Tomorrow (28th January) marks the beginning of Chinese New Year when two weeks of festivities kick off. Roughly one-sixth of the world will be celebrating the occasion, both at home in China and in overseas communities worldwide*.

Succeeding the year of the monkey, the year of the rooster is accompanied by the elemental sign of fire – a combination which only occurs once every 60 years. Those born under the fire rooster are said to be loyal, talkative and adopt a strong sense of responsibility at work – attributes most brands would embrace.

National holidays such as this spark worldwide interest and provide brands with a fantastic opportunity to gain exposure by becoming a part of the conversation. Some tips on how brands can capitalise on this major event are as follows:

  • Clever advertising – HSBC memorably embraced Chinese culture with their red envelope UK advertising campaign; featuring the tradition of red packet gift-giving to provide good fortune for the New Year. Apple, on the other hand, took a more localised approach, creating a custom-made ad for China ahead of the Lunar New Year and in line with their Chinese expansion efforts at the time in 2015.
  • Utilising retail branding – Both Chinese and Western brands may attempt to entice shoppers by adopting red and gold design or utilising traditional objects related to CNY such as red lanterns or mandarin oranges. But that just scratches the surface of the opportunities available for brands. Considering the healthy state of China’s retail market (retail sales rose 10.9% year-on-year in December 2016), lots of brands will be looking to jump on the fortnight of celebrations.
  • Cultural awareness – Chinese markets are big on values and heritage. Brands should, therefore, ensure they fully understand the history and culture of the occasion to steer away from breaking tradition or using patronising stereotypes. Western principles don’t necessarily translate to Eastern markets.
  • Use of language – Watch out for language, as mistranslations can be embarrassing. Take Pepsi, for example, who upon expansion to China launched with the slogan, “Pepsi brings you back to life.” What they didn’t realise is that the phrase translated to “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” Not quite what they had in mind.

Ultimately, integrating a brand into the celebrations whilst avoiding breaking conventions or applying excessive emphasis on sales of the product/service is crucial. Successful attempts provide the opportunity for connections to be made with new communities. What’s clear is that not every campaign will be a success but those who embrace and understand cultural divides will be the ones that win big this New Year.

Ben Hustwayte, Account Executive

*Londoners can take part in what is set to be the largest celebration outside of Asia by witnessing a parade on Sunday 29th January. This begins at 10am from Trafalgar Square and will fill the West End with music, acrobatics and pyrotechnics as it weaves its way up to Chinatown.