The Chinese dark comedy, “Dying to Survive”, released on July 5th, quickly became one of the highest grossing films in China. It featured a tragedy of peddling unauthorized cancer drugs from India to China and is jokingly suggested as the Chinese version of The Dallas Buyers Club. The heated social media discussion stemming from the film has prompted the Medical surveillance administration to summon both foreign and domestic pharmaceutical companies over several rounds of price cuts negotiation, which was widely reported by international media press. But today we put aside the criticisms of the Chinese drug price chaos and see what we can learn about the social marketing media.
Before proceeding there is some further information you need to know –
- Produce 101 is an online talent show for the selection of members of a girl band. The top 11 candidates voted from a group of 101 move onto the final stage. This process is called “pick up”..
- The most voted girl in the show, Meng Meiqi (孟美岐), was also cordially called Brother Shanzhi (山支大哥) by her fans, which originated from the breakdown of her name’s last character, Qi (岐, 山支).
Meanwhile, during the film’s pre-promotion period, the lead actor of the film, Xu Zheng (徐峥), played a catalytic role in this case by giving “flavor” to the event. His hilarious picture taken at an airport, together with other 8 mid-aged Chinese actors, was tagged under a Weibo hashtag #pick up your dream uncle#. This was fiercely debated by a certain group of Weibo users, whom I prefer to refer to as “water army” in the aim of boosting “Dying to Survive”. In a couple of days, the topic was amongst the most discussed with over 50K people joining in, and Xu was adorably titled as “Uncle ShanZheng (the breakdown of the Chinese character 峥, Zheng)”. Instead of showing excitement and affection over the new name, Xu calmly and politely showed his gratitude on Weibo with the announcement promoting the upcoming “Dying to Survive”.
The success of the campaign here rests on timing. Xu, or the film’s marketing team, took advantage of “pickup” traffic flowing from maybe the hottest online talent show of the year, Produce 101, and created a name for Xu that corresponds to the show’s 1st place winner. The campaign was initiated right after the Produce 101 final session when people were still crazy about the picked-up culture.
Simultaneously, the wide but limited release launched at 10+ cinema chains resulted in an unprecedented successful review on social media. People generously scored it 9 out of 10 on Douban (a website, known as Chinese IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes, which allows users to rate and comment movies freely,), and broke the highest ever record of Chinese local movies. Due to growing popularity, cinema chains have scheduled more screens for Dying to Survive thanks to the valuable data acquired from limited release. Encouraged by the lack of negative reviews, audiences are endlessly motivated to go to the cinema and see for themselves what all this hype is about. With the constant positive feedback online more people are being inspired and this cycle has an outcome of 50 million at the box-office.
There are 3 keywords that are worth mentioning in this event, film festival, Weibo KOLs, and limited release. Dying to Survive seized every opportunity to increase its impression at premise of being a good film.
- Film Festival – to win media press and reputation in a professional area.
- Weibo KOLs – to gain positive feedback from quality KOLs, and to involve the leading actor into the social marketing campaign.
- Limited release – to test the market and be prepared for screen scheduling adaptations in the future.