
“Hello Mi Ni and Mi Ai,” said Dame Woodward. “I’m the British ambassador, so I’m the Queen’s representative in China. I’d like you to come and visit me in my house in Beijing, and we can perhaps have tea and scones in a British style.”
The ambassador’s video created a viral sensation of its own, with over 10 million views received in the first week but the biggest surprise was still to come. Video streaming platform Youku (who own the distribution Chinese rights to Peppa Pig) and the British Embassy have arranged for the twins – along with a pair of competition winners – to travel to London to visit Buckingham Palace. It isn’t clear at this time if the Queen is willing to go puddle jumping with the girls but it certainly has put Britain in a great light with a new generation of Chinese youngsters.
It’s incredible what soft power benefits this little piggy brings to market”
The willingness for Britain to engage in a little silliness and to help some dreams comes true will do wonders for a nation whose image has taken some blows on the international stage over the long drawn out process of Brexit. But some self-deprecating humour, the Royal family and further promotion of the great British export that is Peppa Pig are clearly adding cultural brownie points.
And not only has the Royal edition of Peppa Pig sparked a social media phenomenon but a trailer for a new Peppa Pig film (made specifically for the Chinese market by China’s Alibaba Pictures and Canada’s Entertainment One) has already attracted an astonishing 1.5 billion views on Weibo.
The trailer follows an elderly sheep farmer who, after his grandson asks for the pig as his Chinese New Year present, is trying to work out what Peppa Pig is. The video plays on the gulf between the older and younger generations as well as China’s rural and urban divide. “It hits the heart strings. China has modernised so fast and these old people have been left behind both technologically and by cultural trends, but the love is still here,” Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai, told the Financial Times.
The film, titled “Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year” is released on February 5th, in time for the Chinese New Year holiday break – a time when most of China’s major films are released.
After a series of poor marketing decisions by other major European brands, it’s incredible to see the soft power benefits that this little piggy brings to market.