China Sells Women’s Day With Butterflies, Goddesses, and Billboards

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, won two Oscars this week for its story about a woman fighting for justice for her murdered daughter. The protagonist, played by Frances McDormand, puts up three billboards calling out the chief of police, for failing to solve the case.

Another set of three billboards advocating for women also appeared on a busy street in Beijing. “The most attractive time for women”, reads one, “is not when they have fulfilled their will”, says the next, “but the process of becoming strongly determined.”

A cartoon dog on the top left corner of the billboards let’s us know who erected them — it’s the brand logo for Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com.

The Beijing billboards were raised in the lead up to March 8, International Women’s Day. In China, the day is something like a combination of Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Kids express their gratitude to their moms, husbands and boyfriends express affection for their female partners, and some employers give their female staff the day off.

Like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, brands and e-commerce platforms in China also see Women’s Day as a marketing opportunity. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the ‘her economy’, where women themselves have an excuse to flex their own consumer muscles, a perfect opportunity for brands to cash in.

According to a survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group in 2016, women are the leading consumers in 62 percent of Chinese households. The overall market for female consumption reached $2.6 trillion in 2015.

Butterfly Day Bargains and Goddess Day Deals

JD.com’s women’s day event has been called Butterfly Day since it started in 2014, and includes discounts on cosmetics, clothes, and electronics. Cosmetics are receiving an especially large push on JD.com, and brands such as L’Oréal, Olay, and Maybelline have launched exclusive custom gift boxes for the festival.

Similarly, Amazon China is also promoting beauty products for women’s day. It formed strategic collaborations with beauty brands Borghese, Sekkisei, and L’Oreal, who launched flagship stores on Amazon China.

Secoo Goddess Festival. Photo: Secoo.com

This year, starting from March 1, Secoo collaborated with Parson’s department store to host a 10 day-long event called Goddess Festival. The event is aimed at affluent women, and includes luxury brands such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Cartier, YSL, and Chanel.

According to Quartz, by March 6, sales records on Alibaba’s Tmall had already surpassed total women’s day sales from last year.

Brands Recruiting Strong, Independent Women

Among luxury brands, International Women’s Day is about female empowerment. Some congratulate women who have the financial independence to treat themselves, while others appoint brand ambassadors who women respect and wish to emulate.

Lancome women’s day campaign. Photo: WeChat

Beauty brand Lancôme created a campaign called ‘Unafraid of Age, Speak Up Bravely’, wherein three actresses of different ages offer their definition of bravery. They also offered consumers the chance to win its youth activating concentrate product.   

Dior China celebrated the strong feminist perspective of the brand’s creative director Maria Grazia by appointing Angelababy (whose feminist credentials are disputed) and Zhao Liying as their female ambassadors in China last year, as well as adding four female ambassadors for Maison Christian Dior Parfume. These are actress Wang Ziwen, Jewelry Designer Wan Baobao, Artist Liu Lijie and Wine Spectator Tong Lil.

Similarly, Diamond sellers De Beers announced Fan Bingbing as its global ambassador, who is known as “Mister Fan” (范爷) because she symbolizes a new breed of women in China who can accomplish as much or more than men.

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