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daxue consulting ant forest campaign chinese new year

Walking down the memory lane: Nostalgia marketing with Ant Forest this Chinese New Year

On January 21st, 2022, in the countdown to the Chinese New Year, Ant Forest (Alipay’s tree planting initiative) released a campaign video – Celebrating a Green CNY (绿色过大年), in collaboration with Shanghai Animation Film Studio (上海美术电影制片厂, SAFS, one of the Chinese original animator producers and has produced 80% of Chinese cartoons), celebrating Spring Festival in green and low-carbon way, while reminiscing the irreplaceable memories of childhood in China. For many millennials in China, Chinese cartoons such as Calabash Brothers (葫芦兄弟) and Black Cat Detective (黑猫警长) were designed and created by SAFS in the last century.

Daxue Consulting-Ant Forest campaign - Celebrate CNY in a green way
“Ant Forest and SAFS bring you a Green Chinese New Year! Start living a low-carbon life…” Source: Ant Forest Weibo Official. Over 21.3 million views on Weibo

The “remade” cartoon highlighted environmental-friendly CNY celebration styles and has adapted the seven most familiar and iconic Chinese legend stories and fairy tales, with characters unanimously choosing the green lifestyles. For example, Monkey King (孙悟空, directly translate to Sun Wukong, one of the best-known Chinese legendary mythical characters) uses reusable bags when eating out instead of takeaway boxes; the seven fairies (七仙女, the goddess’ seven daughters in Chinese legends) choose to take the overground instead of driving when traveling.

Daxue Consulting-Ant Forest campaign - Seven fairies take public transportation to travel
“Next station arriving.” Source: Ant Forest Weibo Official. The Seven Fairies.
Daxue Consulting - Ant Forest campaign-the Monkey King and his reusable bag
“Using takeaway boxes.” Source: Ant Forest Weibo Official. The Monkey King

The originality and innovation of this campaign have been praised by netizens of all channels. On the other hand, the nostalgia of these cartoons evoked netizens’ childhood memories, as a result, attracting over 21 million views on Weibo.

Daxue Consulting-Ant Forest campaign - comments from Weibo
Source: Alipay WeChat Channel. Comments from netizens

Although the original cartoons were adopted in this video, the subscriptions and dubbings have been changed. The contrasts between these traditional characters and their modern behaviors called attention to viewers, especially those with “superpowers”. Green behaviors such as renting shared bicycles and taking public transportation advocate low-carbon lifestyles, reinforcing Ant Forest’s original project of planting real trees.

“Riding share bikes to greet friends in CNY.”
Daxue Consulting - Ant Forest campaign - Drive low-carbon cars
“Drive an environmental energy car to live a low-carbon life.” Source: Ant Forest Weibo Official. Green lifestyles in celebration of CNY.

By applying nostalgic marketing, this campaign also utilized “memory kill” (回忆杀 in Chinese, a buzzword meaning a wave of nostalgia) to engage with the audience and increase their environmental awareness during CNY. The chosen cartoons are earful to Chinese audiences, especially those who were born between the 70s and 90s, which are also the majority population of Alipay users. This campaign has successfully reinforced the users’ stickiness and deepened the users’ impression.
In addition, hopping on the Guochao (国潮) trend, Ant Forest’s campaign has demonstrated its clear understanding of Chinese domestic IPs (Intellectual Properties) and marketing strategy due to these cartoons being the eternal classic and original generation of Chinese cartoons. Likewise, the collaboration with Chinese traditional IPs can always grasp the attention of consumers.