Chinese New Year of the Rabbit is coming up, and with it a flurry of marketing campaigns from international brands seeking to tap into the newly acquired buying power of Chinese shoppers. The stakes are high for getting it right. In this post, we look at some of the biggest wins and losses from international brands trying to make an impact during China’s most important holiday season. To figure out who hit their mark – and who dropped the ball – we’ll be looking at how well each brand managed to tailor its message to reach local audiences effectively. So grab your popcorn folks; this one’s about take off!
In this post, we will be looking at the Chinese New Year campaigns of some of the biggest international brands. We’ll look at how well each brand managed to tailor its message to reach local audiences effectively and what made their campaigns successful or unsuccessful. These brands include giant technology brands like Apple and Tesla, casual wear brands like Fila and Skechers but also luxury brands such as Gucci, Burberry and Hugo Boss. We will provide a very subjective view on how our local Chinese staff are experiencing these campaigns (with a little German touch of myself).
Automotive brand Tesla’s Chinese New Year Campaign
This year, Tesla made a splash with its Chinese New Year Campaign, thanks to its collaboration with Baidu Maps. With the goal of helping travelers get home safely for the upcoming holiday season, this campaign put out maps featuring the safest routes and Tesla-compatible charging stations – exactly what consumers wanted in order to guarantee their new energy vehicles would last during long journeys. So even when it comes to planning a trip home for the Lunar New Year, Tesla makes sure you have all the resources you need!
Tesla knows exactly what consumers are looking for and has developed a Chinese New Year campaign to address those needs. Not only does this benefit customers by helping them plan their journeys home and address potential mileage issues, it also serves as great promotion for the brand. The campaign tackles environmental concerns associated with the Lunar New Year while providing practical solutions – it’s win-win!
Apple’s Chinese New Year celebrations this year feel almost like tradition! They created a movie just like they have in years past, released special themed Airpods Pro, and even brought back the classic 4-day promotions. Customers can score discounts on anything from phones to tablets, computers, headphones, watches – all with 100 Yuan price reductions or more. It’s definitely something worth checking out if you’re ready to ring in the new year!
Rabbit themed Airpods Pro
The clever slogan of the New Year Discount – ‘跨年福利，祝你活力出跳’ – links to the upcoming Year of the Rabbit, giving everyone a chance to show off their energy. Despite it not being during Chinese New Year, you can get great discounts from December 30th 2022 to January 2nd 2023 – what better way to celebrate?
The timing of this promotion might not be ideal and discounts being on older models doesn’t quite hit the mark. It looks like Apple is trying to clear out their inventory, which unfortunately leaves a bit to be desired for those hoping for a traditional Chinese New Year celebration! The internet jokingly said, “Even if it clears inventory, Apple doesn’t want to extend the discount” – and with such a limited time frame, disappointing those looking for the latest mobile phone!
But apart from the criticism Apple also knows how to inspire people: In 2018, Apple began to cooperate with big directors in the project of “Making movies with iphone”, and since then, it has delivered a New Year’s micro-movie to China audiences every year. On January Since 2018, Apple has partnered with renowned directors to create movies using iPhones – and on January 12th 2023, they released the short film “Mount Numerous Difficulties 《过五关》” to Chinese audiences. The 17-minute movie honored those who worked hard, through Peking Opera, despite the numerous challenges of 2022.
Apple was wise to release their micro-movies as an open-screen advertisement on Douyin – with its largest user base in China, it ensures maximum exposure; and the Peking Opera theme will certainly strike a chord with Chinese audiences.
The micro-movie was filmed using an Apple smartphone – and what better way to get viewers to appreciate the quality of their devices than by providing a direct link to the official website? It’s no surprise that this is an effective way for Apple to drive sales.
Apple’s attempt at celebrating the Chinese New Year was lacking. All they did was paint their AirPods in a new theme, ignoring the festive days when promotions and discounts should be taking place – that’s not very clever for a company whose flagship product is a camera-enabled phone used to create an annual movie!
On December 15th 2022, SKECHERS gave the world a surprise by launching the “Look at me in the Year of the Rabbit” children’s collection, which included everything from “red envelope shoes” to truly unique and exciting clothing products. They made sure to capture the spirit of Chinese New Year and its sense of ritual in their celebration!
Skechers puts a lot of thought into their product designs – weaving Chinese culture and the zodiac into their CNY collection so it really resonates with people. That’s why they stand out in their New Year advertisements!
In the Battle for Red Envelopes (2023 TVC Ad video), kids got creative when trying to win the blessing and red envelope from their elders. The other two children said their pieces, but it took the protagonist’s keen eye for Skechers’ slogan – “Advance by Leaps and Bounds” (“兔”飞猛进) – to get that special something! It is very in line with the slogan of SKECHERS “Look at me in the Year of the Rabbit, I will win by surprise #兔年看我，出奇制胜#”.
Skechers has chosen to extend their Chinese zodiac design from last year into this one, but with a couple of tweaks! They’ve narrowed the audience by focusing on children’s and parent-child series and added “red envelope shoes” to the mix. Although somewhat lacklustre, it’s as if they are trying to recreate the success they experienced last year!
Fila have really nailed their Chinese New Year look by incorporating a young, Chinese rabbit cartoon motif into their campaign images – posing together with human models and making it a feature of their themed clothes! It’s sweet, cute and oh-so stylish.
It’s pretty smart of a fashion label to stay in touch with Chinese pop culture by showcasing a fun and youthful vibe that many young adults love. Going down the traditional Chinese route can be a bit of a minefield; get it right and you’re golden, but fail to pay attention to any detail and you could come across as culturally unaware!
