Spring Festival Marketing: Win or Lose, There is no Middle Ground

Try to be inclusive, loving without being cheesy.

From what I perceive, there are two major ways of successfully executing a marketing campaign during the spring festival. Either you have a good family story that has you sobbing, until all the exiled workers feel a strong desire to go back to the warmth and security of childhood. Or, you have the usual gimmicks, inviting celebrities to dress up in red from head to toe, smile brightly, adorned with some auspicious greetings, whatever that is.

This year, iPhone Xs definitely played the emotional card, maybe not a tear fest per se, but a message that goes straight to the heart.

Just like the song goes, “The place you can never come back to is called hometown, and the destination you are always longing for is called a distant place.

The phone manufacturer presented a short film named “The Bucket”, made by Jia Zhangke, the leading figure of the “six generation” movement of Chinese cinema. What’s special about this film is that it is shot with an iPhone Xs.

short film “The Bucket” shot with iPhone Xs (source: GSMArena)

The sharpness and high definition of the footage is in no way inferior to a professional cinema motion picture. However, despite the usage of an iPhone Xs, the rest of the filming equipment used is obviously blockbuster quality. The humid and mountainous scenery in Chongqing, a southern city in China, also gives it a very refreshing ambiance.

Filled with sand and newly laid eggs, the bucket is heavy for the son to carry all the way back to the city after the spring festival, yet what’s heavier is his mother’s loving heart.

Our hometown represents the most tender, untouchable part in our hearts. Many Chinese people associate a certain melancholy with the Chinese New Year, and everything that comes with it. After a year filled with Didi ride hailing and Meituan food deliveries, a rural touch is exactly what we have been longing for.

A pretty boy for a “masculiner” commercial

Another eye-catching ad is the NBA commercial for the Chinese New Year Celebration.

In the Chinese New Year video, Cai Xukun, a rising young star discovered through a talent show, makes his first official appearance as the NBA’s Chinese New Year Celebration Ambassador, posing beside muscular NBA stars.

Cai Xukun in NBA commercial (source: China Film Insider)

Slim, pointed chin and with heavy makeup, he looks nothing like the basketball player type. Some sports fans even accused him of being a sissy.

But then many also love to see the stark contrast, we live in an inclusive and free era after all. Since we have pretty boys doing lipstick and foundation commercials, then why not NBA commercials? They don’t need him to do a free-throw, they just need to reach a wider audience.

Another new idol that got her debut in Chinese New Year marketing is Yang Chaoyue. She was the “chosen girl” in the girls group talent show Produce 101 and ended up signing a deal with the Big M, McDonald’s. Her naive and purely adorable look perfectly matches the style of the food.

Yang Chaoyue in McDonalds commercial (source: 麦当劳中国)

Chinese youngsters totally love Mcdonald’s! Much more than KFC.

The Chief Marketing Officer of McDonald’s said, “Gold represents good luck and affluence during the Spring Festival. The ‘Golden Arch’ has become a nickname for McDonald’s customers in China. So we chose gold as the theme of McDonald’s Spring Festival marketing, sharing the golden luck with all our customers.”

Red and gold for the Spring Festival! Sounds very Lannister…

Commercial? More like a horror film..

“Did someone die over Christmas?” Burberry has been terribly mocked for its Chinese New Year ad campaign featuring two Chinese actresses. The ad, however failed to deliver the right atmosphere for the Chinese New Year.

Ethan James Green, the man behind the masterpiece, is an ex-model and talented photographer, who is deeply immersed in the fashion industry, but clearly could have done better with the localization of the ad.

Burberry’s Spring Festival ad (source: 蛋蛋赞)

The stern and indifferent looks on the models’ faces make it seem like they come from some creepy horror film. To put it simply, nobody smiles, and everyone is frozen in strangely paralyzed postures, might work in a Calvin Klein ad but here it just gives off the wrong vibe.

One of the actresses that starred the advertisement said, “Family portrait is a very warm concept, and it also delivers a sense of ceremony. Nowadays, most young people are far away from home to fight for their dreams in big cities, so that going home and family reunion becomes more precious and makes a family portrait taken each year all the more meaningful.”

See? Warm concept and a sense of ceremony. But it looks like a ritual scene from some type of religious cult.

The point is, if you are not sure about spring festival marketing, the safest bet is to make it heartwarming, happy and silly. Family reunions are about laughter and warmth, clearly not suitable for avant-garde art or high fashion bourgeoisie.

Featured photo credit to tech.ifeng.com