Directed by Deng Ke, starred by Guo Qilin and Song Yi, “My Heroic Husband” (赘婿) has become one of the most popular web dramas in the first half of 2021. The web drama’s popularity even makes Pinduoduo and Suning Group rush to register several trademark rights. Not only winning hearts with its sweetness, humor, and feel-good factor, “My Heroic Husband” contributes to popularizing modern business knowledge.
Adapted from the popular novel of the same name, “My Heroic Husband” unfolds the journey of a business tycoon Jiang Haochen (Zhang Ruoyun) who accidentally traveled to the Wu Dynasty and became the Su family’s son-in-law Ning Yi (Guo Qilin). After entering the marriage, he assisted his wife Su Tan’er (Song Yi) to run her family’s cloth business and become the richest in Jiang Ning. It took half the drama to complete the business storyline and move to a heavier one which mainly focused on political conspiracies.
The pre-broadcast’s controversy
By the time of broadcasting, the drama was involved in a boycott caused by a gender controversy related to the author of the original novel. However, it’s crucial to note that the drama had finished filming before the issue occurred and had nothing to do with it.
Fennudexiangjiao, the author of the original novel “My Heroic Husband” became the target of a backlash after his controversial comments on a female author who claimed that she suffered verbal sexual harassment from some male authors. He deemed that her ambiguous sharing aimed to draw attention and took advantage of exaggerated feminism to attack male authors.
The heated discussion escalated into fierce controversy as Fennudexiangjiao’s old comments were brought into the spotlight by furious netizens. One of them was that “the novel (My Heroic Husband) does not need female readers at all.”
The reason for Fennudexiangjiao’s statement is that male readers account for more than 3/4 of those who read novels with the son-in-law theme, according to the “Digital Reading Report 2020.” The original novel captures a large number of male audiences by fulfilling their deepest desires of marrying a “bai fu mei” (a white, rich, and beautiful woman), getting a harem, and reaching the pinnacle of life.
Understanding the audience’s psychology of seeking laughter and sweet moments
Despite being somewhat affected by the boycott, the drama adaption’s success shows how the film crew understands the audience and the principles of web drama. While the novel has a strong masculine color, the drama adds a lot of “female-oriented” details to win female audiences.
There is a social system in which the wife is head of the household, having authority over the man who is married to her and stays at her house, which is the opposite of the traditional belief.
Moreover, the emphasis on husband and wife’s little sweet moments satisfies audiences’ thirst for something cute and sweet after rough days. Guo Qilin and Song Yi’s chemistry is unexpectedly enjoyable. The emotional development – being strangers, having respect for each other, admitting real feelings, and overcoming challenges together – between Ning Yi and Su Tan’er are well demonstrated. It’s hard to keep ourselves from squealing over their love line and cute interactions.
Guo Qilin is not particularly handsome or widely popular but he has that cute and lovely charm. His character, Ning Yi, represents the image of a warm and cute male protagonist who not only takes good care of his wife but also shows the utmost respect for her, which ultimately pleases female audiences.
The motif of a protagonist from the modern world going back to ancient times causing half-baked and funny situations is too familiar in recent years. “My Heroic Husband” applies it so well, and in addition, maintains the humor throughout the storyline. It not only contributes to the clear depiction of the characters but also makes the struggles or tragedies never too heavy.
Leveraging typical feel-good dramas
Adapted from a male-targeted feel-good novel, “My Heroic Husband” caters to the desire of people to succeed in life without much effort, despite seeming to be unrealistic sometimes.
Ning Yi is described to be full of talent and overwhelming with luck. He always appears at the right time and right place to save the situation. As a business tycoon, he brings wisdom from modern society to ancient times which not only help rescue his wife’s business from the antagonists’ conspiracies but also force their opponent into bankruptcy.
In addition to that, Ning Yi is also proficient in fighting, is able to write novels, has superb chess skills, knows machinery, is good at design, and is even familiar with stage setup.
He easily wins respect and love from others. He casually goes on the street and meets girls who will eventually support him wholeheartedly. Forced to attend the Academy of Male Virtuousness, Ning Yi easily has a group of classmates under his command and even gets acquainted with the Prime Minister and Consort Prince.
