Starbucks collaborates with QQ Yellow Face to appeal to Gen Z

On 7 May, Starbucks China announced the launch of new beverages made with raw coffee beans, and special ice cups with Tencent QQ’s classic Emoji ‘Yellow Face’, which will be accompanied by QQ Yellow Face-themed paper bags and a series of gift bags. On QQ, new co-branded Yellow Face emojis and more new props for the Super QQ Show will be launched on 20 May.

From 7 May to 16 June, QQ users who become Starbucks members will receive Starbucks coupons for selected drinks on the QQ platform to experience the new coffee, with exclusive prices for QQ members. During the campaign period, buying any large Starbucks iced drink will come with the opportunity to get the new co-branded ice cup. The cup is printed with five of the most popular QQ Yellow Face emojis – Cool, Smile, Bare Teeth, Laughing and Crying, and Heart Eyes.

The newly designed co-branded emojis are also available online, with QQ Yellow Face dressed in classic Starbucks coffee elements. The ‘Smile’ Yellow Face wears a crown and cosplays as a Starbucks mermaid, the ‘Laughing and Crying’ Yellow Face has a Frappuccino creamer top on its head, and the ‘Heart Eyes’ Yellow Face smiles among the coffee flowers. The Super QQ Show props include Starbucks’ classic green apron and paper cups. In addition, Starbucks has also become a partner brand of QQ Status, with the brand’s exclusive QQ Status of ‘buy me a drink’ going live for a limited time.

QQ Yellow Face has been widely loved since it was added to QQ Emoji in 2003 and has become one of the most informative and magical existences in Chinese netizens’ memory. And with the turnover of generations of netizens, the image and meaning of QQ’s little Yellow Face has gone through several transformations. In terms of meaning, the ‘Smile’ Yellow Face now refers to a mocking version of ‘huh’, ‘Goodbye’ is equivalent to the disconnected version of ‘never see you again’.

This year marks QQ’s 25th anniversary, and QQ has already brought more interesting experiences to young consumers in the name of anniversary celebrations by co-branding with brands in different industry sectors, such as Uniqlo UTme, fitness equipment brand Marek, and home appliance brand Konka. 

Tencent’s instant messaging apps are aimed at different audiences; QQ is targeted at teenagers, while WeChat is more likely to be used by white-collar workers. WeChat’s user base is already far ahead, with 1.34 billion monthly active users as of the end of September 2023. Meanwhile, QQ keeps over 500 million people connected and entertained.


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