• Alexander Liu-Middleton

International brands wake up to the "pink yuan"

Following high profile LGBT campaigns like Chinese tech-giant Alibaba's Chinese New Year 2020 campaign, international companies are waking up to the $300 billion gay economy and more liberal attitudes among millennials and Gen-Z.

Cathay Pacific's LGBT ads received overwhelming public support in Hong Kong

While attitudes vary between demographics in obvious ways, rural v. urban areas, university-educated middle class v. factory workers, under 40s v. over 40s, the writing is on the wall that Chinese attitudes towards LGBT are changing and changing rapidly. The country's $300 billion gay market ranks it third after the US and EU for the value of its pink economy, while the gay-dating app, Blued, which is used almost exclusively in mainland China is now the world's largest gay platform.

And with that estimated $300 billion value, not to mention the credibility of tapping into social progressiveness, popular amongst a large section of millennials, more companies are gently moving into a more LGBT-friendly mode in their marketing.

Alibaba remains at the forefront in this new frontier for Chinese marketing. Well before its 2020 Chinese New Year campaign, in 2015 it ran a competition for gay Chinese couples to win free trips to the US to marry. Both these campaigns gained overwhelmingly positive responses, not only on social media, but also in traditional media outlets, and Western companies are following suit. In 2019, Starbucks sold rainbow flag merchandise, Budweiser ran a campaign for QiXi Festival (Chinese Valentine's Day) called "All love is love", which whilst not explicitly mentioning same-sex couples was implicitly supportive, and Bayer, Coach, Diesel, Old Navy, and Shake Shack sponsored Shanghai Pride.

Alibaba's Chinese New Year advert features a young man taking his boyfriend to meet his parents

At CCS, we are now working with clients to create LGBT advertising content that walks the line between what is acceptable and what isn't, by being subtle, intelligent, apolitical campaigns that people "get". Not only do these resonate with the huge gay market, but also with the major consumer market of liberal urban under 40s.

As China has no history of severe social intolerance towards gay people seen in some other societies, this approach is a really exciting and positive way to engage a young population with increasingly open and liberal attitudes, and for brands to do something really new, which gains instant and rapid attention across Chinese social media and in key traditional media.

If you're interested in making your name as a gay-friendly brand and exploring this new frontier in Chinese marketing, we'd love to talk about it, so just get in touch: clientservices@chinaconsulting.solutions

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