18 inspiring Chinese New Year marketing campaigns 2021: Most creative, artistic, game changing and culturally competent
Lunar New Year is one of the most important and beloved holidays in China. On New Year’s Eve, Chinese families reunite and gather around the festive table, sharing their favorite dishes, handing out red envelopes of cash, and spreading good wishes for the New Year. Brands use this holiday to showcase their localization through specialized Chinese New Year marketing campaigns. We chose 18 brands which made standout Chinese New Year marketing campaigns in 2021.
Our team evaluated the Chinese New Year marketing campaigns based on 6 criteria:
- Creativity and adaptability – the ability to come up with never-before-seen ideas in an increasingly crowded market. While all marketing campaigns are ‘creative’ to some extent, the campaigns that ranked highly in creativity resonated with Chinese audiences through clever localization methods and using humor.
- Artistic appeal/aesthetics – as the lunar New Year is a festive holiday, brands make the packaging or product aesthetically pleasing and intricately designed to match the cheerful atmosphere.
- Positive impact – whether through philanthropy, sustainability or through empowering consumers. These campaigns are uplifting and inspiring while making the world a better place.
- Game-changing – these trailblazing campaigns did something unique, and thanks to their success, will likely be followed by other brands in the future.
- Emotionally moving – many brands used heartwarming means to resonate with the audience, such as bringing up family memories, or showing appreciation. While other brands moved us through humor and optimism.
- Cultural competence – this criterion shows how well the brand understands Chinese culture. This is the time of year when brands are often judged by their ability to localize, and there are often as many slip-ups as there are successes.
18 Chinese New Year marketing campaigns of 2021
Source: YouTube, Analysis by daxue consulting, Chinese new year marketing campaigns of 2021
For their 2021 Chinese New Year marketing campaign, Apple has launched a short film shot on an iPhone 12. American filmmaker Lulu Wang directed this film. The film Nian is a modern-day portrayal of the legendary Chinese New Year monster Nian (年兽). According to legend, this creature comes to villages in the middle of winter in search of food. It is afraid of red colors and loud noise. Hence the Chinese people put the red lanterns on houses and blow up loud firecrackers on the streets. The short film evokes positive emotions and gives a message that curiosity and courage can help overcome fear.
Source: YouTube, Analysis by daxue consulting, Chinese new year marketing campaigns of 2021
Adidas in China and Shanghai advertising agency Hypemaker created a festive and fast-paced short film. In this campaign, the director decided to show how Chinese people celebrate Lunar New Year: some people party with friends, some gather with family. Famous Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei, Hong Kong singer Eason Chan, Taiwanese actress Janine Chang and Chinese singer Jackson Yee play the main characters. In the film we also can see the Ox – the symbol of CNY 2021. This campaign earned Adidas a high rating in cultural competence, meaning that the athletic apparel brand proved they really understand Chinese culture.
Source: The Brick Fan, Analysis by daxue consulting
The Danish toy manufacturer Lego is actively boosting sales in China. In 2017, the company overtook local giant Alpha Group to become a leading toy company. China continues to be a key market for Lego, with revenues growing in double digits compared to single digits in the US and Europe. For the Chinese New Year marketing campaign in 2021, Lego released a short video that recreates the magical atmosphere of the Lantern Festival. It is a holiday concluding the lunar new year’s celebrations. The video shows a Chinese garden with a moon gate, a pavilion, a fish pond and a special lantern with the Ox symbol. Lego also included in the video such holiday attributes as a rabbit lantern and a Tang Yuan rice ball.
Source: Burberry, Analysis by daxue consulting
Burberry is a British brand, manufacturer of luxury clothing, accessories and perfume. As of 2020, Burberry in China had over 57 stores in 31 mainland Chinese cities, including eight in Beijing, nine in Shanghai and three in Hangzhou. Burberry’s sales in China are growing significantly faster than any other region. Burberry has a successful marketing strategy in China that helped it to increase sales.
