Why Nike Won Chinese New Year

For fashion brands, Chinese New Year can be a lucrative period; it is considered a lucky time for the Chinese to buy new clothing. The likes of Burberry and Marni regularly release capsules celebrating the new cycle of the Chinese zodiac. Red coloured fashions and accessories (the colour beckons luck) are everywhere in luxury stores and street markets, as are cute animations of the animal we’re celebrating that year.

But recent incidents have taught Western brands to be on tenterhooks when it comes to localized marketing to China. It’s seen as more necessary these days, but insensitive or lame attempts are often met with widespread online ridicule –often doing your brand more harm than good. 

That’s why it’s so beautiful to see a global brand nail it, as Nike has done this year. Nike’s release of a funny, quirky heartwarming localized video – their first for Chinese New Year – has gone completely viral. It’s not only being passed by sportswear fans – I’ve even had aunties and uncles in their 60s sending me the video over WeChat. 

The 1:30 min story takes on the annual gifting of red pockets or “hong bao” being handed to children by adults: taking us on a time-lapse over years of an adorable little girl who runs away yearly from a very insistent hong bao bearing auntie. The game of cat and mouse charts her coming of age into adulthood, aided by various pairs of Nikes over the years. The hilarious chase goes through cities and countryside over the years. And whilst it’s always polite to decline the cash, the gifting auntie nearly always wins – something those that grew up in China know all too well. 

Traditionally, hong bao are given from older generations to younger ones, and from married people to the rest (sometimes their elders) - with the last scene seeing roles reverse: the girl is finally married with her own family and holding out a hong bao to her auntie. The shot pans to her aunt’s feet, a new pair of Nikes on them, the challenge of a chase twinkling in the 60-something year old’s eyes. “Hold nothing back this year” motto comes up on the screen, followed with a simple Nike swoosh. 

Nike won gold with this genius branding - a mini-short worthy of awards, going the hearts and minds route, instead of a hard sell. What does this tell us about the vast, fast-changing China market? That localized content is best done by those that understand local culture and humour – and when it comes to fashion, sports and lifestyle; not everyone responds to white-washed glamour. The Nike casting is very local, as is the storyline. The scenes reflect a ‘normal’ China, rather than the shiny, bland aspirational route that most brands try to take. A nod to China’s modern lifestyle (a unique blend of tradition and technology) is worth acknowledging - there’s the reference in the video to China’s digital economy – and how family and friends (and even brands) now gift digital “hong bao” over WeChat. 

Years ago, I did my masters in Anthropology, studying Orientalism and Occidentalism in Chinese consumption. I know that cultural misunderstandings can go both ways. But it’s taken several cycles of trial and error for China-vested Western brands to realize that Chinese curiosities “through a Western-looking glass” are not appealing to the native Chinese. In reality, most brands still have little idea. 

The mass online backlash to the recent spate of fashion PR disasters has put brands on edge in China. Whether “lost in translation” moments or politically sensitive issues, wrong moves can deal severe blows to brands. Coach, Givenchy or Versace apologized for geographical-nation border mishaps on t-shirts. There’s, of course, Dolce & Gabbana’s infamous 2018 China debacle that spilt from digital to everywhere - all but closing off a once enthusiastic Chinese clientele. 

But the Nike example shows how to do it right, with style and soul. Humble, celebratory and funny, those 1:30 mins have done wonders for the sportswear giant. The brand has also followed up with commercial digital activations on WeChat – where typing in Gong Xi Fa Cai Nike will release hong bao Nike cash vouchers into your chat group- followed by a link to their online store. These brands might all be in the business of selling things. Still, it pays to realize that just like in European, UK or the US markets, trying to reach Chinese consumers through a gentler, humbler “us” “rather than “you” advertising narrative can be a winning approach.

