In times of crisis and despair, we look to our national leaders for clarity and inspiration. During less troubled times, leaders may provide guidance in other areas—like suggesting what kind of facial mask to purchase.
Store sales at a mall in South Korea displaying the picture of Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan have risen by 300 percent, according to a report by Caijing. Called the “Peng Liyuan Effect”, several products have been recommended to consumers on the basis that China’s First Lady had purchased them during her visit to a South Korean mall.
It’s not quite an official endorsement, but it has still proven effective, especially for Chinese tourists. This first sign (below) says in Chinese, “Warmly thank China’s mother Lady Peng Liyuan for visiting ‘Happy Heaven FITIN’”.
Politicians have a long history of kick-starting trends in China. US Vice President Joe Biden’s attempt to connect with common Chinese through “noodle diplomacy” has resulted in a huge increase of customers at the restaurant he visited, for instance. The restaurant has even created a special “Biden set” available for savvy diners.
But this isn’t just a case of monkey-see, monkey-do.
The Chinese desire to emulate national leaders doesn’t just come from a lack of imagination, but one of self-preservation. The walled compound of Zhongnanhai that houses China’s leaders serves food that is equally as safe and healthy to eat as it is forbidden for common Chinese to consume. The food served here is said to be organic, and specially flown in exclusively for China’s decision makers. While ordinary Chinese can’t get the same food, they can buy things like Peng Liyuan-endorsed products.
With sales up 300 percent, we expect other stores to begin using China’s First Lady in their sales materials, too.