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Brands and Chinese New Year

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Kung hei fat choy, as they say in Hong Kong. That’s happy new year, as Sunday marked the start of the year of the tiger.

People in the West don’t really get what a big deal Chinese New Year is – a cross between Christmas and New Year with a dose of astrology thrown in for good measure. It’s really interesting in China especially, as it sees hundreds of millions of city-dwelling workers trek back home (sometimes thousands of miles) to celebrate. It’s the planet’s biggest voluntary migration. An estimated 2.54 billion journeys will be made this CNY.

So it’s no surprise that brands have been looking into how best to approach the festival. With so much goodwill going round, it should be a perfect time to do a bit of brand-building. And the good news for brands has been that TV plays a big role in the festivities – the annual CCTV gala, a variety show of often questionable acts on state TV, is the biggest television – and, therefore, advertising – event of the year. CCTV claims 50% of households watch it.

But the last few years have seen brands become more adventurous. And rightly so – this year the internet appears to have played a bigger role in CNY entertainment. There was a great piece on Media’s website on marketing during CNY. It pointed out how important work on transport media is during CNY (think of all those journeys). It also pointed out the importance of returning urban workers as brand ambassadors. And it pointed out that the further south you go, the fewer people watch the CCTV gala.

The work to keep an eye on is Coca-Cola’s. Last year it took a bold approach to CNY marketing by trying to create a whole new ritual around it. The brand introduced the ‘First Coke of the Year’ – the idea that you should pick somebody special with whom to share your first bottle of Coke of the lunar new year. The campaign involved TV – and in particular an ad starring former champion hurdler and Chinese celebrity Liu Xiang. Importantly, it also had a strong online element, with e-cards that could be sent to friends. The take-up was very impressive and seemed to lay the foundations for an ongoing initiative as Coke sought to take a degree of ownership of CNY – much like it has with Christmas in the West.

This year it has shifted even more of its focus online, with a campaign offering consumers the chance to customise a festive bottle label. The campaign involves uploads of new year greetings and celebrity involvement from Taiwanese pop band Fahrenheit.

To be honest I was expecting a more obvious follow-up to First Coke of the Year – video upload contests are pretty standard in China these days. But either way, it’s worth checking on the results of this campaign over the next few weeks, as Coke seems to be the brand thinking most intently about CNY.


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Written by davidtiltman

February 15, 2010 at 10:50 am

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