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: Maserati x CANOTWAIT
Italian luxury auto brand Maserati partnered with Hong Kong singer and actor William Chan’s streetwear brand CANOTWAIT for 520, China’s internet Valentine’s Day, to launch the Ghibli Hybrid Love Audacious. The limited-edition model was only made available in the Chinese market and featured a purple hue exclusive to Maserati that changes color depending on the angle or lighting. According to CANOTWAIT’s Weibo, sales were launched on May 20 via a week-long pop-up store in Shanghai that also displayed installation art associated with the marketing campaign. The hashtag #MaseratixCANOTWAITNewGhibliCustomizedEdition received 27.4 million views on Weibo.
The Maserati Ghibli, the automaker’s first hybrid vehicle, debuted in July 2020, following a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. This Love Audacious model of the Ghibli Hybrid draws upon CANOTWAIT’s streetwear aesthetic in the hopes of appealing to younger consumers in China, a market where the majority of Maserati buyers have been female. In the past, Chan’s clothing brand partnered with Japanese artist Ryo Mizukami for its 2021 spring collection, which was released on the platform FARFETCH. CANOTWAIT has also begun advertising its “Eyescream” clothing line, available on Tmall, for China’s 618 shopping festival. Both of these campaigns feature streetwear staples including oversized t-shirts and baggy silhouettes that are characteristic of CANOTWAIT’s style.
Five more collabs worth noting:
Sephora x Chen Baoyang
Global beauty retailer Sephora combined art with digital experiences in the launch of its new Beijing Taikoo Li Sanlitun flagship store in early May. The new outlet, located in a district known for its upscale dining and nightlife options, is a collaboration with Chinese artist Chen Baoyang. Chen’s “Algorithmic Blossom,” designed for the store opening, uses digital simulation and VR technology to display flowers on LED screens and offers additional interactive features such as an AR photo booth where customers can take photos and videos.
Sephora’s commitment to digitizing the shopping experience also encompasses a virtual platform for the Beijing store on the official Sephora app and as a WeChat mini program, where users anywhere in China can explore Chen’s artwork and learn about his inspiration for the piece while they shop.
Jason Wu x Wendy Yu
Fashion designer Jason Wu partnered with philanthropist and entrepreneur Wendy Yu’s luxury beauty brand Yumee to create a special-edition clutch featuring six of Yumee’s lipsticks for the 520 holiday, also known as China’s Internet Valentine’s Day. The collaboration, which was sold on Tmall, aimed to reflect the multifaceted beauty and power of the Yumee girl, according to the beauty brand’s Weibo.
Wendy Yu, who is artistic director of Yumee and founder of Yu Holdings, launched Yumee on Xiaohongshu in February of last year. For this recent collaboration, Yu said that she referred to data from Xiaohongshu to understand trends in the preferences of Gen Z and millennial consumers.
Proya x Chinese Aerospace
Homegrown skincare brand Proya embraced scientific discovery by partnering with China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the main contractor for the country’s space program, for a collaboration released shortly after the historic landing of the Tianwen-1 Rover on Mars on May 14. The limited-edition collection, which included an anti-aging serum and sunscreen, features rocket-shaped bottles that can be kept as souvenirs to commemorate the occasion.
In a Weibo post, Proya noted that the collection celebrates China’s progress from China-1, the country’s first satellite, to Tianwen-1. The skincare brand is known for marketing that pays attention to current events and issues, previously launching a campaign that went viral for International Women’s Day called “Gender does not set boundaries; prejudice does” in partnership with China Women’s News.
Li Jiaqi x Tmall x 10 Chinese Artists
Ahead of International Museum Day on May 18, Tmall joined forces with partnered with top e-commerce influencer Li Jiaqi and ten Chinese artists for a livestreamed campaign that explored the relationships between consumer goods and art. “Escape from the Art Museum” asked the question of where beauty can be found and looked at various trendy brands that sell on Tmall such as South Korean eyewear label Gentle Monster and socially conscious skincare producer Kimtrue.
The associated hashtag #LiJiaqiEscapeFromTheMuseum gained 270 million views on Weibo. Li Jiaqi, known as the “Lipstick King” for his ability to sell cosmetics, has become a star of Alibaba’s marketing, with appearances alongside Jack Ma for a Singles’ Day livestream in 2020 and an appearance in the short film “Explosive China” for the 2020 TMall Beauty Awards.
Coca-Cola x Bolon
Coca-Cola China partnered with eyewear brand Bolon to create a collection of reflective glasses in the colors of the rainbow for May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia. According to Bolon, each pair of glasses is made from two Coca-Cola bottles. The collaboration was not offered for sale but instead, Coca-Cola planned to give away 517 pairs to those who shared their “rainbow stories” via a social media campaign.
Both Bolon and Coca-Cola shared Weibo posts that explained the goal of the collaboration: to promote the ability to see differences and accept them, and to see more possibilities in the world. Pro-LGBTQI marketing has seen substantial growth in China in the past few years, with “pink yuan” ads becoming popular and increasing numbers of Chinese youth sharing more liberal attitudes. In 2020, China’s Alibaba Group released a commercial showing a man bringing his partner home for Lunar New Year, and leading brands such as Coach and Nike have previously sponsored Shanghai Pride.