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Learn from HEYTEA: Leveraging the Power of Crossover Co-branding

Crossover co-branding has been a hot marketing and branding method in China in recent years. HEYTEA exemplifies the power of crossover co-branding. The utilization of this marketing method has contributed significantly to its No.1 position in China’s tea chain market.

China’s tea chain market has grown with strong momentum in recent years. According to the “White Paper on 2019 New Style Tea Consumption” jointly released by 36Kr and China’s leading tea chain brand Nayuki’s Tea, the total size of China's tea market is expected to exceed 400 billion yuan in 2019, more than twice the size of the coffee market. In this segment, HEYTEA, which was founded in 2012, is undoubtedly the ace brand. According to the report of "2019 Top 30 Most Popular Tea Brands in China" released by the New Catering Big Data Research Organization, HEYTEA ranked No.1. In the evaluation of multiple investment institutions, the valuation of HEYTEA has reached 9 billion yuan [1], which is much higher than the No.2 brand Nayuki’s Tea.


Tea from tea chains has become a staple for young consumers and a fixture in the daily routine. The White Paper outlines data and analysis showing how post-90s consumers (aged 21-30) have become the primary consumers of tea from tea chains like HEYTEA, accounting for 50% of all consumers.

The young generation shows particular interest in novel things and is receptive to new brands and new lifestyles. They love to share their life on social media platforms. HEYTEA leverages crossover co-branding to enhance resonance with this new generation of young consumers.

How does HEYTEA do a crossover?

As the hottest brand marketing method in the past two years, crossover co-branding is regarded as win-win cooperation to improve brand awareness and promote brand image. Crossover co-branding has become a normal marketing method for HEYTEA. According to statistics, HEYTEA has co-branded with no less than 50 brands [2]. In HEYTEA’s WeChat official account, the announcement of co-branded products is unveiled at a fast pace, almost every week.

HEYTEA’s collaboration partners is not just limited to food companies like M&M, but also brands in other industries such as music festival brand Strawberry Music Festival, Oasis APP, British Museum, sports brand Nike, retailers Fresh Hema, and emoji, etc. The co-branded products are not limited to tea and confectionaries, but also extend to fashionable products such as sneakers and mobile phone cases, mugs, etc. What all these crossover co-branding campaigns have in common is that these brands share a similar fanbase of lifestyle-centric and share-crazy young consumers.


Besides crossover cooperation with brands, HEYTEA has also launched limited-edition menus in different cities, such as stinky tofu cake in Changsha, ice cream egg puffs in Hong Kong, and Erguotou (Chinese vodka)-flavored ice cream in Beijing... These city-limited products are based on local delicacies and can only be bought in specific cities. At present, HEYTEA has launched such innovative menus in at least 10 Chinese cities [3], covering Changsha, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing, Suzhou, etc.


HEYTEA also draws inspiration from traditional Chinese festivals to guide the development of innovative food products. It has developed mooncake gift sets for the Mid-Autumn Festival, Zongzi (glutinous rice dumplings) for Dragon Boat Festival, and green rice ball bread for Tomb-Sweeping Day.

It is worth noting that during the COVID-19 epidemic period, HEYTEA did not slow its pace of innovation and rolled out a string of crossover and co-branded products:

  • HEYTEA & Fresh Hema : Sweet glutinous green rice balls

  • HEYTEA & Cornetto: HEYTEA-flavored ice cream

  • HEYTEA & Holiland: “Very Grape” desserts

  • HEYTEA & WonderLab: milkshake meal replacement

  • HEYTEA & Fenty Beauty: “Cheeks Out” Cream Blush 

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Cosmetics is a promising area for crossover co-branding.

HEYTEA chooses co-branding collaborators carefully. Given that food and beauty are two areas that young people prioritize, HEYTEA has made cosmetics another key target to roll out crossover products. According to statistics compiled by ChemLinked, up to now, HEYTEA has cooperated with at least six beauty brands:

  • HEYTEA & Pechoin: skincare gift box in old-Shanghai style

  • HEYTEA & MARIE DALGAR: Lip balm gift box

  • HEYTEA & Clinique: Qixi Festival (Chinese Valentine’s Day”) gift box

  • HEYTEA & L'Oreal: “HEYTEA COLOUR” lipstick gift box

  • HEYTEA & Fenty Beauty: “Cheeks Out” Cream Blush

  • HEYTEA & Dove: body wash

Its collaboration with Rihanna’s cosmetics brand Fenty Beauty (@FentyBeautyOfficial 112k followers) generated a major furor among young people on the Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo. Fenty Beauty's campaign content promoting its “Cheeks Out” Cream Blush has been read nearly 18.6 million times, once again demonstrating the huge power of crossover co-branding and the pivotal role it has played in HEYTEA’s rapid ascension to domestic tea chain powerhouse.


**Disclaimer: All images used in this article are from the internet.

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