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This is my thought on the matter: “Merely using AR (augmented reality) during Chinese New Year isn’t enough, it provides consumers an experience and may get them into the stores, but the content always needs to infuse the brand’s DNA and needs to be smartly developed to gain interest with the target Chinese audience.”

The Coca-Cola case is pretty successful. Within two weeks, more than 6.6 million Chinese people participated in the AR campaign. Coca-Cola partnered with mobile payment app Alipay for an AR campaign that gives Chinese consumers a special gift for the Chinese New Year. Alipay is affiliated with the Alibaba Group that has more than 520 million users. In the New Year campaign Chinese consumers can unlock augmented reality (AR) features on Alipay by scanning clay doll figures on the label of the bottle.


To watch the commercial, click here


In the commercial you see AR Chinese traditional folk characters depicted in different scenarios that bring families together for genuine moments of happiness. For the 2018 campaign, the Clay Dolls are causing mischief around a family dinner table in order to create moments of closeness alongside the slogan “Chinese New Year is sticking together”. The animations of the dolls blend with scenes of the real world that users see through their smartphone camera. After the animation finishes, a red envelope arrives on screen for the user to open for a surprise gift of 0.1 to 99 renminbi, about 0,013 eur to 13 euro. The gift that goes to the user’s Alipay account can be used on whatever Chinese consumers would like to buy through Alipay, it is not just a coupon for Coca-Cola’s products only.


Why Coca-Cola’s Chinese New Year campaign works particularly well in China

With the surprise money gift Coca-Cola taps into the Chinese New Year tradition of giving cash-stuffed red envelopes. Note that since a couple of years this has become widespread in China’s virtual world. Chinese consumers have embraced mobile payments faster than any other markets. Every day, Chinese people use Alipay to scan QR codes and pay for things or they use other mobile payment systems such as WeChat. China also has the infrastructure in place for consumers to become familiar with the technology. Around 3000 stores in Chinese malls offer AR or VR experiences.


Build an emotional connection between your brand and Chinese consumers

Although China is uniquely positioned to be a global leader in the AR space and AR offers a novel way of communicating messages to a very receptive group of Chinese consumers, what Chinese consumers seek is engagement with brands.

A major appeal of AR for brand campaigns has been its immersive nature, playful capabilities, and gateway to greater product information. When done right, AR can offer a lot of time to tell a story or deepen the connection between the brand and the consumer.

That is also what Coca-Cola has done in its AR campaign. The Chinese audience is pretty familiar with the animated characters. Coke and McCann Shanghai debuted the characters in 2001 and brought them back four years ago. These characters have been localized for the Chinese market. In Western countries they use their polar bears. In China they have local folk art traditional clay dolls. The Chinese consumers are strongly empathetic towards these joyful and exuberant characters .

Constant exposure to new technologies and innovative social media campaigns has become a part of everyday Chinese consumers’ lives. Also with AR in China, the success depends upon the emotional connection brands are able to build with their Chinese consumers.