2020 was an all-around difficult year. But during the turmoil of a global pandemic and a global economic crisis, there were brands who still insisted in spreading the messages of hope and empowerment. There were also brands that uplifted us with their creativity and adaptability, and provided new products that resonated with Chinese culture on another level. These are the brands that made the cut in our hand selected list of the 10 most epic China marketing campaigns of 2020.
Our team evaluated the ‘epicness’ of each China marketing campaign based on 6 criteria:
- Creative and adaptable – the ability to come up with never-before-seen ideas in an increasingly crowded market. While all marketing campaigns are ‘creative’ to some extent, the campaigns that ranked highly in creativity resonated with Chinese audiences through clever localization methods and using humor.
- Bold and brave – these are the campaigns that didn’t play it safe and still succeeded. Perhaps they challenged the status quo, or put their reputation on the line to share a reputation that aligns with their values.
- Positive impact – whether through philanthropy, sustainability or through empowering consumers. These campaigns are uplifting and inspiring while making the world a better place.
- Visible– the goal of any marketing campaign is to be seen by many people, especially the right people. Some campaigns gain visibility through investing in placing their message on a large platform, while others created a buzz on social media, giving them organic traffic.
- Game-changing – these trailblazing campaigns did something unique, and thanks to their success, will likely be followed by other brands in the future.
- Emotionally moving – many brands used heartwarming means to resonate with the audience, such as bringing up family memories, or showing appreciation for healthcare workers. While other brands moved us through humor and optimism.
Some trends we observed in 2020 was a continuation of the many co-branding campaigns which really took off in 2018, and also tapping into young consumer groups through nostalgia marketing. Lastly, following the Guochao, or popularity and support of traditional Chinese culture, local brands are on the rise and foreign brands are finding ways to show their appreciation for Chinese culture.
These are the 10 most epic marketing campaigns of 2020
Nike’s Lunar New Year “Hongbao” campaign
Source: Nike, Red envelope campaign
This Nike campaign showed the Chinese tradition of giving out money-filled red envelopes during the New Year. This Chinese TVC campaign took a humorous twist on Chinese politeness and humility. When other athletic apparel brands stuck to celebrity endorsements, Nike took a more relatable route.
The TVC shows the elders desperately trying to give red envelopes and children desperately refusing it. In this down-to-earth advertisement, every year, an auntie has to stage a fierce competition to make her stubborn yet humble niece accept her red envelope. As she grows up, the time to accept the auntie’s red envelope comes around again and again, so she puts on her Nike running shoes and decides to out-run the auntie, each year putting up more and more of a fight.
In the TVC, Nike shoes became synonymous with rejecting the red envelope. In the final scene, the grown up niece opens the door to greet her aunt with a red envelope, however, the aunt is wearing Nike shoes.
The Nike campaign uses positive emotions encourage customers to take action and buy products. This campaign gained high visibility while being adaptive to Chinese culture.
Data Source: Daxue Consulting, The 10 most epic China marketing campaigns of 2020, Nike’s New Years campaign
Apple’s Women empowerment campaign
Source: Global Times, Apple campaign in China 2020
In 2020 Apple brought very emotional and inspiring marketing campaign to show off the new phone’s high camera quality. The 8-minute short film continues the film narrative style of Apple’s Spring Festival advertisement, telling the story of a single mother played by Zhou Xun. The main character has a conflict with her mother who believes it’s not a women’s duty to enter the work force. The mother has to support her daughter and and takes her daughter to ride along with her as she becomes a taxi driver. At the end of the video, the grandmother finds her daughter’s taxi and makes amends with her daughter by bringing dumplings.
This campaign based on a real story-a female taxi driver Li Shaoyun from Wuhan. This ad not only shows the love of mothers, but also gives viewers nostalgia about their moms’ food on New Year. The short film leverages the nostalgia of family while giving an empowering message to women.
