Category Archives: Branding

Christmas is fast becoming one of the biggest days for shopping on the Chinese calendar. So it’s important for your brand to understand how the Chinese celebrate Christmas.

  1. Friends not family

Christmas in China is a time for going out with friends not staying at home with family. In this way it’s similar to Saint Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day or Halloween. Popular activities include going shopping, seeing a movie, singing karaoke or ice-skating. More and more young people are celebrating this festival with Christmas Eve now being a time for young couples to go on a romantic date – which usually just entails shopping at the mall. Interestingly, a uniquely Chinese tradition has developed whereby many shops give away apples wrapped in coloured paper or cellophane. The reason for this is that in Chinese the word for Christmas Eve is ‘ping an ye’ which sounds similar to the word for apple ‘ping guo’.

  1. Time for shopping with Santa

For young Chinese, Christmas is often just before their final exams, so celebrating this western festival has become an excuse to briefly escape the pressures of university life. Despite not having any formal holidays for Christmas, many department stores and online merchants use this festival as a way to lure in shoppers. In fact, at many stores sales volumes on Christmas Eve have been reported to be the highest for the whole year. Most large shopping malls fill their stores with plastic Christmas trees, shining lights and mobs of Santas. That’s right – usually there isn’t just one Santa but a group of Santas followed by Santa’s elves or ‘Santa’s sisters’ as they are known to many Chinese. In Chinese, Santa is called ‘sheng dan lao ren’ which means ‘old Christmas man’, and outside of churches there is little mention of Jesus or the religious significance of Christmas.

  1. Christmas online

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Christmas sales and promotions are not just used by bricks and mortar stores, ecommerce platforms such as Tmall and are also leveraging the commercial power of this Western holiday to boost sales. This year Tmall is holding a special Christmas sale in the two weeks leading up to Christmas (14 – 25 December). The promotion also includes 1 Yuan trips to spend Christmas overseas. Western coffee giant, Starbucks, which already has a huge presence in China, has long used the Christmas season to promote its hot beverages that warm customers during the cold winter months. For Christmas 2015, Starbucks has entered into a deal with Tmall to heavily promote its brand during the Christmas season. You’ll notice that the Starbucks logo and signature cups appear prominently on the home page of the Tmall site.

Perhaps it’s time to think how your brand can promote itself during next year’s festive season.

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In recent years, foreign companies in China are racing to secure sponsorship deals with leading celebrities. The role of brand ambassadors is becoming increasingly important for establishing the important brand pillars of trust and quality. Anything from vitamin supplements to luxury jewellery and restaurant chains are utilising the power of Chinese celebrities and their social media followings to boost their brand’s exposure and credibility. In a booming market, which is saturated with new brands and products, how can foreign brands capture their market share – the answer seems to be brand ambassadors.

These people are employed by a company to promote its products and are specifically chosen as they are seen to embody the brand, its values and image. Their role is to leverage their status and social media following in order to strengthen the company and influence customer purchasing.

Restaurant Chain Started by American Chef Utilises the Power of Chinese Tennis Champion, Li Na

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Li Na, winner of two Grand Slam titles; the French Open in 2011 and the Australian Open in 2014, is China and Asia’s most successful tennis champion ever. She has entered into a long-term sponsorship deal with restaurant chain, Element Fresh. Element Fresh is one of China’s leading restaurant chains, it is best known for it’s western-inspired, simple meals; combining great taste, variety and nutrition. The restaurant chain supports major sports events like the Tennis Masters, the China Open and other sports from international to grassroots levels. With Li Na’s endorsements on the restaurants website and in-store, along with her involvement in developing a new seasonal menu, the chain that started in 2002 is gaining much attention nationally and expanding into new cities each year. The restaurant is now in 29 locations, and nine cities across China.

Popular Chinese Actress Fan Bingbing Helps International Brands Enter China

Another example is one of the most famous Chinese actresses, Fan Bingbing, who is best-known to international audiences for her role in X-Men: Days of Future Past. She was the only non-American to make the 2015 rankings compiled by Forbes magazine, which – for the first time ever – featured a truly global list of the biggest earning Hollywood actresses. In the Mainland Chinese version of Iron Man 3, Fan Bingbing plays a doctor who helps treat Tony Stark. The producers added 4 minutes of footage for Chinese audiences featuring Fan Bingbing, which western audiences will never see. This is one of the main reasons Iron Man 3 was such a box office success, earning almost USD$100 million in the first two weeks in China.

She may also currently be the most successful brand ambassador in China. Not only is she an ambassador for Louis Vuitton, she’s also a face of many more international big brands like L’Oreal, Moët & Chandon, Mercedes-Benz and Adidas. Due to her influence, many international brands with limited recognition in China have been able to see increased growth in the China market, like jewellery brand Chopard, where Fan has acted as the brand’s China ambassador.

Her personal Weibo account, an equivalent to Twitter, has over 40 million followers and her own studio, Fan Bingbing Studio, has over 2.5 million followers. In January 2014, the star was reported to have generated USD$74 million in ecommerce revenue.

Celebrity Endorsements Extend to Even Vitamin Supplements

It’s not just luxury international brand’s leveraging the power of celebrities. Australian vitamin supplement giant, Blackmores, has signed up Aussie Olympic medallist, Ian Thorpe to boost sales in the Asian markets. The strategy certainly worked for the Aussie brand with profits increasing by 83% in just one year. Its sales in China have gone from just $2 million in 2013/14 to $75 million.

So it would seem that no matter what brand you are thinking of taking to the Chinese market it’s best to draw on the strength of local or international celebrities. As we can see from the Element Fresh example above, it’s not just the huge international brands that are doing is. So who will be the ambassador for your brand in China?

If you’d like help finding a suitable brand ambassador for your brand contact Greg from 3mandarins at