How China's favorite mosquito repellent attracted new fans with help from e-commerce

How China's favorite mosquito repellent attracted new fans with help from e-commerce

Staff Writer
Staff Writer
Pinduoduo Content Team
November 16, 2020

Liushen Florida Water has been keeping the mosquitoes at bay during the summer for Jackie Fu since he was a college student. Living in a dormitory back in the late 1990s, Liushen was often the only way for him to get some sound sleep.

Last summer, Fu, now working for a ventilator manufacturer in Shanghai, went down memory lane and prepared a bottle of the herbal repellent for a Malaysian client. It was so effective that the client brought 12 bottles with him back to Malaysia. Liushen Florida Water thus became Fu's gift of choice whenever he goes on business trips to Southeast Asia.

“To me Liushen is just indispensable,” said Fu. “It’s like a TV or a refrigerator that every household has.”

Since its launch in 1990 by Shanghai Jahwa United Co., Liushen Floral Water has been a household staple in China.

Formerly known as HK Kwong Sang Hong and founded in 1898, Shanghai Jahwa was one of the earliest companies that manufactured makeup and perfume in China. The company has devoted itself to skin care, personal care and home care products over its course of development. In 2001, the company listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

In 2014, the company was accredited as a hi-tech enterprise by the Chinese government and set up state-level scientific research centers and industrial design centers. It started to strengthen cooperation with domestic and foreign cutting-edge scientific research institutions, consolidating its position as a leader in personal care with traditional Chinese medicinal herbs.

Jahwa owns 10 individual brands, including cosmetic and perfume brand VIVE, which enjoyed great popularity among celebrities in the early 1900s and represented China in global exhibitions. There is also Maxam, which was the first Chinese brand that developed hair wax, mousse and hand cream.

But no other brand under Jahwa enjoys more fame than Liushen. Celebrated among Chinese consumers for its mosquito repelling function and cooling effect, Liushen, which means "six gods" in English, is a combination of six ancient Chinese medicine ingredients and eau de toilette.

Li Huiliang in his lab with the rows of traditional herbs.

In 1988, Li Huiliang, the founder of Liushen, joined Jahwa Group. In 1990, Li and his team added six Chinese medicine extracts including musk, menthol and pearl powder into the original eau de toilette, endowing the product with medicinal properties such as clearing heat, sterilizing, reducing swelling and itch-relieving capabilities. The idea of making eau de toilette affordable to all soon made Liushen a summertime necessity rather than a luxury.

But like other homegrown brands, Liushen lost ground as disposable incomes rose and Chinese households could afford to buy international brands that projected a higher-end image through more sophisticated marketing. Liushen’s customer base also got older and it struggled to attract the young generation.

Xu Jie, Senior President of Marketing at Jahwa, said Liushen’s brand rejuvenation efforts have been underway for many years. The steps taken include launching new product lines catered to young consumers.

Those efforts accelerated since 2017, when Liushen started a series of innovative, bold marketing campaigns to win over the hearts of the younger generation.

30th anniversary advertisement for Liushen Florida Water

2018 was the year when many Chinese traditional brands started to realize that their historical heritage could open the door to new growth opportunities. To revive the brand, Liushen launched a series of innovative marketing campaigns targeting the younger generation. The brand also had help in reaching younger consumers from e-commerce platforms like Pinduoduo, which had the highest proportion of Gen Z shoppers among the major online marketplaces. Pinduoduo has been helping many heritage brands, including Phoenix Bicycle, Shanghai Watch, Bright Dairy, Warrior Shoes, Bee and Flower Soap, with their e-commerce strategy to reach out to younger and newer segments of consumers.

Liushen picked Hua Chenyu, a young singer popular among the post-90s generation, as its brand ambassador, and launched upgraded products, broadening its lineup so the brand could meet the lifestyle demands of younger people.

Read: How e-commerce breathed new life into this 123-year-old bicycle brand

Another campaign that was more outside the box was the floral water-flavored cocktail jointly developed with Chinese alcopop brand RIO. The product went viral online with the first batch of limited 5,000 bottles selling out in 17 seconds. In September 2019, Liushen joined forces with Shanghai Fatty, a famous crayfish shop, to launch floral water-flavored crayfish.

In 2020, on the 30th anniversary of Liushen brand, the company launched a "coffee-flavored" eau de toilette co-branded with KFC and a limited-edition sports gift box co-branded with ANTA, China’s national sportswear brand, taking the brand’s popularity to another level.

While the brand endeavors to rejuvenate at home, Liushen has also made headway in overseas markets. Apparently unaware of Liushen's mosquito-repelling function, foreigners use it in many different ways, including for headache or muscle pain relief, as perfume or aftershave, as a laundry sanitizer or even as a floor cleaner.