Although Christmas is not officially observed in China, the Western holiday has long been marked as an occasion for young people in cities to go out for dinner (perhaps on a romantic date) and exchange presents. Brands have taken notice of these consumption trends and stepped up efforts to market to the all important millennial and Gen Z demographics in the run-up to the holiday.
For this year’s Christmas campaign, KFC, China’s favorite foreign fast-food chain, released a short video with some of China’s most popular celebrities. Longtime spokesperson Lu Han reprises his role of Colonel, joining livestreaming uber-influencer Li Jiaqi (aka the “lipstick king,” known for trying on hundreds of products in a single broadcast) to promote a month-long discount on KFC’s signature buckets of chicken.
The video makes a humorous reference to Li’s nonstop livestreaming broadcast schedule as he informs the Colonel that he will be working through Christmas. The Colonel then offers Li an opportunity to take a break and enjoy some self-reflection along with some fried chicken, which re-energizes Li for his work. The storyline taps into the “hardworking spirit of youth” while portraying KFC’s products as a way to relax and make the most of one’s free time.
While the use of a top idol and a leading influencer are sure to draw at least some of their fans to KFC, critics have noted awkward plot transitions and somewhat wooden acting, with some wondering whether the video is about Li promoting KFC, or about KFC promoting Li. The influencer has been expanding his work for KFC through livestreaming broadcasts and branded vlogs, which is good news for the fast-food chain. The reception to the campaign has been largely positive on social media, with most comments coming from fans of Li and Lu, proving that, in this case, popularity is the promotion.
KFC has created short Christmas films for the Chinese market in previous years, and for 2019 it launched another attention-getting campaign with its “Santa Claus tour.” The company recruited several licensed “Santas” from Finland’s Santa Claus Foundation to visit locations in six cities around China and interact with customers. The group is also sharing vlogs of their travels in collaboration with popular creators on the youth-oriented video-streaming service Bilibili.