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How Uniqlo Became Trending on WeChat

Three pictures of a naked girl and a man in a fitting room, recording a sex video via the big mirror in front of them. “Are you sending me porn?”, I asked my long-time Beijing friend. How one sex video made Uniqlo a buzzword on China’s internet within 24 hours.

Manya Koetse

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On Tuesday, 14th of July, my Weixin [WeChat] app starts bleeping. A message from my long-time Beijing friend Lily: “Manya, did you see this yet?” Three pictures of a naked girl and a man in a fitting room, recording a sex video via the big mirror in front of them. “Are you sending me porn?”, I ask Lily, a bit cautious with what I click, just in case I get involved in one of Weixin’s online scams. “This is Uniqlo in Beijing,” she writes: “Everybody is talking about this right now!”

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Over the last 24 hours, ‘Uniqlo Beijing’ has become a buzz word on Weixin groups and on Weibo. Although the topic initially remained uncensored by Sina Weibo, it was taken down some time later. The pictures and video surely do not suit China’s online anti-porn campaign.

 

“Who made it? Why? How? It’s the questions that create the buzz.”

 

Uniqlo is a Japanese casual fashion company operating in fourteen different countries around the world. Uniqlo Beijing is located in Sanlitun The Village, an iconic shopping area near Beijing’s embassy district, where thousands of people pass by every day.

The video of about a minute, shared amongst China’s netizens, shows how a young man and a naked girl have sex inside one of Uniqlo’s fitting rooms. In the background, you can hear people passing by and talking as the couple secretly records their sexual escapade through smartphone.

As often happens with videos that go viral, the source of this video is still unknown. Was it first posted on Weibo or on Weixin? Who posted it? Was it leaked, or purposely put out there? In this particular case, it is the questions that create the buzz. Many people have been to Sanlitun The Village and might have visited Uniqlo – a place that is always crowded, with security on every corner.

The busy area is not the only reason why Uniqlo is an unlikely place to record a sex tape, it is also the brand itself. Uniqlo is a casual brand, selling basic fashion for men and women. It is known as somewhat ‘boring’, where people buy their white socks and Mickey Mouse T-shirts. Not exactly an inspiring environment for an erotic encounter.

 

“When China’s memes become marketing tools..”

 

The unlikely combination of a ‘sex video’ and ‘Uniqlo’ made many people wonder if this may secretly be a marketing campaign to spice up the image of Uniqlo, but this has now been denied by Uniqlo.

As the video and pictures became trending, the so-called ‘human flesh search’ (人肉搜索) came into action – with netizens acting as detectives to find out who people in the video are. One Weibo user called “Yuyi Houtianxu” (余艺侯天旭), a university student, was identified as the girl in the video. Her Weibo account has now been suspended.

Although Uniqlo might not have been used the video as a marketing tool, others are quick to jump in on this trending topic by selling the deleted video online through Taobao, or using the incident for their own benefit. H&M, for example, stated that girls who shop at their store “have more class” (image provided by That’s Beijing). The line “shopping at Uniqlo” suddenly has taken on an entirely different meaning.

H&Mresponse

Viral videos and trending topics have proven to be great marketing tools, with famous online phrases like ‘Do you know who my dad is?’ being used by companies and copyrighters.

 

“They found the girl,” Lily writes

 

Bleep bleep. Another incoming message on my Weixin. It is a copy of the ID of the girl in the video. “They found the girl,” Lily writes. The ‘human flesh search’ is completed. Her name, her birthday, her address, her birthplace, her identity card number and her school are currently being shared amongst thousands of netizens. She is 21 years old. I sure hope she has a marketing strategy in mind on how to use the event to her advantage. Maybe Uniqlo is still hiring?

Update: also see “Uniqlo one year after the sex tape”:

By Manya Koetse

©2015 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Celebs

Female Comedian Yang Li and the Intel Controversy

A decision that backfired: Intel’s act of supposed ‘inclusion’ caused the exclusion of female comedian Yang Li.

Manya Koetse

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“How to look at the boycott of Yang Li?” (#如何看待抵制杨笠#) became a top trending topic on social media site Weibo on Monday after female comedian Yang Li was dismissed as the spokesperson for American tech company Intel over a controversial ad campaign.

On March 18, Intel released an ad on its Weibo account in which Yang says “Intel has a taste [for laptops] that is higher than my taste for men” (“英特尔的眼光太高了,比我挑对象的眼光都高.”)

The ad drew complaints for allegedly insulting men, with some social media users vowing to boycott the tech brand. On Sunday, Intel deleted the ad in question from its social media page and reportedly also removed Yang from her position as their brand ambassador.

The commotion over the ad had more to do with Chinese comedian Yang Li (杨笠) than with the specific lines that were featured in it.

Yang Li is controversial for her jokes mocking men (“men are adorable, but mysterious. After all, they can look so average and yet be so full of confidence“), with some blaming her for being “sexist” and “promoting hatred against all men.”

Since she appeared on the stand-up comedy TV competition Rock and Roast (脱口秀大会) last year, she was nicknamed the the “punchline queen” and became one of the more influential comedians in present-day China. Yang now has nearly 1,5 million fans on Weibo (@-杨笠-).

Yang Li’s bold jokes and sharp way of talking about gender roles and differences between men and women in Chinese society is one of the main reasons she became so famous. Intel surely knew this when asking Yang to be their brand ambassador.

In light of the controversy, the fact that Intel was so quick to remove Yang also triggered criticism. Some (male) netizens felt that Intel, a company that sells laptops, could not be represented by a woman who makes fun of men, while these men are a supposed target audience for Intel products.

But after Yang was removed, many (female) netizens also felt offended, suggesting that in the 21st century, Intel couldn’t possibly believe that their products were mainly intended for men (“以男性用户为主”)? Wasn’t their female customer base just as important?

According to online reports, Intel responded by saying: “We noted that the content [we] spread relating to Yang Li caused controversy, and this is not what we had anticipated. We place great importance on diversity and inclusion. We fully recognize and value the diverse world we live in, and are committed to working with partners from all walks of life to create an inclusive workplace and social environment.”

However, Intel’s decision backfired, as many wondered why having Yang as their brand ambassador would not go hand in hand with ‘promoting an inclusive social environment.’

“Who are you being ‘inclusive’ too? Common ‘confident’ men?”, one person wrote, with others saying: “Why can so many beauty and cosmetic brands be represented by male idols and celebrities? I loathe these double standards.”

“As a Chinese guy, I really think Yang Li is funny. I didn’t realize Chinese men had such a lack of humor!” another Weibo user writes.

There are also people raising the issue of Yang’s position and how people are confusing her performative work with her actual character. One popular law blogger wrote: “Really, boycotting Yang Li is meaningless. Stand-up comedy is a performance, just as the roles people play in a TV drama.”

Just a month ago, another Chinese comedian also came under fire for his work as a brand ambassador for female underwear brand Ubras.

It is extremely common in China for celebrities to be brand ambassadors; virtually every big celebrity is tied to one or more brands. Signing male celebrities to promote female-targeted products is also a popular trend (Li 2020). Apparently, there is still a long way to go when the tables are turned – especially when it is about female celebrities with a sharp tongue.

By Manya Koetse

Li, Xiaomeng. 2020. “How powerful is the female gaze? The implication of using male celebrities for promoting female cosmetics in China.” Global Media and China, Vol.5 (1), p.55-68.

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Celebs

Chinese Comedian Li Dan under Fire for Promoting Lingerie Brand with Sexist Slogan

Underwear so good that it can “help women lie to win in the workplace”? Sexist and offensive, according to many Weibo users.

Manya Koetse

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Popular talk show host and comedian Li Dan (李诞) has sparked controversy on Chinese social media this week for a statement he made while promoting female underwear brand Ubras.

The statement was “让女性轻松躺赢职场”, which loosely translates to “make it easy for women to win in the workplace lying down” or “make women win over the workplace without doing anything,” a slogan with which Li Dan seemed to imply that women could use their body and sex to their advantage at work. According to the underwear brand, the idea allegedly was to convey how comfortable their bras are. (The full sentence being “一个让女性躺赢职场的装备”: “equipment that can help women lie to win in the workplace”).

Li Dan immediately triggered anger among Chinese netizens after the controversial content was posted on his Weibo page on February 24. Not only did many people feel that it was inappropriate for a male celebrity to promote female underwear, they also took offense at the statement. What do lingerie and workplace success have to do with each other at all, many people wondered. Others also thought the wording was ambiguous on purpose, and was still meant in a sexist way.

Various state media outlets covered the incident, including the English-language Global Times.

By now, the Ubras underwear brand has issued an apology on Weibo for the “inappropriate wording” in their promotion campaign, and all related content has been removed.

The brand still suggested that the slogan was not meant in a sexist way, writing: “Ubras is a women’s team-oriented brand. We’ve always stressed ‘comfort and wearability as the essence of [our] lingerie, and we’re committed to providing women with close-fitting clothing solutions that are unrestrained and more comfortable so that more women can deal with fatigue in their life and work with a more relaxed state of mind and body.”

Li Dan also wrote an apology on Weibo on February 25, saying his statement was inappropriate. Li Dan has over 9 million followers on his Weibo account.

The objectification of women by brands and media has been getting more attention on Chinese social media lately. Earlier this month, the Spring Festival Gala was criticized for including jokes and sketches that were deemed insensitive to women. Last month, an ad by Purcotton also sparked controversy for showing a woman wiping away her makeup to scare off a male stalker, with many finding the ad sexist and hurtful to women.

 
By Manya Koetse
with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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