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Recently, more than a billion people celebrated the ringing in of the Year of the Rooster, and brands around the world cashed in by promoting their products and services. The geographic reach of Chinese New Year or Spring Festival promotional tie-ins is growing as population spreads, going from China to other Asian countries that use the lunar calendar to nations with large populations of Asian descendants--America, Canada, UK, Australia to name a few. Companies that keep a close eye on international media may find they have a chance to add this holiday into their promotional calendars.
Having been celebrated for more than 4,000 years, let's define the holiday's timing. The holiday's timing changes from a typical Western-based calendar. University of Hong Kong professor Sun Kwok, writing for the South China Morning Post, noted that the dates on which years turn over are based on a calendar of Chinese origin that has been in use for centuries, and that while the day is also called the Lunar New Year, the year length is roughly the same as in solar calendars. Sun Kwok goes on to say, "In the Chinese calendar, winter solstice (a date set by the position of the sun) always occurs during Month 11, and the new year is assigned to the second new moon after the winter solstice."
Despite the historical association with China, nations such as Korea and Vietnam celebrate the day, too. It is the kick off of the Spring Festival and celebrated by more than 1.6 billion worldwide. It is estimated that up to a billion people will be travelling to go home or meet up with family over the Chinese New Year celebrations. While a good majority of that travel will be taking place in Asia, Forbes highlights some other travel trends.
When it comes to PR and branding, on either an international or local level, there are opportunities to roll Chinese New Year festivities into the mix. Companies with strong Asian operations can use their local knowledge to incorporate age-old celebrations into publicity materials. Warc recently pointed to prominent Chinese payment provider Alipay running an augmented-reality event based on hongbao, a gifting ritual associated with the new year. The source explained that other brands such as Coca-Cola have signed on to work with Alipay's concept, building synergy and getting their products in front of Chinese consumers.
Of course, when companies cross national borders to promote their goods or services, they should be prepared to meet different media landscapes than the ones they know at home. This means taking advantage of Chinese New Year as a promotional tool could rely on deep knowledge about the targeted consumers, according to Asia Times. The news source pointed out that luxury product brands, for instance must consider online and mobile apps as information channels when they forge into the Chinese market, as this is where 80 percent of shoppers there get info about big-ticket items.
Sometimes, macroeconomic trends can make it worthwhile for brands to approach holidays they haven't leveraged before. Campaign explained this is happening in the U.K., where the pound's fall after the Brexit vote has boosted the amount of Chinese visitors and tourists coming to the country. The source noted that January flights from China to the U.K. rose 81 percent year-over-year in January. A demographic change could mean a whole new audience for PR and marketing activity alike.
Companies hoping to reach beyond their borders and add holidays to their promotional calendars need to be especially tuned in to news from around the world. Becoming more active in international promotions means running an increasing risk of stumbling into a PR crisis or faux pas unless agencies possess media intelligence tools capable of parsing news from around the world, moving at the pace of the digital age.