Reports

    Chinese youth have a new zoo fascination. How are brands engaging?

    With young urban Chinese flocking to zoos, brands like North Face, Samsung, and Judydoll are eyeing the new attraction to create unique collabs.
    Image: Xiaohongshu screenshot
    Juliette Duveauwriter
      Published   in Lifestyle

    Following city walk fever, young urban Chinese are now fascinated with zoo tours.

    Unlike in some other places around the world, many young urban Chinese see zoos as a unique blend of entertainment and escape, sparking a new fascination with personalized animal experiences and interactive leisure activities.

    By immersing themselves in visiting animals and connecting with nearby aspects of nature, they are finding respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

    During the past Qingming Festival in April, the search for “domestic zoo” and related ticket orders increased by a staggering 192% and 649%, respectively. The zoo craze kept booming during the May Day holiday, with zoos nationwide experiencing a dramatic surge in daily visitors compared to usual days.

    The top destinations include Beijing Wildlife Park, Nanjing Hongshan Zoo, Shanghai Animal Park, and Guangzhou Zoo. Each zoo’s related hashtag has garnered over millions of views on Xiaohongshu, and the hashtag dongwuyuan (#动物园,) which means zoo, has amassed 1.9 billion views.

    Given the sudden popularity of zoos among youth and their continued cultivation of their success, such as creating star animals, some sharp-sighted brands have partnered with these institutions to come up with unique collaborations.

    Chinese youth are fascinated with zoos. Image: Xiaohongshu
    Chinese youth are fascinated with zoos. Image: Xiaohongshu

    The star animal phenomenon#

    Star animals are one of the main reasons for young people to go to zoos; thus, many are recording cute and entertaining videos of their animals and posting them on social media platforms to create their own mascot.

    Some have gone viral online, soon becoming a main attraction for the zoo. At the Guangzhou Zoo, a lion named A Hang (阿杭) became popular because of its unique bangs hairstyle and its persona as a “doting husband.” Related hashtags have now garnered around 10 million views on Xiaohongshu. Those unsatisfied with watching it just online are traveling hundreds of miles to see the doting lion.

    Another one is the white-faced monkey named DuDu (杜杜) at Hong Shan Zoo, which is known for its ugly appearance but adorable personality. It has become a big IP in Nanjing. The hashtag #DuDu has over 130,000 posts and 31 million views on Xiaohongshu.

    Chinese netizens post their close interactions with animals. Image: Xiaohongshu
    Chinese netizens post their close interactions with animals. Image: Xiaohongshu

    By personalizing animals with names and unique personalities, a stronger emotional connection is created between animals and human beings. The star animal phenomenon also drives high demand for related merchandise. At Hongshan Zoo, visitors rarely leave without purchasing a couple, if not a dozen, adorable souvenirs, from accessories and blind boxes to daily-use objects. Many items are limited editions and quickly sell out.

    New collaborations opportunities for brands#

    Some local and international players have already eyed the buoyant sector and started to collaborate with zoos and their animal IPs.

    Chinese beauty brand Judydoll launched a new collection themed “Vibrant Life” on April 22, featuring Hongshan Zoo’s star animals on the packaging. The collection features a variety of animal-themed products, including a capybara concealer plate, red panda lip mud, and pink leopard eyeshadow palette.

    As proof of success, the hashtag #JUDYDOLL&HongshanZooCollaboration (橘朵红山动物园联名) has received 1.3 million views on Xiaohongshu.

    Notably, since January, Samsung Galaxy has held a long-term pop-up at the Hongshan Zoo to promote its new AI collection, showcasing the impressive number of young visitors the zoo receives daily. The hashtag #HongshanZooMeetsAI attracted 16.5 million views on Xiaohongshu.

    Young Chinese generously spend on Hong Shan Zoo merchandise; Hey Tea partners with Hong Shan star animal Du Du and a capybara. Image: Xiaohongshu
    Young Chinese generously spend on Hong Shan Zoo merchandise; Hey Tea partners with Hong Shan star animal Du Du and a capybara. Image: Xiaohongshu

    In March, North Face Kids teamed up with Hongshan Zoo to organize a zoo activity. Children were invited to wear the brand’s outdoor clothing to have a close encounter with nature and to meet Tutu (突突), a golden snub-nosed monkey, one of the zoo’s most popular star animals. The hashtag #ThegGoldenSnubNosedMonkeyTutu (金丝猴突突) now has 6.8 million views on Xiaohongshu.

    The popular Chinese tea beverage brand Hey Tea has also collaborated twice with the trendy IPs of Hongshan Zoo. The purchase incentives, such as stickers, fluffy cup covers, and badges, have been remarkably well received.

    The new interactive experiences#

    Many zoos are redefining themselves as complex entertainment hubs. By incorporating cafés, cinemas, concerts, art exhibitions, and even overnight stays, zoo visits have become more exciting than ever.

    At Beijing Wildlife Park, visitors can enjoy a cup of coffee in a hornbill-themed café, surrounded by real hornbills. Additionally, Hongshan Zoo now offers the unique experience of spending the night, allowing guests to explore and observe animals after sunset — an adventure unlike anything in urban life.

    Zoos are becoming a complex amusing park where exciting and interactive experiences are provided. Image: Xiaohongshu
    Zoos are becoming a complex amusing park where exciting and interactive experiences are provided. Image: Xiaohongshu

    Even if people can’t visit the zoo in person, they can still watch livestreaming of the animals on the zoo’s social media accounts and enjoy the captivating introductions from the keepers.

    As zoos develop more ways to attract young visitors, brands can engage with them to better reach this cohort.

    The Chinese Pulse is a creative marketing consulting agency based in Paris, dedicated to accompany fashion, beauty, luxury and lifestyle brands on their strategies aiming at the Chinese & Asia contemporary market.


    • The zoo craze in China aligns with youngsters’ pursuit of a slower nature-connected lifestyles as zoos are becoming increasingly humanized and animal centered, making them more appealing to visitors.
    • This new craze offers a wide range of new opportunities for brands to connect to the Chinese youth emotions and new aspirations.
    • Zoos are being transformed into complex leisure parks, offering a diverse range of experiences to satisfy different demands, both online and offline.
    Discover more
    Daily BriefAnalysis, news, and insights delivered to your inbox.