International Women’s Day in China

International Women’s Day in China

The empowerment of women is a regular topic in modern-day China. Every year, as International Women’s Day (March 8) rolls around, brands seek new ways to engage with their female audiences, because it’s no surprise that women are the  primary decision makers when it comes to online shopping.


However, just focusing on International Women’s Day to sell their wares won’t cut it these days. Brands need to actively demonstrate that they genuinely care. That they are sympathetic to and supportive of the empowerment of women.


International Women’s Day is well recognised across China, although it’s no doubt celebrated more along the traditional lines of our Mother’s Day festival, where women enjoy recognition and gifts. At home, we are more likely to attend an event or protest, in an effort to raise the profile on issues that are important to women.


When it comes to marketing in China, International Women’s Day can be described in a few different ways. They are:


International Women’s Day: 国际妇女节 Guójì Fùnǚjié

March 8 holiday (3/8): 三八节 Sānbājié
Queen’s Day: 女王节 Nǚwáng jié
Goddess Day: 女神节 Nǚshénjié


国际妇女节 Guójì Fùnǚjié is the most common one I come across when speaking with friends and colleagues. While Goddess Day was popular for a time in marketing campaigns, it’s losing its shine as brands are focusing on more serious issues women face.


In the west, little is known about the advancement of women’s rights in modern society in China. Instead, we tend to reflect on China’s history – a time of concubines, foot binding, and low socioeconomic status.

In modern China, there has been a significant shift from those days. It started with Chairman Mao’s recognition of women in supporting the revolution, and his proclamation that Women hold up half the sky, 妇女能顶半边天 Fùnǚ néng dǐng bànbiāntiān. Since 1949, there have been significant steps to improve women’s rights, such as legal changes that give women more rights to their futures in marriage and the workplace. 


Certainly, the issues faced by women have improved since pre-1949, although in regional areas of China, there is still work to be done to raise the rights and improve the safety of women.


In modern-day China, the rise of women entrepreneurs and senior business leaders is impressive. For example, Zhang Xin, the co-founder and CEO of SOHO China,  Yang Mian Mian, the President of the Haier Group, and Jing Ulrich, the Chairperson and Managing director of JP Morgan Chase, are just a few of the female role models gracing board rooms across China. 


As discussions around women’s leadership become more commonplace in China, so too do discussions around how big brands can show their commitment to this cause. IWD is one day in particular where they can flex their marketing muscle with powerful and impactful campaigns that send a strong message – a message that women have an important role and should be recognised for that role.


Platforms such as JD and Tmall are certainly the driving factors in the commercialisation of the online shopping festival, and brands are offering limited edition and discount promotions to capture female audiences.


Tmall’s Super Brand Day campaign, for example, included a digital wall installation, or what they called a bullet screen. As people walked past, stereotypical statements about women popped up, such as ‘Getting married to a good guy is the most important thing for women’ and ‘You are not young anymore, don’t have high standards when finding a husband’.


Passers by who didn’t like the statements, could stand in front of the wall, and were given an inspirational sign to pose as a statement against these stereotypes, such as ‘Love yourself’. It was a great opportunity to open discussion about stereotyping, and it initiated a hot debate on Chinese social media. it was a strong example of an online and offline integration.


One of my favourite campaigns was produced by a local Chinese skincare brand, Proya, that aimed to challenge deep-rooted gender bias discussions. The campaign was called “It’s prejudice, not gender, that draws the boundary”.


The campaign video included highlights of common statements such as:


For women: “ You have really got a nerve. You’re not like a girl at all.”


It also posed statements such as we always ask women, “How do you balance your family and career?” and “What does it mean to be an independent woman?” These types of questions would never normally be asked of a man.


If you are a Western brand with an engaged Chinese audience, think about how you can interact with the modern sophisticated Chinese woman.  She is a savvy powerhouse, with serious buying power. And she is career driven. So a  simple token statement just won’t cut it.

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