Data Source: Daxue Consulting, The 10 most epic China marketing campaigns of 2020, Apple’s New Year’s campaign
AirBnb’s Chinese New Year campaign
Source: The Drum, Airbnb Chinese New Year campaign
As many young people in China now live in the big cities, not all of them have an opportunity to visit their parents for Chinese New Year. Airbnb in China created emotional marketing campaign showing how it can help bring families together. The three-and-a-half-minute 3D animation tells the story of Jiajia, a young nurse pursues her career dream in a big city but she cannot return to her hometown for the New Year this year. Her parents are sad to receive the news that she cannot return home for the holidays, however they surprise her by renting an Airbbnb in Shanghai so they can be together.
This marketing campaign promotes its brand value, which is that the platform can bring families together on Chinese New Year and make miracles happen.
Data Source: Daxue Consulting, The 10 most epic China marketing campaigns of 2020, Airbnb Chinese New Year campaign
Coca-Cola’s ultimate localization with Ginger
Source: WhatsOnWeibo, Ginger Coca-Cola in China
The soda brand found that Chinese had made a habit of heating Coca-cola and adding ginger for a cold remedy, so they embraced this trend with a localized product based on three years of market research.
The first time Coca-Cola introduces ginger flavor limited edition marketing campaign in China was in 2017. At the time, Coca-Cola got an insight into the needs of Chinese consumers, launching ginger-flavored cola products in some regions, and obtained good feedback.
In 2019, the product development team carried out another comprehensive upgrade of the product based on consumer feedback. First, the R&D team chose to add real ginger juice to “Coca-Cola Ginger“, and repeatedly adjusted the types of ginger and the concentration of ginger juice. The new product not only restored the traditional taste of Coca-Cola with ginger, but also kept a “warm and spicy” balance. A balance which, in Chinese medicine, is believed to have health benefits.
In 2020 Coca-Cola officially launched its’ localization campaign. The company incorporated it into their marketing campaign launching a hot drink with ginger juice, which should be heated to drink.
Data Source: Daxue Consulting, The 10 most epic China marketing campaigns of 2020, Coca-Cola ginger campaign in China
Perfect diary – International Nurses day
Source: Perfect Diary, International Nurse’s Day campaign
Perfect Diary is a leading Chinese cosmetics brand. The company’s target audiences are Chinese Gen Z and millennials, who have a particular preference for brands that offer personalized products and services and have a strong Chinese identity.
In 2020 Perfect Diary decided to create a digital campaign in China celebrating International Nurses Day which included the images of the nurses just after finishing a shift and their photo after their makeover. Perfect Diary also held a makeup class for medical workers in Guangzhou in May 2020. The senior makeup artists of Perfect Diary taught the makeup skills to the nursing representatives of 18 hospitals.
This digital campaign in China expresses gratitude for the medical workers during pandemic and gained a lot of attention in the Chinese social media, and gave greater awareness to the tiring work that nurses do for our health and safety.
Data Source: Daxue Consulting, The 10 most epic China marketing campaigns of 2020, Perfect Diary international nurses day campaign
W+K – You Can’t Mask a Smile
Source: DaoInsights, W+K campaign 2020
Advertising agency W + K located near a hospital in Shanghai was inspired to cheer people up before the Chinese New Year. Since the Chinese had to celebrate the New Year wearing masks, it was difficult to see the emotions of loved ones. Therefore, W + K launched the “You Can’t Mask A Smile” campaign. The photographs of the people wearing masks were photoshopped with funny facial expressions.
This digital campaign in China helped to show brand’s values and its dedication to the creation of positive emotions. Additionally, advertising agencies do not usually release a physical product, which shows the agencies creativity in finding new ways to spread cheer.
Data Source: Daxue Consulting, The 10 most epic China marketing campaigns of 2020, W + K, You can’t mask a smile
Tmall New Years’ TVC campaign in China showing LGBT tolerance
Source: Jing Daily, Tmall Chinese New Year campaign
TVC campaigns in China build brand awareness over the long term and share values through story telling. Despite the fact that this is a traditional and old form of marketing, they are effective all over the world.
