Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the biggest festival in East Asian culture, celebrated by over 1.5 billion people all over the world.

The Chinese New Year cycles through the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals, with 2016 being the Year of the Monkey. Chinese New Year decorations are also largely in red and gold and include intricate paper cut-outs, “door gods” to ward off evil spirits, words of fortune and blessings on lengths of red paper, and red lanterns.

Chinese families gather during the week-long festival to share reunion feasts, visit relatives and exchange gifts for the new Lunar Year. Younger generations pay respect to elders and parents in exchange for money gifted in a customary “red packet” made of red paper. Traditional foods are eaten to symbolize togetherness and prosperity, and consumers buy new clothes and wares for a fresh start to their new year.

As one of the largest overseas Chinese communities in the world, there are close to 1.5 million Chinese-Canadians who make up over 4% of the Canadian population. Chinese, and its various dialects, is the third most-spoken language in Canada, after the official English and French. Of those not accounted for in the census, there are over 100,000 Chinese overseas students enrolled in Canadian post-secondary institutions as of 2014. Almost 30% of newly enrolled international students in 2014 were from China. With new immigration programs aimed at keeping these students in Canada, many of them will eventually make a home here. For many of these Chinese-Canadians, the Lunar New Year is their once-a-year cultural celebration with family and a time to connect with their roots.

This is a great time for companies and brands to celebrate with the community; connect with them through in-language and in-culture messaging as well as leverage sales and marketing opportunities that align with the festival. There is no doubt that goodwill earned by brands through a well-planned, tactical execution, delivers enduring customer loyalty.

Awareness of subtle cultural nuances makes all the difference when it comes to Chinese marketing. Deep-rooted in the Chinese community, Focus Communications has been instrumental in developing and executing winning Chinese New Year campaigns for many clients over the years. Use of in-language, integrated communications, riding on customs and symbols of fortune, have delivered significant, measurable results in terms of enhanced brand awareness and equity as well as increased segment sales. Here are a few examples:

Harry Rosen

Patrons visiting Harry Rosen during the festive month were greeted by ambassadors in Chinese costume with red packets and festive décor in store. Shoppers were enthralled to sit across a Fortune Teller and receive a “red packet” to bring good luck home.

Pepsi / Lays / 7-Up

An on-line contest was held for Lays/7-Up, promoted via media and in-store POP during Chinese New Year. The Chinese lucky number “8” is the most loved number during the New Year because its pronunciation is close to the word “prosperity” in Chinese. The campaign did exceptionally well, with significant impressions that boosted sales. Pepsi marketing materials with Traditional Chinese elements were also designed.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra invited well-known Chinese musicians who were joined by Chinese media, community leaders and Chinese concert goers for their special Chinese New Year concert. Focus generated a lot of buzz in the community and media. The Year of the Horse was a sold out concert.

Manulife Financial

Manulife’s brand name in Chinese, creatively wrapped in this custom “lucky faichun,” a decorative banner that is popular among Chinese consumers to bring good wishes to the home and workplace during Chinese New Year.

About the Author

Loretta Lam has been a trailblazer in various fundraising campaigns in the Chinese community for over 15 years. She is currently a member of the Chinese advisory board to ORBIS Canada. Since 2004, she has helped ORBIS Canada build its Chinese donor base from 10% to 60% of its total donor base. Former board director of the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto, Loretta was an active member in its capital fundraising campaign. She is founder of national marketing firm Focus Communications Inc. that specializes in “Total Communications” with both corporate and not-for-profit clients.