Marriage Market Takeover

How We Gave “leftover” Women in China a Voice Through a Luxury Skincare Brand

This is the story of Sheng-nu — a term that translates to “leftover woman” and has been used by Chinese state media to stigmatize unmarried women over the age of 27.

It is also the story of a Japanese luxury skincare brand that decided to take a stand and support young Chinese women when they needed it the most. And how that decision made them the #1 skincare brand in China.

In China, a harmonious family is considered the bedrock of a stable society. For that reason, the Chinese government has focused on population planning. As a result, millions of successful single women have been shamed into marrying early to ensure their childbearing years are not wasted.

But the pressure to marry does not only come from the state. It is everywhere. Parents are known to be the biggest source of pressure of them all. And the traditional “marriage market” is where the pressure materializes in physical form.

The campaign created so much conversation that the government-run television channel CCTV couldn't ignore it. This was a milestone - the same government that invented and promoted Sheng nu now featured the story on its own TV channel.

The campaign quickly became a news story and spread to 54 countries on all continents, showing the universal appeal of the message. Thousands of women joined and shared their own stories. The campaign became a reference point in the debate around Sheng nu.

The #1 skincare brand in Asia

After just a few days, the campaign made it to the top-ten trending list on Weibo, reaching 650 million people in China every day. The campaign hashtag became #1 on Weibo - something no brand had ever before achieved. It's a big deal. Despite no promotion, SK-II's hero product Facial Treatment Essence was the most searched for in its product category on China's biggest e-commerce platform, Tmall. And for the first time ever, SK-II overtook Estée Lauder and Lancôme and became the #1 skincare brand in Asia. And almost doubled its business.

Key Insight

This campaign clearly demonstrates the power that can be released from a true emotional connection with consumers. And that brands can be so much more than the product they sell.


Cannes Lions Grand Prix 

  • 2 Cannes Gold
  • 2 Cannes Bronze
  • 1 glass

Spikes Asia 

  • 4 Silver
  • 4 Bronze


  • 2 Bronze


  • 1 Silver
  • 2 Bronze

LIA China

  • 2 Titanium


  • 1 Silver

Andy Awards

  • 1 Silver

Cresta Awards

  • 1 Silver
  • 1 Bronze


  • 1 Silver


  • 2 Gold
  • 1 Titanium

New York Festivals

  • 1 Silver