CBI News Wrap: Patriotic Brand Fervor, Jay Chou’s Presence

Sichuan Airlines is among the 220 brands involved with “The Captain”

News from China

Today, October 1, is National Day in China, and this year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, a major political and social event. Domestic brands have come out in full force to celebrate the occasion, and we’ll provide a fuller report on these activities in next week’s newsletter. 

Bona Film Group’s “The Captain” (中国机长, previously known as “The Chinese Pilot”), part of the studio’s “China Pride” trilogy created for the anniversary, claims to be the movie with the most brand involvement in Chinese history. A whopping 220 companies have participated in licensing, publicity, marketing, and offline events to promote the film and establish an association with its patriotic, feel-good themes. Some brands simply put their names on otherwise identical posters, while others, such as Great Wall Motors, Huawei Honor and Breitling, have significant product placement in the film.  However, the most prominently featured brand, state-run Sichuan Airlines, is integrated organically into the movie, as the true story that the film is based on involved one of the carrier’s planes. 

Chinese skin care brand Pechoin has sought to tap into singer Jay Chou’s huge fan base by becoming one of his biggest fans in turn. The brand used an official account named “Pechoin loves Jay Chou” to purchase a lucky 6,666 copies of  Chou’s latest hit single, “Won’t Cry,” to take first place on the list of QQ Music’s top fans — giving it huge exposure among Chou’s fans. The skin care company also launched a social media campaign with Chou, a longtime spokesperson for Pechoin, to give away tickets to a concert in Shanghai, and a short film, “Time Magician” (时光魔法师), starring Chou and playing on his well-known interest in magic. 

Chou is also directing a travel-themed series, “J-Style Trip” (周游记), with a line-up of famous friends accompanying him on his journeys. The series, set to air on Zhejiang Satellite TV early next year, is described as part of a broader trend towards “personal custom variety shows” made by celebrities, combining elements of reality shows, advertising, high-quality short films, short video, and vlogs.

Chinese online-to-offline logistics firm Huolala has sought to draw young consumers in first-tier cities to its services through its annual branded “Cargo Festival,” which this year included an interactive comic-style game, cross-promotion with the fantasy action film “Jade Dynasty” (诛仙I), and the staging of relay competitions with its drivers that will form the basis for a video documentary. The campaign also offered discounts for buyers and rewards for drivers, who are in short supply around this time of year due to the Mid-Autumn and National Day holidays.

News in English

  • For the 70th anniversary of the PRC, Tencent partnered with People’s Daily to launch a patriotic game, which has topped the charts for free games on Apple’s Chinese app store since it was released on September 24. The game, called “Homeland Dream” (家国梦) allows players to develop a virtual plot of land and bring glory to their real-world hometowns by racking up points. Bloomberg
  • As seen on Douyin: Bytedance has launched an in-video search function on the Chinese version of TikTok, which should make it easier for users to find and purchase products seen on the apps short videos. What’s on Weibo
  • Bytedance also started opening access to its all-important recommendation algorithm, “Byteair,” to create customized recommendation systems for other businesses. Samsung, Oppo and Meizu are among the companies already using the algorithm. Technode
  • TikTok’s guidelines for the censorship of content were revealed as dividing certain types of unwanted posts into two categories: those that are deleted outright, and others that are sharply limited in their reach via TikTok’s algorithms. The Guardian
  • McKinsey predicts that China’s middle class will be 550 million-strong by 2022, and American brands seeking to tap into the market must contend with increasingly sophisticated Chinese players. CNBC
  • How brands tell the stories of authenticity that connect to consumers is as important in China as it is elsewhere, and research shows how brands can learn about what matters to their target customers. Stanford Graduate School of Business
  • The importance of storytelling is highlighted in this article about how French cosmetics firms create strong brand narratives to create emotional bonds with their Chinese customers. SCMP

We’ve Got China Covered