As the song goes, "Do they know it's Christmas time at all?" In China they certainly will, if Starbucks has anything to do with it.
The U.S. java giant — a pro at driving loyalty via mobile marketing — has partnered with Guohe Ad, China's leading mobile ad management platform, for a series of three HTML5 premium mobile apps that create awareness for the chain's "massive" Christmas promotion on the mainland.
Communist China? Christmas? Yes, there are folks who celebrate Christmas in China. And if Starbucks and other American brands have anything to do with it, China will soon be the world's greatest Christmas consumer market in the world.
Customers who use the Sina Weibo social app to check-in at any Starbucks in Shanghai, Jiansu and Zhejing, announcing to their friends and followers that they're at Starbucks, are rewarded with a free drink size upgrade. Starbucks has over 200 locations in those three provinces. (The campaign is just one more way Starbucks is leading the way in converting all promotions and loyalty programs to smart phones.)
The mobile campaign is using three platforms — Weico, Business Value, and Days Matte — which are popular with the target demographic (i.e. upwardly mobile Chinese) that would most likely be aware of, and frequent, at Starbucks.
In America, Christmas (for some) has developed into a consumer holiday wrapped in the veneer of a solemn time for religious reflection. In China, brands like Starbucks are unfettered by the troublesome religious reflection part, creating a potential consumer juggernaut the likes of which the world has never seen.
Christmas is not a public holiday in China but that has not stopped consumers, especially the growing population with disposable incomes, from adopting the gift-giving season.
Inflatable Santa Clauses can be seen in front of many stores in Shanghai while Christmas tree decorations—often sans tree—hang in windows and in restaurants. Just as in the West, name brand retailers host holiday sales.
One KFC China commercial this season features a group of freshfaced young Chinese, hanging around the Christmas tree and, of course, eating chicken.
Despite the religious overtones, the central government, desperate to build a stronger consumer economy, recognizes the potential in a string, America-like holiday shopping season. Even the government-controlled media has heralded the season.
State news agency Xinhua recently reported that "The oncoming Christmas and New Year's Day bode well for retail business in cities such as Shanghai, where consumers start to benefit from various sales promotions in department stores and shopping centers."
It's not just the Chinese in China they're targeting, either. In England, "Retailers have reported a boom in overseas customers this Christmas with visitors from China spending 10 times the average."
Any why shouldn't China celebrate Christmas? After all, much of the world's Christmas starts, and ends, in the nation. Case in point, from China comes the fascinating (and somewhat disheartening) tale (watch below) of how millions of cheap, Made-in-China Chrstmas tree lights sold in America are, at the end of their lifecycle, shipped back home to China where 20 million pounds of used Christmas tree lights are recycled annually, a process that provides no gift to the environment.