On the contrary, his wife Su Tan’er who is said to be a strong and independent woman with outstanding business skills is inadequately demonstrated. She mostly relies on her husband’s support which, again, strongly emphasizes the significance of the male protagonist.
If the sweetness and humor attract female audiences, the feel-good factor satisfies the male audiences. The male protagonist’s character setup and life accomplishments are what everyone yearns for yet never achieves. The audiences are stimulated to watch the drama, follow the protagonist’s journey and feel like that’s their own experience.
Popularizing modern business knowledge
One of the most interesting and popular about “My Heroic Husband” is how modern wisdom is smoothly carried to ancient times and creates such spectacular impacts. It is different from other “traveling theme” dramas which quickly ignore the fact that the main character is strongly influenced by modern education and society.
In “My Heroic Husband,” Ning Yi acts as a shareholder who joins hands with Su Tan’er to form a “family partnership” using advanced business management knowledge to successfully run their cloth business. Modern business knowledge and tactics borrowed from business giants Pinduoduo, Suning Yigou, and financial specialists are explained through the humorous plot.
It’s especially fascinating to see how modern statistics, data analysis, O2O models, branding, product positioning, etc. are applied in ancient business and how the cloth market is manipulated causing the economic bubble.
Let’s take a closer look at the popular case study – Pindaodao, the drama’s reference to tech unicorn Pinduoduo.
The night before the grand opening of the Su family’s cloth store, the warehouse is flooded by heavy rain and a large amount of cloth is unfortunately damaged. There are only 30 rolls of the much-anticipated Cloud Gauze (Mu Yunsha) left and it will take roughly 10 days to re-manufacture. This sudden crisis not only prevents the new store from opening normally but also badly affects the store’s credibility.
Ning Yi steps up to the plate and successfully saves the situation using a business trick called Pindaodao. He prepared a hand-made dartboard with a few scissors. The “bargaining” dartboard is divided into seven equal parts representing the amounts of discount. At which part the scissors are thrown, the corresponding amount will be subtracted from the “price” which is already increased from the “original price.” One person is only able to throw once, but customers can ask up to five of their friends to help them “bargain.”
This model doesn’t only provide customers an entertaining shopping experience using retail gamification but also takes advantage of human greed, satisfied their psychology of having good deals and discounts. From the seller’s perspective, this is a successful viral marketing campaign that minimizes acquisition cost and maximizes brand awareness. Current customers ask their friends to join for the discounts, their friends will ask other friends, and that keeps going on. It helps spread the store’s name further as well as recruits new customers effectively through word-of-mouth.
Furthermore, by making customers believe that they are given great deals, Ning Yi easily persuades them to wait for a few days and pick up their goods later with a pick-up ticket. This pre-sales technique temporarily alleviates inventory pressure when Cloud Gauze is out of stock due to the flood.
What is even more interesting about this method is how the revenue is successfully maintained without distorting the market as the average price of the final sale is controlled according to probability theory.
This Pindaodao technique, which is named by Ning Yi, resembles tech unicorn Pinduoduo’s signature group-buying and sharing-with-friends business models. With the popularity of “My Heroic Husband,” Pinduoduo has no reason to refuse free marketing to attract more customers from different audience groups. The tech company quickly applies for the registration of the “Pindaodao” trademark.
Since the audience subconsciously associates Pindaodao with Pinduoduo through the drama, it is very likely that there will be a negative impact on the brand if “Pindaodao” is used by other parties for unclear purposes. Also, this is a kind of marketing that takes advantage of the opportunity to increase brand awareness and improve the brand’s psychological favorability among the general public.
Although the second half of the storyline can’t keep up with its first half, “My Heroic Husband” is still one of the worth-watching dramas in 2021. Besides entertaining the audiences, providing positive energy, and making us feel good about ourselves, the drama shows how media and entertainment can popularize complex business knowledge and education. The impact of the drama is significant that even the tech companies feel the need to take action in protecting their trademarks and taking advantage of the popularity of the drama to promote their brands.