When rumors of a coup appeared on Chinese microblogs a week and a half ago, the Chinese government detained six people, closed 16 websites, and shut off commenting functionality on the country’s two largest social networks: Tencent and (Sina) Weibo.
The “no comment’ campaign, which was announced on March 30, took place from March 31 to April 3. For those of you who are not familiar with Tencent and Weibo, they are essentially Twitter clones, but users can comment on messages. Although, the comment feature was shut down, the retweet function was left untouched.
We’re not here to discuss politics, but when the government shuts down the commenting function on two platforms that have over 500 million users combined, it makes a big impact, especially on brands.
But not all brands just stood by and watched. Two brands turned this crisis into an opportunity.
Mini Cooper posted a picture of its car with tape across its front bumper representing a “no comment” symbol. The post was retweeted 2,297 times and got five comments (all were posted after the comment function was activated again).
Taking this fun and adventurous angle shows that Mini knows its fan base in China. Comments on the post were mostly positive, such as “I like,” “Mini has good attitude” and “The brand is brave.”
A few hours after Weibo shut down the commenting function, Yihaodian, a leading Chinese e-commerce website, which is majority owned by Walmart, started a campaign called “National Forward (Retweet) Day.”
The campaign encouraged fans to forward their posts to win prizes. On April 3, after the commenting function was reactivated, the same brand started the second phase of the campaign called “National Review (Comment) Day.”
Although we think these two campaigns by Yihaodian were planned ahead of time, splitting the campaigns into two phases and taking advantage of the crisis was smart. By April 4, Yihaodian’s campaign received over 4,500 comments, 17,000 retweets, and of course, a lot of media coverage.
Although the results that Mini Cooper and Yihaodian gained aren’t extraordinary, we do have to applaud them for not just waiting around for the government to lift the no comment order. They took the opportunity and found a way to engage with their audience.
Sam Yu, Emerging Market Specialist, also contributed to this article