For the Chinese New Year, Burberry launched campaign including a short film called A New Awakening (新春由你) and a collection featuring a limited-edition monogram based on the Chinese zodiac. The film, directed by Derek Tsang and starring Zhou Dongyu and brand ambassador Song Weilong, shows the true essence of the Chinese New Year: welcoming the arrival of the new year. The film leads the viewer to experience the ups and downs of the protagonist’s life through the intertwined images of love, friendship and family affection. The main characters wear the pieces of new 2021 collection. The collection includes trench coats, sportswear, pumps, sneakers, rubber boots, scarves, sunglasses, baseball caps with horns. The iconic Burberry Olympia pocket bag also features the Ox symbol.
Source: Dao Insights, Analysis by daxue consulting
For the Chinese New Year 2021, McCafé has prepared a campaign representing nostalgia marketing in China. McCafé used the popular Chinese children’s TV series The Big Pinwheel 大风车. It has been popular in China since the 90s and focuses on education and entertainment.
Uncle Dong Hao 董浩叔 叔 – The Big Pinwheel’s first host in an advertising campaign turns the wheel, and the four children-participants talk about what they expect from the future. The four key issues are career, marriage, health and wealth. These are the topics that families in China usually discuss when they gather for the Lunar New Year. Our analysts found this campaign both emotionally moving and creative.
Source: YouTube, Analysis by daxue consulting
Ferrero Group is a famous Italian confectionery and chocolate brand. For the 2021 Chinese New Year the company created a short video. The plot is as follows: Chinese girl brings Italian boyfriend to meet her family on the Chinese New Year. He presents Ferrero Rocher as a gift and family happily greets him. This marketing campaign evokes smile and brings positive emotions, making customers see Ferrero as a good gift for the Chinese New Year.
Source: Douyin, Analysis by daxue consulting
According to Euromonitor International, Oreo is one of the most popular cookie brands in China. However, Oreo faces bigger hurdles to growth, and consumers in China are curious and willing to try new things. Therefore, for Chinese New Year 2021, the company launched a cookie with a new lychee flavor. It will hit stores in China for a few months. The new packaging also contains an image of the Ox, as well as Chinese characters symbolizing the Lunar New Year. The Oreos lychee box contains eight small sachets wrapped in red and gold. Oreo also leveraged Douyin marketing in China and launched a video on this platform. The artistic and festive video shows traditional Chinese entertainment, holiday attributes such as dragon, food, fireworks and lanterns.
Source: Time Out, Analysis by daxue consulting
Starbucks is the largest coffee shop chain in the world and entered the Chinese market in 1999. While tea is the most popular beverage in the country, Starbucks in China has seen sales rise. For the coffee chain’s Chinese New Year marketing campaign in 2021, Starbucks has released commemorative products. The Starbucks Chinese New Year 2021 collection uses red, white, gold and black to symbolize good fortune and prosperity in China. This also includes an image of an ox and flowers. This collection consists of over 20 hot and cold drink containers and various trinkets for good luck. In addition, Starbucks is also releasing a set of Chinese New Year gift certificates in red bags. This includes $30 gift vouchers, one complimentary high size beverage voucher (354 ml), and one buy-one-share-one beverage voucher. This new year special ranked highly on artistic appeal and aesthetics.
Source: Hennessy, Analysis by daxue consulting
French spirits manufacturer Hennessy has released a special brandy for Chinese New Year 2021. This is a limited edition created by Chinese artist Liu Wei. The colorful palette, inspired by spring, symbolizes endless possibilities and growth. Liu Wei chooses a color palette to express the cheerfulness of spring. This product includes a gold embossed gift box, what contributes to the positive impression in terms of aesthetics.
Source: World Today, Analysis by daxue consulting
As a part of the Chinese New Year marketing campaign, visitors of KFC China receive Pokemon-themed toys, including a Pikachu music box. In addition, the assortment also includes a figure of pop star Jigglypuff and Pikachu holding a traditional red envelope. This adorable and nostalgic campaign ranked highly as appealing to the emotions and cultural competence.
Source: Time Out, Analysis by daxue consulting
Shanghai Tang is a Hong Kong luxury fashion house founded in 1994. It produces household items, focusing on porcelain. For the Chinese New Year marketing campaign 2021, Shanghai Tang launched a set of chopsticks. This limited edition invites consumers to enjoy a New Year’s Eve dinner using ox-design chopsticks. They are red and magenta and come in a red gift box. There are only 100 sets of these sticks available worldwide.
