Henan Museum: History Unboxed

In March 2021, half of a golden mask was discovered from the ruins of Sanxingdui in the Chinese province Sichuan, which made a sensation throughout the country. The local media launched a campaign called Photoshop Contest of Sanxingdui Golden Mask, which drew netizen’s attention and brought out an outpouring of response making it a hot discussion on social media channel Weibo. It also created an unprecedented buzz around archaeology. The sales of archaeological related products saw an uproar sales trend on Taobao, especially the archaeological blind boxes launched by Henan Museum, the protagonists of this article.

Today, the accelerated development of China’s cultural and creative industry is not something ground-breaking, but what makes the “archaeological blind box” from Henan Museum stand out from their competitors and become a huge hit on the internet is still considered quite unique and innovative. With the 4 Facets of brand positioning, we dig out the secret behind the success of this archaeological blind box.

Henan Museum
Henan Museum Blind Box (source: Google)

Truth: The combination of history and the unknown

The blind box from Henan museum as a combination of history and the unknown, blends joy and knowledge at the same time. As the name suggests, it is a mysterious box that no one knows what’s inside. What the customers receive is a treasure can containing a piece of soil. The archaeologist wannabes need to carefully chip off the soil layer by layer, before they reveal what is hidden inside.

The whole process of digging in anticipation creates an authentic archaeological experience and creates the exhilaration of treasure hunting. The blind box has attracted thousands of vloggers to document their unboxing experience and share their excitement from the archaeological dig.

The boxes have been out of stock since they blew up on social media. Even with an increasing production, the supply of the blind box still can’t match the demand. It is now available via the limited sales drop at Henan Museum’s Taobao Store at 8 PM every night. 

What makes the archaeological blind box so popular? Without a doubt, the focus on user experience is one of the main reason behind its success. These boxes allow customers to experience the joy of discovering the unknown in an archaeological way, and the “surprise” that comes with each purchase is what’s appealing to the young generation. The sense of achievement from digging out the hidden treasure is also loved by the archaeologist wannabes. The whole digging process make the product more meaningful than a given piece of a replica of an ancient relic. By creating a unique and satisfying user journey, the blind box from Henan Museum has become a dark horse on the market.

 Different from just building up an IP, Henan Museum leverages the curiosity in human nature, and masters the games on social media, and as a result, their blind boxes are always snapped up every time right after being restocked.

Henan Museum Blind Box (source: Google)
Henan Museum Blind Box (source: Google)

Vision: To bring Chinese archaeology into public attention and let more people fall in love with history

The "Lost Treasures"(the blind box under this specific theme) blind box was already available in 2019, in the offline souvenir shop of Henan Museum. However, they didn't become popular until they entered the Taobao online store in 2020.

This seemingly unexpected popularity of the blind box is never an overnight sensation. Influenced by the pandemic, a stricter capacity restriction led to a 75% drop in the number of the visitor, forcing Henan Museum to turn to online channels for breakthroughs. Meanwhile, art toys and blind boxes have become 2 fast-growing sectors, especially driven by the joint force of China’s booming e-commerce.

The combination of archaeological toys and the concept of blind box cleverly caters to the preferences of young people. The launch of the "Lost Treasures" series of the blind box has brought art toys to a different level, that the toys are not only collectable because of the design, but also because of the cultural relevance and experience. The brand's Taobao live streaming room invited history experts to tell the stories behind the treasures, creating great engagement with its followers and customers.

Universe: Mini archaeological excavation site

With a Luoyang shovel and two small brushes coming with the blind box, you can dig “cultural relics" at home with gloves on, just like a real archaeologist. For millennials and the older generations, who have more or less been exposed to family heirlooms, they don't seem so distant from traditional culture. But for Gen Z and younger generations, they were born in an era of interconnection with scarcity of traditional culture and historical relics. The archaeological blind box gives these young people an opportunity to get a step closer to the traditional culture and to learn about the historical stories behind the relics.

Henan Museum Blind Box (source: Google)
Henan Museum Blind Box (source: Google)

Personality: Budding archaeologist

To set sail on the archaeological journey with the blind box, a Luoyang shovel (a replica one of course) is a must-have. The original Luoyang shovel is an iconic traditional archaeological tool in China, learning to use Luoyang shovel is a basic skill for every archaeologist, and the idea of incorporating such a symbolic piece into the blind box is also a tribute to China’s archaeology.

The innovative product and the unique customer experience is the core competency that differentiates these blind boxes from an average blind box which truly morphed you into an archaeologist endeavour every time you open the box.

Henan Museum Blind Box (source: Google)
Henan Museum Blind Box (source: Google)

Conclusion

Riding the wave of cultural resurrection, the archaeological blind box effectively drives the curiosity of Gen Z, integrates culture and trends, and forms the substantial change of the connotation of the blind box. 

In a time when Museums have to rethink their consumer experiences around the world, Henan museum reshapes consumers’ understanding of history and archaeology with novelty, showing that archaeology can also be fun. In recent years, Henan Museum has put a lot of effort to build its own brand. The Museum also launched its own orchestra, history speech and research tour, to get more people interested in history and culture. It has started a trend among museums to break through from the traditional operation mode and create a younger, more vivid brand image. 

Building on this cultural relevance has proven to be a winning approach for the Henan Museum, it will be interesting to see how the blind box will keep its buzz above grounds.