Spring Festival (Chinese New Year, CNY)—China’s most important cultural celebration—is right around the corner. This means both Chinese and international brands are already planning and launching their Spring Festival marketing campaigns. It’s time to get your fireworks and CNY marketing campaign ready!
Want to know the key to a successful Spring Festival promotion? And tips for your CNY marketing campaigns? It’s all about understanding what Spring Festival means to your Chinese audience, then building festival traditions and emotions into your campaigns. The connection is the centerpiece.
What is the Chinese Spring Festival?
China’s Spring Festival is also known as Chinese New Year (or CNY for short). It’s the most important festival in the country and Chinese communities around the globe. You will hear people referring to it as Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year, Spring Festival… every year this major holiday for China and many East Asian cultures becomes increasingly significant to marketers as well.
Spring Festival signifies the start of spring and the beginning of a new year according to the Traditional Chinese Calendar, also known as the Agricultural Calendar (Nong Li 农历). It’s is a lunisolar calendar. So Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year — although it always falls somewhere between January and February.
Traditionally, New Year in China is a time to gather and eat with family, put up decorations, and enjoy fireworks and parades. Many families also choose to exchange gifts or red envelopes containing money.
Themes of family, good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity are at the root of all of these traditions. And there are lots of superstitions about things you should and shouldn’t do during the New Year celebrations to ensure a great year to come.
Spring Festival 2022 — Year of the Tiger
This year, Chinese New Year falls on the 1st of February. Celebrations will start long before the day, and Chinese New Year’s Eve (31 January) is especially important to enjoy the family reunion dinner. And the celebrations last for weeks. Most people get a full week off or longer from school and work.
We’ll be entering the Year of the Tiger. The Tiger (Hu 虎) is the third of the 12-year cycle of animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Traditional Chinse Calendar. This sign of the Chinese zodiac represents strength, vitality and growth.
A few popular Spring Festival marketing tactics
Western companies spend a big part of their marketing budget in the run-up to Christmas. For companies selling to the Chinese market, Chinese New Year is the equivalent. So you definitely can’t miss this opportunity to connect with your Chinese consumers.
Spring Festival marketing is a huge deal, particularly for brands who tie their promotions to traditional CNY themes. The best marketing materials capitalize on the emotion and the tradition associated with this festival.
Let’s take a look at a few popular Spring Festival marketing tactics:
Many brands turn to TV advertising as Chinese New Year approaches. These ads get a large audience, particularly middle-aged and older viewers who aren’t as tuned into the digital world as their younger counterparts.
Hongbao is the name given to the red envelopes containing money that is gifted at this time of year. With the arrival of new technology, many people now give a virtual Hongbao to their friends and family.
This has provided a wealth of opportunities for brands. Some have launched competitions and created huge buzz by offering their own limited edition Hongbao designs or cash prizes.
Co-branding movie marketing
During the Chinese New Year holiday, many families go to the movies together. And lots of big, new movies are released in time for the event. As a result, you tend to see lots of cross-promotion marketing amongst brands and movie makers.
Leveraging digital platforms
Back in 2020 there were already 970 million smartphone users in China. This is a nation that likes to be connected to the digital world.
Brands reach them where they like to hang out by running Spring Festival marketing campaigns on popular social sites like WeChat, Weibo and Douyin. Brands that run TV ads will also promote their videos on social media to reach another audience demographic.
In 2022, with COVID-19 still a concern, it’s likely that digital marketing rather than out-of-home advertising will have the greatest impact.
Limited edition Spring Festival merchandise
Another great Spring Festival marketing tactic is launching limited edition products. Brands traditionally change up their packaging (red and gold are popular options) or incorporate animals of the Chinese zodiac into their products.
But this has become clichéd. Brands that manage to create a surprising marketing campaign while still respecting Chinese traditions stand out from the crowd.
How to connect with Chinese consumers during Spring Festival
Running Spring Festival promotions or campaigns is a fantastic way to connect with Chinese consumers. But only if you do it in a culturally sensitive way.
There are tons of traditions associated with this time of year and it’s really easy to make a costly cultural misstep if you’re not fully aware of what Spring Festival means for your Chinese audience.
Ready for a few simple tips for your Spring Festival marketing campaigns?
1. Steer clear of stereotypes — really get to know your audience and what matters to them at this time of year
2. Put the focus on cultural values and the emotion of the festival season — not your brand and product
3. Create an engaging social media campaign — every brand marketing in China knows the importance of a strong social presence
4. Encourage user-generated content from your culturally clued up social following
An example of Spring Festival marketing: Gucci launches their tiger collection across the globe
Due to tight border controls and strict restrictions on travel, this year luxury brands are rolling out the Chinese New Year-themed campaigns on a global scale. They are counting on the gifting tradition during this period of time to kickstart the year of the tiger with a roar. And to connect their brand with the Chinese consumers with a cultural approach.
Taking a closer look at Gucci, from designer bags to ready-to-wear outfits, the Italian luxury fashion house based in Florence, Italy has launched an astounding, tiger-themed collection to celebrate the Year of the Tiger 2022.
Image: Courtesy Gucci
Actually, international brands have already started to connect with their consumers during this special time of the year. We last celebrated the Year of the Tiger back in 2010. Then, Singaporean beer brand Tiger Beer, which has a wide consumer base in China, capitalized on Chinese New Year celebrations.
The brand ran a series of print and outdoor ads. They also teamed up with Dazed and Confused magazine to create a branded CNY guide. And they launched an iPhone app that combined a game and a bar locator, helping users find Tiger Beer stockists when they were out and about.
More major festivals (and festival marketing opportunities) in China
It’s not just Chinese New Year. There are a number of other major festivals in China that offer great festival marketing opportunities. Here are a few of them.
Lantern Festival (Yuan Xiao Jie 元宵节)
15 February 2022
Lantern Festival marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations. It falls on the first full moon of the New Year.
During this festival, streets are decorated with colorful lanterns and there are dragon and lion dances. People also traditionally eat rice balls, so food brands often experience a big boost in sales around this time of year.
Chinese Valentine’s Day (Qixi 七夕)
4 August 2022
Chinese Valentine’s Day is known as Qixi Festival in China. It falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Traditional Chinese Calendar.
Whilst there’s no public holiday, this festival has been celebrated for centuries. And it’s now a huge retail event. People buy presents for their loved ones and many brands run Qixi campaigns.
Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie 中秋节)
10 September 2022
Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth Chinese lunar month. It’s the second most important public holiday in the country and a time to celebrate both the moon and the harvest. It’s also known as the Mooncake Festival.
People in China get three days’ holiday to reunite with family and eat traditional food (like mooncakes). A box of mooncakes is often given as a gift.
National Day Holiday (Guo Qing 国庆)
1 October 2022
China National Day commemorates the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. People in China enjoy a week-long holiday starting from 1 October. This is called Golden Week.
Golden Week is a big week for travel and tourism, and both retail and tourist sights enjoy one of their best-selling weeks of the year.
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