520 is upon us! The love-based festival takes place on 20 May and has risen in prominence in the Chinese calendar due to 520 being a homophone for the phrase ‘I love you’.
Aware that it’s one of the best opportunities to engage with consumers, brands have rushed to launch exclusive products and gift boxes. Many have also offered gift advice to partners who are clueless about what to get their loved ones.
Western luxury brands have been out in force during 520 this year. Following on from its hit Valentine’s Day campaign, YSL launched an exclusive 520 lipstick gift box in partnership with boyband INTO!’s Mika and Liu Zhang. This year, many brands have taken a different turn by focussing on singles as well as couples, and this was the key message of Gucci’s campaign.
While tons of western luxury brands are hopping onto 520, there is a lot to learn from the Chinese pros, as shown in Perfect Diary and Florasis’ campaigns.
Perfect Diary’s unique take on a 520 giftbox
Homegrown make-up brand Perfect Diary is known for marketing which hits the spot with Chinese consumers (see its Nurse’s Day campaign), and its 520 campaign did not disappoint.
Instead of developing a classic gift box, it went a step further and created an exclusive 520 suitcase. The mini suitcase fit its six newly launched slim lipsticks and also housed storage space for accessories. The idea was inspired by the romantic scene common in many films and TV shows of a couple reuniting at an airport or train station with a suitcase in hand.
As well as the unique presentation of its 520 gifts, the campaign also stood out due to its cleverly worded name. 箱见你 (xiāng jiàn nǐ) sounds exactly the same as 想见你 (xiǎng jiàn nǐ ) which means ‘I want to see you’. By just changing one character – 想 (want) to 箱 (suitcase), Perfect Diary combined the focus of its collection and a romantic phrase to embody the spirit of 520.
Sharing the campaign far and wide on social media
The collection was shared across Perfect Diary’s social media platforms with direct links to purchase the products online. The brand also worked with Liu Yu, a member of boyband INTO1, who featured in the campaign’s videos and promoted the collection on his social channels. The involvement of Liu attracted his female fans and gained the campaign considerable engagement. The hashtag ‘#Perfect Diary slim lipstick suitcase gift box’ (#完美日记小细跟口红皮箱礼盒 ) obtained 97.88 million views on Weibo.
Perfect Diary also held livestreams on 20 May and offered discounts and free gifts during its Douyin stream. Conducting promotions on 520 itself helped to attract single consumers. With couples tending to use the occasion to go out and spend time together, livestreaming provided a perfect entertainment option for singles who wanted to spoil themselves on the day!
Extending the campaign offline with in-store gifts and gamification
Perfect Diary didn’t just focus on online promotions, their offline campaign also kicked up a storm. Customers who made a purchase in brick-and-mortar stores were given a free flower. They could also receive a free makeover before going on a 520 date.
Another popular marketing tool in China, gamification, was also integrated into the campaign. Appealing to consumers’ love of mystery gifts, Perfect Diary set up in-store toy vending machines in which players could win a surprise lipstick.
520 offers a great opportunity for brands to boost sales and expand reach, something which Perfect Diary leveraged in their multifaceted campaign.
Florasis’ campaign centres on subtle wordplays
While cosmetics brand Florasis stuck to a regular giftbox, it also employed the play on words that grasped the attention of Perfect Diary consumers. The campaign name ‘520钟意礼’ was based on the Cantonese slang phrase 钟意你 which means ‘I love you’ and has been adopted in Mandarin. Florasis simply added the character for ‘present’ (礼) at the end to represent the meaning: this gift is a symbol of my love.
The campaign focused on romantic terms and phrases which are unique to China and embedded in the country’s history and culture. Florasis’ exclusive 520 giftboxes, ‘Twin Lotus One Heart’ (并蒂同心妆匣), united a romantic saying with the brand’s floral roots. 并蒂莲 refers to ‘twin lotus flowers on a single stalk’ and is also used as a figure of speech to describe a devoted married couple. The box contained its ‘United Heart’ lipstick (同心锁), cotton pads and an eyebrow pencil.
The hashtag that Florasis promoted on Weibo was, you guessed it, another linguistic quip. The brand switched 所 for 锁 (lock) to give a personal touch to the classic idiom 一生所爱 永结同心 (the love of my life, forever with one heart). The phrase is a poetic way of expressing commitment to your married partner and dates back to classical literature.
The word ‘lock’ featured heavily across the campaign, in reference to locking your love in. This concept is popular among couples and the famous Pont des Arts in Paris is a popular destination for Chinese tourists who want to attach ‘love padlocks’ to the bridge.
Each lipstick has a love-themed number
Feeling lost with all the wordplays? That’s just a start. Each shade of the ‘United Heart’ lipstick range had a different product name, or more accurately number, based on a romantic Chinese phrase.
- M520 – 520 (wǔ èr líng) sounds like ‘I love you’ (wǒ ài nǐ 我爱你)
- M317 – 317 (sān yī qī) sounds like ‘want to be together’ (xiǎng yīqǐ 想一起)
- M1311 – 1311 (yī sān yī yī) sounds like ‘I only love you’ (yīxīn yīyì 一心一意)
- M7319 – 7319 (qī sān yī jiǔ) sounds like ‘still love you deeply’ (shēnqíng yījiù 深情依旧)
- M1314 – 1314 (yī sān yī sì) sounds like ‘together forever’ (yīshēng yīshì 一生一世)
Celebrity ambassadors and guochao gain high engagement online
Florasis shared the campaign across social media with posters, including a 520 display made of lipsticks and a step-by-step guide explaining how to make a lipstick flower bouquet. On Weibo, they encouraged their audience to share messages for their loved ones, including a reference to a number that is romantically significant to them. The brand also elicited the support of Yuan Hong and Zhang Xinyi, a popular celebrity couple who are often praised by netizens for their healthy relationship.
Floraris showed off its strong Chinese identity and appealed to the guochao trend (support for domestic brands) across the campaign, especially in livestreams. While promoting its latest products, livestream hosts wore traditional Chinese clothing and make-up which set out its streams from other brands. The cultural campaign clearly resonated with consumers as it racked up 120 million views on Weibo.
Perfect Diary & Florasis focus on cultural significance of language
Language is a hugely important part of Chinese culture and can make or break a campaign. Florasis and Perfect Diary showed how it can be used effectively by playing up to Chinese consumers’ love of puns and wordplays. Their in-depth linguistic understanding was highlighted by how they incorporated romantic phrases and idioms, which have a long-rooted cultural significance in Chinese society, into their limited-edition products and campaigns.
While it is more difficult for western brands to show off their unique insights into Chinese language and culture, looking to campaign from Chinese brands can provide many tips and tricks.