Source: MAC, Analysis by daxue consulting
Cosmetics company MAC has launched a special collection for the Chinese New Year 2021. This limited edition, inspired by the TV series Story of Yanxi Palace, includes 12 pieces. Lipsticks, Cream Lip Stain and pastel-colored eyeshadows created especially for the Lunar New Year attract customers by their artistic appeal. While the brand ranked well in artistic appeal, it did not rank as high in cultural competence.
Source: Apple, Analysis by daxue consulting
Another part of Apple’s Chinese New Year campaign 2021 is a limited edition AirPods Pro. Simple and elegant, the earphones case decorated with the Ox symbol attracts customers by its aesthetic look.
Source: Nike, Analysis by daxue consulting
Nike, the popular sportswear, footwear and accessories brand, has always made good impressions with its new year’s campaigns. This year, the brand launched a special capsule collection dedicated to the Chinese lunar year. This Ox-inspired has included the Nike Air Jordan 1 Low CNY. It symbolizes fairs during Chinese holidays and their key themes: firecracker, Chinese knot and spring bloom. The sneakers came for sale on January 31st. They combine classic black and red with floral designs. They also feature an ox embroidery with gold trim and metallic gold thread. Lotus root tassels tied with red thread complete the New Year’s design of the sneaker. Nike decided to pay attention to the cultural characteristics of China, which shows its cultural competence.
Source: Tiger Beer, Analysis by daxue consulting
Tiger Beer is from Singapore, and Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd has owned this trademark since 1932. Today, it is the largest Asian beer brand available in over 70 countries on five continents. For their 2021 Chinese New Year marketing campaign, Tiger Beer launched limited edition cans of Tiger Beer and Tiger Crystal. Cans in red and gold colors represent success. When combined, the symbols on the cans make up the greeting “旺事如意,” which means prosperity. Consumers can also scan QR codes on banks and see exclusive augmented reality visuals. They also get access to the Tiger Beer website and have a chance to win free merchandise.
Source: Longchamp, Analysis by daxue consulting
Longchamp is a French luxury leather goods company. Founded in 1948, this company has gained worldwide popularity. It has a wide production of small leather goods such as wallets, passport covers and so on. Longchamp has launched a limited edition Le Pliage® Cuir for the Chinese New Year 2021, dedicated to the year of the Ox. On the bag you can see the image of the Ox chewing on a stem of a chamomile. This collection also includes two accessories: a bag charm with the Ox symbol, and a bag charm in the form of a miniature milk bottle for a baby.
Source: Fresh, Analysis by daxue consulting
Fresh is an American cosmetic company owned by LVMH group focusing on skin-care products. In 2017 LVMH in China introduced Fresh via Tmall brand store. For the Chinese New Year 2021 Fresh launched a limited-edition Kombucha Facial Treatment Essence. It has a beautiful red package with gold floral symbols for the festive season. Kombucha has its roots as an ancient Chinese beverage that helps to detox and has energizing properties. Using Chinese organic ingredients in the cosmetic products is a new trend that helps to attract Chinese consumers. Despite Kombucha being rooted in China, the product did not rank highly in cultural competence, but ranked highly in artistic appeal.
Source: Harry Winston, Analysis by daxue consulting
Harry Winston, Inc. is an American jeweler and manufacturer of Swiss watches. The company, founded in 1932, is one of the most prestigious jewelry manufacturers in the world. For Chinese New Year 2021, the company launched a limited edition of just eight pieces, which in Chinese tradition, the number eight is lucky. The combination of red and gold also brings good luck and prosperity according to the traditions of China. We can see the symbol of the Ox in 18K rose gold on the dial. The gift box also features a combination of red and gold with silk screen printing.
What we can learn from these 2021 Chinese New Year marketing campaigns
- Cultural competence is now more important than ever. Chinese consumers have a newfound sense of cultural pride, and they won’t give time to brands that do not respect their culture. Brands that ranked high in cultural competence not only matched the colors and the annual zodiac, but had an overall festive campaign that combined many elements.
- While many Chinese appreciate campaigns that are emotionally moving, the lunar New Year is not a time for somber or serious campaigns. “Moving” campaigns tend to include elements like family or humor.
- While some brands create a new year’s special product and move on, it is the brands that take the next step to create a memorable video campaign that make a bigger impression. Videos, including live-streaming, are key to making an impression in 2021.