SHARE
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
SIMILAR ARTICLES
Pitti Announces New Calendar
By Elisa Carassai
After last week's previous announcements which declared...
By Elisa Carassai
By Elisa Carassai
After last week's previous announcements which declared the postponement of Milano Moda Uomo and the Paris shows to September, the Pitti Group also divulged the change of dates of their upcoming fairs and events.   The majority of the fairs will be...
After last week's previous announcements which declared the postponement of Milano Moda Uomo and the Paris shows to September, the Pitti Group also divulged the change of dates of their upcoming fairs and events.   The majority of the fairs will be hosted in September (the 98th edition of the show will be hosted from the 2nd to the 4th of...
Huda Kattan Pledges $100.000 in Support of Struggling Make-up Artists
By Alice Ierace
Beauty icon, entrepreneur and founder of Huda Beauty, Huda...
By Alice Ierace
Beauty icon, entrepreneur and founder of Huda Beauty, Huda Kattan, has pledged to donate $100,000 to support freelance make-up artists who are struggling during the COVID-19 crisis.   In a raw and emotional Instagram video, she explained: “When...
Beauty icon, entrepreneur and founder of Huda Beauty, Huda Kattan, has pledged to donate $100,000 to support freelance make-up artists who are struggling during the COVID-19 crisis.   In a raw and emotional Instagram video, she explained: “When coronavirus first hit, I think everyone was scared about like ‘how can I protect my loved ones?’ And...
L'Oréal Acquires the Mugler Brands and Azzaro Fragrances
By Alice Ierace
Beauty brand L’Oréal has announced that, after obtaining the necessary authorisations from the...
By Alice Ierace
Beauty brand L’Oréal has announced that, after obtaining the necessary authorisations from the relevant authorities, it has finalised the acquisition of the Mugler brands and Azzaro fragrances from Clarins Group.As it stands, the companies include Mugler, Thierry Mugler (Fashion), Clarins...
Beauty brand L’Oréal has announced that, after obtaining the necessary authorisations from the relevant authorities, it has finalised the acquisition of the Mugler brands and Azzaro fragrances from Clarins Group.As it stands, the companies include Mugler, Thierry Mugler (Fashion), Clarins Fragrance Group (CFG), CFG France, Cosmeurop and CFG UK – activities that, in 2018, represented...
Marco Zanini’s Quest for Independence
By Elisa Carassai
Marco Zanini is no rookie in the fashion system. With a...
By Elisa Carassai
Marco Zanini is no rookie in the fashion system. With a background that counts experiences at Versace, Halston, Schiaparelli, Rochas and Santoni, the designer has, over time, developed a cult following his appointment at Rochas. It comes however, as a...
Marco Zanini is no rookie in the fashion system. With a background that counts experiences at Versace, Halston, Schiaparelli, Rochas and Santoni, the designer has, over time, developed a cult following his appointment at Rochas. It comes however, as a surprise, to why an experienced designer like Zanini would want to take a ‘gamble’ on himself and...
On a Hunt For Quality
By Frédéric Martin-Bernard
To kill time in this period of confinement, I set out to stitch the button on a coat I had only...
By Frédéric Martin-Bernard
By Frédéric Martin-Bernard
To kill time in this period of confinement, I set out to stitch the button on a coat I had only worn 3 or 4 times. Then, I remembered that another button was detached from a jacket that was not much older; that the hem of a pair of trousers was beginning to unravel; that the lining of a coat was...
To kill time in this period of confinement, I set out to stitch the button on a coat I had only worn 3 or 4 times. Then, I remembered that another button was detached from a jacket that was not much older; that the hem of a pair of trousers was beginning to unravel; that the lining of a coat was loose by a few centimetres. That several parts of my dressing room were in need of small repairs...
Upcoming Milan and Paris Shows Cancelled
By Alice Ierace
In light of the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic worldwide, Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana...
By Alice Ierace
In light of the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic worldwide, Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana has announced that the Milano Moda Uomo fashion shows and presentations, scheduled June 19th to June 23rd 2020, will now take place during Milano Moda Donna edition in September 2020 instead. “We are...
In light of the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic worldwide, Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana has announced that the Milano Moda Uomo fashion shows and presentations, scheduled June 19th to June 23rd 2020, will now take place during Milano Moda Donna edition in September 2020 instead. “We are working on new digital formats and new ways of meeting to create, in the days provided by Milano Moda...
Net-A-Porter Shutters E-Commerce Indefinitely
By Elisa Carassai
Fashion e-commerce platform Net-A-Porter has bowed to pressure from its worried workers and...
By Elisa Carassai
Fashion e-commerce platform Net-A-Porter has bowed to pressure from its worried workers and stopped its online operations during the coronavirus emergency.“We have made the difficult decision to close our distribution centres in the US and Europe, thus temporarily suspending service in these...
Fashion e-commerce platform Net-A-Porter has bowed to pressure from its worried workers and stopped its online operations during the coronavirus emergency.“We have made the difficult decision to close our distribution centres in the US and Europe, thus temporarily suspending service in these regions including the Middle East. Our Asia Pacific service remains open.” Net-A-Porter explained in an...
Armani and Estée Lauder To Join The Fight Against Covid-19
By Alice Ierace
After being amongst the first brands to offer financial support amid the Coronavirus crisis and...
By Alice Ierace
After being amongst the first brands to offer financial support amid the Coronavirus crisis and amongst the first to announce the closure of all its stores to safeguard the health and wellbeing of its staff and clients, Giorgio Armani has now announced the conversion of all its Italian production...
After being amongst the first brands to offer financial support amid the Coronavirus crisis and amongst the first to announce the closure of all its stores to safeguard the health and wellbeing of its staff and clients, Giorgio Armani has now announced the conversion of all its Italian production sites to manufacture disposable lab coats for the personal protection of health workers committed...