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Why has Apple’s new Chinese marketing campaign been so successful?

Apple Chinese Marketing Campaign

Apple recently released a 2018 Chinese New year video in China. The video entitled 3 minutes is based on real-life experiences, shot using an iPhone X by the award-winning Hong Kong director Peter Chan.

Video Clip can be found here.
All credit and rights to the video belong to Apple Singapore.

Why is the film so compelling?

The story not only plays on the strong yearning for reunion and family time that is present especially during Chinese New Year but also entwines many popular themes that resonate with so many Chinese parents, making the story not only engaging but heart wrenching!

As the clock counts down and Ding Ding rushes to finish his times tables, the audience feels a sense of urgency that keeps them hanging on for the full 3 minutes.

The lack of jobs in rural areas means that even in cases where couples remain married they often have to suffer long periods of separation from each other and their children, leaving them in the care of other relatives while they work away. Stories of ‘left behind’ children are consistently making social media and news headlines as Chinese society ponders about the long-term effects of separated family units.

Early on in the clip the mother describes the concern she feels about how she interacts with her son, ‘I worry about him giving my sister trouble, so I’m very strict when we are together, but as soon as we part I regret being so hard on him”. This is something many Chinese parents can relate to as they navigate modern and traditional attitudes and approaches towards parenting, as well as the stress of modern living and working away from home.

When mother and son meet the mother admits that ‘The last time I saw Ding Ding I told him that if he didn’t memorise his times tables he would be sent to a school far away and not be able to see me.’  Parents are well aware of the competitiveness of the Chinese education system, but in trying to give their children the best start there is also a tendency to put great pressure on them. In this case, the mother is stunned to see how deeply her words have affected Ding Ding, yet she has little time to comfort him.

 From the contrast between the mother and son and the other families left on the platform, we can also see the plight of the many Chinese workers unable to return home for the holidays. The references in the film are subtle yet clear and most importantly for a foreign brand, free from judgement, giving a comprehensive glance into a family life similar to that which many Chinese consumers may already be living.

Whys has Apple’s new Chinese Marketing Campaign been so successful?

What has the response been so far?  

The impact of the campaign has been huge, flooding social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo and being reported on by both domestic and international media. On Youtube the video has also had over 1 million views.

The sentiment of the response varies, for some the heart-wrenching story steals the show with commenters reporting that they love the film but won’t be buying the phone.

Other netizens on Weibo and China’s other popular forums also question the claims that the film was shot entirely on an iPhone X after photos of shooting equipment such as professional film stands and a drone were shared online.

How can we measure the success?

In terms of branding, Apple has succeeded in ways many brands have attempted and failed. They have created a campaign which not only shows an in-depth understanding of Chinese consumers and connects with audiences on an emotional level but simultaneously highlights the unique selling points of their latest product. What affects this will have on sales will remain to be seen, but following the coverage this week it is fair to say many industry professionals will be keeping an eye out for post-holiday sales figures.

iphone X CNY campaign

What can brands can learn from the Apple campaign?

  • Collaborate and co-create to win: Many brands targeting the Chinese market design their products and campaigns in-house, only to feel the backlash from Chinese consumers claiming they ‘just don’t get China’. Collaborating with local talent has proven a great strategy for Johnnie Walker who has worked with several Chinese artists such as Ma Liang and Page Tsou and for luxury brands like Longchamps who have partnered with China’s leading influencers to design special edition products.
  • Make sure you’re doing more than just storytelling: Nowhere in Apple’s advert is the iPhone X featured, yet the way in which the video is shot and the key message ‘hold onto every moment’ shows how the iPhone X can be used to meet a deep consumer need, a need to treasure the limited family time together.

Want to learn more about the key trends on Chinese social platforms? Check out our China Social Media training workshop series.
By Marie Tulloch, Account Director at Emerging Communications.

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