MAC lipsticks get BIG in China

Recently, Estée Lauder-owned American beauty brand MAC launched 35 new shades for its iconic bullet matte lipsticks. The only difference this time is that it got ‘BIG’.

It is, in fact, the localised Chinese campaign for MAC’s latest M·A·Cximal series of silky matte lipsticks. The translation focused on the “大” or “big” side of things when conveying the original “maxed out” meaning.  All the names of the new shades are liberally translated to start with the character “大”, or ‘big’ in Chinese.

Some of these translations bear some resemblance to the original English, such as Chili becomes “大辣椒” (lit. big chili), Lady Danger becomes “大妖精” (lit. big pixie, but also means a foxy lady),  or Diva becomes “大姐大” (lit. big sister, or girl boss). Others are mostly describing the shades themselves, for example Caviar becomes “大反派” (lit. big antagonist), or Captive Audience becomes “大表姐” (lit. big cousin) and the best received one: Everybody’s Heroine becomes “大疯紫” (playing on “大疯子” big lunatic, but replaces the last character with the same sounding “紫”, meaning purple.

The surreal humour shown in the campaign has been welcomed by netizens. Many likened the campaign to the recent “crazy literature” trend. On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, the topic “MAC is like a big lunatic” (#MAC像个大疯子#) ranked number 18 on the Hot Search list with 4.95 million views.

However, the campaign was not universally appreciated. The hashtag “controversy as MAC lipstick ad accused of sexual innuendo” (#MAC口红广告疑擦边惹争议#) amassed a whopping 110 million views, reaching number 4 on the Hot Search list. Delving deeper into it, it was actually the tagline for the new M·A·Cximal collection, “gets bigger and lasts longer” that was felt to be too risqué by some. Interestingly, a response from one customer service advisor made it onto the Hot Search list too, at number 26, stating that the lipsticks are indeed, bigger and last longer. The seemingly unintended dry humour was very much appreciated in the comment section.

The new series captures the wave of “insanity” that is popular on the social media meme scene. Like McDonald’s or KFC, MAC tries to create UGC trends to echo the “craziness”. The “MAC is like a big lunatic” hashtag no doubt is a sign of success in this regard. However, although the moral accusation on the risqué copy was very well handled, it was possible that the Hey Tea “speechless Buddha” fiasco could have been repeated.


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