Japanese premium cosmetics brand SK-II has launched an emotive campaign to support Chinese womens’ fight agains the suffocating notion of ‘leftover women’. It captures a new form of femininity in China – confident, independent and uncompromising in terms of what they will achieve in their lives.
In a visceral look at the issue, SK-II outlines the cultural phenomena of the ‘leftover women’ as a form of psychological torture for women you must face the pressure of getting married ‘to a certain man’ of a ‘certain station in life’. One women is described by her parents as “full of personality”, but with only “average looks”, so this was an issue for them – you can almost see the daughter cry in response.
I do not want to ruin it for you, so below is the video – with an accurate translation (VPN required).
Is this a good move for SK-II? Yes, brave, and consumer focussed
At the end of the day, SK-II could, as a cosmetics brands, simply chose to focus on ‘being beautiful’ – but they have established their RTB – not their Reason To Believe, but their Reason To Be. The brand has said it cares about it’s consumers, and the psychological torment they endue as part of traditional pressure. Their product therefore is not just about aesthetic enhancement, it is a core part of local womens’ identity.
Also, as a Japanese brand, it is somewhat unexpected that SK-II is becoming the category hero – often this is the role of Western brands – think Unilever’s Real Beauty for example. A defining aspect of the campaign is that the starting point is China, not global – the message is centered on a local cultural issue that is specific to China. It is endemic to societies that move from tradition to modernity in almost one generation – where traditional notions are magnified by social and economic transformation.
The issue is understandable from both the family’s and daughter’s perspective – but the important aspect of this campaign is that it highlights the ‘invisible damage’ this does to the ego of young women – in casual reference in conversations to out-and-out ‘commodification’ of daughters by families.
As part of SMART, we are very focussed on the idea of new Chinese femininity.
Look forward to more articles on this key social change in China.