As e-commerce developments accelerated and more capital flowed into the new consumer market, new consumer brands such as Chicecream (钟薛高), Saturnbird (三顿半), Wangbaobao (王饱饱), Perfect Diary (完美日记) soon became the talk of the town and the new marketing superstars in China. 

For instance, Chicecream once sold 3 million popsicles in 64 minutes and beat Häagen-Dazs to become the best-selling ice cream brand online in China. One Chicecream popsicle currently retails for 15 – 30 RMB so some may wonder how an upscale product like this can achieve such impressive sales. Let’s take a closer look at their innovative China marketing campaigns in this case study.

China marketing tip 1: Embracing and showcasing Chinese elements

With many key players in fierce competition, it’s important to cut through the noise and establish a unique and outstanding positioning. Chicecream came up with quite an innovative product design. Their popsicles look nothing like typical popsicles, but rather resemble the shape of traditional Chinese roof tiles. Chicecream is hopping on the bandwagon of Guochao (loosely translated as National Hip). Their unique product design is very memorable for consumers and also establishes a very distinct brand image for a “new local Chinese brand”. The concept of Chinese ice cream soon occupied the headspace of Chinese consumers and became an invaluable asset for the brand.

China marketing: Chicecream case study
Chicecream’s Guochao campaign on Tmall, image via Weibo

China marketing tip 2: Scoring high on “the selfie factor”

Chicecream successfully rode on the digital form of word-of-mouth marketing, namely, brand selfies. Visuals still remain one of the strongest drivers in user engagement on social media platforms. Chicecream took full advantage of the selfie phenomenon and produced very “selfie-friendly” products. When customers posted selfies with their appealing creamsicles, this was the social proof or recommendation that other social media users craved. This kind of UGC is a perfect advertisement that requires no investment from the company and can easily become viral on platforms such as RED and Weibo.

Continue reading our RED marketing guide and Weibo marketing guide

China marketing tip 3: Diversifying product offerings for better market adaptation

The product offerings of Chicecream can be divided into 3 categories – the basics, the seasonals and the trending bestsellers. The basics are their entry level products – the relatively affordable line of simple flavours to attract more consumers in buying for the first time and also securing the baseline for sales. Chicecream’s seasonal products offer some innovative flavours that specifically stimulate demand and consumption in the off seasons. For instance, the Osmanthus red bean flavoured popsicles are presented as “the flavours of the fall” as Osmanthus typically blooms during fall. The trending bestsellers are the products that are purposely designed to gain consumers’ eyeballs, create viral topics on social media and satisfy the current new consumption scenarios and demands

While lots of brands also have their entry level products and bestsellers, Chicecream is especially successful as they managed to stimulate consumption even during the traditional off seasons of popsicles. The Osmanthus red bean flavoured popsicles are positioned to be “an ice cream custom made for September” and “the flavours of the fall”, weakening the perception of popsicles are typically only consumed during summer and promoting the idea of eating popsicles all year round. Chicecream has promoted popsicles beyond its perception of just treats to beat the heat. 

China marketing tip 4: Collaborating with big brands for innovative products

Chicecream is very active in coming up with innovative products, such as infusing “Ruby” pink chocolate or Roquefort cheese into their products. The brand is also ambitious in working with big brands such as Chinese liquor brand Luzhou Laojiao (泸州老窖) and Chinese bird’s nest (Yanwo) brand Xiaoxiandun (小仙炖) to come up with revolutionary flavours such as the “blackout popsicle” and the “popsicle with Yanwo-filling”.

China marketing - cross collaboration example
Chicecream’s cross collaboration campaign on Tmall, image via Weibo

Not only are these flavours never before seen in the market, they also attracted and generated lots of viral discussions on social media. In fact, collaborating with big F&B brands has always been a formula of success for Chicecream. During the Double 11 Festival in 2019, Chicecream collaborated with 6 brands such as Three Squirrels (三只松鼠), Naixuecha (奈雪的茶) and even automobile brand Roewe (荣威汽车) and watch brand FIYTA (飞亚达). Such large scale cross collaborations drew over 400 million views and clicks altogether on social media. Remember, collaborations are not done simply by putting two brand logos together, but by incorporating the strengths and resources from both brands to provide authentic and valuable products to users.

China marketing: Chicecream case study
Chicecream x Roewe collaboration, image via Weibo

Takeaway lesson

Chicecream’s marketing success can be largely attributed to social recommendations, especially on RED. The sharing and recommendations from real users generated over 10,000 product reviews on RED, expanding the brand’s reach to their target audience as well as facilitating conversions. Chicecream is also very active in establishing their brand image on Weibo and Douyin. While internet virality has carried the brand to greater heights, getting eyeballs and traffic would not be the end goal. By delivering legitimate value in products through innovative product offerings, Chicecream has evolved from an internet sensation to a trusted brand.  

Our Alarice team provides services such as Chinese market research and strategy as well as social media marketing campaigns from account registration, content creation and social monitoring. You can also check out our FREE resources such as our mini booksAlarice consumer reports, and ChoZan quarterly mega reportsContact us if you have any China marketing questions, we are more than happy to sort them out for you.

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