Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Nov 12, 2012

From Singles' Day to 'Tianmao Day': how China successfully commercialised another holiday

MAINLAND CHINA - Online retailers on Tmall and Taobao were certainly not feeling lonely on Singles' Day last Sunday, 11 November—said by some to be the loneliest day in the calendar as it is denoted by 1,1,1,1.

From Singles' Day to 'Tianmao Day': how China successfully commercialised another holiday

Alibaba Group, which runs e-commerce sites and, whose marketing campaign for Double-Eleven this year has helped to break all single-day e-commerce records in China, and in the world.

Sales revenue figures on 11 Nov has outstripped similar shopping days such as Cyber Monday, Black Friday or Boxing Day in the US. Over 19.1 billion yuan (US$3.06 billion) in total transactions on Tmall and Taobao was generated—a big lead ahead over other Chinese e-commerce players like Dangdang, 360buy, Amazon Joyo, Jingdong, Suning; and more than double the US$1.25 billion on Cyber Monday last year.

This prompted some Weibo netizens to rename Singles' Day as 'Tianmao Day' or 'Taobao Day'.

A date set aside in China by university students in humorous honour of single people, Singles' Day fell on Sunday this year, stimulating consumption a couple of days early. This was a contributing factor to this year's sales success, according to Gloria Xue, interaction planning director at Mediacom. Promotions reducing the prices of goods by half, also pushed sales.

AdMaster, which monitors and tracks ads for Tmall, revealed online visitors have been accessing the sites, selecting merchandise, and adding them to shopping carts before 11 November when the sales period officially started, and when Alipay transactions could be completed to seal the deals.

Through online and offline advertising, Tmall's campaign was channeled through a TVC on CCTV and Hunan Satellite TV, online videos on Youku, Tencent and Sina, as well as out-of-home lightboxes in metros and bus shelters. "It also helps that the weekend is a peak period for online video viewership, increasing exposure to the campaign," Xue said.

Leo Wang, VP of Consulting at AdMaster, added that monitoring of ad exposure data during the Double-Eleven campaign's warm-up period helped with the real-time optimisation of those ads. "The ad locations were tweaked, for example," he said. AdMaster was able to refresh data every five minutes, up to a server hosting load of more than 10 terabytes.

In last year's promotional campaign, Tmall's creative agency DDB Guoan had targeted first-tier cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, along with second-tier cities Chengdu and Hangzhou.

This year, the client had much larger ambitions to penetrate the entire nation instead of just first- and second-tier cities, DDB Guoan Beijing's ECD Stephen Mui told Campaign Asia-Pacific. The biggest turnover of RMB2.2 billion (US$35.3 million) was from the Zhejiang province this year.

"What's different in this year's campaign was an aim to cement T-Mall’s premium brand positioning as a virtual high-end shopping mall with a vast selection of official branded products, as opposed to a sales-focused e-commerce platform," Mui said.

Based on the insight that shopping embodies every consumer’s desire to own and collect beautiful things, DDB Guoan said its client had tasked them to produce less-tactical creatives that will get Chinese mindsets to shift from "just buying stuff online" to "the enjoyment of shopping".

The tagline "Double Eleven's Crazy Shopping Festival" is evident of the agency's concept, with Mui emphasising the word 'festival'.

In fact, there is little reference to the original meaning of Singles' Day ('guang gun' in Mandarin meaning 'bare bachelors') as that phrase is "not ownable" by Tmall—not as ownable as "Double Eleven's Crazy Shopping Festival", of course.

All things combined, Double Eleven has indeed become another opportune occasion for "passionate shopping", much like how marketers latch on to Valentine's Day, commented Randy Xiao, vice-president of DDB Guoan Beijing.

This comes as no surprise to Tom Doctoroff, North Asia area director and Greater China CEO of JWT, who told the WSJ that: “China is a country fixated on transactions: social, financial and commercial.”

Campaign China

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