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Cornetto Love Notes

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In recent years, Cornetto sales have flat-lined in China. The brand was very dependent on weather; and the past two summers have been stormy and cool. Cornetto needed to find a way to drive the demand beyond weather-driven impulses, and explore new ways to engage with teenagers. 

Cornetto created a revolutionary opportunity to tempt Chinese teens into engaging with Cornetto in order to drive talkability and sales. “Cornetto Love Notes” was the first ever digitally led, mobile first campaign that helped teenagers connect from their digital world and into the real. 

Chinese teens online habits have changed. The post 95’s smartly filter what they like to see, what they want to do, and what is worth to spend their time on including branded videos or ads. Social networks are their first go-to platform for lifestyle information and communication. Idols, not just celebrities, are becoming their influencers and they watch shows wherever they go, through their smartphones. 

The entire life of Chinese teens is lived through their smart phone – from chatting, to listening to music, to searching where to eat and hang out. 

Chinese teens are reserved and are often too shy to make the first move. Instead of expressing their feelings with flowers and chocolate, they prefer to use more understated language such as emojis, memes and slang. 

Cornetto has in the past encouraged teens to confess their love, but telling them was not enough, it needed to help them find a way to show it, but in a playful way that could spare them losing face. This led Cornetto to a new opportunity to reach out to Chinese youths. 


In recent years, May 20th has come to be celebrated as the China national day of love. This event has overshadowed the traditional Valentine's Day because “5/20” when spoken in Chinese resembles the same pronunciation as “I love you”. Teens have embraced it as their own cultural touchstone for dating. So PHD's first inspiration was to embrace May 20th as a key date for its communications – the perfect time to launch a summer-season campaign. 

Cornetto aimed to be the icebreaker with the teen’s intended crush, allowing them to be brave and sending him or her a message containing what you’ve always wanted to say. 

Users could create their love confession on the Cornetto icebreaker HTML5 mobile page but the agency took the 520 one step further. With the provision that that an average ice cream cone takes somewhere around 520 seconds to melt the teens only has 520 seconds to view their love note, otherwise it would melt away and disappear from screen. 

What's more, they could also invite their crushes and dates to one of the brand's pop-up vending machine hot spots to print out their personalised love messages on Cornetto cones – serving perfectly into social sharing mechanism and opportunities. 


“Cornetto Love Notes” campaign had three phases, fully integrating teenagers through online to offline experiences: 

1. Tease - Celebrity endorsement has big influence on Chinese teens. PHD leveraged activation TVC and mobile pre-roll videos to build public awareness and generate purchase intention. 

2. Launch - To boost mobile engagement, Cornetto reached out to Chinese teens that were chatting on QQ, listening to music or playing games on Tencent, where they discovered Cornetto’s icebreaker confessional HTML5 messenger. By scanning a unique QR code, teens could select pre-scripted love notes to customise and send out. Love also doesn’t need to be spoken out in words, special Cornetto themed love emojis were designed for teens to use while they are chatting with their crushes.   

3. Amplify - Cornetto also created the perfect date experience with the first ever, love confession vending machine. The Love confession vending machine is available as a pop up at multiple shopping malls in China. Dianping, the Chinese version of Yelp, created it as a “must go” destination listing to create desire and fuel the line. Teens can use their phone to design a Cornetto cone package on a mobile HTML5 page, customised with their love confession, and a packaging sticker is printed instantly, adding a little sweetness to their date.  


Cornetto has always been a leader in ice cream cones within China, but competition has risen in past years, not directly from other ice cream brands, but from beverage refreshment products competing for share of mouth and wallet during the warmer summer season. With an expanded category to compete with, the need to stand out from the crowd and make a connection was ever greater. 

Cornetto sales increased by 5% while the category only increased by 1.8% and a total of 600 million pieces of Cornetto were sold, double from last year.   

Cornetto encouraged over three million Chinese teenagers to confess their love. With celebrities’ social media influence and Dianping’s destination listing, over 38 million youth’s shared about Cornetto’s love confession campaign, both in the digital and real world. That’s equivalent to RMB 46 million ($6.7m) in earned media. 

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Brand Owner:
May - August 2016
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