Chinese holidays and commercial issues: two intertwined notions
Chinese divination, traditions and mythology have fascinated the West for centuries. Who has never sought to know his Chinese astrological sign? Or never heard of Yin and Yang? The influx of “local tourists” during the celebration of the Chinese New Year in the French capital is an example of this craze for Chinese culture and its mysteries. However, what seems to be only folklore for Westerners takes on a very special meaning and role in the Middle Kingdom. Thus, understanding the local Chinese holidays and respecting the traditions is the very basis of a successful market penetration.
Events not to be missed
“Happy Dragon Boat Festival”!
It sounds a lot different from a “Merry Christmas,” does not it? Like the “Happy Easter” that we wish in France, it is customary in China to wish “happy holidays” during various festivities. Indeed, with a millennial culture and mostly Buddhist, China sees its year punctuated by an impressive number of local festivals. Thus, it is important for any company having a commercial activity in China to know these celebrations, and thus to win the sympathy of its partners.
New media make it easy
The diversity of Chinese platforms offers a multitude of choices to communicate and target its customers. For example, WeChat and Weibo are two essential interfaces for maintaining a special relationship with a brand’s customers. During these different holidays, foreign companies based in China and Chinese brands make the choice to publish greetings on their public “wall”. Some brands even venture to reveal traditional poems on their official pages. These are very well received by the Chinese audience and show respect and knowledge of Chinese culture.
This communication through Chinese social networks also informs customers of upcoming sales to be issued during the celebrations. Moreover, it is not uncommon for many buyers to book certain products in advance in their “basket” in anticipation of this event. This allows them to shop faster on D-Day and avoid the risk of out of stock.
Specificities to take into account
Some Chinese celebrations have a considerable impact on the activity of local businesses. Thus, the celebration of the Dragon Boat (Duanwu 端午节) (June) can be an opportunity to seize for the highlighting of aqueous products or perfumes, water being considered as virtuous and scented sachets as protectors during this period. In the same way, it would be a pity for a chocolatier or a food company to miss the Lovers’ Day (Qixi 七夕) (August) to highlight its cocoa products.
In addition, certain periods will be synonymous with commercial inactivity, such as that of the Spring Festival (Chun Jie 春节) (January / February). Others will be considered ominous, like that of the Ghost Festival (Zhongyuan Jie 中元节) that impacts the entire month of August. During this month, the Chinese divination recommends not to undertake new activities or not to foresee important events (inaugurations, weddings, deliveries, etc.). A foreign company could therefore face a refusal from its Chinese partner during a contract proposal at this time of the year.
However, it would be awkward to consider all Chinese companies as “superstitious”. In a situation of doubt, it may be beneficial to leave the choice to one’s partner. For example, you can let him know that you have knowledge of superstitions around August in China and thus give him the choice to consider an offer before or after that period. To your partner to inform you whether or not this event is important to him.
Stay in line with your brand
Although it is important to take into account the Chinese festivities in its marketing campaign, one must however pay attention to the excess of zeal. Seizing each of these opportunities to post a message to its Chinese clientele or to sell its products may be counterproductive. Indeed, this will give the impression that the brand is unable to target celebrations related to the products it distributes and that it lacks knowledge of the region.
For example, the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, concerns everyone. Thus, all brands and companies are expected to publish a word on this occasion. However, a celebration such as the Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhongqiu Jie 中秋节) (September), though celebrated throughout China, will have a commercial impact on only certain sectors. Indeed, the main elements related to this celebration are moon cakes or tea, symbolizing the full moon and family reunion. So it will not be forgiven to a company related to these elements, especially the food sector, not to highlight this event and not to make promotions. On the other hand, it will not be shocking that sports or luxury brands like Adidas and Burberry do not celebrate this event with their customers.
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