Western brands and Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year
04 Feb 2019

During Chinese New Year, consumers spent about $146 billion in shopping and restaurants last year and about 6.5 million Chinese citizens went abroad to distant countries. According to Ctrip's forecast, this year the United States, Australia, Italy and England will be the top destinations that are going to benefit most from the Chinese tourist flow.

Over the last few years, Chinese consumers are progressively requiring more and more authenticity from foreign brands, especially on “limited edition” products, a very common practice adopted by many. However, some cases have proved that the superficial and stereotypical representations of Asian culture would immediately trigger the public sentiment in a very negative way, not even to mention those brands that simply add an animal icon and call it “limited edition”. Therefore, extreme caution, experience and a deep knowledge of the culture are required.

Companies and brands are currently facing a complex situation: understanding how to balance the brand’s essence with the cultural elements of Chinese New Year still remains one of the main problems. Considering also that a large percentage of customers would like to buy a product that can be used in everyday life, not only for that special festive occasion or year. 

There is no doubt that Chinese consumers are becoming pickier than before. In fact, they are still eager to seek the perfect combination between the essence of the beloved brand and the true spirit of Chinese New Year. From this point, we may find some explanation for the criticism towards the campaigns that some well-known brands launched few weeks ago.

Chinese New Year gives people the opportunity to reunite with family and old friends and represent the perfect timing for brands to expand their conversation with a wider range of consumers. For example, last year Airbnb, with its “Celebrate it My Way” campaign, invited six Chinese KOLs and their parents to travel overseas together.

This marketing activity showed the strong willingness from Airbnb to engage Chinese users. Not only has this activity successfully won the attention from Millennials, who are under the pressure to “settle down”, but also it has efficiently generated “trust” in the senior generation, known as a group of low level of acceptance for “staying at other’s home” when travelling.

For 2019, digital channels will continue to hold huge potential for brands interested in winning the heart of Chinese customers. Interactive activities and gamification, as well as cross-marketing will lead to positive results especially if based on customization. Launching a social media campaign that encourages user-generated contents is highly recommended, as users are more likely to share their own content, acting themselves as supporters of the brand.