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Christmas in China: tapping into the consumer carnival

By Emily Hassett, Business development executive

Emerging Communications


The Drum Network article

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December 24, 2021 | 5 min read

Think Christmas isn’t relevant for China? Think again!

Emerging Communications consider how Christmas fares in China and how marketers can relate.

Emerging Communications consider how Christmas fares in China and how marketers can relate.

Even though it doesn’t have the same cultural significance as the West, young Chinese are jumping to engage with Christmas themes such as Santa Claus.

The implication? Your Western marketing strategy for Christmas can be adapted for China!

Discover some Christmas marketing trends in China and how western brands have incorporated these themes into their Chinese marketing below.

Celebrating Christmas in China

Christmas has been making a comeback in China and looks very different from Western customs. As with other Chinese festivals, Christmas is an opportunity for younger generations of Chinese to take a break from the stresses of their daily life and look after themselves. The now illegal ‘996 working culture’, a practice where people work from 9am to 9pm six days a week, continues to impact young Chinese, inducing stress and huge pressure. Christmas is a great opportunity for brands to tap into this trend, validating consumers’ experiences in their product messaging and encouraging purchase or gifting of products that relieve stress. In fact, data from Mintel revealed 63% of 20 to 24 year olds admit spending money to alleviate pressure and stress

These festive themes are especially popular with young Chinese women, meaning a generation of young men are annually coerced into purchasing gifts! More than 40% of male respondents reported spending 1,000+ yuan last Christmas and at a higher proportion than women, reflecting the growing expectation of expressing love through Christmas gifting. Focusing on helping male consumers to purchase a suitable gift could prove a lucrative strategy for western brands!

Let’s take a look at how some Western brands have successfully executed Christmas campaigns in China.

The 7-Up Christmas Mojito - An opportunity to escape the pressure of daily life

Understanding the needs of China’s youngest generations was the key to resonating for 7-Up. Creating a party atmosphere to allow Gen-Z followers to blow-off steam and escape day-to-day pressures resulted in an iconic campaign that will be fondly remembered by China’s Gen Z for years to come.

From a Christmas Mojito drink, to creative filters on Douyin of antlers, fairy wands and winter scenes, to sharing alcoholic drink recipes using 7-Up products - everything in this campaign encouraged followers to join in the fun! KOLs also got involved, vlogging making the recipes themselves and to top off all the online buzz, 7-Up launched their Christmas ‘Drunk’ Tavern – a pop-up bringing a fully immersive experience of the 7-Up brand to young Chinese!

KFC is the key to Christmas - anchoring the brand in the festive season

To win over China’s GenZ, it’s vital to fully immerse them in the brand and get their buy-in to the vibe of the brand. More than any other generation, huge importance is placed on the ambiance the brands build i.e. buying Christmas products just to feel ‘Christmassy’ rather than needing the products themselves.

KFC have this tactic nailed – creating a ritual of going to KFC to celebrate Christmas! In 2019, KFC China invited a group of officially trained Finnish “Santa Clauses” to travel to six cities in China, tasting the KFC Christmas breakfast items and going sightseeing, gaining much attention and popularity on social media. Their hashtag “as long as you believe” has been read 100 million timer, with high volumes of discussion from young netizens and continues to attract traffic for KFC's ongoing Christmas marketing activities, making KFC essential for Christmas in China.

This wider trend - growth in festival-based consumption

Chinese consumers are becoming more accustomed to expressing emotions through consumption during festivals with specific celebration activities and objects. By understanding users experiences’, even foreign festivals can be a huge source of enthusiasm for Chinese consumers’. Brands can create their own common ground with audiences and integrate traditions invented by marketeers into their audiences’ lives, resonating well beyond the initial campaign.

This emotional resonance is not the same as the emotion-driven Christmas marketing seen in the West, such as the iconic John Lewis Christmas ads, interpreting family values and traditional customs for modern life. In China, younger people just want to celebrate and treat themselves, relieving the stresses of everyday life. Brands that can address these emotional needs in Christmas advertising, can build a long lasting relationship with Chinese audiences as they have a more authentic voice in Christmas advertising then a native Chinese brand would. It also helps that the timing of Western festivals avoids traditional Chinese festivals, providing consumers additional reasons to celebrate. For brands wishing to invest in a lifelong connection with Chinese audiences, this is the way to go.

To learn more about the trends affecting China’s Generation Z and effectively targeting them in your marketing, download our China GenZ Guide today.

Emily Hassett, business development executive at Emerging Communications with editorial input from marketing executive Michaela Zhu.


Content by The Drum Network member:

Emerging Communications

Our mission is to fuel the growth of world-leading brands by building profitable relationships with Chinese audiences globally. Our unique insights into Chinese...

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