This article is based on a live BYOB event hosted by ChatLabs and Qumin on 3 March 2021.
Introduction: What’s Unique About Campaigns on WeChat?
WeChat is more than just a “ Chinese WhatsApp,” it is a whole ecosystem. For example, there are mini apps within WeChat (with no download needed, just open it) called Mini Programs. Brands can have interactive conversations with people. On WeChat, a brand is your friend. Brands use WeChat to both retain and gain followers. Instead of email (newsletter campaigns don’t work as people seldom use email) – they use WeChat long-form articles to connect with consumers.
WeChat broadcast is a very interactive article format that provides for a lot of creativity: there is heavy use of GIFs, videos, side swiping, etc. This is why you’ll see some landscape shots and videos – it’s normal for people to turn their phone sideways to view. There is a psychological element to when people must physically move their phone to view the WeChat post or play the game; it helps people to remember it better.
Sometimes when Western brands move into China, they have to let go of those previous taboos in luxury (like cute animation, for example) if they’re going to succeed. Brands must really understand consumers in China: what drives them, what they enjoy, what they’re expecting. These don’t look like traditional luxury campaigns, but they work very well in China.
The Interstellar Avatar Campaign
Rimowa created a space-themed CNY campaign to promote their Interstellar collection.
New Years Greeting Card: It is customary to send friends and family New Year’s Greeting Cards. Rimowa built a Mini Program for users to create a personalized CNY greeting card by choosing their planet (Mars or Mercury), gender, backdrop, accessories, and suitcase. Once a user has finished personalizing these elements, they can create a final poster that includes a system-generated 2021 New Year Flag with goals of percentage increases in happiness, cuteness, health, and luckiness.
Official Accounts have an average 40% bounce rate of new followers, so you have to make things super relevant and customized in the content that you send. Plus, you only get four opportunities a month to broadcast, so personalized broadcast is super important to retain followers.
Encourage Social Sharing: Underneath the poster is a prompt that asks users to invite their friends to “experience exploring the planets.” Customization means that users get to create content rather than just consume it, which is especially appealing. The poster has the user's profile image and a QR code that other users can scan to generate their own avatar. One might ask why consumers would identify themselves with a brand when wishing others a happy Chinese New Year: it allows them to make something more personalized and cool when they share it with people. They don’t mind the association. It’s mostly about the opportunity to create and have something special to send people.
Drive Follower Growth: When the user gets their personalized poster, a gift box appears in the right top corner that, when clicked, produces a QR code for the Rimowa Official Account. It prompts users to follow the account and comment Happy New Year in the chat to receive a CNY greeting video from 2 celebrities.
Summary & Recommendations
Rimowa effectively appealed to national pride and desire to travel during the holiday known to be the world’s largest human migration. Their campaign effectively employed these themes in combination with personalization and sharable features.
Rimowa could include more interactive social components to increase organic traffic and brand awareness. For example, allow users to adjust their rating goals if they share the card with more friends or create a page where users can show off their avatar to nurture a Rimowa fan base community. We would also recommend that Rimowa utilize more WeChat features to increase campaign interactivity and user interest. Some options would be to allow users to personalize their avatar's appearance in greater detail or to use VR integration so shoppers could try on Rimowa accessories and send pictures to friends. The above suggestions might also help to create recurring engagement with the campaign, rather than one-time visits.
Rimowa went a non-traditional route, zoning in on the popular themes of space advertising, travel, and virtual reality.
The theme of space is being used more and more in campaigns, connecting to a futuristic appeal and sense of escapism. This is especially relevant due to growing social and work strains on China’s younger generation (think the 996 work culture). On the other hand, the theme of space travel also connects to a source of national pride in China’s achievements in space (consider Alipay’s “Expectation” this year and China’s Chang’e-5 mission).
VR is growing in popularity and applications, as shown by the rise of virtual live streamers. Creating an avatar is a form of escapism to a virtual world. Users can forget about their life and explore a different identity/life, if even for a few moments.
As many things seem to in 2021, the travel demand is tied to COVID-19 related restrictions. Domestic travel in China in September 2020 surpassed 2019’s numbers as the country rebounded from its earlier shutdown. And people are still itching to take those international trips that have had to be postponed. Rimowa taps into all of this with the traveling avatar.
The Bobo Deer Campaign
Burberry promoted an animated character called “Bobo the Deer.” This is at least the second time we’ve seen the deer in a Burberry campaign. (So we may expect another appearance in the future!) Each user could “adopt” their own and develop it. By earning points through various online and offline means, users could earn Burberry apparel to dress their Bobo. The points could also allow them to transform Bobo into a sheep or ox.
