Wrigley promotes Doublemint with grooming reality show

And other news in Greater China

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BEIJING--Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. is promoting Doublemint gum in China through a reality TV show that provides advice and tips about grooming to enhance self-confidence. The series is part of an overall strategy by Wrigley to grow sales in China, where gum is not a well-known category. Although China has been Wrigley's No. 2 market after the U.S. since 1999, that's due more to China's scale than the popularity of chewing gum, which was virtually unknown in China just two decades ago.

While many Chinese consumers are not well-educated about oral hygiene, a growing number of young professionals entering the work force have become savvy about the perils of bad breath. Instead of pushing gum as a confectionery product in China, Wrigley is focusing on product benefits like fresh breath.

The weekly TV show “Doublemint 17885” (which sounds like “Doublemint together help me” in Chinese) is airing on regional and local stations in 74 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu. The program was developed with Joy Media Group. One of the largest independent producers of reality, drama and variety programming in China, Joy has over a dozen shows on air and syndicates content it acquires to Chinese TV stations.

Each episode follows a real Chinese person who is preparing for an important social encounter like a job interview, a blind date or a first meeting with a future mother-in-law. A panel of experts gives tips and advice to help the participant overcome anxieties or other difficulties, providing him or her with a sense of confidence and, of course, gum to freshen their breath. The show is promoted  with a web site (dm17885.com.cn).

"The show fits well with our message of 'fresh breath, a success helper,' as fresh breath from Doublemint gives one more confidence to meet and interact with people,” said David Glass, Wrigley's Guangzhou-based marketing director in China. “We hope the viewers will be entertained by the program while at the same time benefiting from the advice and different tips provided by our experts. Doublemint 17885 is not a glamorous show. Instead it is about helping real people to make a fresh start in their daily lives."

The show isn't the first time Wrigley has relied on unconventional marketing in China. Last summer, the company forged a marketing alliance with another American marketer, Converse, to create an online fashion-design contest that provides a platform for Juicy Fruit's core consumers to express their creativity.

GM sales in China grew over 30% last year
SHANGHAI--General Motors Corp. sold 876,747 vehicles in China last year, about 211,000 units more than in 2005, representing 31.8% growth. GM and its joint venture partners market six brands in the mainland, controlling 11.8% of the passenger market.

Sales of GM’s flagship brand in China, Buick, increased 24.9% on an annual basis to 304,230 units, while Chevrolet sales grew by 36.8% to 145,392 vehicles. The best-selling Buick model in China last year was the Spark mini-car built and marketed by SAIC-GM-Wuling, which sold 40,015 units.

“Vehicle sales continued to outpace most projections as a result of unprecedented consumer demand for passenger cars,” said GM China Group President and Managing Director Kevin Wale in a company statement. “While demand was particularly strong in the small car segment, nearly all passenger car segments experienced growth."

Mesa partners with Shenzhen Airlines to create new regional airline in China
GUANGZHOU--Mesa Air Group has become the first U.S. passenger airline to help create a new airline in China, the world's fastest growing air travel market. It has signed a joint venture agreement with Shenzhen Airlines to start a Chinese regional airline. The still unnamed airline is expected to start scheduled flights within a year, initially operating 50-seat regional jets on domestic routes within mainland China. The first cities served are likely to be Shenzhen, Beijing, Chongqing, Xiamen, Nanjing, Kunming, Dalian, Shenyang, Xian, Zhengzhou and Nanning.

China raises customs duties on luxury goods
BEIJING--China's Ministry of Finance raised customs duties on luxury items starting Jan.1, 2007. The duty levied on golf clubs and high-end watches has risen to 30% from 10%, for instance, and the duty on cosmetics increased to 50% from 20%.

The tax increase could slow sales of luxury goods among Chinese, who already account for about 10% of the global market, now worth $80 billion, including spending by Chinese outside the mainland in Hong Kong or Europe. Year-on-year spending on luxury goods by Chinese has been growing by 40% to 60% a year, putting China on track to become the world's largest luxury market by 2014, according to Radha Chadha and Paul Husband, Hong Kong-based co-authors of The Cult of the Luxury Brand: Inside Asia's Love Affair with Luxury.
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