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Making consumer connections: How Chinese New Year is evolving


We know that the foundations of Chinese New Year are firmly rooted, with family and tradition at the forefront of the cultural celebration. Equally, we’re also aware that Chinese New Year has changed increasingly over the past 20 years and continues to evolve. So, how do brands seize the opportunity to connect and strengthen consumer bonds with relevance in today’s world?  

Well thought out, considered and respectful marketing campaigns have the ability to reach a broad, Chinese target audience and beyond. Going further than simple discounts and promotions helps to differentiate from other brands. Ready to delve deeper? Through evolving lifestyles, we’ll be sharing insights on how to positively connect with Chinese consumers. Plus, we’ll reflect on examples from brands who have created memorable and innovative marketing ideas over the past few years. 

It’s China’s biggest yearly holiday, so it’s important to incorporate the meaningful and traditional sentiments of the festival within campaigns. Here, we’ve compiled the key messaging elements to consider… 

  • The power of emotional marketing

Holidays always bring out many emotions. There are the positives, which are family, love, hope and togetherness, but also the negatives, including one-upmanship and nosy relatives. Therefore, people will always resonate more with the emotions, rather than hard facts or a hard sell. 

For instance, people love hearing good stories and they’re also 22 times more likely to remember a narrative, as opposed to facts. Stories that tap into emotions, which are linked to the Chinese New Year, are more likely to go viral on social channels.

A great example of this was visible in the ‘You are my CNY’ McDonald’s campaign from 2016. It effectively showcased how families travel across China to celebrate the holiday with their families, because for some, this is the only time of the year that they can see their relatives and loved ones.

Here’s the video:

  • Be sure to feature key characteristics of the animal

The varying elements of the Chinese New Year’s zodiac animal determine the path of the year that’s coming. It’s therefore imperative for brands to thoughtfully capture the animal’s characteristics and what they could mean to the Chinese audience. 

In 2018, many brands used the dog successfully, since that year dog ownership became increasingly popular. A strong example of this came from Moncler, when they created coats for dogs in partnership with Poldo Dog Couture, attracting more Chinese dog owners. 

See the results of this doggo clothing line, here:

  • Target travelling consumers

Chinese New Year is a huge event. To scale it for you, one quarter of the world celebrates this holiday, making it a prime trading period for businesses all over Asia, plus tourist hotspots across the world. 

This means marketeers should undoubtedly look at the travelling Chinese New Year consumers, as well as the people who are part of the Chinese community but live overseas. Taking this opportunity to embed elements from Chinese culture into products and marketing, helps brands to stay relevant to the consumers.

Take Selfridges, who created a great in-store campaign (back in the days when this was still possible), offering unique experiences at their London and Manchester stores, including complimentary beauty treatments and Chinese calligraphy classes. 

  • Start early

Many Asian consumers complete a substantial amount of shopping before the event itself, with a spending total averaging $140 billion. Equally, celebrations can go on for weeks, so it’s certainly not a short holiday.

Many brands like Burberry, Nike, Adidas and WeChat, start early with their campaigns. This way, consumers are likely to wear the Chinese New Year’s edition Nikes, for example, when visiting loved ones.

For this year’s Chinese New Year campaign, Burberry showed how they utilise storytelling with ‘The New Awakening’ short film. The film follows the story of a little girl growing up and following her dreams as a designer, whilst finding creativity in all sorts of places, throughout the seasons of the year. It features their exclusive capsule collection and stands for a celebration of spring’s arrival, capturing the true essence and optimism of Chinese New Year.

If you’re curious, you can watch the short film, here: