Cannes Lions

Marriage Market Takeover

FORSMAN & BODENFORS, Gothenburg / SK-II / 2017

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This paper tells the story about how SK-II, a Japanese prestige skin care owned by P&G, did something unique in the category by not talking about its product, prioritizing instead the emotional connection with Chinese women – and by that, outperforming the category leaders in China and regaining #1 position globally.

To create this connection we embraced a powerful conversation starter: The Sheng Nu phenomenon. Sheng Nu, meaning “leftover woman”, had since 2007 been used by Chinese state media to stigmatize unmarried women over the age of 27. The pressure to marry, sometimes at the expense of their careers and independence, emerged as the biggest issue in our target audience’s lives. And they never talked about it openly.

The idea was to give a voice to the ”leftover women” and find a symbolic way for them to make a statement. So we created a take over at the marriage market in Shanghai’s People’s Park and in an emotional documentary style film, we followed four women replacing the dating ads with their own personalized messages.

Packaging the complex topic of Sheng Nu in a beautiful, though provoking and easy to share campaign gave Chinese woman the speaker they needed to talk about the stigma they were suffering. And the results have been massive, both instantly and over time, in a wide range set of metrics.

First, sales totally exploded. The campaign dramatically contributed to make 2016 the most successful year in the history of the brand in China, almost doubling its sales and raising brand strength to unprecedented levels.

The campaign also created a massive breakthrough, generating in total 44 million views around the globe and 7,1 million social actions (of which 6,5 million came from China), with a social reach of 4 billion globally. SK-II achieved #1 eSOV (online share of voice) in digital key platforms and 2000 editorial across 54 countries. In fact, we created so much buzz in China that the state-owned media promoting the Sheng Nu term couldn’t ignore addressing the campaign.

SK-II didn't only stir up the debate, it also got strong consumer engagement. The campaign was the first ad ever to make it to top ten trend list on the 650 million users social network Weibo.

SK-II demonstrated the power that can be released from a true emotional connection between a brand and its consumers, bringing to light that in a mature category, brands are way beyond the product they sell.

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