Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in East Asia and celebrated all over the world by 20% of the world’s population — and with the right strategy, there’s a lucrative opportunity for businesses to benefit from it.
Lunar New Year is a time for family reunions, celebrating, sharing meals, exchanging gifts, and giving thanks. For businesses, it’s also a time to recognize Lunar New Year values and elements in their marketing materials to promote their products and services to a key audience.
However, there’s more to Lunar New Year marketing than slapping some red lanterns and Chinese characters on your campaigns.
We’re specialized in helping Western businesses market themselves to Chinese audiences, and many of our team grew up in China. Lunar New Year is our busiest time of year helping our clients hash out strategies and advertising placements to get them the best return on investment.
Keep reading to learn the complete guide on how to reap the rewards of a legendary Lunar New Year marketing campaign done right for many years to come.
Before You Begin: Understand the Culture and Your Audience
Before you begin diving in head first and creating your ads, it’s crucial to do your due diligence to understand Chinese culture, customs, and knowing your audience. Ask questions like, why are they celebrating? Where do they spend their time?
Our Content & WeChat Specialist, Summer, says that it’s important for marketers to keep people of all ages in mind when creating Lunar New Year content as the occasion is all about family reunions. Your advertising should strike an emotional chord with your audience whether they are young or elderly.
Like any marketing campaign, you should also be setting goals and targets that align with your business objectives. We won’t deep dive into general marketing best practices in this guide, but you should be sure to read up on them before launching any marketing campaign.
You need to resonate with the Chinese-speaking audience throughout your campaign through authentic messaging that speaks to the values of Lunar New Year beyond simple consumerism. Believe us — your audience will be able to smell it from a mile away. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the messaging similar brands use and the engagement it receives.
We’ll dive into some more specific details further into this post and in part 2.
Step 1: Plan Your Campaign in Advance
Lunar New Year is a two-week holiday, and like Christmas, gifts are bought in advance. That’s why you need to promote your products or services well before the holiday begins, which requires determining a budget and careful planning months in advance to lock down desired placements.
You don’t want to be caught scrambling to put together your Lunar New Year campaign a week before the first day of the holiday, as you’ll be competing with others who planned their campaigns much earlier and end up wasting your budget.
Aim to run different types of campaigns and placements during Lunar New Year to maximize and diversify your messaging. If you’re on a limited budget, understanding how to allocate it between placements may take some trial and error. Knowing your audience and where they spend their time is crucial here. We go into more detail on specific channels and campaign ideas in the next step.
Step 2: Choose Your Channels
When marketing around Lunar New Year, it’s important to use the right channels to reach your target audience, or your message will fall on deaf ears.
Lunar New Year is a time for a family reunion, so it’s no surprise that WeChat plays a big role in the holiday. In fact, 86% of people in China use WeChat as their ‘everything app’ since Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram are blocked by a firewall. Additionally, a great number of Chinese people in North America use WeChat to communicate with their families back home.
WeChat offers many features that are perfect for LNY marketing, including:
- WeChat Pay: This allows customers to pay for products and services using their WeChat account. You can send digital red envelopes to your family and friends for Lunar New Year.
- WeChat Advertorials: Sponsored posts that look like organic articles on popular publications. These can be designed for Lunar New Year themes and drive traffic by encouraging audience participation in activities such as games and giveaways.
- WeChat Mini Programs: These are apps that can be installed on WeChat and offer a wide range of features, including shopping, dining, and travel. Leverage these in creative ways for the Lunar New Year gifting season.
- WeChat Moments: This is a feature that allows users to post photos and videos about their day-to-day activities. Posts can be shared with friends or followers and are a great way to promote your products and services. You can also run Moments ads to appear on users’ feeds.
In addition to WeChat, Western media platforms like Facebook and Google are also popular channels for Lunar New Year marketing. These platforms offer a way to reach people outside of China who celebrate the holiday.
Our Senior Content Creator, Helen, recommends pairing attractive Lunar New Year related promotions to encourage audience participation such as giveaways, lucky draws, limited time discounts and incentives, and other creative promotions you can think of that relate to your industry.
While digital is the way of the future, it’s also valuable to consider other advertising channels and placements to reach this audience:
- Partner with relevant KOLs or KOCs to promote your products and services on Chinese networks such as RED (Xiaohongshu) through sponsored posts or livestreams.
- Out of home ads in relevant locations Chinese people spend their time — e.g. Chinese grocery stores or digital mall screens.
- Chinese print ads in magazines like Sing Tao or Ming Pao.
- IQIYI — ‘China’s Netflix’ provides opportunities to show video ads.
- Chinese radio stations like Fairchild.
- Chinese microblogging site Weibo also offers advertising opportunities — it is the second most popular social media network in China next to WeChat.
Step 4: Strategize Your Campaign Messaging
The right timing and channels aren’t enough to grab the attention of your target audience by themselves if your messaging isn’t tastefully speaking to Lunar New Year values and themes.
When creating content for your Lunar New Year marketing campaign, be sure to be strategic and think it through. The content should be authentic and reflect your company’s values. Speak from the heart — Lunar New Year themes revolve around family-togetherness, abundance, and love. Capture the joy and excitement of the festival. Be creative in leveraging emotional messaging in your ads. That being said, writing something perfectly strategic in English and sticking it in Google Translate won’t get you very far and it’s entirely possible you will offend your audience. There are many subtle nuances across languages and unique idioms that don’t translate well.
Note that many brands are beginning to realize the advantages of running Lunar New Year campaigns, and each year there is more competition. Have a thorough brainstorming session with your team, or work with a strategic partner who is experienced with Lunar New Year marketing to ensure your message resonates as intended.
Step 5: Design Your Creatives
The theme for Lunar New Year this year is the “Year of the Tiger”. The tiger is the third of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, and it represents bravery, strength, and power. This year’s holiday is a time to celebrate these qualities and all that they represent.
Our Senior Account Manager, Cate, suggests adding Chinese Zodiac elements and speaking to what they represent — for example for this Year of the Tiger, the tiger represents bravery, strength, and power. Use images and designs that feature tigers, and you can also get creative with Chinese idioms and plays on words. We’ll provide an example of this in part 2 for our client Harry Rosen’s campaign this year.
Also be sure to draw out the themes of family togetherness and sharing connection, love, and wealth. It’s a delicate balance as during the pandemic, it is difficult for some families to get together in person due to travel limitations. While this is unfavourable, it can also spark creative ideas to establish family connections despite physical distances.
In part 2 of this guide, we’ll highlight some key ‘dos and don’ts’ as well as provide some examples of our favourite Lunar New Year marketing campaigns. In the meantime if you have any questions about Lunar New Year marketing, please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help.