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beverage brand advertising China

“土” is in: How a beverage brand makes corny rural-style advertising cool again

Starting with a viral popularity of its corny theme song, MXBC (Mi Xue Bing Cheng 蜜雪冰城), a beverage brand known for its cheap drinks, became a phenomenal hit among Chinese Gen Z in 2021. MXBC infused a brainwashing jingle and catchy lyrics into their theme song, triggering a wave of parodies and short videos on Douyin. Successively, in July and August, it continued promoting their brand mascots via memes of its mascots, Snow King and Snow Girl (雪王和雪妹) on social media, sowing an indelible image in consumers’ minds. The success of MXBC’s marketing reveals a significant shift in the Chinese market of Gen Z: They no longer believe in marketing fairy tales. Instead, they enjoy simplicity of the corny, rural culture  known as “土味文化”.

MXBC brand China
Source: MXBC’s promotion video on 10th, August. Setting in a squalid bazaar, Snow King is asking for the price of lemons with a strong and hilarious accent.

What is “土味” (tu wei)?

Cheesy expressions, ludicrous gestures, unrefined backgrounds, often along with a strong accent of remote rural areas, are the core elements which consists of the culture of tu wei. A “corny” video stands out not for its fineness, but attracts audience through brainwashing antics, grabbing consumers’ attention in a very short time.

The “corny” marketing of MXBC

On June 3rd and 5th, MXBC released the music video of their theme song, “I love you, you love me, Mixue Ice cream and tea” (你爱我,我爱你,蜜雪冰城甜蜜蜜), and the cheesy video went viral. The song has a simple melody and no complicated lyrics; the entire music video is permeated with a sense of low-cost and comical silliness, which differentiate itself from other exquisite promotion videos. “The theme song of MXBC sounds rustic and broken.” Viewers in the comment section of the music video bantered; but they successively added, “However, since MXBC doesn’t care that I am poor, I won’t discard it”. By the end of August, MXBC’s Bilibili account has gained 567,000 followers, far more than the 58,000 followers of HeyTea (喜茶) and 48,000 fans of Sexy Tea (茶颜悦色).

MXBC theme song China
tea brands in China
Source: The comment section under MXBC’s theme song mv. Users made fun of its rusticity and brainwashing jingle, but also show affection for its drinks and the brand.

Following the success of its music video, in July and August, MXBC continuously released a number of funny videos, starring their brand mascots, Snow King and Snow Girl雪王和雪妹, and won more than millions of views on Bilibili. In the videos, Snow King and Snow Girl, these two simple, rustic, and even ugly mascots performed in a clownish way and brought laughter to their audience. While other milk tea brands in China are trying to make their products more luxurious and beautiful, MXBC attracts consumers by doing just the opposite.

marketing campaign in China
popular beverage brands in China
Source: Bilibili. in addition to the huge success of MXBC’s theme song. Other funny videos also won the audience’s affection.

Recently, MXBC also continued this ‘cheesy’ marketing campaign on Weibo. “We will not hire any idols as our brand ambassador”, the brand said. Snow King and Snow Girl will be our only mascots and answer any questions consumers ask in comments section by themselves. This silly but kind tone makes the brand seem less prestigious and therefore more approachable.

The humble culture of “Tu Wei”: Gen Z is resisting consumerism and vanity

HeyTea, Nayuki and SexyTea, other popular beverage brands in China, put efforts in designing  beautiful appearances and stylish marketing promotions. However, along with the rise of “lying flat” spirit and Sang Culture, people seem to start questioning the illusional consumerist dreams created by marketing.

According to the 2020 and 2021 Employment Blue Book: Report on the employment of Chinese undergraduates, the average salary of Chinese college graduates is around 5,000 yuan. For such a thin salary, a HeyTea beverage for 30-40 yuan is a luxury drink; Gen Z is now reflecting on the price they pay for everyday goods.

Simultaneously, Gen Z reassesses what used to be “土”, “corny” or “low”. Despite its tacky packaging and marketing, what MXBC offers is a really cheap price and a relatable sense of humor. Many Chinese consumers no longer care whether a brand’s marketing and packaging is fancy and superior. Because of Gen Z’s pursuit of frugality, they are turning the culture of rural corniness in marketing into a positive appraisal.

HeyTea Nayuki Sexy Tea China
MXBC Bilibili
Source: Bilibili official accounts. By the end of August, MXBC has gained more than half a million followers while HeyTea and Sexy Tea both only have around 50,000 followers.

Author: Zhang Xiaorui