As well as Valentine’s Day on February 14 and the traditional Qixi festival, China also has another love-based festival, 520 or May 20th. When you pronounce the numbers “520” (wǔ èr líng) in Chinese, they sound similar to the words “I love you”（wǒ ài nǐ）.
Luxury brands seize on 520 after COVID sales slump
Luxury brands have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19 with analysts predicting that the luxury market could reduce by up to 35% this year. 520 took place just after China’s COVID-19 outbreak and so was a perfect opportunity for luxury brands to launch a campaign to boost sales and grow their brand among Chinese customers.
Several Western luxury brands got on board releasing 520 campaigns – GUCCI launched podcasts featuring Chinese celebrities sharing their first experience of buying or receiving a GUCCI product. Hermes launched a WeChat Mini Program campaign which allowed users to select gifts that Hermes then recommended to their loved ones.
However, the luxury brand which made the biggest impact with Chinese consumers was Prada’s “520 Mathematics of Love” campaign.
Romantic tale featuring Cai Xukun
To mark 520, Prada launched a content-driven campaign with one of the most popular male celebrities in China, Cai Xukun.
The short film, Mathematics of Love, shows how Cai expresses love through a series of numbers – each with a hidden meaning.
All the numbers are linked to Cai’s love and romance and when added together equal 520 i.e I love you.
Prada’s personal touch
The campaign did not just comprise of the video and posters based on Cai Xukun’s story which were promoted on social media.
Prada’s audience could also receive a customised personal poster in the same design as Cai’s if they uploaded a picture through a special link. In addition, Prada allowed consumers to select gifts for their loved ones on their website and WeChat Mini Program.
Creating a localised campaign
More and more luxury brands are realising the importance of localisation in campaigns. By appealing to cultural differences and differing consumer behaviour and habits, brands can expand their audience, increase engagement and develop brand loyalty.
Localised celebrity endorsement
Prada cleverly appealed to Cai Xukun – one of the most popular male celebrities in China – to appear in their campaign. Despite being a Western brand, Prada chose a Chinese celebrity who is well-known and well-loved among female Chinese consumers to endorse their campaign.
Using celebrities who share the same nationality and language as Chinese consumers is more likely to get a brand traction and engagement. They are likely to be better known among Chinese audiences and have a presence on Chinese social media sites.
The inclusion of Cai meant that the campaign appealed to his fans in addition to Prada’s audience, resulting in more people viewing the campaign and increasing brand awareness.
Localised social networks
Prada promoted its 520 campaign on Weibo, WeChat, Douyin and their official Chinese website. Using a variety of platforms and formats (video, images and gifs) helped them reach a wider audience and appeal to Prada lovers on different channels.
In addition, Prada launched various activities specific to each channel that their audience could participate in. For example, users were able to get a personalised poster on Weibo and access a pop-up shop exclusively through Prada’s WeChat Mini-program.
#Prada520 gains 600 million views
Cai Xukun attracted many female consumers to the campaign and the creatively produced romantic story was praised by netizens. As a result, the campaign drove many customers to order 520 presents from Prada in advance.
The campaign exploded on social media with the hashtag #Prada520 gaining 600 million views and 3.24 million comments on Weibo. On average, posts on Prada’s Weibo related to their 520 campaign hit over 50,000 likes and 10,000 comments. In addition, over 11,000 Weibo followers generated their own personal 520 posters.
Luxury brands’ Chinese future
China’s wealth is dominating the global luxury market, and, by 2025, Chinese consumers will make up half of luxury sales.
Prada’s 520 campaign localised to attract different consumers via a variety of formats and platforms.
Luxury brands will appeal to Chinese consumers if they succeed in marketing to local consumers through a range of means, including launching campaigns during special Chinese festivals, working with Chinese celebrities, and using a variety of Chinese social media and e-commerce networks.