Marketing

A 12-month international calendar of sales and marketing opportunities

Fi Bendall /

Diwali celebrations in Greater Kailash, New Delhi, India.

Christmas is here, and while it’s the biggest sales period for Australian retailers, there are plenty of other opportunities for festive sales globally. Festivals and celebrations are almost always times when consumers are looking to spend money on loved ones and themselves. So it makes sense to put your business in front of customers looking to buy that perfect gift.

Christmas and Easter are well-known festive periods that can help a business’s bottom line, as are occasions such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day. But why stop there? Your business could be packing a lot more festivities into its marketing and sales schedule. From St Patrick’s Day to Star Wars Day, there are all kinds of opportunities for businesses to have a bit of fun and get creative with marketing and, hopefully, celebrate with some sales too.

Not all the celebrations listed here will be relevant for every business. You will also have to do a little research and approach certain festivals with some cultural sensitivity. While it’s a great idea to celebrate cultural diversity, you also have to make sure your business does it in the right spirit, and you don’t end up inadvertently and needlessly upsetting people.

If you’re in doubt, do some research, and run your ideas past someone outside of your business who knows about the particular celebration you are interested in. Cross-cultural marketing can be tricky, so go into it with a firm idea of what you’re doing and saying.

This is far from a comprehensive list. It’s really just a starting point for you to begin thinking about what’s right for your business. If you have any more suggestions, please feel free to let me know!

Here is a list of international holidays and festivities Australian businesses and retailers could think about for sales and marketing opportunities. (Dates given are for 2019.)

January 7  Eastern Orthodox Christmas

Members of the Eastern Orthodox Christian churches, including millions of people throughout much of eastern Europe from Greece through to Russia, celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar. This means the Orthodox celebration of Christmas is usually on or near January 7.

Theoretically, your business could segue from Western Christmas celebrations in December, including Christmas Day and Boxing Day, into a round of Orthodox celebrations in early-January. That’s plenty of Christmas cheer!

However, the traditional day for gift-giving in Orthodox communities is New Year’s Day. Gifts such as foods, handicrafts and jewellery are generally popular, but Orthodox Christmas celebrations are probably not as commercial as what we have in Western countries.

February 5  Chinese New Year

The Lunar New Year, also commonly known as Chinese New Year, is a very big deal across East Asia, as well as within Chinese communities across the world. Big spending is associated with New Year celebrations, with consumption rates soaring over the past decade or so, with China’s Ministry of Commerce estimates putting sales revenue during the week-long New Year festival period at 840 billion yuan (approx $169 billion) in the retail and catering industries in 2017.

Important things to remember for Lunar New Year festivities include making sure you get things like numbers and colours right: red, yellow and gold all symbolise wealth and prosperity, while the number 8 is considered the luckiest number.

March 17  St. Patrick’s Day

If you run a pub or brewery, you probably already know all about this day celebrating the Irish Saint and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It’s not really a gift-giving day, more beer drinking really, but that doesn’t mean you can’t partake in the fun of St. Pat’s Day and run a green theme through your marketing and social media posts.  

April 22  Earth Day

One of the ways you can show your business’s commitment to the environment is by promoting and celebrating Earth Day, which has been running since 1970. Earth Day organisers say an estimated one billion people across the world take part in Earth Day events. Whether you’re a business that sells products that are sustainably made or you just care about the environment as an issue, Earth Day is a great way to let your customers know you care.

May 4  Star Wars Day

May the 4th be with you, indeed! The May the Fourth’ celebration started as a grassroots thing that spread through the internet and is now a semi-official part of Star Wars folklore. If your business already deals in Star Wars products, this day is a given. However, even if you don’t regularly sell ‘Revenge of the Sith toilet paper’ or ‘Darth Vader yoga mats’, there’s no reason you can’t get your Jedi on and have a bit of fun with the theme.  

June 4  Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr

Eid Al-Fitr is the breaking of the fast that comes at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Eid al-Adha is known as the festival of sacrifice and takes place (in 2019) from August 11-15. Food plays a big part in both these Islamic festivals and gift giving is also encouraged. Once again, do your research and be respectful of religious sensibilities and traditions before embarking on marketing or sales activities associated with these festivals.

July 4  American Independence Day

Break out the hot dogs, Budweiser and Oreo cookies, it’s time to celebrate American Independence Day! There are plenty of cultural connections and affinities between Australia and the USA, so it’s not too hard for Australian businesses to get in on the festivities and celebrate all things stars and stripes. It’s not really a gift-giving celebration, but it certainly gives businesses plenty of incentive for specially themed marketing collateral, promotions, and campaigns.

July 14  Bastille Day

As with July 4, unless you’re specifically targeting French consumers or you carry French product lines, the best way to get into the Bastille Day spirit is with appropriately themed marketing campaigns. It might also be handy to know the French don’t refer to it as Bastille Day but as ‘le 14 juillet’ (the 14 July), or ‘la fête nationale’. Food and wine businesses are most likely to be able to incorporate a French theme into their offerings.

September 12-14  Chuseok (harvest festival Korea)

Although not as famous as the Lunar New Year, this Korean harvest festival is a three-day holiday in both North and South Korea that also marks a lunar calendar event: the full harvest moon.  It is sometimes referred to as the Korean Thanksgiving Day. Gift giving is an important part of Chuseok. Oddly enough, Spam (as in the preserved canned meat product) is considered a bit of a delicacy and is a popular gift during these holidays.  

October 21  Oktoberfest

As with St. Patrick’s Day, beer plays a central role in this Bavarian celebration, which started in 1810 to mark the royal wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Obviously, brewers and pubs will have this one marked in their calendars but, as with Bastille Day and July 4, enterprising and creative marketing teams could come up with some German or Oktoberfest themes to liven up their marketing.

November 11  Single’s Day

If you need any further proof of the shift in consumer spending power to China, this is it: in terms of online sales, China’s Singles Day is much larger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Alibaba racked up $US30.8 billion worth of sales across its various platforms in 24 hours.

The voracious appetite for spending in China, and Asia more broadly, is exemplified by the popularity of Single’s Day, which was apparently started in 1993 by four Chinese university students.

According to Wikipedia: “One origin story is that in 1993, four male students of Nanjing University’s Mingcaowuzhu (“all single men”) dorm discussed how they could break away from the monotony of being single and agreed that November 11 would be a day of events and celebrations in honour of being single.”

November 7  Hindu festival of Diwali

Businesses should approach any religious festival with respect. The Hindu festival of Diwali is known as the festival of lights’ and is a bright and joyous part of life in many Indian communities. Australia’s growing Indian migrant community means Diwali’s profile and popularity is on the rise. Diwali is associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and sweets and candles are among the most popular gifts given during the festival.

December 22-30  Hannukah

Hannukah is an eight-day Jewish festival that celebrates the reclamation of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem from the Seleucids. It is a time for remembrance, which is marked by the lighting of the menorah. It is not a commercial celebration, and while gifts are given and exchanged, it’s not the central focus of Hannukah. As with other religious celebrations, take a respectful and considered approach to any marketing or sales campaigns you might be thinking of running to mark Hannukah.

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Fi Bendall

Fi Bendall is chief executive of The Female Social Network and a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, who was described by CEO Magazine as 'The CEO's Secret Weapon'. An expert and pioneer in digital strategy, she has over 23 years’ experience in the digital and tech sectors.

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