• China Trading Desk

Taking advantage of China's Gāo Kǎo, Starbucks has won a marketing victory

China’s national college entrance examination (also known as Gāo Kǎo – 高考) has finally concluded. Over 10.7 million students sat for China’s most important and life-defining exam. The gaokao is an examination that is taken by Chinese students in their final year of high school typically from June 7 & 8 (however, this year it has been delayed 1 month because of the epidemic).


Every year the Gaokao is a huge topic in Chinese society. Why does it matter? Because it is the sole criteria for determining university admissions in China, and brands conceptualise related campaigns to show their support and using this as a marketing opportunity.

This year, we reviewed several activations & found that Starbuck’s marketing strategy is the most interesting case study.


At the end of the Gao Kao, Starbucks launched a week-long campaign whereby students were treated to Honeydew Melon Frappucino by presenting their exam admission ticket or any admission ticket, even those creatively made were allowed. This activity immediately triggered interaction and engagement of netizens which was quickly shared and spread and garnered wider attention. Various DIY admission tickets appeared one after another.





Weibo Topic #高考结束 星巴克请你吃瓜# ( #Starbucks offering Honeydew Melon Frappuccino after Gao Kao end#) generated 34.1 million impressions and 42,000 discussions.




Timing is a key factor in the success of Starbucks’ marketing campaign, focusing on the end of the exam instead of during the peak period. In terms of ad creative copywriting, although it wasn’t explicitly mentioned that it was a buy one get one free promotion, the activity enhanced communication and conversion rate tremendously, resulting in a wide range of UGC and social topics which improved the marketing result.


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