Introducing Chinese Youth’s Latest Buzzword — Emo


Post pandemic, domestic online platforms, like the microblogging site Weibo, have become places where local youths can pour out their emotions, even anonymously. Now, netizens have invented new vocabulary words to express their feelings and emotions. These posts often connect a remarkable number of online users, creating a macrotrend, as with the term “emo.”

What is it:

This trending buzzword, which means “negative emotions,” is garnering wide use with local young people. Thanks to the growing “singlehood trend” and mounting struggles with work pressure, many young Chinese have shared their feelings of sadness, depression, and sensitivity on the country’s digital platforms.

Why it matters:

Emo is more than just a popular slang term. In fact, it reflects a social issue that young people are facing today, and businesses and brands should look to engage with them about it. The former should look for ways to safeguard their hired talents, while the latter could find new ways to resonate or give back to young consumers as a way to forge a deeper connection.

In response to these “emo” problems young people are facing today (getting nagged by parents, gossiped about by aunts, or asked about their weight, for example), Tmall and the television host Yi Lijing jointly released a 2022 Spring Festival Anti-Emo Guide to help young people battle their negative emotions. Meanwhile, athletic gear brand Champion also promoted “anti-emo” solutions in their Chinese New Year campaign. The promotion garnered over 1.8 million views compared to the 18,700 views of its previous campaign video — a massive jump in online traffic.

Champion’s Chinese New Year 2022 campaign, which addresses fighting “emo,” has garnered 1.8 million views on Weibo. Photo: Screenshot

What to watch:

Luxury is considered an “emotional” category rather than a rational one because a Maison is supposed to create or attend to feelings more than anything else. Therefore, this emo trend presents a unique gateway where luxury brands can reach their target audience.

Rebecca Jiang, a NABA fashion student living in Milan, told Jing Daily it is easy to feel negative emotions when something sad happens. “But I always try to look for ways to relieve myself,” she added. So if brands want to tap into the emo trend, finding ways to make consumers feel listened to, understood, and uplifted is the best route. Dao Nguyen, founder of Essenzia by Dao, noted that “when it comes to fragrance and beauty products, ‘healing’ is probably the keyword.”

Additionally, brands must recognize the social issues behind this trend and design brand messages that show empathy, said Amber Wu, Account Director at the digital marketing agency Emerging Communications. “From product design to consumer experience, [brands should] implement elements that genuinely benefit a consumer’s mental or physical wellbeing,” she said. “That will help make the consumer journey more authentic and personal.”

Recommended ReadingWhat China’s “Lying-Flat” Trend Means For Luxury BrandsBy Juliette Duveau and Sophia Dumenil

The bottom line:

As in the West, the ongoing pandemic and growing awareness of mental issues have led Chinese citizens to pay more attention to wellbeing, albeit more subtly. Mental health and depression have traditionally been considered taboo topics in China, especially among older generations. But Gen Zers entering the workforce are stepping out of their comfort zones and are gradually opening up about these issues by sharing them anonymously online. Whether these social issues appear under the guise of an emo trend or just mental health support in general, businesses should afford them their long-term attention and actions.


Consumer Insights