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The combination of hotpot and L’Oreal isn’t an obvious partnership but once the makeup brand discovered the steamy food was the ultimate beauty stress test, it was an obvious link for its long-wear makeup range.

This weekend saw the positive news that China, one of the hardest-hit countries by the coronavirus, was starting to get back to normal life. Across the country, people had been limiting social interaction in order to curb the spread of the virus and not overwhelm public services but in most Chinese towns and cities, people are preparing to get back to normal.

As one in five meals eaten out in China is a hotpot, the sociable dinner option will likely be on a lot of people’s lists. According to L’Oreal, it discovered that a lot of women avoided hotpots during the summer months because of the fear that their makeup wouldn’t stand the heat. It matched this insight with its Infallible Cushion power product that is intended to extend the life of makeup and decided the hotpot was the perfect stress test to feature in its marketing.

The campaign, created by Mindshare China, was largely promoted via a partnership with lifestyle app, Da Zhong Dian Ping, through which it found Dian Tai Xiang, the most popular and talked about hotpot restaurant in China. The brand worked with Chinese KOLs (key opinion leaders) on Da Zhong Dian Ping to build up momentum around the partnership, which included app opening ads and display banners, to SEO, feeds ads and social shout outs.

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Catherine Li, product manager at L’Oréal Paris Makeup: Face Category, explains that what worked in this campaign was matching the insight to the right partners.

“For L’Oréal Paris, media strategy is far more than just building exposure. We take care to understand our consumers’ desires, as well as taking a keen eye to what’s trending amongst them. Once we identify these insights, it then becomes about smartly marrying the right platform coupled with the right content to connect with our audience. This allows us to not only further maximise campaign impact but also, achieve more meaningful engagement, which in turn, drives our overall brand image and sales,” she says.

At the Dian Tai Xiang restaurants, the brand launched photo booths where fans could try the makeup on while they were in the queue, before putting it to the test during the meal. After the meal, they were entered into a contest based on reviews and shares on Da Zhong Dian Ping.

Sarah Shen, partner at Team L’Oréal Paris, Mindshare China, says: “Our campaign aim was not so much about generating mass awareness,  but rather, to drive an apt and relevant social activation to appeal to our core target audience (young women), driving authentic and trusted conversations online on social. This campaign was about doing something provocative in a purposeful, yet also, incredibly authentic and engaging way to cut through and connect with our valued audience. 

“As L’Oréal Paris’ media partner, we needed to find the right media platform to carry this idea. As China’s top lifestyle app, Da Zhong Dian Ping is trusted by young consumers nationwide. By leveraging Da Zhong Dian Ping, we were able to create a provocative opportunity to cooperate with ‘??? Dian Tai Xiang’ Hot Pot Restaurants, a hotpot restaurant chain so popular in China that consumers have to make reservations one to two months in advance, with long-lines out the door – a perfect setting for creating an opportunity to engage. In addition, by partnering with ??? Dian Tai Xiang, we were able to naturally recruit their diners, creating buzz and demand among our target audience authentically. Meanwhile, to further build on our initial provocative idea and drive it digitally, we partnered with L’Oréal to invite food and beauty KOLs to join in on the fun and introduce competitions amongst diners, further spreading the buzz and helping the campaign to become viral.”

As to whether this unusual partnership worked, Cathy Chen, senior marketing manager at L’Oréal Paris Makeup says that the first factor was engagement, but it also drove sales.

“While this provocative campaign was indeed unique, our measurement is always based on two key metrics. Firstly, we look at media measurement in terms of eyeballs and engagement. Through this collaboration, the media exposure vastly exceeded our expected target, allowing us to connect in with over 1.5m women across China who accepted the challenge of putting Infallible Cushion to the ultimate, provocative test. Secondly, we carefully monitor sales, and here this innovative campaign didn’t fail to deliver, achieving +30% growth during the activation period,” she explains.

As social distancing and working from home rules are relaxed in China, messaging around social interaction may take some time to find relevance again. But after having spent some time away from each other, it could be a refreshing change. What L’Oreal has shown is that unique partnerships based on strong consumer insights can lead to sales increases.