Chinese New Year is approaching and will come on January 25th. A quarter of the world’s population celebrates this event. Traditionally, this is the Spring Festival, people celebrate spring, nature awakens, and the earth and the sprouts of life stored by it come to life. It is a celebration of prosperity and cohesion. The holiday is celebrated for 16 days, starting from New Year’s Eve and ends with the Lantern Festival. Each day of the celebration traditionally has a clearly defined activity or custom. Celebrators try to avoid the failures that may follow them in the coming year.
China is a country with over 5,000 years of history. The Chinese are very proud of their rich culture and rapid economic development in recent years. However, deep-rooted fear and distrust of the West still remain in the hearts of many people; these are the consequences of the opium war of 1840 and the subsequent centennial invasion. Therefore, foreign brands should be especially sensitive to culture and history when dealing with Chinese consumers. Chinese New Year is a great opportunity for brands to reliably and appropriately share their messages. But first, they must learn to navigate China’s cultural and political life well.
That is why, during the Chinese New Year holiday, brands must consider the historical and cultural characteristics of Chinese consumers in order to get the best result.
Short tips on what is possible and what is not given below will help brands not only be successful during the holidays and subsequent special events but throughout the year. Their observance will help to avoid negative comments on the part of the public, product boycotts and negative media attention.
What is possible in Chinese New Year
Location: check the map on your official website. Is it marked with the officially recognized territory of China? If not, change that. Also, check to see if any regions, provinces, or areas of China are named by countries, such as Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, or Tibet). Or are they not mentioned in the context of countries / independent states? Misuse and description of geographical names and territories is a red rag for Chinese media and consumers.
Content: If you want to join the Chinese New Year celebration, integrate your congratulations and best wishes into your corporate video or banner. If you are not sure of the appropriateness of such congratulation or this option simply does not fit, then congratulate the buyers in their official accounts on social networks and write: “Happy Chinese New Year! “.
Colors: To avoid risk, always use red as the primary color. For secondary colors, you can use gold, silver, yellow and green. Other colors are not suitable for the season.
Culture and Traditions: Show respect by admiring traditional Chinese food, clothing, buildings, or celebration traditions such as fireworks or “red pockets” —the tradition of giving money to young relatives in red envelopes during Chinese New Year. Other traditions include traveling across the country to get home by the New Year and watching New Year’s shows on central television.
Greetings: Chinese is really quite difficult to learn. And the people in China really appreciate people from other cultures and countries who undertake this and subsequently try to communicate with them in Chinese. Do not doubt that even a short video message from the CEO of the company to consumers in Chinese will be received very positively.
Tone and Voice: Use the same communication style for all channels. And although the Golden Shield (Great Chinese Firewall) project officially exists, this does not mean that Chinese users cannot visit the company’s Facebook page.
What is impossible?
Politics: Never comment on any political incidents involving China – formally or informally – and warn your employees against it.
Humor: be careful when using humor to keep up with traditions. Due to cultural differences, Chinese consumers might think that you are making fun of their traditions. Avoid jokes, respect what is happening and enjoy keeping your distance.
Colors: Never use black or white during the Chinese New Year. Traditionally, these are the colors of a funeral.
Behavior and content on social networks: Do not post anything that can cause sadness or other negative emotions in your accounts on social networks (especially traditional Chinese) during the Chinese New Year period. At this time, the whole country is reunited with family and friends – it is believed that any negative emotions or news will bring misfortune next year.
Visual effects: there are several images that have a negative connotation for the Chinese – do not use them:
- The watch is associated with a funeral.
- Chrysanthemums are a traditional flower for commemoration.
- A green hat is a sign of treason.
- Knives, swords, and needles are considered deadly weapons, which in no case should be present during the celebrations.
- Umbrellas and pears are a sign of separation.
Western aesthetics: you can’t just take and combine the Western world with traditional Chinese aesthetics, for example, with the Chinese cyclical calendar (horoscope) – take 12 animals that correspond to years in a 12-year cycle. Everything is not as simple as it seems. In recent years, many brands have launched Chinese zodiac products, but most of them are not popular in China because of their design. In the best case, these products will be the subject of jokes and mockery by consumers, and in the worst case, they can be perceived as an insult, and then complaints and problems will not be avoided.
Perhaps the most important and practical advice will be this: if you decide to do something in China or to associate with Chinese cultural traditions, then take the time, effort and budget and find a local person who will be ready to advise you.