Holiday marketing, especially in the retail sector, frequently use holidays as the impetus for their campaigns. There is no end to promotions for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter; in fact, consumers have become familiar with this cycle and plan their shopping activities accordingly.
How does this work in Chinese-speaking regions of the world, where different holidays, not to mention a different (lunar) calendar, hold sway? In mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as other places with large Chinese populations, Chinese New Year is the holiday which attracts the largest flurry of promotions, special events and sales. There are many symbolic items related to this holiday, which falls in January or February of the Western calendar, and all are exploited by businesses to increase their sales.
As the holiday approaches, supermarkets and other stores begin to feature traditional foods like New Year’s cake, whose Chinese name sounds both like “sticky cake” and “high (successful) year”, tangerines and red snack trays containing candies, seeds and nuts. Decorations like red paper lanterns, kumquat trees, red cash envelopes and yes, lucky red underwear are widely available. Meanwhile, marketing campaigns tied to the animal of year are very prevalent, with shopping malls setting up petting zoos with baby pigs or retailers offering monkey-shaped stuffed animals. One might even see the Chinese zodiac of the year drawn in foam at Starbucks.
These types of promotions extend to other holidays. Mid-Autumn Moon Festival has come to equal moon cakes, and producers are becoming increasingly creative with their offerings. Beyond the traditional red bean and lotus seed paste varieties, one can now find green tea, ice cream, snow skin, chocolate and other varieties. The packaging has also become part of the attraction. The traditional red and gold floral tins have been supplemented by ones with colorful geometrics, edgy minimalist calligraphy or paintings of court ladies.
Western holidays and their opportunities for marketing have also made their way to Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan. A typical winter promotional cycle might begin with Christmas sales and windows decorations and then be followed by Western New Year’s Eve party promotions, Chinese New Year products and sales, then luxurious chocolates for Valentine’s Day. This mix of cultures gives business more opportunities for sales, and local residents the chance to at least dip their toes into another culture.