When users enter the Burberry Mini Program, they immediately see the number of users already a part of the Burberry community. The MP then asks them to earn gifts by gaining points through interacting with the brand both online and offline.
When users win a prize or upgrade for their Bobo the Deer, they get a template message that redirects them back to the Burberry MP to claim their prize, thereby increasing Mini Program user retention.
Gamification of Engagement: Users start by adopting a “Bobo the Deer” animated character they can personalize through earning “cuteness points.” Users can earn points to change its clothes and transform it into different animals (like an ox for CNY). With every character transformation evolution, users have a chance to win a variety of gifts, both digital (WeChat stickers or phone wallpapers) and physical (like a poster or a chopsticks gift box).
Seamless O2O Complete Experience: Burberry encourages in-store traffic by allowing users to earn points through checking in, scanning codes, and interacting with sales associates. QR codes tie in nicely with the offline space – they are the glue connecting the offline to the online. The brand promotes online interaction by rewarding users for browsing, liking, and commenting on items in its Mini Program. Most importantly, Burberry keeps the social nature of WeChat in view, inviting users to earn points by uploading pictures related to the store or its products, creating a lot of user-generated content (UGC) and organic traffic through social sharing.
Offline-to-Online and Vice Versa: Nudging users to…
- Browse products on the Mini Program and schedule a personalized try-on experience with different themed rooms and choices of music.
- Scan QR codes on in-store products to learn more about products on the MP (which also earns them digital points).
- Take pictures in the store and upload them on the MP to share with other users (another way to get digital points).
- Make reservations for events at Burberry’s Thomas’s Café on the MP.
The idea of “future retail” where technology integrates seamlessly with the in-store experience is very appealing. This is especially true for the younger generation, and Chinese luxury consumers skew younger – the average in China is about three years younger than in the West. They start buying luxury goods earlier. A November 2020 report by McKinsey & Company found that nearly 40% of Gen Z in China preferred to browse in-store, but then make purchases online. Burberry opened a Burberry Space store in Shenzhen last year (2020) to move towards a seamless O2O shopping experience in conjunction with their WeChat Mini Program.
Summary & Recommendation
Burberry took full advantage of WeChat’s ecosystem, creatively employing their Mini Program, QR codes, and template messages, to fully combine the offline with the online for an engaging omnichannel experience.
User Reaction: People loved how cute Bobo the Deer was and looked forward to seeing more characters. Comments especially applauded the activity's fun nature.
Burberry can go a step further in leveraging the social aspect of WeChat by allowing user avatars to meet up and interact more directly with each other right in their Mini Program. This could drive social sharing, motivation to earn more “cuteness points,” and user retention.
Burberry hit a cultural and generational sweet spot with customization, “cute” animation, social tagging, and an incorporation of nature.
Young consumers in China love products that they can personalize to show off their unique identity. This means that they are more likely to share customized content to their WeChat Moments or in chats. The Bobo Deer campaign fits perfectly into this, allowing participants to grow, personalize, compare, and show off their character. And it doesn’t hurt that the little critter is super cute. Cute mascots and animated figures are popular among young consumers. They can help boost brand recognition and positive association. For example, many of China’s largest companies (Tmall, Fliggy, JD, Ant Group, and QQ, to name a few) have animal mascots.
Social tagging is a fantastic incorporation of the Bobo Deer campaign. Burberry’s in-store “Open Spaces” allow customers to share pictures of their fitting room experience and Burberry’s displays. This offline-to-online integration encourages engagement in both spaces. Young consumers already love sharing their life online, so Burberry’s built-in rewards for doing so boosts the popularity of the campaign. Additionally, social tagging helps to create a community around the brand, and Burberry isn’t shy about letting their customers know they’re a welcome part of it.
Finally, the incorporation of the outdoors has been a popular theme for this year’s Chinese New Year campaigns. The pandemic spurred an interest in exercise and outdoor activities among Chinese consumers, as well as a growing concern about environmental protection and conservation.
