Lunar New Year is upon us and as the zodiac calendar rings in the Year of the Pig, business owners across the country are getting involved.
Lunar New Year, known often as Chinese New Year, is one of the biggest events on the Chinse cultural calendar, celebrating the first new moon of the Lunar Calendar and ending two-weeks later with the first full moon of the new year.
It is the Year of the Pig, one of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs, believed to represent wealth and fortune.
There will be a myriad of celebrations taking place over the next few weeks in Australian cities as hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists are expected to arrive Down Under on holiday.
Last year more than five million Chinese tourists travelled abroad during Lunar New Year, with over 220,000 coming to Australia, according to Tourism Australia data.
For businesses looking to do more business in China or just increase their brand awareness, Lunar New Year should be carefully considered.
That’s the view of Nicolas Chu, founder and chief executive of Sinorbis, a digital-marketing firm specialising in the Chinese market.
Chu tells SmartCompany businesses who are able to get cultural events such as Lunar New Year right will be able to reap the rewards in one of the world’s fastest-growing consumer markets.
“There are between one and 1.2 million Australians with Chinese ancestry and it’s by far the largest tourism market,” he says.
For Catherine Cervasio, founder of natural skincare retailer Aromababy, Lunar New Year has become an important part of the business calendar.
Cervasio has been doing business in China for a decade and says for businesses investing in the market, Lunar New Year is an important occasion.
“We can’t ignore the Chinese population in Australia and the opportunity that market represents,” she tells SmartCompany.
Cervasio is planning a private event this year for her stakeholders in her business to celebrate the Year of The Pig and will be undertaking a Lunar New Year-themed social-media engagement campaign.
“Embracing culture strengthens your brand awareness,” Cervasio says, stressing that in a market as big as China, awareness is essential.
However, Cervasio urges caution for businesses looking to get involved, citing a range of cultural complexities which need to be respected.
“You need to be careful and culturally sensitive, if you’re serious about China it’s not a get rich quick market, it’s about understanding the complexities.”
Respecting the tradition
Chu says the most important thing for businesses to keep in mind is planning is key. Rushing into a major event such as Lunar New Year is ill-advised.
“People have a tendency to look into it the week before and it’s too late … take your time and understand what people are looking for,” he advises.
There are some clear dont’s to avoid, Chu says.
While it may be the Year of the Pig, Chu says more contextual representations of the animal are preferable to the literal.
He also says while older demographics are fans of traditional takes on Lunar New Year, younger consumers are embracing a more “fun approach” to the holiday.
“It’s tempting to be overly sentimental, but if you are targeting a young audience they would probably understand something more fun,” Chu says.
Being where customers are is also important, so having a presence on Chinese social-media platform WeChat is essential, Chu adds.
Let community groups take the lead
Cervasio says engaging with the Chinese community without just trying to sell them things is the best strategy for long-term engagement.
“It’s not about sales, it’s about embracing the culture because you care — there’s an authenticity about that,” she says.
“Get hold of a really good lunar calendar and have a look at some of the days which are observed.
“Have a look at what festivities are on now and go engage with those organisations, then see how your business can incorporate some of those celebrations if they’re appropriate to your product or service.”