Sea Buckthorn-based Hotpot | Haidilao x Alipay

Alipay’s CSR project, Ant Forest, has recently collaborated with creative agency F5 Shanghai to produce an innovative integrated marketing campaign for a new sea buckthorn-based hotpot that was officially launched in Haidilao restaurants in mainland China. The campaign promoted the tasty new hotpot variant and allowed consumers to join the cause in fun, engaging ways.

Since its launch in 2016, Ant Forest has been committed to encouraging the public to reduce carbon emissions by collecting digital “green energy points” that would be used to plant millions of real sea buckthorn trees in China. Sea buckthorn trees not only prevent soil erosion in northwest China, but they also provide nutritious sweet-sour berries that add more flavor and dimension to any dish. So, Haidilao and Ant Forest joint hands to formulate the sea buckthorn hotpot base with the vision of letting more sea buckthorn trees flourish the more people consumed the fruit.

F5 Shanghai was able to attract the target market of young consumers by latching onto two true traits — their love of eating and trying new experiences, and their “wokeness” and willingness to support good causes.

The team devised the campaign with the simple mechanic, "for every pot of sea buckthorn hotpot consumed, Haidilao will donate one sea buckthorn tree to be planted in Ant Forest or to the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation”.  

During the launch, a Haidilao store was dressed up like a forest, providing lucky diners with an immersive experience as if they were instantly transported to acres of sea buckthorn trees. At the same time, a charming animated film was aired to showcase the sea buckthorn origin and flavor story. The video featured the adventure of a buckthorn fruit that journeyed towards a delicious pot of soup. Online celebrity Jackie (辣目洋子) also dined in the restaurant to introduce the newly launched hotpot variant to consumers.

Creative partnerships and collaborations is one of the most powerful strategies of Ant Forest in China and even in the broader Asia-Pacific market," said XX, head of Ant Forest's marketing department. “The Group's leading big data platform and brand marketing system will further enhance Ant Forest's brand consumption experience. This year, for the first time, we have launched a public welfare communication project and leveraged F5's strong integrated marketing capabilities to empower the brand, which has scored a milestone innovation for Ant Forest in the gift market."

“This is a great opportunity for us to showcase our comprehensive strength to the public, linking two brands, Haidilao and Ant Forest, and using the sea buckthorn hotpot immersion experience to link the brand, consumers, and public welfare attributes," said Adams Fan, Chief Creative Officer of F5 Shanghai. The event presents the value of sea buckthorn in all aspects, ranging from taste, sight, touch, smell and sound, and diners can plant trees just by eating hotpot. It’s a simple, effective, and most importantly enjoyable way to participate in Ant Forest's public welfare endeavor. In this sense, consumers are not just engagers, they’re also builders of this one-stop brand experience.” 

Brand: Ant Forest
Agency: F5 Shanghai
Chief Creative Officer: Adams Fan
Creative Group Head: Enzo Wu
Senior Planner: Lluvia Chen
Copywriter: Yifan He
Art Director: Yuxi Wen
Art Director: Potato Zhang


Making of interview / Haidilao Campaign

Creative Group Head Enzo Wu

What are the biggest gains of this cooperation for both Ant Farm and Haidilao, and what is the biggest role played by F5 in this campaign?
I think it can be summarized into three sections. For Ant Farm, the campaign was able to provide more user value by making them understand public welfare in a different perspective and refreshed the consumer journey experience for sea buckthorn users; in terms of brand value, it enhanced  playability and youthfulness for the target market. For Haidilao, their public welfare value is to provide consumers with a new perspective of public welfare and providing new ways on how to participate. In terms of rural revitalization, it was able to add value by helping farmers increase their income. As a creative partner, our role is to explore the commonalities of the two brands' values - the online public welfare experience of Ant Farm and the offline dining experience of Haidilao. Fusing all those similarities led to a new experience: a fully immersive sea-buckthorn-based hotpot experience.

What are your expectations for the role agencies and creativity have to play in public welfare?
Society has countless issues and problems every day. To create an effective public service idea, we need to build a connection between the issue and on how people can help solve that issue. Provide avenues or fun, simple ways consumers can help out. Collaborations and partnerhships between different brands and organizations is also a good way to provide interesting solutions.

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