In the wake of the gloomy luxury retail market in China over the past three months, brands are eagerly embracing the first post-virus holidays this month: Mother’s Day and 520 Day. Since the pronunciation of number 520 sounds similar to “I love you” in Chinese, May 20 has become another occasion for local people to convey their love to their significant others (in addition to International Valentine’s Day and the traditional Qixi Festival).
Looking back to the vital branding moment of February's International Valentine’s Day, many brands opted to use a soft approach due to the growing threat of COVID-19. However, since China’s businesses and consumer sentiment are both gradually recovering, discerning luxury players are now playing catch up by rolling out 520 campaigns.
Originally growing out of a popular internet slang term, May 20 celebrations have gone mainstream in China and are now a perfect match for digital campaigns that leverage social marketing. Below, Jing Daily selected five remarkable luxury brands that are standing out amid this year’s fierce battle to win 520 Day.
Prada was one of the first luxury brands to officially kick off its 520 campaign in China. Titled “Mathematics of Love,” its campaign explores love in the context of this post-pandemic era, defining love as both universal and specific, timeless yet also connected to the current moment. Starring Prada’s brand ambassador Cai Xunkun, who previously starred in the brand’s Human Code project, the campaign consists of a series of short videos on Weibo, WeChat Channel, and Douyin. A special selection of products dedicated to 520 Day, which can be purchased through a WeChat pop-up shop, is the sales focus.
To increase the campaign’s social engagement, the brand rolled out a “Prada filter” that allows users to personalize posters with the Prada logo. This helped boost views of the campaign hashtag “Embracing New Norm” to an impressive 410 million as of May 19. From its flower bouquet campaign to its Spring-Summer 2020 “Acronyms” collection, this Italian luxury house has proven its talent in the digital landscape again and again. The savvy way the brand leverages both influencing power and user-generated content is a fantastic way to maximize a campaign’s awareness and engagement.
To celebrate 520 Day, Louis Vuitton unveiled a 90-second short film on May 12 that features a treasure hunt on the brand’s monogram handbags hosted by actress Song Jia and livestreamer Li Jiaqi. Though Li’s screen appearance is unique for Louis Vuitton, which has previously favored celebrities with massive followings, his endorsement appeared to greatly impress netizens, as his Weibo campaign post garnered over 4.2 million views.
Luxury brands have become selective when identifying brand partners — especially when it comes to KOLs — partially because Louis Vuitton’s first livestream on Little Red Book stirred up controversy with local consumers. This alerted international luxury brands that they need to prioritize their brand images when experimenting with digital strategies. While Li’s endorsement has aroused wide-reaching online discussions, his influence on higher-end luxury goods (as compared to beauty products) remains unknown.
Gucci’s 520 Gucci Stories campaign was created to urge users of Weibo, WeChat, and Little Red Book to share the first moment they fell in love — with Gucci. Featuring brand celebrity partners like Li Yuchun, Lu Han, Ni Ni, and Cecilia Song, the campaign shared stories about their first Gucci product through handwriting letters and voiceovers. The campaign Weibo hashtag and WeChat post have so far received over 350 million and 100,000 views, respectively.
Instead of underlining romance explicitly, Gucci’s 520 initiative chose to rationalize this unofficial Valentine’s Day by encouraging users to view luxury products as a memento of love. Now that brands and retailers are frequently promoting campaigns and discounts in various guises to capitalize on China’s early rebound, local shoppers are starting to tire of marketing tactics. Discerning players like Gucci are carefully humanizing their campaigns as a way to authentically resonate with customers.
Tiffany & Co. launched a limited edition of its signature Tiffany Keys necklace with a touch of pink sapphires that surround the glittering diamonds exclusively for 520 Day. The product is available on the brand’s WeChat boutique and Little Red Book’s pop-up shop, and the campaign hashtag, “520 reasons of loving you,” has collected almost 100 million engagements on Weibo. The campaign, which frames the newly-launched necklace as a symbol of love, has performed well on the brand’s social network.
In addition to presenting a series of selections from permanent and seasonal collections, exclusive brand launches that are released on certain occasions can show a brand’s dedication to China’s market, thus earning shoppers’ appreciation. And digital pop-up stores have become a common yet effective way for luxury brands to tap into younger generations and customers from lower-tier cities who purchase more often via their phones.
Loewe launched a WeChat pop-up shop with a pink selection featuring Loewe’s signature handbags, accessories, perfumes, and a collaboration with a local luxury lifestyle brand: a 520 gift box that includes Loewe’s Soft Barcelona handbag and The Beast’s external flower box. The campaign title “ILOEWEYOU” plays with the brand’s somewhat homophonic name by incorporating it into the phrase “I love you.” With endorsements from celebrities like Song Qian, Gulnazar, and Ouyang Nana, the pink series has been popular with female shoppers, and the gift box has been frequently opened and proudly posted onto Little Red Book.
As younger generations in China show more interest in crossover products between different categories, creative collaborations, such as the one from Fenty Beauty and the local tea shop chain Heytea, have gone viral. Though leveraging crossover appeal can be an ideal opportunity for both brands to tap a wider consumer reach, luxury players should make sure to select the right partner and one that’s consistent with their brand identities. In Loewe’s case, The Beast, which is one of the most high-end flower shops in China, is a perfect match for a flash collaboration leading up to 520 Day.