May 20 is a meaningful and romantic day for couples in China, when some might exchange sweet nothings such as “5201314” (wu er ling yi san yi si) or even choose the date to get married. While this string of numbers means nothing in the West, it is almost homophonous with the expression “I love you forever” (wo ai ni yi sheng yi shi) in Chinese. To mark yesterday’s auspicious holiday, luxury brands took to Weibo and WeChat to send messages of love and affirmation or convince users to make confessions of love for prizes.
Numbers play a big role in digital communication in China. Certain numbers, such as “520” or “065,” sound like “I love you” (我爱你) or “forgive me” (原谅我) respectively, and are convenient to type to via text or on the internet. Websites in China try to utilize this shortcut too—e-commerce giant Alibaba can be shortened to 1688.com, as the numbers sound like the company’s name, and Chinese video-sharing site 6.cn is shortened because the word for the number six sounds like the Chinese word for “streaming.”
To capitalize on “520 Day,” many brands have put up messages of love to raise brand awareness. French beauty product company Clarins posted on its Weibo account, “520, whose confession are you waiting for? All you have to do is look around you, and that companionship is the most enduring confession.”
American fashion brand Tory Burch took the opportunity to remind fans to express love for their mothers since its Mother’s Day special is still ongoing. “On May 20, you’ve expressed ‘I love you.’ On this day full of love, don’t forget to express your gratitude. There are still five days left of our Mother’s Day sales; grab this opportunity!”
Meanwhile, cosmetics brand Maybelline took advantage of its new male brand ambassador, Taiwanese pop star and actor Ko Chen-tung for a cheeky interactive product giveaway on Weibo. The brand invited fans to upload their photos to Maybelline’s “kiss hint” tool and send them to the object of their affection to see if their interest was reciprocated. “Love will find a way to come together,” says the brand.
Cosmetics brand Estée Lauder said it would not let its fans remain single on 520 Day, and encouraged them to make confessions to those they love to be entered to win a free product.
Meanwhile, Jaguar took to its WeChat account to tell its fans that nothing attracts a significant other like a luxury car. It says, “Does your beloved want a one-carat jewel, or to have an intimate time in a Jaguar XF? The all-new Jaguar XF with interest-free financing and two-year interest-free monthly payments of 16,000 ($2,566) yuan and up, allows you to enjoy a beautiful life.”
As the day drew to a close in China, and most people either expressed their love or chagrin at being single, Chengdu Evening News posted a humorous opinion on the legitimacy of 520, pointing out that almost any number can be made to sound like something in Chinese—“What 520? Isn’t 521 (wu er yi) also ‘I love you’ (我爱你, wo ai ni) in Chinese? Do we then have to celebrate 522 (wu er er) ‘I love evil’ (我爱恶, wo ai e) day, and 523 (wu er san) ‘I love to break up’ (我爱散, wo ai san) day?” The post carries on in that vein for 524 (wu er si), or “I love death” (我爱死, wu er si) to 529 (wu er jiu), or “I love wine” (我爱酒, wo ai jiu).