520 Day China

520 Festival in China: Unofficial Chinese Valentine’s Day

Last Updated on May 21, 2024

Festivals are deeply rooted in China’s consumer market. In fact, many e-commerce platforms and brands take advantage of these holidays to attract potential traffic and sales conversions.

One important date marketers can’t exclude from their marketing calendar is the 520 festival. It’s a day when most young people buy gifts and post online to celebrate love.

In this post, we’ll discuss the importance of the 520 festival in China and the digital marketing strategies foreign marketers can use to prepare for this unofficial Chinese Valentine’s Day.


What is 520 Valentine’s Day in China?

In China, the date 520 sounds similar to 我爱你 or “wǒ ài nǐ,” which means “I love you” in Chinese. Younger generations initially used it as slang online to express love, but it eventually transformed into the internet’s version of Valentine’s Day.

It became a special day for lovers, so Chinese people eventually tagged the event with names like “Love Festival” and “Love Expression Day.” Like the official Western Valentine’s Day, it’s an event where lovers spend time together, with some even using this date to get married.


A Chinese couple posing with their marriage licenses (Source: Xinhua)


While the celebration was not from ancient Chinese culture, it was an event filled with commercialized promotions. Anything related to popular gifts or romance surges in demand and prices every May 20th.

And given that the 520 Valentine’s Day in China started online, you’ll see regular users posting about this celebration on local social media platforms. In fact, hashtags related to the event have been gaining continuous traction in different apps weeks ahead of the actual festival.


Posts and promotions for the 520 Valentine’s Day on Xiaohongshu, Taobao and WeChat

Posts and promotions for the 520 Valentine’s Day on Xiaohongshu, Taobao and WeChat


What is the difference between 520 Day and Qixi Festival?

The traditional Chinese Valentine’s Day falls in August of the Gregorian calendar, while the 520 festival is an unofficial event that is celebrated on May 20th annually. It’s a relatively new phenomenon in the local market compared to the Qixi Festival.

Unlike 520 Day, Chinese people celebrate the Qixi Festival with various traditional ceremonies and rituals. It has ancient roots, derived from the romantic legend of Zhinü (the weaver girl, symbolizing Vega) and Niulang (the cowherd, symbolizing Altair).

While the Qixi Festival mainly revolves around the idea of lovers participating in traditional practices, Chinese people see the 520 Day as a chance to profess their affection through subtle love notes and gifts. The latter is also a more popular event for romantic proposals.


Difference between 520 Day and Qixi Festival


Key Figures of the 520 Festival in China

As you know, locals celebrate several Chinese Valentine’s Days. However, consumer behaviors during the 520 Festival in China highly differ from official celebrations due to its varying target demographics and highly digitalized origins.


Here are some key figures worth noting:

  • Single-day film earnings during the 520 festival reached over $44.49 million in 2023
  • Gen Zs and Millennials under 30 are the primary consumer base of this event
  • 220 million single Chinese people are potential consumers of this event
  • An average consumer has a budget of ¥500 to ¥999 for Chinese Valentine’s Days


Key Figures of the 520 Festival in China


5 Digital Marketing Tips for 520 Valentine’s Day in China

1.    Participate in Online Shopping Sales Events

One of the Chinese Valentine’s Day traditions is gift-giving. So, as you can imagine,  e-commerce platform giants like Tmall and JD.com are always gearing up their user interface and offerings based on the theme of this upcoming event.

Typically, these online shopping channels will launch exclusive discounts, flash sales, and giveaways to encourage sales conversions and increase traffic during the 520 event.

In 2022, Lancôme participated in Douyin’s e-commerce event, “ 520 Confession Season,” and garnered over 5 million RMB in sales revenue. This successful event turnover further proves the high conversion rate of the 520 festival.

These campaigns usually run the entire week, giving brands the chance to connect with domestic consumers eager to purchase for the event.


Source: South China Morning Post (SCMP)


2.    Find a KOL or KOC to work with

Another way to gain digital traction in China is by collaborating with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) or Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs), especially during high-engagement events like 520 Valentine’s Day.

Choose KOLs or KOCs whose followers align closely with your target demographic. For example, an influencer with a large following among young urbanites would be ideal for brands targeting Chinese Gen Z consumers.


Gucci’s 520 Festival KOL Campaign

Gucci’s 520 Festival KOL Campaign (Source: Dao Insights)


Gucci is one of the global brands that understands the importance of KOL collaborations in China. So, in their 520 campaign, they sought partnerships with top-rated celebrity influencers like Li Yuchun, Ni Ni, Lu Han and Song Yanfei.

These KOLs narrated personal experiences with their first Gucci products. The genuineness of the campaign generated many user-generated content from regular social media users.

The hashtag “#520 Gucci stories” generated over 400 million views on Weibo. Meanwhile, the WeChat article detailing this campaign reached over 100,000 reads.


3.    Leverage the power of Local Social Media Channels

Modern times have changed the way consumers utilize social media in China. Did you know that 84% of Chinese consumers utilize these channels to purchase goods and services?

As you can see in the graph below, luxury brand activities on social media platforms are higher during the 520 Festival than the official Chinese Valentine’s Day celebrated in August.

