SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- Unilever is tapping into family celebrations leading up to the lunar new year as well as China's unusually cold winter with a digital campaign for its Lipton milk tea product line.
Chinese New Year is very important. "It's like Christmas for westerners. Families gather together, visit friends and share meals and drinks," said Jane Huang, Unilever's beverage brand building director, China in Shanghai.
"As a young and international tea brand, Lipton wants to leverage this opportunity since we are selling a hot beverage in winter. Lipton gives a warm feeling, it's not only a beverage, there's also good emotional linkage."
Called "Cup Of Greetings," the campaign invites consumers to pick one of three films created by Unilever, featuring mimes, schoolgirls, or a rock band, and upload a photo of their face and share the image with friends by e-mail or a branded microsite on Tencent's QQ.com service, lipton.act.qq.com.
When friends see the video, the sender's face is mapped in as a 3-D image over the main actor's face in the film. When friends receive the greeting, in the form of a cup, they can blow on steam coming out of the cup using a computer mouse or microphone.
The steam forms a personalized greeting built around the Chinese character for steam, qi, which can be combined with other characters to create phrases related to good luck, prosperity and popularity.
"These are all things people want to hear at Chinese New Year," Ms. Huang said. "People are looking forward to good luck at the start of tiger year and only a hot beverage can create steam. We wanted to see how can we link these two together."
QQ.com, China's most popular web site, started as an instant messaging site but has evolved into a social network platform that is popular with consumers and increasingly with marketers in China.
"We partnered with them to get the most possible reach and the numbers are very astonishing," said Johan Vakidis, exec creative director at AKQA in Shanghai, which developed the digital program.
Two weeks after the campaign launched in 73 cities on Jan. 1, 2010, the site has attracted over 17 million viewers who have sent over 6.4 million greetings. More than 4.3 million users have received greetings.
The new online campaign extends a story about a gathering of friends on Chinese New Year initiated by Unilever in a TV commercial created by DDB Worldwide, Shanghai. As the friends greet each other, their words are formed by steam coming from the hot Lipton milk tea they are drinking.
"The idea is to extend the TV spot online by allowing users to send cups of warm greetings to friends that are revealed in the tea's steam. We added another layer to that which is content, not only can you send a cup of greetings to friends, you can also put yourself in a film," Mr. Vakidis said.
If web users send 20 greetings successfully, they receive a red diamond on QQ.com, a form of currency on the site worth RMB 10 ($1.46) to use for virtual purchases. The person who has sent the most messages when the campaign concludes at the end of February wins an iPhone.
Unilever increases use of digital media
New media strategies are increasingly popular for mainstream marketers such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble Co. and L'Oreal in China, now the world's largest internet market with 338 million netizens in July 2009.
"We want to be on the leading edge with the digital world here," Unilever's Ms. Huang said fervently.
Last fall, for example, Unilever ran another AKQA-created digital program for Lipton, called "A Hug A Day," with Renren.com, one of China's largest social media sites. Unilever helped consumers start virtual hug chains on the site. The campaign also had a gaming aspect linked to purchase. With unique codes in the product packaging, users could redeem magic cards allowing them to super-size the experience by stealing chains and doubling chains.
"A core insight for this campaign was culturally, Chinese people do not hug," Mr. Vakidis said. "Lipton wanted to own the opportunity to spread the goodness of hugging, linking it back to their product."
In August 2009, Unilever leveraged a stealthy, digital campaign to generate buzz about Pond's Age Miracle moisturizer in China. With Ogilvy PR Worldwide, the Anglo-Dutch company created a blind trial program among the brand's target market, women over 25 in first- and second-tier cities who were already using prestige skin care products.
Last spring, Unilever developed one of the first brand-owned online game applications on www.Kaixin001.com, one of China's most popular social-networking sites, to promote the Wall's ice cream brand Magnum in China. Around the same time, the company created a seven-minute film starring Catherine Zeta-Jones called "Alchemist" to launch Lux Super Rich Shine in China and Taiwan. The full-length film only ran online at www.luxfilm.jp.
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