It Seems Sex Appeal Doesn’t Sell (Anymore) for Coconut Beverage Brand

Coconut beverage producer Coconut Palm recently went viral for featuring muscular bros during a livestream on the brand’s official Douyin (Chinese TikTok) account. However, the male models only sold about 750 to 1,000 RMB (110-145 USD) worth of products.

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Hayley Zhao
12:30 PM HKT, Thu March 23, 2023 2 mins read

Coconut Palm, one of China’s top-selling coconut beverage brands, went viral on the Chinese internet earlier this month for its International Women’s Day campaign. On March 8, the brand filled its official livestreaming room on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, with muscular guys working out while holding coconut drink cans to appeal to female customers.

The stunt drew in an audience of almost 100,000 viewers. However, the male models only sold around 750 to 1,000 RMB (110-145 USD) worth of products.

Clips from the livestream session quickly went viral on multiple social media sites, with a related hashtag amassing more than 180 million views on Weibo, China’s top microblogging platform, at the time of writing. Many commented that the models the brand hired are not considered “hot” by female consumers.

coconut milk, livestream

Muscular male models promoting Coconut Palm beverages during the brand’s International Women’s Day sales event on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok. Image via Weibo

This online promotion is not the first time Coconut Palm has attempted to boost sales during Douyin livestreaming events by using attractive models.

Back in October 2022, the brand featured a group of curvy ladies dancing in tight clothing during its national holiday livestreams. The sales record for that stunt was also abysmal, with a revenue of only 2,000 RMB (290 USD).

“Coconut Palm, equally objectifying both genders,” a user of the Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu wrote following the brand’s most recent male-dominated promotion.

hot Chinese girl dancing, livestreamer

Livestreamers dancing during a Coconut Palm sales event on Douyin in 2022. Clip via Weibo

The brand has always been known for its rather explicit advertisements.

For over a decade, Coconut Palm has printed its voluptuous brand ambassador Raquel Xu (徐冬冬) on its beverage packaging. In 2019, the brand also ran ads that falsely implied that its product could enhance women’s breast size and make their skin whiter.

Two years later, the brand put out a hiring ad that promised candidates houses, cars, money, and attractive partners if they joined the company.

Local authorities fined the brand a total of 600,000 RMB (87,000 USD) for both ads, which were accused of “disrupting public order or violating social grace,” according to public administrative records from 2019 and 2021.

coconut milk china

Coconut Palm’s long-used packaging features its brand ambassador, Raquel Xu. Image via Weibo

Despite being ridiculed online for its inappropriate marketing tactics, Coconut Palm raised its brand recognition through this series of campaigns, and the result shows in its sales revenue.

According to Jiemian News, a Chinese online media company based in Shanghai, the brand’s annual revenue began to decline in 2014. In the years the risqué and misleading ads were running, however, Coconut Palm managed to reverse the drop, reaching a record high of 4.6 billion RMB (670 million USD) in revenue in 2021 alone.

Even though the brand has stopped running the ads, sales continued to rise in 2022, according to the company’s statement last December.

racy ad, coconut milk

An ad Coconut Palm ran in 2019 reads, “From small to big by drinking,” implying that the beverage enhances breast size. Image via Weibo

Founded in 1956 on Hainan Island, the largest island governed by authorities in Beijing, Coconut Palm was once the industry leader in coconut beverage products, making up 75% of the market share back in 1999.

However, with competition coming from other domestic brands and foreign companies like Vita Coco and Oatly, Coconut Palm has struggled to win over customers in recent years. In 2019, its market share dropped to 26%.

After rebranding itself as a health product, the coconut beverage industry has boomed in recent years, according to a 2022 report by Leadleo, a Chinese industry research institute. The report estimated that the coconut beverage market is expected to reach 22.3 billion RMB (3 billion USD) by 2026, with significant growth potential.

coconut latte

Packaging of the Coconut Palm x Luckin Coffee collaboration. Image via Weibo

The report also stressed that since the drinks are now associated with healthy lifestyles, young urban women have become a driving force in the growth of coconut beverages. This, in part, explains Coconut Palm’s decision to feature muscular men to attract female customers in its most recent campaign.

The brand did have one successful experience in boosting sales by appealing to its female customers back in April 2022, when it launched a coconut latte in collaboration with Luckin Coffee.

The latte incorporated Coconut Palm’s beverage as an ingredient, and Luckin Coffee revamped the design of its packaging to mimic Coconut Palm’s signature imagery, featuring big colorful fonts on a black background. The latte sold more than 660,000 cups on the first day.

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Male livestreamers change from sportswear into suits on Coconut Palm’s Douyin channel. Clip via Xiaohongshu

How Coconut Palm will approach the sizeable female consumer base in the future remains to be seen. And even though the sales during its livestreaming sessions were low, Coconut Palm continues to feature muscular male models for exposure even after the Women’s Day event.

Cover image via VCG

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