It goes to show how effective social media platforms are when it comes to brand promotions during e-commerce events in China.


WeChat dominated luxury brand activity on 520

Source: Vogue Business


Marketers also cannot overlook the power of live-streaming on social media platforms. Popular super apps like WeChat and Douyin integrate these real-time content features with e-commerce functions, helping brands control consumer journeys, from video viewing to purchasing an item.

During 520 Valentine’s Day, live broadcasts can feature special promotions, product demonstrations, interactive Q&As, and exclusive item launches to engage viewers or drive sales.


4.    Promote Event-Related & Limited-Edition Products

As locals like to celebrate Chinese Valentine’s Day through gift-giving, releasing limited-edition products is often an excellent strategy to trigger sales conversions. This particular technique worked well with Tiffany & Co. when they launched their signature Keys necklace filled with pink sapphires.


Tiffany & Co. 520 campaign

Tiffany & Co.: Tiffany Keys 520 Global Limited Necklace Launch (Source: Jing Daily)


This exclusive product was made available on the brand’s official virtual storefronts in WeChat and Little Red Book. The campaign also featured the hashtag “520 reasons of loving you,” which generated 100 million user engagement during the festival.

Releasing localized products and services based on domestic festivals shows the brand’s dedication and genuine interest in the Chinese market.

Making these event-themed gifts available in digital stores also makes your offerings more accessible to younger consumers who tend to purchase items through their mobile phones.


5.    Launch a Video Marketing Campaign

Video content that resonates on an emotional level tends to perform best during e-commerce festivals. With this media type, brands often focus on storytelling that celebrates the Chinese Valentine’s Day traditions.

One of the best examples of an excellent video marketing strategy is Prada’s early 520 Valentine’s Day campaign in China called “Mathematics of Love.” The campaign explores the notion of love in today’s post-pandemic world.

This initiative included engaging short videos distributed across Weibo, WeChat Channel, and Douyin.


Prada’s 520 Promotional Video Campaign

Prada’s 520 Promotional Video Campaign (Source: Jing Daily)


The video campaign allowed Prada to showcase its new collection of products aimed at the 520 festival’s consumers. These items are available exclusively through the brand’s dedicated WeChat pop-up store.


Popular Brand Categories During the Unofficial Chinese Valentine’s Day

●      Hotels and Accommodations

Although China has so many Valentine’s Days, local consumers seem enthusiastic to celebrate each event. Accommodations, in particular, gained the most demand during the 520 Valentine’s Day event.

Chinese consumers take advantage of this celebration to book hotels and schedule domestic or overseas trips for their loved ones as gifts.


●      Luxury Items

In Western countries, jewelry is one of the most common Valentine’s Day gifts in China. According to Vogue Business, brands with the highest social media traffic and user engagement during the 520 event are mostly global luxury brands.

Digital 520 endorsements from luxury brands usually begin before the end of April. These companies also work with famous celebrities and influencers in China to further amplify their campaign reach.


Top 20 brands on 520 by social media buzz


In recent years, reports claimed brand marketing fatigue from luxury brand consumers. These days, online shoppers prefer to buy from companies with authentic and creative marketing strategies.

With China’s marriage rate dropping, luxury companies are now shifting their 520 marketing campaigns to concepts of love other than romantic relationships.


●      Flowers and Chocolates

Red roses and chocolates are the universal gifts for Valentine’s Day, and China is no exception. These traditional tokens of affection maintain their appeal on 520 Day.

With their symbolism of love and beauty, flowers remain the most in-demand gift during these events. Chocolates also enjoy a boost in sales, with luxury and imported chocolate brands experiencing higher demand. It reflects the growing consumer preference for premium products in China.


●      Beauty Products

Beauty products see a significant surge in sales as gifts during 520 Day. The demand spans across skincare, makeup, and fragrances. Brands often launch limited edition products or special packaging to attract consumers looking for unique gifts.

This category’s growth is also amplified by influencer endorsements and targeted social media campaigns, which are highly effective in the Chinese market.


Posts about the 520 Valentine’s Day on Xiaohongshu, Douyin and WeChat

Beauty products posts for the 520 Valentine’s Day on Xiaohongshu, Douyin and WeChat


●      Electronics

Unlike traditional Valentine’s gifts, electronics have carved out a significant niche during 520 Day. Popular items include smartphones, wearable devices, and other tech gadgets.

Considering the personalization options available through modern technology, these gifts are perceived as not only practical but also intimate. Retailers and brands often offer special promotions and discounts, which help drive the sales of these high-ticket items during the celebration.


Your Trusted Digital Marketing Partner in the Chinese Market!

Beyond the appeal of 520 Valentine’s Day to younger Chinese consumers, this event opens new business opportunities for brands to build customer loyalty and local visibility in China’s digital ecosystem.


You may also want to read:

China's top festivals for Marketing


At Sekkei Digital Group, our team understands the changing trends and consumer behavior within the Chinese market. We are equipped with relevant industry experience and expertise to help you create an effective digital marketing campaign for your brand.


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Whether it’s setting up an e-commerce store for your brand or finding an influencer to collaborate with, we have all the digital solutions you need. Contact us today, and let’s start working on your digital marketing campaign in China.


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