The Palace Museum Boom Brings Chinese Consumers Closer to Heritage

The Palace Museum Boom Brings Chinese Consumers Closer to Heritage

March 5, 2019
3 min read

In celebration of China’s Lantern Festival, Beijing’s Forbidden City, now known as the Palace Museum, was illuminated for two nights. Celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Chinese Lantern Festival marks the end of Lunar New Year Celebrations. An astounding light show was put on for visitors, and for the first time in 94 years, the UNESCO world heritage opened its doors to the public for night visits, drawing massive attention worldwide.

The recent boom in popularity of the Palace Museum can be seen in the increase in visitors in recent years. The Museum announced, in late 2018, that it saw a record-high number of visitors and was ranked the worlds most visited museum after welcoming its 17 millionth visitor in December 2018. The museum also disclosed earlier in 2018 that its cultural and creative products reached a staggering total sales value of RMB 1.5 billion in 2017. In 2019, the Palace Museum received approximately 19.3 million visitors; an increase of 1.8 million from the previous year.

The successful revival of the Palace Museum can be attributed to the efficient marketing strategy to target young families and consumers. The Palace Museum has managed to narrow the gap it was experiencing with young people by creating cartoons of ancient characters like emperors, queens, and concubines. These cartoon cultural and creative products have been popular online on the Palace Museum’s official Tmall store and creating a buzz on social media. In addition, various documentaries and shows have been filmed at the Palace Museum in recent years, including National Treasure and Masters in Forbidden City. These shows have contributed to educating consumers on cultural heritage as well as generating discussion on different channels.

Impact on China’s Cultural Tourism

The rising popularity of the Palace Museum in Beijing is helping to revive China’s cultural tourism. As explored in Mintel’s report on domestic travel in China, a tenth of urban Chinese consumers say they feel disheartened by the loss of Chinese culture.

Due to the Palace Museum’s proactive communications and marketing efforts, consumers in their 30s and 40s now comprise the majority of visitors to the UNESCO site. In fact, this aligns with Mintel research which found that consumers born in the 1980s and 1990s are more interested in historical and cultural heritage than those aged over 55 and from the 1970s; this is especially so among those with kids in the household.


Cultural Heritage as a Key Feature for Aspirational Brands

To stand out in the Chinese marketplace, brands can also take advantage of the growing interest in the Palace Museum by incorporating cultural heritage features in their products. Mintel’s research on the Chinese consumer revealed that consumers are no longer going after product attributes such as luxury or exclusivity. This suggests that they are moving away from a superficial level of judging a brand, and are instead paying more attention to what a brand really stands for. Nostalgia marketing is a good way to make a brand more appealing, especially as consumers in China are getting disheartened by the loss of their very own culture.

Mintel’s leading experts have conducted independent consumer research to identify the latest trends and growth opportunities happening across the Chinese market. Explore our Chinese Market Research, or fill out the form below to sign up to Spotlight, Mintel’s free newsletter for exclusive insights.

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Scarlett Zhao
Scarlett Zhao

Scarlott Zhao is an Associate Research Analyst for Mintel China Reports, based in the Shanghai office. She specialises in the lifestyle sector.

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