Cranking cats? Taobao hires feline ambassador for 1.02 million RMB

Attention cat-owners of China! From 11 June, you can search “Cat King Competition” (not to be confused with the other “Cat King”) on Taobao and enter by uploading your cat’s pictures. The winner of the multi-round competition/interview will become the first feline employee of Alibaba. The winner will get a 1.02 million RMB (140,885.92 USD) cash prize, a year’s supply of cat food, lifelong medical insurance (for the cat) as well as modelling gigs and the chance to star in a movie. Cat owners with phone numbers registered on the platform also received texts for “cat-cranking”.

A quick definition of the term “cranking”. Lately, the internet slang “cranking people’ (摇人) has made it to many a HR manager and recruiter during the hiring process. The slang comes from Northeast China where back in the day, people facing street fights would call for aid via crank telephone. Nowadays, the term has become slang for recruiting and asking for help which has gained popularity via social media. On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, the topic “Who hasn’t received the cat-cranking text from Taobao?” (#谁还没收到淘宝摇猫短信#) reached number 19 on the Hot Search list with 34.66 million views.

Another hashtag “Cat King competition got 200k entries on the first day” (#猫王大赛第一天有20万只猫报名#) shot to number 18 on the same list with 14.42 million views. The popularity is of course partly because cats own the internet, but also because anyone who joins or qualifies for another round can win red envelope vouchers to use on Taobao (in the cat category only). Taobao also allows users who vote for the cat participants to win small prizes to keep engagement high.

Coincidentally, Pizza Hut has also teamed up with pet lifestyle brand Vetreska to recruit “branch managers” for its restaurants. By buying the co-branded 159 RMB (21.96 USD) meal, you can win a collaborative pet carrier bag or a cat tower and cat food. If you bring your pet to the meal, you can get a “certification” for them to prove their employment with Pizza Hut.

It seems that marketing campaign clashes are becoming more frequent, especially with common themes such as pets. However, it is a fun way to bring engagement and who doesn’t love giveaways with pets involved?


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