In early 2020, Tmall launched a TVC campaign in China called “New Year’s Day”, which included a homosexual couple. The video caused a heated discussion on the Internet, as the LGBT community is not widely accepted in China. The general plot of the advertisement shows the main character bringing his boyfriend home for New Year’s Eve dinner. The father of the protagonist enthusiastically serves soup to his son and his boyfriend during the meal. The son’s boyfriend gladly says “Thank you, dad”.
There have been few marketing campaigns which feature LGBT characters, and this Tmall TVC was one of the most visible ones. It is risky for brands to include LGBT concepts due to strict censorship, this campaign was a bold move from Tmall, and the result was emotionally moving and impactful.
Data Source: Daxue Consulting, The 10 most epic China marketing campaigns of 2020, Tmall’s New Year’s TVC
Tmall’s 11.11 cat game
Source: Scmp, Tmall Cat Game
Another trend in the marketing campaigns in China is gamification. This allows to make the user experience with the brand more engaging and attract a large number of new customers.
In its second epic marketing campaign in 2020, Tmall used gamification as an 11.11 promotion. The main task was to enter the application every day and feed the cat, from which they earned gold coins.
By playing this game, users received red envelopes and share them with friends. These points could be applied to Double Eleven 2020 discounts. The company distributed red envelopes amounting over 100 yuan to 3 million people.
Until this year, most gamification campaigns had been competitive in nature, but the cat game was collaborative. This brings a new perspective to gamification that other brands may follow in the future.
Data Source: Daxue Consulting, The 10 most epic China marketing campaigns of 2020, Tmall 11.11 cat game
British juice brand “Innocent” charity campaign
Source: Thatsmags, Innocent juice in China
In recent years, philanthropy and social marketing have become increasingly popular. A global survey conducted by Edelman showed that 85% of consumers prefer socially responsible brands, 70% are willing to pay more for such brands.
Innocent juice is a British company dedicated to the development of healthy drinks. While creating juice, it also actively participates in charity. Every year the company contributes 10% of its global profits to help people in need. As charitable as it is sustainable, Innocent advocates energy saving and recycling methods of production, as well as reducing carbon emissions during transportation.
As of the beginning of 2020, Innocent Foundation participated in 84 projects across five continents and have donated more than 57 million yuan. The brand entered the Chinese market in 2020 bringing its philanthropic campaign in China. Innocence sends 1 RMB donation out of each bottle’s revenue, to give free food to the children in remote areas. As charities are not as common in China as they are in the west, this campaign left a deep, positive impression on consumers.
Data Source: Daxue Consulting, The 10 most epic China marketing campaigns of 2020, Innocent philanthropic marketing campaign in China
Budweiser and Ele.me #BUD-Meal Slot Machine 百威玩啤机
Source: adsofttheworld, Budweiser x Eleme collaboration
More and more consumers in China prefer foreign alcohol brands. This is due to the growing caution of younger generations in choosing brands. In addition, in 2020, O2O food delivery in China has become more relevant than ever in the context of the coronavirus. This became a great platform for the marketing campaigns in China, especially through collaboration with other brands.
Budweiser and Ele.me’s co-branding initiative is a digital campaign based on the understanding that people always have a hard time deciding what to eat when they place orders. Budweiser and Ele.me simplify the process by pairing beer with food. The digital and physical version of the BUD-food slot machine allows consumers to get various combinations of food with Budweiser. Consumers can click on the lever of “Playing Beer Machine” to get related package recommendations, such as for example KFC’s “Fried Chicken + Budweiser” package, or “Crayfish + Budweiser”. Besides, users can get various coupons.
Data Source: Daxue Consulting, The 10 most epic China marketing campaigns of 2020, Budweiser and Ele.me cobranding campaign