Modern Marketing Agency

How to strike it lucky this Lunar New Year

By Andy Nairn |

February 3, 2022 | 5 min read

Conventional marketing wisdom teaches us to accentuate the positive, but many of the greatest campaigns in history have been inspired by a negative, notes Andy Nairn the founder of Lucky Generals.

At this time of year, millions of people across Asia celebrate the new lunar year and wish each other good fortune for the months ahead. The various traditions might vary from country to country but they often show the influence of luck in this part of the world.

It’s a far cry from Anglo-Saxon business circles, where luck is literally a four-letter word and looked down on, as the deadly enemy of hard work and talent. Only 2% of English-language management textbooks even mention the subject. But my 25+ years as a strategist have taught me that this is yet another example where the West could learn much from the East. Put simply, luck often plays a far greater role in business than we care to admit and we are much more likely to change our fortunes if we accept they exist in the first place.

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Many experiments have now proven the age-old belief that helping others can come back to benefit the giver

Take the idea of practicing gratitude, which is at the heart of many Eastern religions. There is now a huge body of research that shows that people who consciously appreciate the good things in their lives are more likely to succeed – and I think the same applies to organizations. Often companies overlook valuable assets right under their noses – from their heritage to their provenance, their data to their owned media, their visual icons to their name. So frequently, the job of an agency or marketing department is simply to shine a light on these treasures that have somehow become forgotten or over-familiar. To remind ourselves how lucky we are, in other words.

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Or what about the idea of turning misfortune into good fortune, which is also so central to many Asian philosophies and folk tales? Conventional marketing wisdom teaches us to accentuate the positive, but many of the greatest campaigns in history have been inspired by a negative. For instance, a product flaw has been flipped into an advantage. A category taboo (the word is Polynesian, by the way) has been embraced, rather than avoided. A small budget has inspired greater creativity or a tight deadline has forced a new approach. Psychologists have shown that the ability to reframe problems as opportunities is a key contributor to individual success – so maybe corporations should be more mindful of this too?

Then there’s karma: another ancient concept from the East which Western science has only just caught up with. Many experiments have now proven the age-old belief that helping others can come back to benefit the giver. What I find interesting in the original idea is that there’s no expectation of a return: benefactors do their good deeds because it’s the right thing to do, rather than because they want lavish praise or immediate payback. At a time when many organizations are grappling with the potential and pitfalls of brand purpose, maybe this points to the way forward? Let’s concentrate more on our actions and less on virtue signaling to others. Good luck will result from our generous deeds, but not if we are only performing them to show off or (worse still) cover-up.

Talking of karma, I feel I’ve been very fortunate throughout my career so have written a book about how we can all improve our brands’ luck – with all the royalties going to help disadvantaged youngsters get into the creative industries. If you’re interested, you can buy Go Luck Yourself at all the usual places. Although if you’re celebrating Chinese New Year, please don’t get it just yet – as buying books right now is, of course, considered unlucky during this period!

Andy Nairn is the founder of Lucky Generals and the author of the book, Go Luck Yourself.

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