Chow Sang Sang
The Tencent Collaboration Campaign
Chow Sang Sang collaborated with Tencent’s Penguin Blind Box Lucky Draw for their CNY engagement campaign. Chow Sang Sang directed readers in their Official Account post to search for the Penguin Blind Box in the WeChat Discovery search section. This brought up the Tencent Penguin Blind Box Lucky Draw, of which Chow Sang Sang was one of several participating brands. Through completing various tasks (like visiting a brand’s e-commerce Mini Program or inviting WeChat contacts), players could earn more chances to take a lucky draw. When users openned the mystery box, they could win a red packet, a discount, or a blessing card (which users collect to exchange for prizes). The program also offered an additional prize for players who got five of their WeChat contacts to participate, increasing user-get-user growth.
The Penguin Blind Box Lucky Draw attracted new users with prizes ranging from coupons to actual products from sponsored brands like MAC, Loreal, Innisfree, Armani Beauty, Olay, Givenchy, and of course, Chow Sang Sang. Lottery or luck-based games are quite popular in China. Chinese New Year is a time of wishing people luck, so it fits nicely.
Rewards-Driven User Retention: Users can earn chances to open mystery boxes by visiting the Mini Program daily, inviting WeChat contacts to play, visiting the Mini Programs of sponsored brands, and completing tasks in Tencent games. The connection with Tencent and other brands make the scale of the campaign huge. These kinds of campaigns are all about increasing the brand’s number of followers. That’s where earning chances to play by sharing with friends comes in.
Summary & Recommendation
The rising popularity of PopMart is a good indicator that Chinese shoppers are drawn to the excitement of blind boxes (to give a general sense of its growth, PopMart’s net profit increased 300-fold from 2017 to 2019, with blind boxes comprising 84.2% of their total sales). By collaborating with Tencent to give away coupons and promote their CNY collection, Chow Sang Sang likely drove more traffic to their e-commerce Mini Program than if they had run a solo campaign.
However, this collaboration also meant less opportunity for Chow Sang Sang to highlight their products or convey a brand-specific message. Since brands can best build user loyalty through emotional connections, we would suggest that Chow Sang Sang find additional ways to work in their brand story over CNY. One way would be to ensure that the product pages the lucky draw activity linked to have engaging CNY-related videos, with ties to a more emotionally-connective campaign.
Chow Sang Sang managed to connect to both traditional CNY symbols and to tap into quickly growing trends.
The Penguin Lucky Draw campaign incorporates traditional symbols like the Fortune Cat and lucky red fish on the red envelopes. The inclusion of butterflies, flowers, and mountains fits in with the theme of spring and a new year. This all connects beautifully with the Chinese New Year, a.k.a. Spring Festival.
One more modern trend the campaign taps is gamification. Chinese consumers want new, innovative forms of content. So, games provide a way for consumers to engage with a brand while being entertained. Gamified campaigns were especially popular during Singles’ Day in 2020.
Blind boxes are another quick-growing trend that the campaign is centered on. With the blind box market growing at a rate of over 400% in 2020, they have become a key marketing tactic. The Penguin Lucky Draw is similar to the concept of a blind box: users have the chance to win red envelopes, brand vouchers, and fortune stickers – but they don’t know exactly what it will be till they play. The curiosity of finding out what you will receive spurs consumers to participate more frequently in the campaign. Chow Sang Sang added to the appeal by including gifts representing luck and hope for the new year.
The “Niu” 牛 Ball Lottery and KOL Campaign
Calvin Klein created their own lucky draw Mini Program to engage with their fans during Chinese New Year.
Every time the user plays this “lottery machine,” they get the chance to win one of five different ”fortune cards” that represents a blessing or gift. If a player earns all five cards, they get the big prize (a ¥2000 coupon or a CNY limited edition jean jacket and jeans). A user can complete different tasks to get a chance to play the game (see below).
Best Practice: CK’s CNY game fully leverages the WeChat ecosystem to create an engaging experience. Users earn “Ox Coins” by following the Calvin Klein Official Account, registering to become a member, sharing the game, placing an order through the e-commerce Mini Program, or watching CK’s interviews with celebrities. This reward system helps Calvin Klein drive follower growth, data binding, conversion, and retention.
- Following the Calvin Klein Official Account allows the brand to keep the channel of communication open with their users and drives follower growth.
- Sharing the CNY Mini Program game with friends or on their moments helps CK grow organically.
- Registering to become a member increases the user binding rate, which allows the brand to identify WeChat contacts in CRM.
- Placing an order in the e-commerce Mini Program boosts conversions.
- Watching CNY interviews with celebrities strengthens retention by associating users’ favorite stars with CK.
Festive Redirection for Conversion: Almost every page has a “New Year, New Clothes” button that redirects users to CK’s CNY capsule collection on their e-commerce store, fitting the Spring Festival tradition of “in with the new, out with the old.”
