Every month, we look back at some of the most memorable initiatives in China’s active brand collaboration scene, where creativity and ability to connect with Gen Z and millennial consumers on the latest trends are keys to success.
Top Pick: Sotheby’s x Jay Chou
Asian megastar Jay Chou returns to his roots as the son of an art teacher, partnering with Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for an upcoming collaboration that will be revealed in June. Although few details have been released since Sotheby’s made an announcement of the partnership on April 19, the “King of Mandopop” has publicized the event on Instagram to his 6.4 million followers to much speculation of what’s to come.
While best known as one of the biggest Chinese-language music stars, Chou has expanded beyond entertainment into numerous business pursuits. He has worked with dozens of brands, from global consumer names like Pepsi and Oreo to C-beauty brand Pechoin and menswear labels Metersbonwe and Hailan House. He has also launched his own companies, such as streetwear brand Phantaci and several restaurants. Last year, he made his official debut on mainland Chinese social media with an exclusive deal with Kuaishou, including a livestream that reached a reported 68 million viewers, who spent $2.85 million within the first thirty minutes.
Chou’s partnership with Sotheby’s ties to his longstanding appreciation of fine art and has the potential to expand awareness of the auction house among Chou’s tens of millions of fans, spanning generations from Gen Z to older followers who have been listening to his music since he released his first album in 2000. Chou is an avid collector who has previously worked with the likes of Chinese artist Xu Bing, and his Instagram often features works he admires or owns. The two were connected through Enviseam, a brand founded by longtime Chou collaborator Jazz Li, and which is also listed as a partner in the upcoming Sotheby’s event.
Five more collabs worth noting:
Rolls Royce x Netease Music
Luxury car brand Rolls Royce and streaming service Netease’s electronic music brand Fever teamed up to produce “Journey Through Time and Space”, a work inspired by the signals that celestial objects emit into the universe. Four Chinese sound artists who previously worked with Fever — Luminn, NIng, Angry5JaR, and 3ayer — worked together on the project.
“Journey Through Time and Space” was part of a broader April 17 exhibition hosted by the luxury automaker at Shanghai’s Plaza 66 ahead of the. The show centered around Rolls Royce’s Phantom Campus, a dome-shaped complex that is described as a “timeless icon,” and featured various celestial themes, including pulsars, infinite time, and ambient electronic music, aligning the brand with the enduring nature and grandiosity of the universe.
Mercedes x Liu Cixin
Mercedes Benz added a futuristic spin to its “EQ Night” on April 18, inviting Hugo Award-winning author Liu Cixin to serve as a future creator for the brand. The event saw the Chinese debut of various models in the luxury car maker’s all-electric EQ lineup as well as the global launch of the EQB, a new electric SUV. The accompanying hashtag #EQ# has been viewed 240 million times on Weibo.
Liu’s “The Three Body Problem” became the first Asian novel to win the Hugo Award and is currently being turned into a Netflix series. His novella “The Wandering Earth” also became a blockbuster film in China in 2019. In naming Liu as a future collaborator and in featuring him in discussions about the direction of the universe at EQ night, Mercedes Benz puts a futuristic spin on its EQ series as part of a broader cultural conversation.
Neiwai x Manner Coffee
Another content-focused collaboration comes from Chinese lingerie brand Neiwai, which partnered with China’s latest coffee disruptor for the release of a short film highlighting its Spring/Summer 2021 collection. Focusing on the theme of urban exploration, the video features shots of young women wearing Neiwai apparel relaxing in parks, getting splashed by water, and carrying fruit through city streets. Neiwai shared via Weibo that Manner Coffee would also be releasing limited edition drinks, including a new matcha and espresso as well as iced and hot matcha lattes.
Both brands have risen to prominence as domestic disruptors in industries long dominated by Western brands. Manner Coffee began as a single store in Shanghai before exploding to 108 stores nationwide by the end of 2020. The trendy coffee chain has taken on Starbucks as a competitor by maintaining fast-food prices for specialty coffee. Similarly, Neiwai gained traction for its message of body positivity. Its non-sizing strategy, minimalist aesthetic focused on comfort, and viral “No Body Is Nobody” campaign have all resonated with young Chinese consumers and are echoed in the recent video as young women move around freely and comfortably while wearing Neiwai.
Wuling x Elle makeup collection
Chinese automaker Wuling Motors has recently been trending for its Hongguang Mini EV, and is no stranger to the cute aesthetic. The manufacturer recently collaborated with Chinese Elle magazine to release a macaron-inspired Spring makeup gift box. The travel set features the three colors of avocado green, peachy white, and lemon yellow, and includes a special edition macaron collection eyeshadow brush and a twelve-color eyeshadow palette.
Elle wrote on Weibo that the collaboration showcases the “sweetness” of Spring and is inspired by the limitless potential of traveling in fashion. The HongGuang Mini EV is featured as an ideal partner for these journeys. The electric vehicle, small and boxy with the ultra-low price of around $4,400, outsold Tesla in September 2020 and has made a strong impression on Gen Z consumers.
Pomellato x Harper’s Bazaar
Luxury brands continue to tap into female empowerment as high-end jewelry retailer Pomellato teamed up with Harper’s Bazaar Jewelry for a video exploring the nuanced identities and many sides of being a woman. The video features actress Zeng Li, designer Lan Yu, and writer Hao Jingfang, along with editor-in-chief Jing Jing, each exploring how they represent a combination of seemingly contradictory characteristics, such as being innovative and traditional at the same time. Close up shots in the video feature various Pomellato earrings, rings, and necklaces.
This is not Pomellato’s first effort at message-oriented marketing. The Italian jewelry brand previously produced a short film in March featuring Jane Fonda and Cate Blanchett, among other women, speaking about their activism and strength. Pomellato used the same hashtag (#Pomellato for Women) to promote both video productions.