The Good Old Days: Why Nostalgia Amplifies Brand Collabs In China

The following is an excerpt from “Big in China: Brand Collaboration,” the Jing guide to brand collaborations in China. Packed with revenue-generating strategies and interviews with leading designers, artists, and luxury decision-makers, this report is a must-read for anyone interested in leveraging one of China’s most influential marketing and retail trends. Email us to pre-order your copy today.

When evaluating collaborations in China, one stand-out trend is the leveraging of familiar IPs from cartoons or national food brands that stir a sense of nostalgia. For example, the 2022 collaboration between Chinese rapper Jackson Wang’s streetwear brand Team Wang and one of China’s household names, Taiwanese food manufacturer Want Want 旺旺, on a gift box to celebrate the Year of the Tiger: On Weibo, the hashtag “Buy Want Want to Bring Luck to Spring Festival,” which promoted the collaboration gift box, racked up an impressive 100 million cumulative views. 

As Wang said in a statement, “When I was a kid, there would always be Want Want [rice crackers] in the house during Lunar New Year, and I loved that feeling of being able to share them with family and friends.” Given that Team Wang is a clothing brand, tapping Want Want not only creates the opportunity of extending into a new product category, but also allowed Team Wang to relate to a wider audience as it is not only fashion or music fans who consume Want Want crackers at home. 

In 2021, Mintel found that 77 percent of Chinese consumers enjoy products that stir memories of the past, including childhood snacks. Nostalgia is a straightforward way to stir endorphins, while comforting consumers, particularly during difficult times like the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether a direct result of challenging periods or not, China has seen a consistent flow of nostalgic food and cartoon collaborations in 2022.

In May 2022, the newly launched, Gen Z-focused beauty brand Pink Bear 皮可熊, part of the portfolio of Perfect Diary owner Yatsen Holding Limited, launched a playful collection featuring the IP of the Japanese cartoon Chibi Maruko-chan (樱桃小丸子). First introduced as a popular cartoon in China from the 1990s through the end of its run in 2018, this Chibi Maruko-chan cosmetics line specifically targeted the nostalgia of Chinese millennials and Gen Zers. 

L’Oréal tapped the IP of a popular Chinese cartoon from the 1980s to ride the nostalgia wave. Photo: L’Oréal

Global brands are participating in the trend as well. In April 2022, L’Oréal released a line of make-up featuring the IP of the popular 1980s-era Chinese cartoon 黑猫警长 (Black Cat Police Captain) – even using the nostalgic theme tune to promote the line. After its initial run in the 1980s, the cartoon series had a successful reboot in the early noughties that culminated in a China-market movie in 2015. L’Oréal’s Men Expert brand also tapped a nearly 60-year-old Japanese children’s series about battling space monsters called Ultraman 奥特曼 that still airs in China. Collaborations like these prove an understanding of Chinese culture while playfully attracting a mainstream consumer base – precisely the target market of accessible beauty brand L’Oréal. 

Email us to pre-order your copy of “Big in China: Brand Collaboration” today.


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