Mahjong and Makeup: How Maybelline Got the Chinese New Year Right

Every year numerous brands create special limited-edition products to celebrate Chinese New Year – and brands often look to influencers to help promote these products that are intended to drive sales to start the year. But how do some manage to stand out in a sea of holiday promotions?

Using a basic marketing tactic called product seeding, brands give away products to influencers in hopes that they will share the product promotion with their followers. While product seeding is a smart way to keep KOLs (key opinion leaders) up to date on brands’ new product offerings and develop a closer relationship with them, brands need to remember that influencers – even smaller ones – are inundated with piles of free products every day. For companies that want influencers to post about their product, the presentation is key for an eye-catching campaign that stands out from the pile.

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This Chinese New Year, cosmetics brand Maybelline did just that. For the launch of their new “Red on Fire” lipstick series, they created a custom mahjong set, with the traditional symbols on the tiles replaced with lipstick, New York City icons, and the Maybelline M logo on the back. The new products were placed in the center of the case.

The campaign was a resounding success with hundreds of bloggers across all major Chinese social media platforms posting about it. A search for “Maybelline mahjong” on Xiaohongshu or RED returns over 260 posts, with many commenters asking where they could buy the mahjong set, some commented: “now I know what lipsticks to wear when I play Mahjong”. And, even top WeChat fashion blogger gogoboi took note. When he did his annual roundup of Chinese New Year limited edition products, he said that one of his two favorite items this year was Maybelline’s custom mahjong set.

Maybelline CNY pop-up store in China. Photo: Maybelline

Maybelline CNY pop-up store in China. Photo: Maybelline

Paired with the campaign, the brand also hosted fire-themed pop-up stores in Shenzhen and Tianjin, setting up a fire truck and mahjong table for visitors to take selfies. The company also used brand ambassador actor Bai Yu promote the event.

While most brands still struggle to come up with products that incorporate the Chinese zodiac or with traditional Chinese colors, Maybelline has shown that it knows how to connect with the local culture with its special products. It has managed to get influencers excited about a product and create buzz-worthy social awareness for the brand.