by Philix & Iris
21 December 2023
McDonald's Campaign in China: McDonald's x Qi Baishi's painting
The dawn of Western culinary culture in China during the Qing Dynasty marked a pivotal chapter, leaving an indelible imprint on the culinary canvas. Initially confined to the upper echelons during the feudal era and early phases of reform and opening up, Western gastronomy exuded an air of exclusivity, synonymous with the epitome of high-end dining. While accessibility to the Western culinary tapestry has since broadened, a recent trend among young white-collar workers sees them gravitating towards the allure of healthy, light fare coupled with the ambiance of bourgeois indulgence. This nuanced shift has elevated what was once considered standard Western cuisine, with a single set meal now commanding a price tag easily soaring into the hundreds of yuan, transforming it into the epitome of culinary opulence.
But for brands in this space, just being popular isn't enough. Today's young folks are open to new things and don't follow brands blindly. They appreciate uniqueness and don't consider popularity the only measure of quality. As the interest in current culinary trends starts to wane, young people are looking for a deeper connection to the past. China's rich history has a magnetic appeal that draws them in with every story.
To stay in the game, brands are mixing Chinese and Western elements, creating new and exciting products. This involves an intricate focus on flavor, ensnaring the taste buds of consumers with delectable localized nuances, or weaving cultural connotations into the very fabric of their products through enchanting storytelling.
Cha Er's new play: Iced Teapresso (its inspiration comes from Iced Americano)
Take the example of iced coffee. It used to be a hit, but now the regular stuff isn't enough for the youth. They're all about trying new things. So, with iced coffee trending, brands are now making iced Chinese-style coffee, like lattes made with tea instead of coffee, almost like a milk tea. Even with the rise of Chinese-inspired brands, coffee culture is still in the spotlight. Young people want products that not only work well but also bring some excitement, something that makes you go "wow" and is cool enough to share on social media.
Tasiten's latest Chinoiserie packaging
On the branding frontier, Tastien's recent packaging upgrade exemplifies this trend with finesse. Traditional elements, etched into the design like the "Eight Trigrams Array" on a burger box juxtaposed against the "Fou" vessel of ancient China, manifest a more distinctly Chinese brand image, laden with cultural connotations.
McDonald's x Qi Baishi campaign
Even global giants like McDonald's are adding Chinese flavors to their menu. They've got burgers with pickled veggies and cured meat. And in ads with the Shanghai Animation Film Studio, they're featuring shrimp art that reminds people of Qi Baishi, a famous artist known for painting shrimp.
Meme/word play created by Youth to show their love for Americano Coffee.
However, the enthralling fusion of Chinese and Western culinary cultures bears a duality. The very act of juxtaposing two disparate elements engenders a magnetic clash, captivating attention in a whirlwind. Yet, the ephemeral nature of this allure posits a conundrum. As the youth's attention dissipates, so does the harvest, rendering the surface-level fusion a transient spectacle. A striking analogy can be drawn to the contemporary fascination with traditional Chinese festivals as marketing hotspots. Alas, brands find themselves struggling to etch a lasting memory in consumers' minds by merely tethering to specific festivals. In the labyrinth of cultural fusion, brands must navigate with acumen, transcending superficial associations. This necessitates a bold departure from cultural comfort zones, an unwavering commitment to in-depth research, and a shrewd leveraging of diverse cultural elements to crystallize a profound positive memory point.
So, in a nutshell, the mix of Chinese and Western culinary cultures in China is like a playground for brands. If they can balance being cool and trendy with something that sticks around, they'll not only win over young hearts but also leave a lasting mark in the ever-changing world of food trends.