Foreign brands look to profit from the monkey

Updated: 2016-02-03 08:16

By Wang Zhuoqiong and Fan Feifei(China Daily)

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International retail brands are seeking to woo Chinese customers by adorning their products with monkey characters and images as Spring Festival approaches.

At KFC restaurants, Monkey King toys have become so popular that many customers are lining up at the fast-food chain for a chance to get them. The gift sets cost nearly 200 yuan ($30) on

The sets, which were released on Jan 25 in a collaboration between KFC and Shanghai Art Film Studio, include three Monkey King toys and three cartoon books.

 Foreign brands look to profit from the monkey

A KFC outlet in Hangzhou displays an ad for one of its meal packages that come with a Monkey King toy. Long Wei / For China Daily

PepsiCo has distributed cola cans in China featuring a special edition inspired by the Peking opera version of The Monkey King. The special edition cans were first released on on Dec 29 and will cost about 100 yuan on

Mondelez China, a US-based snack and food giant, has adapted traditional paper-cut monkeys into its gift package design.

Stephen Maher, president of Mondelez China, said, "I hope the beaming golden monkey image on our in-store product displays, gift bags and promotional items can bring a smile to our customers' faces."

Jason Yu, general manager of Kantar Worldpanel China, said the monkey-related marketing indicates that more global brands are trying to adapt more to the Chinese market and delight their consumers.

Yu said it is questionable if the Year of the Monkey gift sets and campaigns can substantially increase sales or profits, but they can make consumers feel that the companies are making an effort to engage their consumers in a Chinese cultural context.

Domestic brands have also adopted the sales strategy, although many have failed to achieve sufficient popularity.

Erdos Group, the Inner Mongolia-based manufacturer of cashmere sweaters, has launched a series of cashmere products using the monkey image.

Chow Sang Sang Holdings International, a Hong Kong jewelry store chain, is selling golden monkey pendants to mark Spring Festival. The pendants come in three shapes derived from the Confucian saying "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

Philix Liu, an analyst of Asia-Pacific trends at Mintel Group, said Chinese consumers and brands have put a lot of effort into marketing with a Year of the Monkey theme thanks mainly to the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West.

Liu said that marketers and consumers from the post-'70s and post-'80s generations have strong emotional associations with the novel and with Sun Wukong, the hero, dating to the first television production of Journey to the West.

Zhang Jinlai, who starred as Sun Wukong in the 1986 TV adaptation of Journey to the West, said: "Everyone has a Monkey King in their heart. It is a symbol of joy."

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(China Daily 02/03/2016 page3)