- Coca-Cola kicked off a mobile campaign to celebrate Chinese New Year that lets consumers win money on their smartphones. Scanning QR codes on Coke ads and packaging unlocks augmented reality (AR) features on Alipay, the mobile payments app by Alibaba Group with more than 520 million users, according to Ad Age.
- Mobile users who unlock the AR features will see two cartoon folk-art dolls that Coke has showcased in its Chinese New Year ad campaigns for several years. The dolls appear as digital animations overlaid on a real background seen through the smartphone camera, similar to Pokemon Go, and they throw snowballs or hug, then deliver holiday wishes to users.
- After the animation plays, users are served a "red envelope" of virtual cash to mirror a Chinese tradition. The cash gifts, which range from 1 cent to $15.50, can be spent on anything on Alipay, not just Coke products. More than 6.6 million people have watched the AR animation in the past two weeks and received small amounts of gift money through the Alipay app.
Last year, Coca-Cola's Chinese New Year campaign helped to drive strong sales, according to the Ad Age report, which cited CEO James Quincey's comments to investors in its Q1 2017 earnings call. This year, the company is looking to recreate the magic. Coke and Alipay worked together on a smaller-scale digital campaign last year, but this year's effort will likely be much bigger because of advancements in mobile technology and growth in acceptance of AR and mobile payments, which have particularly caught on in Chinese markets. QR codes have experienced a resurgence, in part because of advancements in visual recognition and augmented reality.
The campaign, created by agencies Isobar Shanghai, Dentsu Aegis Media Shanghai and McCann Shanghai, has advantages for both Coke and Alipay. The soda brand builds brand awareness on a mobile payments app that millions of Chinese people use for shopping, chat and photo sharing every day. Alipay then gets to piggyback on Coca-Cola's pervasive campaign on TV, in-store, out-of-home, in movie theaters and digital media.
Chinese consumerism is becoming a massive force in the global economy that will equal or surpass sales in the U.S. for the first time this year, per the Washington Post. Retail sales in the world's most populous country are on track to reach more than $5.8 trillion this year, per Japanese bank Mizuho, equaling U.S. levels. China's middle-class population consisted of 109 million people in 2015, according to a study by Swiss bank Credit Suisse, easily surpassing the 92 million U.S. adults who were classified in the income category. China's growing middle class is eager to buy brand-name clothes, cars and cellphones, among other products, making them a key target for mobile marketers.