We tap multicultural experts on ramping up sales for the Chinese New Year.
Early next month, Weila Suo will begin her holiday shopping. She will buy new clothes and shoes for her parents, grandparents and twin sister – all of whom live together in Richmond. There will also be decorations, red bunting and lucky symbols, tea, flowers and bags of food and sweets. Sometimes Suo travels back to China for the holidays, which means bottles of Canadian icewine, chocolates or cosmetics for friends and family back home.
Suo and her family represent a new normal of holiday shopping in the Lower Mainland, where more than 300,000 people claim a dialect of Chinese as their mother tongue. Many ignore Christmas and welcome the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, in January or February. This year the Chinese New Year falls on February 10.
“Just like Christmas for Christians, it is a giving time,” says Marvi Yap, co-founder of AV Communications Inc., which won a Summit International Award last year for work on Chinese New Year advertisements for BMW (above).
For some businesses, the Chinese New Year is already the busiest time of year. Paul Wong, marketing manager for T&T Supermarkets, will spend early February hanging red and gold decorations, setting up displays of gift boxes and bulk candy and writing Chinese-language ads for Chinese daily newspapers, as well as 24 Hours and the Vancouver Sun. The Sun also published Chinese ads last year for mainstream grocers such as Kin’s Farm Market, alongside ones for real estate and even an in vitro fertilization clinic. The New Year is also a prime season for luxury cars, spurring Chinese advertising by BMW and Infiniti. Andrew Lee, general manager of Auto West BMW in Richmond, says that around the New Year “the Chinese like new things – new clothes, a new car. It’s a perfect storm.”
Lee notes that sales rise about 35 per cent around the Chinese New Year – not surprising, given nearly 70 per cent of his customers are Chinese.
To help you get noticed by Chinese customers over the next few weeks – and keep the holiday dollars flowing in – we tapped several B.C. multicultural marketers on what to do now, even if you don’t speak a lick of Mandarin.
1) Make Connections
The Chinese New Year is “an opportunity to put the brand forward,” says Albert Yue, managing director of multicultural ad company Dyversity Communications Inc. “You say ‘Happy New Year’ to me. You try to understand me and I like you. It’s as simple as that.” His clients, such as RBC and Rogers, take advantage of the holiday to show off their Chinese-friendly side.
“It’s really knowing who your customers are,” says Eric Andreasen, marketing manager for Adera Development Corp. in Vancouver. “We want to connect with them on their terms and in their language and let them know we respect that this is a big time of year for them.”
But it’s crucial not to forget Chinese customers the rest of the year. “It takes time, continuity and consistency,” says Yue. “The best thing for an advertiser is to kick off the campaign in the Chinese New Year, but you need to sustain that as well.”
2) Pay Attention to Detail and Culture
BMW has made itself a luxury car icon among Chinese drivers, AV Communications’ Yap says, through careful cultural messaging. “We have to make sure that the creation is really speaking to the target audience, and isn’t just a cosmetic facelift.”
Her firm’s award-winning ad for BMW simultaneously symbolizes muscular modern flair and mythical Chinese heritage.
3) Think Small as Well as Big
While flashy newspaper ads or television spots are popular among big companies, there are small things a business can do to welcome Chinese New Year customers. Antonio Hung, manager of Floata Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown, knows that many companies like to hold small New Year’s banquets. He accommodates them by using partitions to divide his 1,000-seat dining room into blocks of up to 100 seats.
At BMW, Lee lays out Chinese oranges and New Year banners and even slips chocolates into red envelopes traditionally used for gifts of money.
4) Market to China, Too
Friends and relatives visiting from China open a new market to Lower Mainland businesses.
Andreasen says many Chinese New Year customers looking at housing developments are visiting. Chinese advertisements in B.C., he says, will reach all the way to Shanghai and Beijing. The same customers might also check out a new Canadian BMW, which is much cheaper here than in mainland China.
That’s what drives Lee’s advertising message: “Chinese New Year: new beginning, new dream, new home, new car!” Lee laughs. “New, new, new!”