Why PepsiCo went to space to cut through Chinese New Year noise

The film tells the story of three astronauts preparing for their first space mission while showcasing the challenges.

PepsiCo launched a space-themed online film in China as part of its Chinese New Year campaign, which the brand hopes will inspire Chinese consumers to reach for the stars.

The seven-minute film tells the story of three astronauts preparing for their first space mission while showcasing the challenges and fears for them and their families as they prepare for their uncertain voyage. It was also created to celebrate China’s burgeoning space program and timed to coincide with China’s historic landing of a space probe onto the far side of the moon in early January 2019.

The film, which has gained around 500 million views and reached more than 23m people on WeChat through its interactive H5 format since its launch, is part of the ongoing PepsiCo’s Bring Happiness Home CNY campaign in China, now into its eighth year. The campaign focuses on “home” and “family”, which are of special meaning to the Chinese people.

According to the brand, this year’s space-themed movie focuses on the message of "no matter how far you go in life, your family will always be right by your side." It believes the spirit of space workers is an excellent interpretation of this theme as, under both physical and psychological stress, astronauts constantly must challenge the limits of how far humanity can go into the universe. That means their home is a source of motivation and support.

“At the same time, we want astronauts reaching for the stars to symbolize everyone’s journey of realizing their dreams. While catching our own stars and exploring the unknown on our way to the destination, the home will always be our shelters and our sanctuaries,” Lilly Yip, vice president of the beverage category of PepsiCo Greater China Region tells The Drum.

“With release of this mini-movie, Pepsi hopes to pay tribute to all those who have to stay at work during the Chinese New Year, who share the desire to return home and celebrate with family, but instead choose to stay behind with an unselfish sense of purpose, allowing the rest of us to “bring happiness home.”

In the process of planning the film with its creative agency Civilization Shanghai, the initial insights for the campaign came from an observation that the significance of "family reunion" was gradually neglected and overlooked in China, but the love for home is deeply buried in the heart of Chinese youngsters.

Deriving from these insights, PepsiCo wanted to be the voice that resurfaces this “hidden love”, because eight years on, it feels that the BHH CNY campaign has connected "individuals" with their "families" and has broadened people's understanding of "home."

“The Chinese audience has come to expect Pepsi to deliver a strong, epic narrative as its main content each year for its Chinese New Year “Bring Happiness Home” campaign (just like the expectation the British audience have for John Lewis’s Christmas campaign),” explains the spokesperson.

“The concept creation phase was kicked off in June and more than thirty different directions were bandied around before the subject of space travel was agreed upon. After that, it was a matter of sculpting a script together with the brand team and the mini-movie director’s scriptwriting team that hit on the mandatories in the brief, namely, casting all of Pepsi’s celebrities and the role of the product, while maintaining a coherent story structure that conveyed authenticity and elicited a strong emotional response.”

In China, the CNY period is always a hectic time, especially in recent years, as a growing number of brands begin to launch marketing campaigns targeting this special occasion. The competition between these brands and the fight for media platforms are getting increasingly fierce.

According Yip, as PepsiCo is under the urgent need during this festive to elevate its brand communication through eye-catching creative ideas and unique content, generating breakthroughs and standing out in the creative and content aspect of its marketing communication while fostering long-lasting influence in both the industry and the society, is the challenge it faced when creating the campaigns.

“Production-wise, the biggest challenge was probably aligning the busy schedules of all the celebrities. Then, of course, we had to take on board their feedback on the script and adjust accordingly without compromising the integrity of the story,” she adds.

PepsiCo believes the space-themed film has aided its understanding of the relationship between young people and their surroundings because as a strong influence and aspiration of youth culture, the brand has never stopped listening to the inner desires of the young people. It discovered that today’s generation is confident, in a good way because they take pride in their root and are proud to express their identity, which represents the more liberal and passionate state of self-expression in our youth generation.

“This campaign also proved the importance of one-to-one marketing that emphasizes personalized interactions with customers. For the first time, we created hyper-personalized short mini-movies using cutting-edge big data technology,” explains Yip. “With our New Year’s blessings included in the mini-movie, the interactive platform receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from our customers and led us to firmly believe in our strategy in combining marketing communication with big data technology.”

“More a reminder than a lesson, that a powerful story is the most efficient way to own the media between a consumer’s ears called a brain.”

To see more Chinese New Year campaigns, please go here.

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