Chinese New Year began on January 25th, with 2020 marking the Year of the Rat. Every year, brand watchers eagerly await the release of the holiday period’s celebratory campaigns and special editions.
The holiday season has been slightly overshadowed by the Coronavirus incident, which is currently gripping China. However, millions of Chinese around the world still celebrated the Lunar New Year, many with luxury limited editions as gifts.
The majority of campaigns and limited-edition products are accepted and enjoyed by luxury consumers in China. Last year, however, a number of brand efforts were ridiculed and/or fell flat for poorly appropriating Chinese culture, failing to go beyond pastiche or just being plain insensitive.
Brands that manage to navigate Chinese aesthetics and demonstrate a sophisticated cultural understanding in this market can be successful with the increasingly vocal and discerning Chinese consumer.
The rat may be a tough sell for luxury brands this year, so several companies have used creative licence to come up with a cutesy ‘mouse’ look. Nostalgic collabs were introduced by Gucci, who collaborated with Disney’s Mickie and Minnie, whilst ETRO and SMFK worked with Tom & Jerry.
Here are three campaigns we feel nailed CNY 2020.
Following the super-successful release of their B Bounce mobile game, Burberry opted to reskin it with a Chinese New Year theme. The game now stars virtual influencer ‘Ratberry’.
Alongside the game, the luxury brand released Lunar New Year stickers on WeChat featuring Ratberry and products from the dedicated Lunar New Year capsule collection.
Ratberry meets the huge appetite among Chinese consumers for gaming (YPulse found that 63% of 13 to 36-year-olds play mobile games weekly).
Last year, Burberry’s campaign drew a wave of criticism on social media from Chinese netizens (Internet citizens) who likened its images to Asian horror movies. This year, however, it was widely well received - perhaps because of the nature of the format.
Mobile game over traditional fashion shoot - is this a sign of things to come?
Alibaba’s same-sex couple
Tmall.com is the retail arm of Alibaba (the world’s largest online retailer and e-commerce company). This year, their Chinese New Year ad featured a same-sex couple.
This is a major step forward for representation in China, as homosexuality is largely ignored on TV and in marketing. It comes at a time when state censors are seeking to curb gay content.
However, Chinese society is becoming increasingly tolerant of homosexuality, especially among the young. Most young people believe that by the next generation (20 to 30 years from now) China will have largely accepted LGBTQ people.
The ad centres around the traditional custom of introducing your family to your new partner at New Year. There’s an initial look of surprise from the family when their son brings his boyfriend Kelvin in the room, but the situation is soon accepted as normal, with the new boyfriend even calling the father ‘dad’, which became a popular meme on Chinese social media.
During this time of celebration, togetherness and family, it’s refreshing to see Alibaba do something brave and progressive. One Chinese netizen wrote “although it’s a small step, it’s a big one for society”.
Gucci x Disney
Gucci took the Year of the Rat almost-literally this year by teaming up with the world’s most famous rodents, Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The Disney heroes appeared across sweaters, jackets, tees and accessories and were shot in Disneyland California by cult film-maker Harmony Korine.
Korine’s campaign and accompanying video featured Chinese actress and brand ambassador Ni Ni, Earl Cave (son of Nick) and model Zoe Bleu dressed head to toe in vintage Mickey Mouse looks.
Disneyland is a Marmite kind of place, but for a brand like Gucci who are all about maximalism, in-your-face design and shock, this setting worked well. Definitely one of Gucci’s best.
SEEN. has been compiled by Alex Theaker. Want to say hello, ask questions or question his cultural knowledge? Throw an email over to email@example.com. Or you can find LOVE in all the usual places: