by MJ O'Neill
June 1st, 2018

Collaborating with Ocean Spray for Thanksgiving, Weber Shandwick China connect the world’s most sophisticated ecommerce market to a tradition dating back over hundreds of years – utilising influencer-driven content to chronicle the journey of cranberries from harvest to holiday.

Weber Shandwick China’s strategy drove a 78% increase in social followers and a 300% year-on-year increase in Thanksgiving Day sales in China – with content resulting in 37.3 million page views, 106 pieces of media coverage and influencer livestreams being viewed by over 14 million people.

A Cultural Fascination

Over the past decade, America’s traditional Thanksgiving holiday has become an increasingly popular topic of interest in China. Having been regularly exposed to the celebration via social media and international travel, China’s urban populations, in particular, have developed an especial fascination with the holiday.

As a result, many companies have also started to embrace the holiday. The annual tradition of post-Thanksgiving ‘Black Friday’ sales have even developed a local equivalent – Singles Day (also known as Double 11). Occurring every year on the 11th of November, it’s the biggest e-shopping event of the Chinese calendar.

As the best-selling brand of dried cranberries in North America, Ocean Spray have always maintained a strong connection with the Thanksgiving tradition. In 2017, Ocean Spray wanted to celebrate alongside their Chinese followers and showcase just how essential cranberries are for a happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Classic Storytelling & Cutting-Edge Content

The challenge being – how to communicate that sense of history and tradition to China’s urban audiences? With one of the most sophisticated ecommerce markets in the world approaching the biggest online shopping event of the year, Ocean Spray would be competing for attention with thousands of brands striving to connect with some of the savviest consumers of the region.

Together, Weber Shandwick China and Ocean Spray embraced a strategy combining classic storytelling with cutting-edge distribution. In the weeks preceding Thanksgiving, Ocean Spray would share the journey of a cranberry from the beautiful bogs of North America to the rich, communal joy of a Thanksgiving dinner – from Harvest to Holiday.

But, the story was told by Chinese social media influencers via a mix of social media and livestreaming events. China’s urban audiences were invited to travel with influencers all the way across the world to see where cranberries are harvested. And, in the culmination of the campaign, some would literally join one celebrity for a traditional, home-cooked Thanksgiving meal.

The Kloud Component

Success was contingent on securing ideal collaborators. To genuinely connect with consumers, Ocean Spray needed creative influencers who were not only gifted storytellers with substantial followings but could also drive consistent engagement with a brand partner’s products; a rare combination of qualities, each metric difficult to reliably assess.

Kloud is a proprietary influencer management tool developed by Weber Shandwick to help any brand secure the most fitting and effective collaborators for their storytelling. For example, Weber Shandwick China connected Oceanspray with Xiaobaojun and Xingyue. While both boast substantial followings, they were also perfectly positioned to expand on the story of Thanksgiving in China.

Xiaobaojun is a celebrity chef and TV host with a large fanbase among Chinese food aficionados. Xingyue is an American student in China who speaks fluent Chinese. Xingyue’s multicultural background ensured a unique ability to share the journey of cranberries from harvest to holiday. Xiaobaojun, meanwhile, represented the perfect steward for the final Thanksgiving dinner.

With Kloud, Weber Shandwick China also connected with five additional influencers across the food, healthy living, cooking and travel sectors. And, with each piece of content strategically linked to ecommerce sites and delivered in anticipation of Singles Day, each influencer helped connect new consumers with Ocean Spray’s products.

A Cultural Phenomenon

The combination of storytelling and innovative content distribution helped drive a widespread cultural engagement with Ocean Spray’s cranberry products. In the wake of Singles Day 2017, Ocean Spray’s social following increased by 78% – with content resulting in 37.3 million page views, 106 pieces of media coverage and influencer livestreams being viewed by over 14 million people.

The widespread engagement saw a substantial impact on Ocean Spray’s sales over the Thanksgiving period. With a 300% increase in merchandise sold in 2017 compared to 2016, sales were so robust that Ocean Spray’s products were among the Top 10 most popular purchases of Singles Day 2017 – outperforming literally millions of other products (across all industries) on the same platform.

And, in 2018, Weber Shandwick China’s work with Ocean Spray received a Bronze Asia Ecommerce Award; with Weber Shandwick China the only PR firm recognised.

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