5 best Chinese New Year 2018 marketing campaigns

Tingyi Chen New WeChat features

The Chinese New Year: a week-long period of time when people put down their work and pay more attention to family gossip, stupid TV programs, and many many marketing campaigns. Over the last decades, the Chinese New Year has become a Super Bowl-like advertising event.

We picked the 5 most notable campaigns of this year.

Taobao’s Family Plan Campaign

After growing to 515 million e-commerce users (Annual Active Consumer as of December 2017), Taobao’s next ambition is to get the older generations to buy! The Chinese New Year is the perfect opportunity to leverage kids being at home, and use them as “salesmen” to educate their older relatives about the App.

The Taobao Family Plan enables parents to shop even without having an Alipay Account or bank account.

I connected my Taobao account with my mum’s. She can now send a payment request to pay for her shopping cart items. Note that in the whole process, she doesn’t even need to enter her credit card information.

Left: parents have a pink button to send the product link to the kids Right: parents can also directly send payment requests

My mum will also have the option to switch between the normal Taobao interface and Family Plan interface. Notice the Family Plan interface has a much simpler UX design, larger text display, and less complicated coupon rules. The homepage is customized to target the elders: hair growing gel, a 14-RMB scarf, Qiuku (thermal underwear)… Most items are under 100RMB.

Left: normal Taobao homepage, smaller text, and more complex design Right: “Parents” view, larger text, customized products for elders

In order to promote this campaign, Alibaba became the exclusive sponsor for the CCTV New Year’s Gala, the most watched TV program during New Year’s Eve. Taobao also pledged to give away 200 million worth of red-envelopes for users who connected to the Family Plan.

This is a sneaky yet effective method to leverage kids to grow its user base. The most cherished Chinese family value is Xiao, which means be good to your parents. And Taobao took this concept and commercialized it to its own benefit.

Key takeaway of the campaign:

  • Collect data about user’s family member and their social relationship
  • Manage user acquisition via family reference
  • Enable users who don’t have an Alipay account to use Taobao (and of course, it’s never too late to incentives users to create an Alipay account later)
  • Collect data about older generation’s behavior and sell them more stuff

Alipay Augmented Reality (AR) Red Envelope Campaign

Alibaba is also trying to make collecting red envelopes on its App a New Year tradition. This is not the company’s first attempt to reinvent a new holiday tradition. Alibaba even purchased a lot of WeChat KOL ads to promote the Augmented Reality (AR) campaign. Including the internet celebrity Papi and Beijinglish.

This is the 3rd year Alibaba launched the same campaign. All that users need to do is scan a picture of the Chinese character Fu (福) to receive a Fu card. The users had to collect 5 different cards. By 10PM on New Year Eve, 251 million users were able to collect all 5 cards and share 500 million RMB of red envelope cash… which means every user got around 2 RMB on average.

This is exactly the same campaign as last year. Given the fact that Alibaba spent millions on KOL advertising and CCTV ads, it might want to consider adding a bit of innovation to keep users excited.

QQ & Tencent Red Envelope

WeChat is no longer participating in online Red Envelope War against Alibaba. It didn’t distribute any red envelope cash via WeChat Pay. Yet 688 million users sent or received Red Envelopes during Feb 15th. That’s a 15% increase from last year.

This is mostly due to the perfect positioning of WeChat as a social network combined with a payment system, which makes it the ideal device to share such red envelopes.

The post-80s generation accounted for 32% of the red-envelope users.

WeChat does emphasize offline red envelope campaigns. Users will need to pay with WeChat Pay in store, they will get a chance to enter into a “shake” red envelope campaign. WeChat also collaborated with over 100 brands and 60,000 stores to give out discounts and coupons during the Chinese New Year.

The offline promotion is consistent with Allen Zhang’s speech during the WeChat Conference: the focus was to use Mini Programs to connect users to the offline shopping environment.

Comparatively, 166 million users participated in QQ Red Envelope campaigns to receive 609 million RMB worth of cash and coupon. 71% of the participating users were born after 1990.

2 family pictures campaign went viral during the new year’s eve

This campaign lets users select pictures and embed them into a template of a family portrait. The theme is to use technology from 2018 in order to bring people back to the photo shooting style of 1978. It has been featured during the CCTV’s morning news.

As of  10pm on New Year’s Eve, 1.6 million users participated in the campaign.

The promotion was made by Tiantian Tu, a Tencent photo editing App. The campaign enabled promotion for the App while demonstrating its capabilities. Users are then invited to download the App in order to select more template.

Here is another family campaign that went viral during the new year’s eve:

This other family photo WeChat campaign takes a much more creative approach to making the family photo. Users have a lot more freedom with a wide choice of elements and structures that they can include into their drawing.

This campaign was launched by a company called PAPAPALA, a toy product startup. The developers did not expect the campaign to become viral at all. And the initial promotion budget was merely 3,000RMB. Yes, as of Feb 16th, 5.9 million unique visitors had visited this H5 page.


Chinese New Year is a time of the year where a lot of people sit at home, and have time on their hands to discover new content or brands. As such, it’s a perfect time to launch a new campaign and get users’ attention.

However, Tencent has become increasingly strict when it comes to “paying for re-shares” through giving away red envelopes. The old viral campaigns were mostly based on paying for traffic, but this is no longer good enough. 2018’s successful campaigns were relying on a combination of  storytelling, design and technical innovation that made them stand out.

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