Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy

1.2 Million Reasons to Have a Chinese New Year Marketing Strategy Sooner rather than Later

Posted by Vanessa Vachet | 10.15.15


What's Your Chinese New Year Marketing Strategy?

What’s Your Chinese New Year Marketing Strategy?


Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year, is the largest celebration in China. In 2016, it falls on February 8th. For retailers, grocers, and of course the travel industry, it often means a sudden boom of purchases, as Chinese families reunite and gather together to celebrate their most important holiday.


And for the 1.2 million Canadian residents of Chinese descent, it is also celebrated much the same. With the tradition of cleaning house, buying new goods and clothing, and having large gatherings of family and friends, Chinese New Year is primed to be a retailers dream. Many global brands have recognised this fact and have flocked to the Chinese consumer, both in China and abroad, with seasonally-targeted ads that celebrate the Lunar New Year. See a great example below…




This is a fairly recent phenomenon, however. In the past, many North American businesses would often neglect Chinese consumers until a few weeks before the big holiday. Then a flurry of ethnic advertising would ensue, with many brands simply running “Greeting ads”. The result? Many messages would often get lost in the onslaught of festive advertisement. Communications get diluted, or forgotten altogether, as ethnic consumers skip over unknown, eleventh-hour brands, for ones they know and trust.


It’s difficult to build brand loyalty when you’re only communicating to Chinese buyers during the holidays. By that time, it’s often too late, as consumers often make their buying decisions during the course of the year. Face it, when you’re in a packed mall at the last hour, looking for that perfect Chinese New Year gift for your parents, siblings, or boss, there might be a few desperate shoppers who grab the nearest item on the shelf. But for those who are under the time crunch, it often comes down to personal preference – the brands that speak to you, the brands you value and trust, maybe the brands your family has used for years. Buying impulses usually come down to something deep and unique within you- a chord that is struck, and it strikes in a personal way that motivates and compels you to snap up one product over another.


This isn’t to say that a seasonally-targeted marketing campaign won’t work. You can still advertise or promote your product during Chinese New Year week alone. Western retailers do this all the time when it comes to Christmas. But to see larger, more long-term results, and to really build brand awareness and loyalty among your Chinese customers, a longer year-round campaign (or at least a few months ahead of the big day), is usually met with more success.


But if you talk to fellow marketers, even in 2015, it is still a struggle to convince many brands to open their wallets and embrace cultural celebrations as a way to build a solid relationship with ethnic buyers. Well, here are some compelling reasons to pay attention.



Some Mind-Blowing Stats: 


Stats Say: Canada is more Diverse than Ever!

Stats Say: Canada is more Diverse than Ever!


If you haven’t even thought about a Chinese New Year strategy when it comes to marketing, here are some compelling reasons to start.


  • The makeup of Canada’s population is changing – The 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) shows that nearly 6,264,800 people have identified themselves as a member of a visible minority group.


  • In the same report, Chinese were stated as one of the two largest “visible minority” populations in the country — totaling 1.2 million


  • The study shows that 1 out of every 5 Canadians is foreign-born. They represent 20.6% of the total Canadian population


  • Asian immigrants are among Canada’s top ethnic populations.Between 2006 and 2011, roughly 661,600 or 56.9% came from Asia, with 585,555 people reporting that they were born in the People’s Republic of China, 209,775 in Hong Kong and 69,550 were born in Taiwan




Let’s break it down even further:


BC: One of the most diverse cities in Canada!

BC: One of the most diverse cities in Canada!


  • Statistics Canada shows British Columbia as one of two provinces with the largest shares of people born outside the country. About 1,191,900 immigrants or 17.6% of the population call BC their home.


  • It also reports South Asians and Chinese as some of the largest groups, accounting for 61.3% of the visible minority population in 2011


  • Toronto and Vancouver contain 71% of all Chinese in the country


  • In the Lower Mainland, the percentage of ethnic populations is growing. 48.5% of the population of Richmond reported Chinese ethnic origin, with Vancouver second, at 40%, and Burnaby at 31.7%



With the rate at which these numbers are climbing, you can see how much buying power and potential these ethnic groups have. In fact, we are now seeing a shift in the Canadian economy as these sizeable ethnic groups continue to have large families and grow at exponential rates. Waves of recent immigration will also expand our ethnic groups as new citizens seek to bring many of their relatives to Canada.


