Baidu Reunites Retro Textbook Characters – Li Lei and Han Meimei


China’s largest search engine Baidu, has reunited characters Li Lei and Han Meimei in a new campaign. Li and Han, were model students in the popular English learning textbooks in the 1980s, when English was re-introduced into school curriculum.

Digitising an Old Favourite – The Textbook Characters Grow Up

Building on a retro-trend, that first involved T-shirts and memorabilia, and moved to mobile emoticons, Baidu has ‘reunited’ the classic textbook classmates Li Lei and Han Meimei.  Knowing this is fun and often parodied memory, particular for later post-80s, who learnt their English through the stories of these two male and female model students.

However, in Baidu’s fun take on Li Lei and Han Meimei, they have ‘grown up’, but miraculously maintained contact through the internet.  The hypothetical reunion was timed to provide, and ‘grown-ups’ memory’ of Children’s Day to bring symbols, that in a way, defined Chinese school life for this generation.



Li Lei and Han Meimei in the original 1980s English textbook

Let’s have a look at how Baidu brought the model couple ‘back together’ :-0

Li Lei thinks “It has been so many years, but I have kept her contact details …”

Li Lei remembers the first time they met, Children’s Day all those years ago

He reminisces about all the things, he and Han Meimei went through together during their school years

Li Lei also reflects fondly about the endless conversations they shared

Now that he is grown up, Li Lei wants to contact Han Meimei again, but does not know how to start

Then he thinks, just like always, the icebreaker is the “heart” emoji – :-00000000

Then Baidu created a quiz to ask how Li Lei and Han Meimei would deal with the realities of being a modern couple in China – the textbook characters and with grown-up issues 


What would happen if Meimei took the last chip at the movies?


[LEFT] What if the restaurant overcharged when they are on a date? [RIGHT] What if Li Lei suddenly turns up, dressed to impress? 3[LEFT] What karaoke song would Li Lei chose for Meimei’s birthday? [RIGHT] What if Meimei ditched Li Lei at the alter?

Why we like this from Baidu?

  1. After a recent scandal, Baidu needs to give the search engine more of an emotional angle – nostalgia specific to Chinese netizens, was a nice way to do this
  2. The campaign parodies the idea of modern relationships, something fresh, and a pressure valve in China’s super competitive society
  3. The campaign thought carefully about how to give the Textbook Characters an interesting new story, while funny it was respectful, and built on the popular emoticons used by post-80s on their phones
  4. At the end of the day, Baidu is a search engine, so this was an excellent way to give the brand more a social and emotive context to connect with users

About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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