Mark Tanner
2 September 2020 0 Comments

China is notorious for its festivals, which are increasingly morphing into “themed shopping occasions.” When it comes to love, there are six official days on the calendar which fit the mould of the Western Valentine’s Day. Qixi, or the ‘Double Seven Festival’, on August 25 this year, is thought to be the most romantic and authentically Chinese. It celebrates a 2,000 year old love story with its roots in Chinese mythology; a mortal man, a goddess, forbidden love, talking oxen, astrological obstacles and bridges made up of magpies – all your ingredients for a powerful tale of romance.

What better way to demonstrate romance than through consumption. Qixi has turned into a major shopping holiday, with sales in some categories jumping by nearly 120% for the day alone in 2019 – from predictable categories like luxury, to home goods and outdoor. This year Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao saw pre-sales of Qixi gifts peak a week prior to the festival date, an increase of 118% from 2019.

Domestic travel the weekend before also saw a boost as couples sought a romantic weekend away as China’s gruelling 996 work schedule has resumed for many office workers. Hotel reservations on travel platform Qunar were up 40% across the country compared with the prior week, while Alibaba’s Fliggy reported a 34% YoY increase. For those staying closer to home, young romantics finally filled the cinemas again, with patronage just 10% below last year’s pre-Covid Qixi.

We mentioned several weeks back an expectation of diversification in brands’ marketing this Qixi away from purely hetero couples and even away from love/couples. The festival formed an opportunity for brands to engage in  LGBTQ+ friendly marketing which has seen increased visibility since the start of 2020. Jewellery brand Cartier released a video campaign with the caption, “Trinity rings, witnessing all sorts of love and emotions in the world” with ambiguous imagery around same-sex couples.  Tmall caused confusion and debate in their advertising – one campaign showed two men riding bikes together and described them as being ‘father and son’ (“Father and son can be brothers, enjoying life’s journey”), and a female couple as friends. Dolce & Gabbana also showed two female virtual models in their Qixi ads, but insisted that they were not meant to be romantically linked and that Qixi can also be about spending time with “good friends”.

Let’s not forget about the single ladies (and men), with the rise of China’s single economy which ready-to-drink alcohol brand Rio tapped into with its campaign centering around famous actress Zhong Dong Yu. In the various clips we see her sipping Rio in a cosy apartment all while cooking herself a delicious meal as she muses over ex boyfriends, journaling about future career goals and even winning the lottery.

However, some singles are feeling sour about their relationship status. Tapping into ‘sang culture’ (a self-deprecating ‘doom and gloom’ type of humour popular with Gen Z) Tmall launched a #先酸为敬# (‘cheers to sourness’) campaign. The short video shows a single man at the bar tipping back a sour lemon drink who can’t help but shout 酸!(sour) each time he sees an in-love couple. The platform even rolled out a feature allowing users to virtually grow their own lemon trees, which will eventually result in real fruit being sent.

For those Gen Z consumers with a taste for the finer things, many luxury brands have been engaging in some daring, hit-or-miss Qixi campaigns. Balenciaga released limited-edition handbags on their Tmall flagship, with “他爱我” (“He Loves Me”) written in large, bold graffiti font, which netizens received to be ‘down market’ and even ‘trashy’. Gucci put out a limited edition range of products just for Qixi, with entirely new print featuring stylised apples (a play on ‘apple of my eye’), available on their WeChat store as well as boutiques. The hashtag “Gucci Qixi” on Little Red Book has reached 126,000 views.

Brands are now looking towards Golden Week (start of October) and Singles Day (11 November) as the next big campaign rollouts. Both festivals will incorporate the fast changing world of love and lust in modern China, so get in touch with China Skinny for insights and strategy if you need help in getting your message right.

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