Summary & Recommendation
Calvin Klein made excellent use of the WeChat ecosystem to create a rewarding and emotionally connective CNY campaign. By intertwining social shopping, rewards, and personal story, CK’s campaign created room for casual followers to become invested fans.
One area they could expand into is user-generated content. Unlike the Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger campaigns, there was no set space for users to contribute their own photos or votes. China’s Gen Z increasingly expects for brands to sincerely listen to and respond to them, so brands ought to take advantage of every campaign to do just that.
Calvin Klein focused on limited-edition products while also appealing to Chinese New Year traditions.
Consumers love one-off products due to their exclusive appeal, so these can lead to high engagement for brands. Calvin Klein’s limited-edition red envelopes and ox-related gifts got this spot-on.
Red underwear is traditionally worn during CNY as a symbol of good fortune. And CK’s underwear combines two lucky colors – red and gold.
The KOL Style Calendar & Competition Campaign
On Tommy Hilfiger's’ Chinese New Year “Style Calendar” campaign page, users can discover different KOL outfits and videos, and even play a video game. Every day they click on the calendar gives them an extra chance in a lucky draw. On this HTML5 campaign page, the 2 tabs on the bottom right redirect users to Tommy Hilfiger's e-commerce Mini Program and to the LBS store locator. This feature is great for retention as users are immediately rewarded for visiting and engaging with the page several days a week. One excellent example of a calendar “surprise” was a video game. This maze game took users through the history of Tommy Hilfiger, allowing fans to understand the brand more and strengthening the emotional connection.
The campaign also relied heavily on several weeks of Official Account posts to promote ongoing competitions. Tommy Hilfiger asked users to comment on their WeChat posts for a chance to win a prize. Prompts included asking users to share which product they loved the most on the KOL and what CNY sticker caption they liked the most. Taking user engagement to the next level, TH asked users to vote on which cities they would like to see the William Chan on the big screen at a TH promotional event. Each user had 3 votes a day and the 3 cities with the most votes will be able to have the TH events.
O2O: Users can scan QR codes hidden around the store for a surprise. Tommy Hilfiger also invites users to upload a picture onto Weibo of themselves at one of William Chan’s TH-sponsored big-screen appearances. Three of these lucky fans won a picture signed by the KOL.
User-Get-User: Users can create their own New Year’s greeting card and send them to friends and family. They also had the chance to download a TH branded digital red envelope cover. Branded WeChat red envelope covers were especially popular this year as many people couldn’t meet face-to-face for the holiday. People were eager to get the limited quantity covers to make digital gifting special.
Summary & Recommendation
Tommy Hilfiger built their CNY campaign with a heavy focus on their KOL William Chan, appealing to the younger generation with interactive and reward-filled elements. Most importantly, they gamified learning about their brand history so users could understand the brand more deeply and begin building a connection.
With each comment contest asking for user opinions, TH could highlight certain comments or respond to comments in the post (for example, Mont Blanc often responds to several comments per an Official Account post, even when they’re not holding competitions). They could perhaps even make a comment become reality (e.g. make KOL stickers with some captions suggested by users). This would portray a Tommy Hilfiger as a brand who listens to and cares about their fans.
Tommy Hilfiger’s CNY campaign, which centered almost completely around singer and actor William Chan, was all about fan culture.
With the growth of China’s entertainment industry, a unique fan culture has come into being. According to a report by Legal Daily, 70% of post-00s are obsessed with their idols (compared to just 27% for those born between 1990 and 2000). These followers are often part of fan groups and are willing to pay good money to see their idols succeed. For example, money collected from fan clubs is not just used to lift an idol’s rankings, but also to celebrate their birthdays, promote them at online and offline events, and also to send treats to the idol’s crew.
Everyone in a fan group is organized and given different jobs, including voting, writing, creating pictures, running social media accounts, and controlling comments on the internet. This culture is one of the reasons why Western luxury brands tend to use Chinese celebrities as their brand ambassadors instead of foreign A-list celebrities, as they know that Chinese fan groups will follow their idols to buy what they endorse.
It is within this culture of ardent admirers that Tommy Hilfiger focused on fans’ connections with William Chan, offering limited-edition gifts and opportunities to vote for his virtual appearance in their cities. Hashtags appealed to this fan community and allowed fans and consumers to experience the campaign together. Consumers also love the appeal of limited one-of-a-kind items, and this is even more so if they are linked to a celebrity.