Brand Purpose Brand Strategy Lunar New Year

How are marketers and brands approaching this Chinese New Year?


By Danielle Long, Acting APAC Editor

January 19, 2023 | 8 min read

As the global slowdown continues and Covid continues to impact plans across the region, how are marketers and brands approaching the Chinese New Year 2023? The Drum asked market experts for their views on the upcoming holiday.

Lunar new year

Lunar New Year / Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

2023 is already offering a mixed bag of fortunes across the region. As China opens up and relaxes travel restrictions and the region readies for the first “normal” Lunar New Year for three years, the impacts of economic uncertainties and the ever-present health impacts of Covid-19 cannot be ignored. However, is any of this impacting marketers’ decision-making or budgets? Are consumers behaving differently? Has the early Lunar New Year caught people out? The Drum caught some experts before they disappeared for the holiday to get their insights on this year's event.

Russell Lai, chief commercial officer, Havas Media Group Singapore

“For Singapore, we do not see brands cutting back on spending; most maintained or increased. However, there are key nuances we see this year for CNY campaigns. A shorter sales window and travel resumption mean that clients must deliver sales growth against a smaller base. As such, CNY campaign weights are much more intense and front-loaded in order to cut through.

"Inflationary pressure also means there is a greater focus on delivering value in terms of messaging, whether through paying less for more or enjoying greater quality at the same price. But overall, as this is the first year where most COVID restrictions have been lifted, many CNY campaigns are thematically centred around in-person bonding and reunion with an upbeat outlook for the future.”

Rohit Dosi, vice president & general manager, Microsoft Advertising at InMobi.

“As the first festive occasion in the calendar year, Chinese New Year brings with it unmatched excitement for consumers and brands alike. In fact, the 2023 Lunar New Year will be the first time since 2019 that a sense of normalcy has returned. This excitement has been palpable over the last six months as we witness a renewed fervour for special occasions among people, which is reflected in consumer trends across shoppers' digital journeys. Starting October of last year, Singapore has been home to a stronger online sale period compared to the same time in the past previous, with Malaysia’s online shoppers growing by 47% in 2022, according to Microsoft’s internal data.

“How does this impact brands? In the background of global economic headwinds, marketers are looking to platforms where they can achieve maximum impact and bang for their buck. Combining this with a spike in online searches in the 2-week period ahead of the Lunar New Year, this is a critical time for brands. As per Microsoft's internal data, Singapore witnessed a 24% YOY uplift in Search, and Indonesia saw a significant spike of 62%, showing how important it is for brands to capture the interest of last-minute shoppers.

“Capitalising on these opportune moments is reflective of how marketers have planned their budgets this Chinese New Year; while budgets haven’t dropped, brands have moved away from a spray-and-pray approach to more a targeted and focused approach in terms of their platform investment.

“Marketers from different verticals will have to tailor-make their strategy based on the context of their brands; categories that see a definite spike during this period include Apparel, Beauty & Personal care, and Gadgets while Home & Garden and Sports & Fitness categories have gone on the back burner during the festive period. Travel is another vertical which has seen significant interest compared to the past three years, and it has an opportunity to make an impact this Chinese New Year.”

Sean O’Donnell, global brand director, Tiger Beer

“We’ve learned that companies continuously supporting and investing in their brands will build stronger brands for the long-term with consumers versus the competition. Therefore in 2023, Tiger will continue to invest in brand building and be intentional in the projects we put resources behind. We approach Lunar New Year 2023 in a very positive way and see plenty of opportunities across the region for the Tiger Brand. Our 2023 Festive Campaign, “Cheers to a Bolder tomorrow”, is very focused on communicating our Brand belief, through encouraging people to come together to celebrate their achievements during Lunar New Tear and talk openly about their dreams, which we believe is the first step towards achieving even bolder ambitions in 2023.”

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Michael Lin, senior business director, Mailman

"With CNY earlier than usual this year, and the abrupt opening of travel in China, brands have not been able to double-down this holiday season in China. However, the outlook of spend and opportunity for the year has changed dramatically with a shift in strategy that will see a greater emphasis on winning over consumer minds in China. Consumers, on the other hand, are excited to have mobility back across international borders, and we'll likely see a surge in spending from Chinese consumers over the next six months."

Winston Goh, head of marketing, Shopee Singapore

“More consumers are turning to e-commerce for their daily essentials and lifestyle needs, making it important for businesses to focus their retail strategy on elevating their customers’ online shopping experiences. For instance, in-app features such as live streaming and games help brands better engage users through interactive and more meaningful content.

“Shopee works closely with our partners to bring more value and a wider assortment of products to consumers through our well-loved year-end shopping festivals and thematic campaigns. With a shorter CNY shopping window this year than usual, many turned to our platform to start their festive shopping early, resulting in a greater volume of in-app searches on CNY-related keywords from as early as December 2022."

View the latest Chinese New Year campaigns here.

Additional reporting by Preethi Ravi.

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