Like the Christmas season in North America, the Chinese New Year (CNY) is the most important season for retailers and consumer products’ companies in China. Around the country, millions of Chinese board trains, planes and buses to travel back to their home villages. These trips, most of which happen only once a year during the CNY, are loaded with all the same emotions we experience in the US (and, for the record, anyone who has had to travel in China during CNY will find the experience on par with the classic John Candy and Steve Martin Planes, Trains & Automobiles).
Tapping into the emotions of Chinese as they head home is a great marketing strategy, and perhaps no one has done it better than this year, with PepsiCo China’s “Bring Happiness Home” campaign. As PopSop pointed out, marketing studies showed that approximately 70% of Chinese youth expressed reservations about going home this CNY. Some of this universal (who among us hasn’t held our breath at the idea of going home over the holidays when we really wanted to be somewhere else cooling our jets), and some of this marks an interesting inflection point for the Chinese culture at large: the much-lauded age of the Chinese consumer has arrived. Ad campaigns need to connect to uniquely Chinese moments of truth, historical memories, and particular tastes. The latter has been the most common form of localization, while the “Bring Happiness Home” campaign is the best example of the later, tapping into China’s unique moments of truth.
Among what can be gleaned from this ad campaign is that China’s consumer culture is evolving in ways that savvy FMCG companies need to tap into both for today and to build a launching pad for tomorrow. PepsiCo’s campaign is smart, not just because it is current, but because it is laying the foundation upon which future ad campaigns will be built. If you recall from an earlier post about how Oreo made the mistake of overlooking the reality that American cultural memories about Oreos would not translate to China, this foundation or heritage is an essential part of brand building in China. Think about how many quintessential American consumer products we associate to particular times of year. You can run the gamut from Coke to Budweiser and come up with ad campaigns that we relate to a unique holiday; in the “Bring Happiness Home” campaign, Pepsi is doing the same thing.
Going home is a powerful idea in any culture, even more so in a country like China where the young have had to relocate in order to find jobs. Yes, much of the PepsiCo ad campaign paints a picture of Chinese life that is bucolic with children that are happily employed in white-collar jobs versus the more gritty reality of what most young Chinese are doing as factory workers. But the efforts by PepsiCo to build a narrative that will evolve in concert with the maturation of China’s consumer economy is smart, and could well pay off down the road if Chinese associate going home for CNY with PepsiCo products.