Lunar New Year Marketing to Asian Americans

By February 29, 2016 May 18th, 2017 Asian, Insights
Happy Lunar New Year from us at TDW+Co!

Happy Lunar New Year from us at TDW+Co!

Over the last couple decades, it has been well-established that the Asian American consumer segment is strong and growing—and not just in population. As a group, they exceed the national average in education, income, and affluence. Chinese-Americans in particular receive a lot of attention from brands as part of a multicultural marketing strategy in countless consumer arenas.

Something that many of the various cultures in this segment bring with them is a celebration that can rival the Christmas holiday season in both spending and red décor: Lunar New Year. So how do you market to this segment for this holiday in a sensitive, relevant, and attention-catching way? Consider some of the following:

Who Celebrates “Chinese New Year”?

Well, more people than just Chinese and Chinese Americans, that’s for sure. This collection of similar holidays is known as Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, and is honored by many cultures and ethnicities in Asia, and by extension, their expats and descendants in the USA. These include Korean, Mongolian, Singaporean, Malaysian, Indonesian, Tibetan, and Vietnamese populations, among others.

Though Chinese do make up the largest part of the various Southeast Asian populations in the United States with some 3.5 million individuals, there are still over a million Vietnamese and a million Koreans living here, not to mention many other sizable ethnic groups.

To market successfully to the Asian-American segment during Lunar New Year, you can’t just slap some Mandarin on your creative and call the job done. To spread your message to the correct languages and cultures, you must find the breakdown of ethnic segments in the areas you’re targeting, including which generations of immigration the audience is in. This can determine which mediums you advertise with, what languages to use (and if you should go for bilingual messaging), and how exactly you phrase things.

A Sino-centric approach to your brand’s proclaimed celebration could easily alienate other ethnic groups, who’ve had either direct grievances with China or indirect offense at the Western view of Chinese culture representing the whole of Asia.

How Can Marketers Take Part in Lunar New Year Traditions?

Regardless of nationality, Lunar New Year is culturally significant for similar reasons as the Gregorian calendar’s New Year; it’s a time to reflect on the previous year, look into the new year and what can be done better, spend time with family, and enjoy countless fireworks.

Refresh Your Possessions

Instead of making explicit inward-facing resolutions, celebrators will make amends and reconcile with others, re-establish old connections, give each other gifts, buy and wear new clothes, and clean their homes both literally and figuratively. It’s a time to refresh everything, which is a good entry point as a marketer for both messaging and products.

Making mention of shedding your old self and starting anew can get participation in things from gym memberships to community service, and move anything from cleaning products to cars. Pay lip service to the number 8 in prices, quantities, and messaging—it’s considered very lucky to the Chinese.

Lucky Envelopes & Bags

Another consideration for brands are the lucky red envelopes filled with money given to the children of the family by elders or by bosses to employees. Not only to do some markets gain disposable income, but the celebration itself encourages them to spend it. The tradition is not something sheltered from consumerism, but instead embraced in advertising as nostalgic reminders of childhood, of responsibility as elders, and the promise of future prosperity.

Plus, a tradition long practiced by shops in China and other Asian countries is the Lucky Bag, which is essentially a gift with purchase during the week of Lunar New Year festivities. Sometimes, the items in the bag truly are random to create a luck element, and sometimes they’re always the same just to express gratitude. Regardless, this built-in marketing tactic is ready for use, especially for 1st-generation immigrant populations who remember the practice from their youth.

Painting the Town Red

In terms of décor, red lanterns and signs will be put up everywhere, along with images of the lunar zodiac animal of the year. You’ve probably noticed merchandise, store signage, apps, and digital ads take on these attributes for this celebration. They can serve as a signifier of Lunar New Year promotions, but their inclusion isn’t enough on their own. Artful execution is important, not just throwing it on.

Dragons Dancing in the Streets

In the US, massive parades celebrate the occasion in cities with large Asian-American populations, like New York and San Francisco. Costumed dancers and yes, dragons, march through town. Traditional foods that symbolize important cultural concepts like wealth or longevity will be served both at home and restaurants alike. Though not a national public holiday here, parties, night markets, and promotions can last a week or more.

Notable Spring Festival Executions

Themed Merchandise:

Estee lauder LNY

Cultural Display and Social Media:

British Airways LNY

Brand Participation:

Google LNY

If you can’t tell, that’s from Google’s home page on the first day of Lunar New Year.

TDW+Co’s Approach to Marketing

Since multicultural marketing is one of our marquee services, we approach nuanced cultural displays with one-part homage, one-part originality. See some of our past Lunar New Year campaigns below.

The Digital Lucky Bag


We took the traditional Lucky Bag promotion and brought it into the digital age for Verizon Wireless. Leading up to the giveaway, we advertised special promos going on at select Verizon stores. During Lunar New Year, we gave a virtual lucky bag (in blazing Verizon red) to customers, which contained an augmented reality experience. By scanning a code within the bag, customers could view an 3D AR globe and instructions for a contest which could win them and a friend a trip to Asia plus a Verizon Global Ready smartphone to take with them. It gave the Lucky Bag a greater element of chance and excitement, brought it into the modern day, and offered any Asian Americans who participated an opportunity to go visit family back home.

Year of the Monkey Calendar

PGE LNY Calendar 3

For an energy company in California, we created a classic New Year’s calendar filled with traditional coloring and illustrations of the zodiac animals, with a slight twist—each month comes with practical wisdom about saving energy for your home and your city relevant to that time of year.
These were distributed to partner Asian-food grocery stores for consumers to take home and at Lunar New Year parades, and were advertised in several in-language newspapers in the heart of international districts.

Concerts, Parades, and Parties

lny_blog_imgOf course, what would Lunar New Year be without a celebration? We’ve thrown LNY parties of all types through the years, such as floats, concerts featuring Asian-American musicians, and branded booths coast to coast–from California to New York City. This year, we held a pre-Lunar New Year parade thank-you reception for a client’s participants in San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade. The reception included Chinese food, appreciation by company executives, and coverage by local Asian press.

Feeling inspired to reach this fast-growing American consumer market, but not sure how your brand can fit in tastefully and respectfully? Just get in touch with TDW+Co’s team, and we’d be happy to bring you a bit of luck and prosperity.