Luxury brand HUGO BOSS “What’s up doc?” didn’t get it right
Hugo Boss’ posters are a hit with the mid-twenties Chinese crowd – they’ve got “cute rabbits” (hence the loyal fans) and a splash of traditional Chinese red. It’s a winning combination!
But there’s a catch – the horizontal landscape means that mobile and desktop users have to twist their necks awkwardly to get the full effect of the poster, leading to less engagement and higher bounce rates. Ouch!
Hugo Boss is pulling out all the stops – English words like ‘Chapter’ and ‘to’ (which sounds just like the Chinese word for ‘rabbit’) may be music to the ears of many, but not all Chinese speakers are quite so fluent in English.
For the Chinese readers, it’s a race against the clock – they need to decipher those tricky homophones quickly if they’re going to get on board with the post. Otherwise, the repost might have to wait…
Hugo Boss is adding some fire to CNY with a fashion line featuring Chinese red, plus a Warner Brothers Looney Tunes partnership featuring Bugs Bunny. Our CEO Kun Tang states: “I am not aware of any smaller cities – Tier 2 or 3 – where people under 35 know Looney Tunes”. He’s spot on – when my Chinese colleague called Bugs Bunny a “cute rabbit”, it was clear that the brand may need to dig deeper into a more local rabbit icon (like Fila did) if they want young Chinese customers to pay attention.
Gucci is welcoming the Year of Rabbits in style! Models are cuddling up to fluffy bunnies amongst a dreamy sea of flowers. And – in what looks like an effort to represent a diverse range of cultures – the models are 50% Asian, and 50% everything else. Have a look:
Have you seen the new GUCCI ad? It’s so full of colour – red, pink, yellow and light blue – but for some reason everything looks a little gloomy. Is there something deeper going on here? Or maybe GUCCI is just trying to show us how complex emotions can be.
Talk about ironic! GUCCI, a member of the Fur Free Alliance, has gone and added a hat made of real rabbit fur to their collection for Chinese New Year. Is this really what animal rights looks like? Killing the zodiac animal of the Chinese lunar year 2023 to celebrate the same – it’s enough to make you shake your head in disbelief!
Did the GUCCI marketing team get a bit carried away? Did someone give them some bad advice? Using images of rabbits to promote items that could harm them just doesn’t seem very appropriate when it’s the Year of the Rabbit!
Moncler isn’t launching an all-out campaign for the Year of the Rabbit, but they do have some rabbit-themed clothing! From 大展宏图 (score big points) to 大展宏’兔’ (that’s “rabbit” in Chinese), and ‘rabbit’ elements incorporated into the new products – it looks like Moncler is paying homage to our furry friends!
Is it a good thing or a bad thing? We can’t really say – probably somewhere in between. But the Moncler fans will be excited, that much we know. Everyone else? ¯(ツ)/¯
Ferragamo’s new creative director went all out with the Spring Festival collection, retaining the classic and traditional Chinese red while adding a twist with the iconic rabbit’s red eyes. A modern take on a timeless classic that stands out among other luxury brands – what more could you want?
Maximilian Davis did an amazing job with the Year of the Rabbit collection. It’s classic Chinese painting meets modern design – so you can still recognize it as authentically Chinese and appreciate the fresh spin! It’s no secret why Ferragamo has won the CNY product marketing challenge. They deftly combined traditional Chinese painting with modern design – proving that old can be new again!
Armani brought in Chinese superstar Yiyang Qianxi (Jackson Yee) to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit. Together they shot a stunning series of images – all featuring coats with a custom logo just for the occasion!
Armani’s campaign had it all. Jackson Yee’s fans spread the word, and readers could collect a lucky red envelope. Plus, their poster was eye-catching – a vertical landscape featuring traditional Chinese red and glamorous figures!
Everything from Armani was designed with the Chinese audience in mind – easy to use, beautiful, and oh-so-concise, perfect for those looking to get the message without wasting time.
The Chinese New Year is a time when families come together, no matter where they’re located. A festive celebration like no other, it’s an occasion to reunite and fill the room with joy, just like Christmas in Christian countries.
It looks like Burberry was trying to capture the ‘family reunion’ spirit – but instead, what they got was an emotionless, dystopian-looking image with grey hues and a splash of red – too bad the luxury Burberry fashion wouldn’t bring them any joy!
We couldn’t make sense of what Burberry was trying to say here. Did they mean, “Bring a splash of color to life’s grey days with Burberry”? It was definitely a miss – Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations don’t exactly call for an Addams family style! 🤦♀️
It’s no secret that some brands know how to party better than others this Chinese New Year – not just taking cultural sensitivities into consideration, but creating visuals and messaging that truly resonate with their customers and make the experience one to remember!
Tesla came out on top this Chinese New Year, with a helpful Baidu map tool for planning long trips and finding charging points. Apple may have dropped the ball when it comes to timing, but Fila definitely made up for it – tugging on heartstrings with their cuddly Chinese cartoon bunnies!
Ouch, looks like Hugo Boss fell short with their Bugs Bunny shoutout – c’mon kids, it’s a classic! Balenciaga and Burberry showed no rabbit love, but Gucci flipped the script by selling real rabbit fur hats – despite being against animal cruelty. Talk about a doozy!
Our recommendation: Chinese brands should pay close attention to the Chinese culture and the feelings and emotions connected with the traditions when it comes to interpreting Chinese New Year celebrations in their own advertising campaigns.
It looks like only Ferragamo and Emporio Armani REALLY got the memo for Chinese New Year 2023. Got any faves? Let us know in the comments over here on LinkedIn: