520 Day held on May 20 is seen as the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day.

If you sell items frequently given as gifts such as jewelry, watches, handbags or even vehicles, you need to know about 520 Day! In China, Valentine’s Day (February 14) isn’t the big day to declare your love for someone with gifts and flowers. Instead, that happens most often on May 20 or 520 Day. It’s an important holiday for retailers to know about because it’s consumer focused, heavily online, and features gift giving as an essential component.

What is 520 Day?

The origins of 520 day started when the Chinese started using the term “520” online to abbreviate “I love you”, similar to how English speakers use “ILY” or “ILU”. Why? When spoken in Mandarin, the phrase “I love you” (wǒ ài nǐ) sounds very similar to 520 (wǔ èr yī).

Soon, the equivalent date of May 20 transformed into a celebration of love, heavily focused around gift giving. Couples have even started getting married on 520!

Who Celebrates 520 Day?

520 holds widespread popularity within China, but also with Chinese people overseas. Initially, it was only celebrated by China’s youth, but now older generations have joined in as well. And it’s not just for lovers, either. 520 Day is seen as a day to send gifts and messages of endearment to friends, too.

Prada’s 2020 520 campaign features Chinese influencer Cai Xu Kun.

How Do Companies Participate?

Many brands take advantage of this celebration to launch consumer-centric campaigns on social media. The festival is heavily featured online with hashtags, photos, and online promotions all a key component of the celebration.

Here are some examples of how luxury brands use the day to promote their products:

  • Prada’s 2020 campaign, “520: Mathematics of Love”, features Chinese singer Cai Xu Kun. The campaign uses both static images and video with a theme centered around numbers associated with new love: number of attempts to pick the perfect gift, number of meters or ribbon to wrap the gift, hours spent thinking of your loved one, etc. Together they all add up to 520. Prada launched the campaign on its Chinese social media platforms and official web site. They also launched a special pop up store on WeChat.
  • Luxury brand Gucci launched a series of digital campaigns featuring a host of brand ambassadors. They created the #520GucciStories hashtag to encourage influencers and fans to share their stories. Many people shared pictures of their first or favourite Gucci item. Gucci rolled out the campaign on major Chinese social platforms including Weibo, WeChat, Shipinhao, Xiaohongshu and TikTok.
  • For 520 Day, Cartier launched the newest pieces in its “Trinity” collection exclusively on its Tmall flagship shop. Customers who made orders during a pre-sale period received a complimentary eternity flower box with a gift card that allows them to personalize wishes. The brand also leveraged two key opinion leaders (KOLs), launching videos featuring actress and singer Song Qian and singer-songwriter Hua Chenyu.
  • Coach created an interactive article and used a relatively new function on WeChat called “corporate red envelope” that allows companies to customize their digital red envelopes for customers. They also offered a special discount for customers spending over RMB 5,200 (approximately $1,000 CDN).

Some brands use digital red envelopes (also known as “Lucky Money”) on WeChat to provide incentives to consumers. 

Key Takeaways

When trying to appeal to a Chinese audience, referencing popular Chinese holidays or launching specific promotions focused on these days can be a very effective way to engage consumers. However, it’s also important to make sure your messaging and imagery is culturally sensitive and does not rely on stereotypes, or you risk seriously offending your audience (like the serious cultural gaffe Dolce & Gabbana made in 2018).

This article features examples of some very high budget ways of reaching Chinese consumers, but there are also more affordable ways including Chinese media buys and WeChat Moments ads. We can help translate and localize your message, and help you determine how to maximize your ad spend to best reach your target audience, right here. With over 2 million Chinese residents in Canada and almost 4 million in the United States, reaching Chinese locals is a great way to boost your brand awareness. Contact us to discuss your campaign ideas.

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