Culture

Viral Peppa Pig video drives up price of household appliance in China

Jan 24, 2019

It seems like anything can be made popular these days as long as it has Peppa Pig’s name or likeness on it.

A common household tool used to start fires in rural areas has become a hot item in China because of its resemblance to the beloved British cartoon character.

An air blower, left, that looks almost like Peppa Pig.
An air blower, left, that looks almost like Peppa Pig.

The tool, called an air blower, has been selling for way more than it should on e-commerce websites after it appeared in a viral trailer for a Peppa Pig movie set to come out in China next month.

The video itself is quite touching. A grandfather in a remote village asks his grandson, who lives in a big city, what he wants for Chinese New Year.

The grandson answers, “Peppa,” but before he can explain what it means, the phone connection is cut off.

The grandfather roams his village asking if anyone knows what Peppa is. (One villager suggests it might be a shampoo brand.)

When he finally gets an answer, he starts forging a Peppa Pig out of an air blower for his grandson.

Looks almost like the real thing!
Looks almost like the real thing!

The trailer resonated with Chinese audiences for its idealistic portrayal of family ties and a tight-knit rural community—an increasingly rare circumstance as younger generations are emptying out of villages in favor of big cities.

Enterprising vendors jumped on the video’s popularity and began selling pink air blowers for five times the usual price on Taobao, China’s Amazon.

Air blowers normally go for around $5 to $10, but now they’re selling for upwards of $40.

A comparison of air blowers on Taobao shows unpainted ones going for ¥80 ($10), while pink ones are going for up to ¥270 ($40).
A comparison of air blowers on Taobao shows unpainted ones going for ¥80 ($10), while pink ones are going for up to ¥270 ($40).

Not only that, the air blower itself has become a meme in its own right.

Now there are T-shirts, tote bags, wall decorations, and embroidered handkerchiefs, all featuring pink air blowers.

What do you call a meme derived from a meme?
What do you call a meme derived from a meme?

What’s more remarkable is that all these products sprung up in the week after the trailer came out on Jan. 17, which just goes to show how huge the cartoon is in China and how quickly merchandisers can capitalize on trends.

That said, Peppa Pig has had a varied reputation in the country.

The cartoon is popular among younger children, but it also became unwittingly associated with subversive elements after teenagers and adults started getting Peppa Pig tattoos as an ironic symbol of rebellion.

Ironic Peppa Pig tattoo.
Ironic Peppa Pig tattoo.

This caught the eye of government censors.

Last year, Peppa Pig was briefly banned as a search term on Douyin, China’s version of the video-sharing app TikTok.

Adapted from an article first published in Abacus.

Taobao trendsPeppa PigThe Chinese internet