Canada pro­motes its lob­sters with so­cial me­dia, Ap­ple watch

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By AN BAIJIE an­bai­jie@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Com­bin­ing the temp­ta­tion of de­li­cious lob­ster with the chance to win a cov­eted Ap­ple Watch, the Canadian Em­bassy in Bei­jing turned to so­cial me­dia to pro­mote the North Amer­i­can coun­try’s pre­mi­umpriced crus­tacean to po­ten­tial Chi­nese buy­ers.

Two lucky ne­ti­zens who most closely guessed the num­ber of Canadian lob­sters sold on May 25 through Tmall.com – China’s popular on­line-shop­ping plat­form – would each re­ceive an Ap­ple Watch as the prize. The pro­mo­tional cam­paign was launched through the em­bassy’s of­fi­cial ac­count on the Twit­ter-like weibo.com, where on June 1 the two win­ners were also an­nounced.

Ex­actly 8,328 lob­sters were sold within 24 hours on Tmall. The two win­ners re­spec­tively guessed 8,224 and 8,120 – their watches prized at 40 times more than the lob­sters they bought.

In the Weibo post, Eric Pel­letier, Canada’s deputy con­sul-gen­eral in Shang­hai, held a gi­gan­tic live lob­ster in his hands, harp­ing lob­sters sold on Tmall.

More than 2,400 of the site’s users shared the post with oth­ers while the pro­mo­tional cam­paign drew over 2,100 com­ments. One par­tic­i­pant named “Yezhou” said even though he had never been an on­line shop­per, he still planned to try order­ing two lob­sters be­cause of Pel­letier’s per­sonal en­dorse­ment.

Chen Tong, for­mer edi­torin-chief of China’s news por­tal sina.com, voiced sup­port for the em­bassy’s in­ter­ac­tive cam­paign.

“Canadian fresh lob­sters!” Chen ex­claimed to his 6.9 mil­lion fol­low­ers on his popular Weibo ac­count.

The em­bassy’s lob­ster cam­paign fol­lows the surg­ing vol­ume of Canadian lob­sters sold in China through on­line-shop­ping plat­forms. Since 2010, the Sino-Canadian seafood trade has been experiencing a ma­jor growth spurt, and the in­ter­na­tional e-com­merce sys­tem is cur­rently re­plac­ing lo­cal busi­nesses as the dom­i­nant force in China’s seafood in­dus­try.

Canada cus­toms data shows that over the past few years, Canada’s lob­ster ex­ports to China sky­rock­eted, with an an­nual in­crease rate of 173.58 per­cent, surg­ing from $7.88 mil­lion in 2010 to $61.55 mil­lion in 2014.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Yangcheng Evening News, Fran­cis Mor­ris­sey, an ex­pe­ri­enced Prince Ed­ward Is­land fish­eries busi­ness­man, quadru­pled the lob­sters he ex­ported to China in the past three years, and in 2014 alone, his com­pany sup­plied ap­prox­i­mately 350 tons of lob­sters to the Chi­nese mar­ket.

Last Novem­ber, on China’s shop­ping spree Sin­gles’ Day, more than 90,000 live lob­sters were sold on Tmall. Even though the vol­ume failed to meet the goal of 200,000 lob­sters set by Tmall’s founder Jack Ma, the web­site’s ex­cep­tional per­for­mance still left its Canadian part­ners in awe of their prod­ucts’ mar­ketabil­ity when com­bined with Tmall’s in­no­va­tive busi­ness model.

Dur­ing a meet­ing with Canadian Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper last Novem­ber, Ma con­fi­dently pointed out that for­eign en­trepreneurs can ac­cess 120 mil­lion Chi­nese con­sumers through his e-com­merce em­pire. Be­sides lob­sters, wine and tourism can also be pro­moted on his site.

The price of Canadian wild lob­sters sold on Tmall is about 220 yuan ($35.5) per kilo­gram, which is three times higher than what a lob­ster-lover in Mon­treal pays at his or her lo­cal seafood mar­ket, said Li Ning, a fre­quent trav­eler be­tween Tian­jin and Mon­treal.

“Com­pared to the overly ex­pen­sive lob­sters from Australia or the farmed lob­sters in China, Tmall’s marked price is still rea­son­able,” she said.

Sell­ing live lob­sters through on­line plat­forms re­mains chal­leng­ing for some shopown­ers, given the crea­tures may not sur­vive the long trip. More than a few cus­tomer re­views ex­pressed dis­con­tent. And there are sus­pi­cions that some ven­dors in­ject their lob­sters with harm­ful chem­i­cals to force them into a dor­mant state for ship­ping, chem­i­cals that can po­ten­tially lead to liver fail­ure in hu­mans. Cheng Yilun con­trib­uted to this story.

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