The thing that businesses often fail to see, which we spoke about during our last interview with Valeria Piaggion, VP of Polycultural Insights at the Futures Company, is that numbers don’t always paint the right picture. Ethnic markets often act bigger than they are. For example, a 2013 Nielsen report titled “Signficant, Sophisticated, And Savvy – -The Asian American Consumer” studied Asian consumer behavior in many business categories within the U.S, and it clearly demonstrated that “a targeted marketing program directed towards the Chinese consumer can often lead to business results that are disproportionately stronger than what marketers might otherwise expect when simply considering the absolute size of the Chinese target population.”


Smart advertisers know this and that’s why cultural celebrations, like Chinese New Year, have become increasingly important to companies wishing to strengthen their connection to Chinese consumers. And as the Lunar New Year often involves new purchases and large family events, as well as extensive travel both abroad and locally, businesses would be wise to take note of the Chinese segment.


How Consumers Spend during Chinese New Year

How Consumers Spend during Chinese New Year



It’s not just the travel or food service sector that can see an increase in sales during Chinese New Year. Other industries have also seen a positive trend during the holidays. In a Globe and Mail article, Cory Raven, managing broker at Re/Max says “Chinese New Year heightens whichever housing trend is dominate in that year. Any year where we have an already busy market, it seems like Chinese New Year speeds [it] up even more.” According to reports, weekly home sales have continued to soar since the arrival of 2014’s Year of the Sheep. Sales for attached and detached homes were the highest in six weeks since January 18, with attached homes sales at 79 sales more than the weekly average of 344 of the five preceding five weeks. 


But, if you want to start a Chinese New Year campaign, time is of the essence. According to a profile on the Chinese Consumer by Statistics Canada, “Chinese consumers are both savvy and discerning [and] they tend to exhibit preferences and behaviours that are rooted in the rich cultural traditions of China’s past.” The brands they value at home, once they come to Canada, will often be the brands that they continue to trust. In the StatsCan report, a Datamonitor survey found that Chinese consumers were highly influenced by habit, or their preferred brand, when shopping for food or beverage products. Brand loyalty, or brand image, scored much higher with these groups versus the average American buyer. Studies by Destination Canada even show that when it comes to consumer behaviour, even Chinese-Canadian buyers often list their friends and family as the most influential sources of information and inspiration, whether in-person (86%) or via social media (79%).


But approaching the Chinese consumer at any time of year, and especially during the Lunar New Year, calls for the proper tact. You will first need to know how to target that segment. For instance, did you know that, mindful of the economic situation, Chinese women are becoming more discerning in their shopping habits and are cutting back on impulse purchases and doing more product research, often online? Might be time to develop that digital content strategy…


Also interesting to note, overseas Chinese consumers indicated that they trusted foreign brands more than domestic ones, as foreign companies were perceived to be less likely to cut corners in the production and quality control process (Rein, 2009). That why top North American brands such as Apple, Coca-Cola and Gillette have thrived in China and abroad.


Other businesses might be envious of the success these brands have shown when marketing to Chinese customers. But the reason why these companies are perfectly poised to take a good size of the market share is because they have spent both time and money researching, studying and speaking with Chinese consumers. Rather than relegating multicultural advertising to the sidelines, or adding it in as an after-thought, these businesses have understood the need to tap into the cultural expertise of ethnic marketing agencies. These agencies have proved invaluable in gaining a thorough understanding of a cultural segment, mainly because they have the necessary cultural insights to see past ethnic stereotypes and to truly understand the mind of the ethnic consumer.


Cultural Understanding is Key for any Multicultural Marketing

Cultural Understanding is Key for any Multicultural Marketing



And cultural understanding, as well as understanding consumption trends when it comes to ethnic markets, is needed more than ever during the holiday season. The wrong marketing message during Chinese New Year could mean more than lost business or poor sales. It could result in a negative association with your brand that lingers long past the holidays.


Get inspired! See some examples of popular CNY ads from last year. Then, talk to QEQ’s team of multicultural experts about ways you can develop your own!




Resources: (Images courtesy of Corbis RF)