How to create an effective Chinese New Year campaign

How to create an effective Chinese New Year campaign

In recent years, in Australia, there has been increasing efforts to be more inclusive of celebrations from other cultures. About 1.5 billion people around the world celebrate Chinese New Year in its many forms, making it one of the most revered occasions in the world. In Australia, we have over 1.2m people of Chinese heritage living and working and this number continues to grow. 

What does this mean for businesses in Australia? 

Our research shows that Chinese Australians would like to see more CNY campaigns and promotions from Australian brands. Organisations have already started tapping into this opportunity, with some brands succeeding and capturing the hearts of the Chinese and others missing the mark completely. 

Many struggle to optimise their marketing investment, not using effective media channels, or unable to create culturally appropriate campaigns. In order to have a meaningful engagement with the Chinese audience, and therefore execute a successful CNY campaign, it is necessary to really understand what CNY is about and what the Chinese people, specifically those in Australia, do over this period.

Research clearly shows that Chinese in Australia are more likely to buy brands that make an effort to celebrate CNY.  Nearly 6 in 10 Chinese Australians claimed to have acted (visited or bought something from the brand) due to their CNY related promotions and efforts.  

Delicate cultural nuances

A creative CNY activation that missed the mark was the Year of the Pig display at the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney.

QVB combined two important Chinese elements to celebrate Chinese New Year in 2019. In Chinese culture, pigs are a symbol of wealth and the Year of the Pig represents success in all avenues of life. Peach blossom trees are a popular motif often depicted in Chinese art. The tree itself was first cultivated in China more than one thousand years ago and is today revered as a symbol of longevity, prosperity, and romance. 

Reaching six metres tall and spanning more than four metres in diameter, a peach blossom tree was positioned beneath the historical central dome of QVB with thousands of tiny felt piglets replacing what would have been the blossoms. 

However, the activation confused the Chinese as, unbeknownst to QVB, a traditional Chinese saying is ‘男人靠得住,母猪会上树’ or ‘A man is reliable/trustworthy when a sow can climb a tree’.

The public took to social media: 

“A weird way of incorporating the Year of the Pig into the peach blossom. The west has a weird taste of aesthetic.”

“The pig can even climb the tree lol” 

Understanding cultural nuances is integral when creating a successful campaign and this creative take on a CNY activation needed cultural context to avoid confusing the target audience. 

Hitting the mark

To celebrate Lunar New Year the National Gallery of Victoria presented a day of performances, workshops, and more exploring Chinese art and culture. Workshops included traditional paper cutting and good luck couplets, which provided the audience with an authentic deep dive into Chinese culture. 

It engaged the Chinese community including recent migrants. The campaign also targeted Chinese tourists with NGV creating a strong digital presence via WeChat and Weibo. NGV employees wished the Chinese community a happy Chinese new year in Mandarin on Chinese social media and on the NGV website. The messaging felt well thought out and, most importantly sincere.  

Referral and word of mouth are key aspects of Chinese culture. Our research shows 8 in 10 Chinese in Australia posted on their social media or told others about the CNY promotions they saw, proving that the Chinese in Australia can be brand advocates. Chinese consumers are heavy users of social media and they talk to friends and family locally and as well as those back in China.

There is always a risk for brands and businesses to get it wrong. QVB had all the right CNY elements but put together, the message was changed completely in a Chinese cultural context. 

Our suggestion? 

To make the most of this important cultural event businesses need to create shareable content, not just digitally but that also allows Chinese Australians to become brand advocates, spreading your message through the community. But most importantly, engage with a Cross-Cultural expert who can translate your campaign and help you tap into the Chinese community in a meaningful, engaging way. 

Bastion Latitude’s Head of Cross-Cultural Insights, Isabel Zhang and CEO Dianne Gardiner filmed a webinar, ‘Learn How to Tap into Australian Chinese Consumers’ that dives further into how to create positive marketing opportunities from key Chinese events and how to avoid promotions that don’t align from a culturally accurate perspective. 

For a copy of the webinar or further information on how your business can take their targeted Chinese marketing to the next level, get in touch with Isabel Zhang –

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