Are shoppers in China fatigued by the country’s three commercialized romantic festive days? Enthusiasm for Qixi Festival, China’s traditional lovey-dovey occasion, indicates they aren’t.
“It is one of the highest-spending events of the year,” says Aurelien Rigart, co-founder and VP at digital consultancy ITC.
This year, the festival falls on August 22. During last year’s Qixi Festival, despite the pandemic, hotel bookings, flower sales, and restaurant orders increased two to three fold compared to the previous year. Sales for popular female gifting categories lipstick, gold jewelry, and fashion watches surged 103 percent, 280 percent, and 400 percent year on year, respectively.
The Qixi festival is an occasion for brands to boost demand.
“Some Chinese netizens await the festival with excitement, and others don’t plan to celebrate it at all. But even if they don’t celebrate it, they still enjoy the unique poetic vision in luxury marketing campaigns,” says Anaïs Bournonville, co-founder of Chinese marketing agency Reverse Group.
Some brands deploy longer campaigns over the festival to maximize the occasion by extending the marketing warm-up period.
“Clarins and Laneige started their campaigns one month before Qixi. Notably, Moschino began its promotions one and a half months ahead,” says Rigart.
Jing Daily looks at the key trends defining luxury brands’ Qixi campaigns this year.
Inspired by Chinese mythology
China’s Qixi Festival has been observed for over 2,000 years. The origin myth centers on two star-crossed lovers — Zhinu (织女), daughter of a powerful goddess, and Niulang (牛郎), a mere mortal — who fall in love. But Zhinu’s mother separates them, bringing her daughter back to heaven. The two lovers can only reunite once a year, on Qixi Festival, when magpies form a bridge connecting Earth with heaven.
Loewe adapted this love story to a modern social context, with actor Leo Wu, the maison’s global ambassador playing the protagonist in a long-distance relationship. In the short promo film, the partners express their longing for each other by making origami stars, and their joy when they finally reunite.
The Spanish fashion house’s Qixi limited edition Hammock Hobo mini bag’s shape recalls the origami star symbol, making the gift meaningful for consumers in China.
Italian house Prada has also created a Qixi campaign recalling the festival’s origins. The ad features famous actor Tan Jianci and model Li Wen, who, despite being physically apart, express their heartfelt connection.
Lastly, Maison Margiela sets the myth in a desert, with the two protagonists located at the opposite ends of the arid land. Although far apart, the two lovers feel each other’s presence, and embark on a quest to meet.
“Young Chinese consumers are gravitating more towards national values and ‘Made-in-China’ offerings, and thus are increasingly drawn to the traditional Qixi romantic festival,” says Rigart.
This year, several brands are featuring real-life couples that embody love to enable consumers to mirror themselves.
Louis Vuitton enrolled married couple supermodel Xi Mengyao and entrepreneur Mario Ho to promote and feature in its Qixi campaign. The couple is well known in China given their appearance on the popular TV show Happy Trio (幸福三重奏). Besides the commercial ad, Louis Vuitton continued to promote its lifestyle categories — fashion, watches, footwear, tech devices, jewelry, and fragrances — as gift ideas for Qixi, an initiative that was launched for China’s ‘I Love You’ Day, also known as 520 Day, on May 20.
Chanel is taking it a step further. It created a cartoon portraying the love story between actor Jing Boran and supermodel Liu Wen while promoting Chanel’s Coco Crush fine jewelry line. The 2D animated characters and the innovative approach have won over fans.
Meanwhile, Spanish house Balenciaga is shining the spotlight on a regular real-life couple from Shanghai for its Qixi campaign. The two young people, dressed in Balenciaga, shyly share how they first met online and details of their first date to the camera.
Leveraging the power of celebrity
China’s fan economy is potent. Having idols face campaigns secures traffic for luxury brands, and, most of the time, sales. In fact, “most luxury brands in China are going for the usual route … launching limited-edition products with special promotions and collaborations with KOLs and artists,” says Rigart.
This year, Tiffany & Co and its global ambassador actor Jackson Yee (89 million followers on Weibo) are delivering online Qixi blessings to followers and fans while promoting the house’s new Tiffany Lock series, which Yee sports in the campaign. So far, the ad has attracted over 1 million views on Weibo, China’s top microblogging site.
Moncler adopted a similar strategy. It invited its global face, actor and singer Wang Yibo (40 million followers on Weibo), to promote its Qixi-themed down coat, which sports a red heart patch beneath the Moncler logo.
In Rimowa’s video for Qixi, which has generated a staggering 8 million views, actor and singer Chen Zheyuan talks to philosophy professor Liu Qing about the meaning of love. Thanks to his appearance alongside Zhao Lusi in the popular C-drama Hidden Love (偷偷藏不住), which premiered this June, Chen is one of today’s hottest actors, though his following on Weibo at 12 million is comparatively low.
Value in scarcity
Limited edition products continue to lure shoppers, who are attracted by the idea that they are among the lucky few to obtain a limited edition product, which also imbues these types of gifts with cachet.
Taking inspiration from surrealist artist René Magritte’s love story with his wife Georgette Berger, Delvaux created a Delvaux Amour series in shades of pink for the mainland. The L’Amour collection is a romantic interpretation of Magritte’s work. The bags feature an image of two swans crossing their necks and swimming leisurely on the surface of a lake under the moonlight, seemingly forming the word ‘amour,’ or love affair in French.
French jewelry house Cartier has also reinterpreted and embellished an iconic product, its Trinity necklace, by adding a pink crystal that adds a layer of romance to the sophisticated jewelry. Though the tactic of adding pink to a product has been frequently deployed by luxury houses, including Bulgari and Dior, it still resonates with consumers.
Last but not least, Fendi has created a multicolored FF logo print range for its menswear and womenswear to mark Qixi festival. The capsule will be available in China, as well as Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. It’s a shrewd move as many Chinese expats live in these locations, which are also popular with travelers from the mainland, especially as China’s borders reopened at the beginning of this year.