Foreign brands are becoming savvier about marketing around Chinese festivals, particularly the culturally and commercially significant week-long Lunar New Year holiday. As the Lunar New Year festive period draws to a close, Qing Na from Dao Insights examines how Apple, McDonald’s and L’Oréal created campaigns that won over Chinese consumers
Apple’s short film inspires young dream chasers in China
Apple took the CNY marketing battle to the next level this year. The US iPhone maker released a 23-minute short film entitled The Comeback, shot using its latest iPhone model (the 13), which had yet again sparked a buying frenzy in China upon its launch in September 2021. While the film and the huge amount of effort put into its production attracted widespread attention, what really wowed Chinese consumers was the story, which explored the conflict between progress and staying true to one’s routes.
The film tells the story of a son who failed to achieve his dream of being a film director in a big city and returned to his hometown. After overcoming the frustration of his failure, and with the support of his father and local villagers, the son finally produced his first film, which also turned the forgotten village into an Internet sensation.
The video resonated with Chinese viewers because of its portrayal of hyper-local issues such as urbanisation, which has been one of the biggest social trends in China in recent years. It also put the value of being together with family — one of the main parts of Lunar New Year celebrations — at the forefront. By creating marketing based around hope and chasing dreams, combined with those of familial bonding, Apple tapped into the desires of its largest consumer demographic and regained its position as the largest phone provider in China.
L’Oréal revives Spring Festival traditions with a Temple Fair in Shanghai
Having grown up alongside Gen-Z since its first store opened in China 25 years ago, L’Oréal (the world’s largest cosmetics brand) has repeatedly refreshed its Lunar New Year campaigns over the years to resonate with its core market. This time around, the company revived traditions from Gen-Z’s childhoods including New Year shopping trips and temple fairs. By showing respect for China’s culture and history, while bringing back the festive spirit, L’Oréal was able to engage strongly with consumers.
Unlike other global labels, L’Oréal’s campaign was also decidedly more down-to-earth, choosing Shanghai No.1 Food Store as its event venue. The first food retailer in Shanghai started its life in 1954 and has since become a time-honoured brand, a go-to for residents in the city, especially during festive seasons. As such, the campaign also leveraged the footfall at a popular local store, showcasing the brand’s understanding of the local market layout.
Another appeal of this campaign for the young generation was L’Oréal’s cooperation with a hanfu costume expert, throwback to the Han & Tang dynasties, and several online influencers in the traditional Chinese culture niche. These collaborations not only tap into the guochao (literally ‘national trend,’ or Chinese fashion trend) movement, but also the growing interest among Gen-Z in dressing up in traditional clothing.
With the presence of hanfu influencers specialising in the guochao style, the offline event easily caught the attention of young shoppers. With many people trying out the costume for photo opportunities, it also helped to create user-generated content, which increased the campaign’s online exposure.
As a result of such a multi-layered campaign, L’Oréal set itself apart from other players in the cosmetics market and won over young customers with its thorough knowledge of both new consumer demands and the culture of its target market.
McDonald’s ink painting anime gives hamburgers a Chinese flavour
McDonald’s took an unusual approach this Lunar New Year, combining Chinese ink painting with modern fast food. Chinese consumers were blown away by its aesthetic charm, blending two disparate ideas into one seamless campaign.
The one-minute campaign video was produced in collaboration with Shanghai Animation Studio, which also created hit mid-20th century Chinese cartoons such as Havoc in Heaven (the most popular episode of one of China’s Four great classic novels, The Monkey King), Black Cat Detective, and Calabash Brothers. Incorporating a classic Chinese painting style, the video smartly leveraged the aforementioned guochao, as well as the nostalgia of the target audience.
Depicting a pink plum blossom petal floating through a pastoral landscape rendered like a traditional Chinese painting, the video skilfully hints at the approach of Spring. The accompanying poster for the campaign featured festive symbols like plum blossoms, auspicious clouds and magpies, which won over Chinese consumers with its unexpected understanding of Chinese culture.
Many global brands crave success and notoriety in the Chinese market, with this desire only getting stronger as Gen-Z become the backbone of the country’s consumer economy. The fast-changing and ever-diversified demands of these savvy buyers mean that international brands will have to continue to improve their knowledge about this new generation, as well as the society they live in. In order to succeed, foreign companies need to step up their efforts to adapt their offers to align with societal and cultural trends. Only by doing so will they be able to create more influential campaigns that not only make them stand out, but more importantly, impress a lucrative and discerning generation of new consumers.
Images captured from social media
This article was provided by our content partner, Dao Insights