11/11 = Shopping or Snacking?

By now, you’re delusional if you don’t think that the world revolves around moneyshopping. Retailers know this, but to get people to buy more, they have to get creative – that’s why there are shopping festivals, carnivals… and the ’11/11′, the mother of all sales (sorry, Black Friday).

Ironically, 11/11 didn’t begin as a ‘giant day for sales’ – it actually refers to Singles’ Day (coz the number ‘1’ looks like a sad, single person), coined by lonely university students in China. So to make singles feel better, online shopping giant Alibaba dedicated this day (back in 2009), as a day for sales. Because shopping is a way less taboo a solo pursuit than say… masturbation.

Singles love cats to shop, but they love a good sale even more. So much so that sales on Alibaba’s sites, Tmall and Taobao, hit over US$17.8 billion in 2016 (sales for Black Friday and its sister sale Cyber Monday only hit US$5.8 billion combined).

It helps that Alibaba spared no expense in marketing Singles’ Day, bringing in global A-listers (ie. the Beckhams, Scarlet Johansson, Daniel Craig, etc) to their Shopping Festival Countdown Gala (yes, there’s a Gala for sales). Because in China, shopping – like being single – is to be celebrated, apparently.

To make sure everyone knows Singles’ Day, Alibaba China trademarked the term “双十一” (meaning “Double 11”) in 2012. In Oct 2014, they threatened legal action against media outlets that accept advertising from competitors that use this term. These guys take shopping very seriously.

This 11/11 fever has spread across Asia – you’ll see 11/11 ‘SALE!’ signages all over Singapore. Go online shopping, and yup, you’ll see 11/11 deals there too. From Lazada to Watsons and Shopback, everyone is capitalising on this Chinese trend. Many local websites are already giving tips on how to ditch your honey to go shopping, or how to beat the masses on Taobao.

China isn’t the only country to hog 11/11

Did you know that in Japan, 11/11 takes on a whole new meaning? It’s been taken over by another industry giant: Glico – you know, the guys who produce Pocky and Pretz stick snacks? If you know these snacks, you’ll notice that they’re, well, shaped like ‘1’s. So, naturally, the marketing team at Pocky thought it would be a good idea to market 11/11 as ‘Pocky Day’. While it hasn’t produced sales like those seen on Alibaba, it did rack up over 3.4 million mentions (of Pocky) on Twitter on 11/11/2013.

If you’re in Japan on 11/11 (or if you’re a fan of Pocky), you have an excuse to binge eat these snacks like everyone else. Better yet, head to the Tsutenkaku tower (a popular landmark in Osaka) and you may land yourself some free Pocky (and Pretz) samples.

Over in South Korea, Lotte – the makers of Pretz-like stick snacks, Pepero – also wanted in on the action. So, on 11/11 (in 1997) it created its own ‘late Valentine’ tradition and marketed it as Pepero Day. It was so popular that by 2012, 50% of their snacks were sold on 11/11. Naturally, Glico wasn’t happy. And so the rivalry between these 2 food giants continues.

Now that you know what 11/11 stands for, what will you be doing on the day?