Digital Marketing Asia 2024 Singapore
marketing interactive Digital Marketing Asia Singapore 2024 Digital Marketing Asia Singapore 2024
The Moutai frenzy: Is co-branding a gimmick or strategy for brands to reach new audiences?

The Moutai frenzy: Is co-branding a gimmick or strategy for brands to reach new audiences?

share on

Riding on the Moutai x Luckin frenzy, Kweichow Moutai, an historic alcoholic brand, has recently announced a surprise partnership with chocolate brand Dove, a brand of Mars, to release a new set of alcoholic-infused chocolates as part of its efforts to reposition the brand and tap into a younger audience.

According to its official release, Moutai said this collaboration marks an example of Moutai's continuous innovation to tap into the younger segment, actively building an Moutai motto of "Good wine, good life, and beautiful connections".

With the tagline “A place where the heart is intoxicated and where the lifelong anticipation is placed”, the collaboration also represents the full integration of the diverse food cultures of the east and the west, bringing consumers a new culinary excitement.

Kweichow Moutai’s chairman Ding Xiongjun said at the launch event that the collaboration between Moutai and Mars is a beautiful combination of double "M", a brand alliance of "Chinese time-honoured brand plus internationally renowned brand", hoping to create twice the "beautiful" products and bring twice the consumption experience and quality to consumers.

"If Moutai wants to stay young and enhance the vitality of the enterprise, it must embrace the younger generation, adhere to internationalisation, and promote Chinese brands and Chinese culture," he said. 

The new partnership saw over 10,000 media mentions across various platforms in the past 10 days, according to media intelligence firm CARMA. Among these mentions, approximately 18.9% express a positive sentiment, while 7.3% express a negative sentiment.

whatsapp image 2023 09 22 at 12.29.12

Charles Cheung, CARMA’s HK GM said some netizens have applauded the promotional strategy employed in the collaboration between Dove and Kweichow Moutai.

Given Dove's established international brand presence, the partnership is viewed as an opportunity for Kweichow Moutai to enhance its brand recognition in the global market, even if the chocolates themselves may not generate significant sales.

Meanwhile, social monitoring firm Meltwater saw a total of 88.3k mentions regarding the collab, with 49.9% positive, 42.6% neutral and 7.5% negative sentiments. Keywords associated with the alcoholic chocolates include “repost”, “brands”, “price”, “cholocates”, “looking forward”.

2023 09 22 10.52.04

The “Moutai phenomenon” 

Founded in 1999, Kweichow Moutai is a historic Chinese spirit brand specialising in the production of the spirit Moutai baijiu, which contains 53% alcohol. Love it or hate it, the latest Moutai-inspired products, from alcoholic-infused latte to branded chocolates and mooncakes, are gaining momentum.

Explaining on the “Moutai phenomenon”, industry players MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to believed that this is a strategic move of Moutai to tap into Gen Z consumers, who are less into drinking traditional Chinese spirit like the older generations. 

Brian Yeung, co-founder, Brandstorm Communications said what Gen Zs spend on and subsequently what they post on social media are part of the way they express their individuality.

"Innovative brand partnership and crossover of products such as Moutai alcohol-infused products are such a draw because Gen Z sees buying them as a way to show their creative spirit on social media," he added.

The unique collaboration between these two super-brands indeed proved to be an instant hit. Arthur R. Hagopian, senior director, global strategy/digital, SPRG Beijing, said while Kweichow Moutai is generally celebrated by older generations, the combination of this product with coffee, the beverage of choice for younger generations was captivating and alluring to young consumers. 

"It also suggests that the “guochao” trend (referring to China “waves” or “fashion”), along with nostalgia marketing (evoking emotions of a bygone era) continue to be extremely effective strategies to engage younger millennial and Gen Z consumers in China," he said.

Agreeing with Hagopian was Rudi Leung, director and founder, Hungry Digital, who said as an old-fashioned brand, Moutai is not typically associated with mass products that young consumers would consume.

"By using ingredient marketing, Moutai can tap into other categories and reach different audience segments, such as the younger group. This approach can help the brand penetrate new markets and increase its customer base in the long run," he said.

In the perpetual search for novelty and surprise in social media, brands are emboldened to experiment and enter counterintuitive segments with individual campaigns. David Ko, managing director, RFI Asia, said by partnering with Moutai, Luckin Coffee and Dove chocolate can enhance their brand image and reputation, as well as increasing their sales and profits.

With the new collab, Moutai can attract more young and female consumers, who may not be familiar with or fond of its liquor. “The collab can also create a positive and fun association with Moutai, which may otherwise be seen as a serious and formal drink,” he added.

Is this win-win collaboration for Moutai and partnering brands? 

In fact, co-branding is not new and it can be quite a common tactic used between high-end brands and fast-moving consumer goods brands. Back in February this year, Nike and Tiffany & Co.’s surprise collab made waves on social media back in February. The co-branded merchandise drew plenty of positive comments and a check by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE revealed that many consumers were excited to see the final product.

Don't miss: Love it or hate it: Do you think the Nike X Tiffany & Co. partnership makes sense?

Most recently, Moutai joined forces with Luckin coffee to produce a Moutai-flavoured latte, which is made with a liquour-flavoured milk that contains Kweichow Moutai. The level of alcohol in the beverage is less than 0.5%, making it easier for youngsters to try it for the first time.

Co-branding can be a marketing tactic to generate new excitement to engage with a wider audience nowadays. Celine Cheung, account director, RSVP Communications said this Moutai x Dove collab is a kind of joy promotion, and it has evolved from offering discounts upon product purchases to enhancing consumer experiences.

"Consumers are looking for new excitements nowadays. Apart from new tools leveraged in campaigns, consumers also look at whether the product is attractive enough. It is brave for a historic brand to collaborate with different brands to offer new consumer experiences," she added.

These types of exciting and innovative collaborations are vital for “traditional” brands in China to tap into millennial and Gen Z audiences, who have increased spending power— and are keen to experience (and pay for) unique product experiences that are culturally relevant, said SPRG Beijing’s Hagopian.

"Creating this type of buzz also contributes to a valuable curiosity and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) effect— as many young consumers ran to try the recent collaboration after seeing all their friends posting about it on their WeChat friend circles," he added.

He added that brands that fully understand consumer dispositions and embrace innovative strategies for emotional engagement will succeed among this increasingly vital youth segment. 

On the creative front, Kenneth Wan, director, The Bread Digital, said these moves not only help the brands to expand their client repertoire, but this also helps to project an approachable, modern and innovative brand image.

"These will help to promote their wider range of product portfolio. Next challenge (a happy one) for Moutai will be how to make good use of the demand generated," he said. 

In this instance, products such as coffee and chocolate are appealing to young consumers and so, for brands in this space, co-branding is quick way to engage with this group, according to Stella He, director, TEAM LEWIS Beijing.

However, for high-end brands such as Moutai, it remains a question whether it will benefit from these collabs in terms of its effectiveness to convert young consumers into consumers of their own.

"What brands may not realise is that depending on this tactic may cause it to lose its novelty and eventually, the influence it has over consumers," she added.

Related articles:

Not the right time for the Swatch X Blancpain collab?
Newest installation of Levi's x NewJeans collaboration drops

share on

Follow us on our Telegram channel for the latest updates in the marketing and advertising scene.

Free newsletter

Get the daily lowdown on Asia's top marketing stories.

We break down the big and messy topics of the day so you're updated on the most important developments in Asia's marketing development – for free.

subscribe now open in new window