There aren’t many A-share companies that can claim four centuries of commercial history. Mayinglong is one of these rareties. Popular thinking is that the Wuhan-based pharma firm has its origins in haemorrhoid relief, not the most glamorous of undertakings. In fact, it started out 400 years ago making eye treatments from traditional medicines. But because of the wider belief that Mayinglong made its name with haemorrhoids, its recent ‘return’ to a product for the face has caused something of stir.
In late July it announced a diversification into lipsticks, sparking derisive jokes online.
“Mayinglong: taking care of all your orifices,” was one of the better ones on social media.
According to a consumer survey by Guangzhou-based Southern Daily, customers will need a fair bit of convincing to take the brand extension seriously. At least 70% of the 400 respondents said they weren’t interested in buying Mayinglong’s lipstick, with 53% saying the firm had over-stretched its boundaries in product terms.
Available in crimson, maple red and light pink, the new range sells for Rmb138 ($20) each, or Rmb399 for a box of three. That is less than half the price charged by high-end brands such as YSL or Chanel.
But Mayinglong isn’t the first candidate to branch unexpectedly into the lipstick world. In 2017 fast food chain KFC launched a lipstick of its own in the colour of strawberry ice cream (see this week’s “China Consumer” for more on KFC’s most recent initiative). Duck neck producer Zhou Hei Ya also launched its own series last year, with shades designed to match the degree of spiciness in its dishes. Even the Palace Museum in Beijing had a go in December, in an elegantly packaged range that sold more than 100,000 units within four days of launch, according to the South China Morning Post.
“When a brand wants to do a crossover campaign, lipstick is often the top pick because it attracts attention and generates buzz rather easily. Moreover, it doesn’t cost much and the production requirements are low,” an industry insider told Southern Daily.
Middle-income women in China – a group totalling 77 million consumers – purchased four lipsticks each on average last year, according to findings by e-commerce platform Vipshop and iResearch.
Mayinglong still does the majority of its business in haemorrhoid ointment sales, reporting Rmb816 million in revenues last year. But the business unit that houses the lipstick venture – Hubei Mayinglong Babao Biotechnology – was established back in 2012 with a goal of diversifying the company’s product range. In June Mayinglong also set up a Rmb200 million fund to invest in healthcare as well as cosmetics.
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