March 9, 2011

Nostalgia A Strong Draw For China’s “Post-80s” Consumers

Is Brand Fatigue Pushing More Of China’s Post-80s Generation Toward Retro Chinese Brands?

“Jiang Ai” Poster

“Eternal Moment” Poster

With the release of “Eternal Moment” (将爱, literally “To Love”), a film adaptation of the popular 1998 Chinese television drama “Cherish Our Love Forever” (将爱情进行到底), a new wave of nostalgia is sweeping over the country’s so-called “Post-80s Generation” (80后代), those born and raised in the 1980s.

Directed by Zhang Yibai, “Eternal Moment” reunites the stars of the original 1998 television show, popular blogger and actress Xu Jinglei (last seen in the product-hawking melodrama “Go Lala Go!”) and actor Li Yapeng. Li, the leading man and one of the film’s producers, is also well known among younger Chinese as the husband of pop superstar Faye Wong (王菲). Wong, too, appears (in voice) in “Eternal Moment,” singing its theme song, “Because of Love,” a duet with popular Hong Kong performer Eason Chan Yik-shun.

Following the original storyline about an unfulfilled campus romance between actress Wen Hui (Xu) and actor Yang Zheng (Li), the movie picks up with Wen and Yang reuniting in Bordeaux, France after 12 years apart — a reflection of the burgeoning Chinese interest in French wine, as Jing Daily pointed out in an earlier article. Since its release on Valentine’s Day,  the success of “Eternal Moment” at the box office has been noted by some industry commentators as an example of the increasing power of nostalgia in China’s consumer market, especially among the now more economically independent post-80s generation. The collective memory of China’s emerging “nostalgic consumer” base is a major factor driving China’s ongoing retro brand renaissance, with more homegrown Chinese brands now incorporating nostalgia into their marketing campaigns — something their foreign competitors simply can’t do.

After seeing “Eternal Moment,” some viewers said the film’s significance lies not in the movie itself, but more in the their recollection of the original 1998 storyline, which centers on looking back at one’s younger years.

The cover of the classic Chinese Junior High English textbook

The cover of the classic Chinese Junior High English textbook

Despite the release of “Eternal Moment” coming at the right place at the right time, it’s not the only successful case of using nostalgia to tug at the heartstrings of China’s post-80s generation. From  Chinanews.com (translation by Jing Daily team):

A popular online song named ‘Li Lei and Han Meimei’ has caused a wave of nostalgic feelings to sweep the post-80s generation, as Li and Han were the names of two characters in the English text book used by millions of Chinese junior high school students. Almost immediately after the song went viral, the [Hong Kong] clothing brand Giordano launched a limited edition “Li Lei and Han Meimei” t-shirt imprinted with the two characters. The shirt quickly sold out. In addition, other clothing brands have launched retro collections featuring 1980s cartoon characters like  ”Black Cat Sergeant”(黑猫警长, Hēi māo jǐng zhǎng) and “Calabash Boys”(葫芦娃, Húlu wá), which have caused a sensation among the post-80s generation.

On Taobao.com, an online store called “Memories for the Post-80s Generation” sells a variety of 1980s products including toys, clothes, food, glass marbles, bubble gum, tin clockwork toys, “Black Cat Sergeant” accessories, candy and other typical items once beloved by the post-80s generation.

Giordano's "Li Lei and Han Meimei" t-shirt

Giordano's "Li Lei and Han Meimei" t-shirt

Now, as they enter their 30s, China’s post-80s generation faces a variety of economic and social pressures. As such, it’s not surprising that an ever-growing number of companies are looking to cash in by using nostalgia to give these individuals a way to temporary escape from the realities of daily life.

However, in order to successfully tap this niche market, the “nostalgic marketing” strategy needs to be integrated from product conception and re-design to promotion and post-service.

Article by Betty Bei Chen

Culture / Entertainment / Film & Television
Tag: 80后代, eternal moment, faye wong, film... , More
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