Engaging Asian-Australian communities during Lunar New Year

his blog was written by Lindy Ung, MultiConnexions Intern.

Every second new moon of the year, Lunar New Year, or ‘Spring Festival’ (Chūnjié, 春节), as it is more commonly known in China, is a special time for family to get together and celebrate new beginnings.

In the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, the first solar term (known as Lìchūn: 立春 ‘Start of Spring’) signals the gradual warming of the year as the sun moves into its celestial position between the winter solstice and spring equinox. In this way, Lunar New Year not only welcomes the arrival of the new moon, but traditionally the beginning of spring and the new harvest.

More than 1.5 billion people all over the world celebrate Lunar New Year each year, from countries such as China, Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Each nation has its own unique customs, rituals and traditions, but the sentiment is the same: to spend time with loved ones and share in each other’s happiness.

In the two weeks leading up to Lunar New Year, people hurry to buy scarlet decorations (a colour symbolising prosperity and happiness), delicious treats and gifts in honour of this sacred holiday. Houses are also swept clean beforehand to invite new energy into homes. This year, Lunar New Year fell on Saturday 25 January, marking 2020 as the Year of the Rat.

During Pre-Vietnamese Lunar New Year or Tết preparations, flowering Hoa Mai or yellow apricot blossoms (common in Southern Vietnam), and Hoa Đào, or pink cherry blossoms (common in Northern Vietnam) adorn homes. Red paper banners with gold lettering also cover the walls and Mam Ngu Qua (five-fruit tray) are placed on shrines for ancestral worship.

Meanwhile, food holds special significance for its role in family bonding. In Korea, the traditional New Year’s meal is a steaming broth of thinly sliced rice cakes called tteokguk, while in Japan, Osechi Ryori – an assortment of New Year delicacies including sweet rolled omelette and black beans -, are packed neatly into black lacquer bento boxes. In China, steamed fish, dumplings (jiaozi, 餃子) and spring rolls are considered lucky to eat in the New Year.

The meaning of family

Family reunions are an important theme for the millions of people celebrating Lunar New Year all over the world.

For the Chinese community in Australia, going back to China to reunite with family is a common occurrence. Loved ones express their well wishes, appreciation and gratitude to one another with ‘hongbao’ or red envelopes. Young children, single family members and retirees typically reap most of the fortune. Nowadays, digital red pockets can be gifted to others on this occasion and be received in turn on the popular Chinese social media messaging platform, WeChat.

In recent years, brands have sought to leverage the communal spirit of Lunar New Year by weaving the theme of family into their advertising campaigns. Nike’s 2020 Lunar New Year Ad The Great Chase is one such playful example incorporating family tradition that has resonated with Chinese consumers for its insight into the hongbao gifting tradition. Similarly, Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro ad Daughter launched in January 2020 for its thoughtful portrayal of old family wounds being healed.

The importance of ritual

The customs, rituals and activities held on Lunar New Year is what makes it a highly anticipated occasion every year.

In Australia and beyond, neighbourhoods with large East Asian and South East Asian communities hold vibrant Lunar New Year celebrations, markets and festivals that attract tens of thousands of visitors.

Lanterns are strung up along public spaces, gongs and drums resound in earnest, lion and dragon dances parade the streets, and fireworks crackle the air, lingering with the mouth-watering smells of festive Asian cuisine. In China, firecrackers are set off that leave red paper shreds in their wake, serving to scare Nian, the beast that rises from the sea and mountains to devour human flesh every new year.

Meanwhile, papercutting is a tradition that brings intricate flower blossoms, zodiac animals and auspicious symbols to the doors of many. Others choose to visit the temple, burn incense and pay respect to ancestors as a way to bring joy, fortune and faith into their lives.

How brands can benefit from Lunar New Year

More than 1.5 billion people celebrate Lunar New Year annually. It is estimated by LNY Travel that 3 billion trips were made in 2019 alone, making it the period of “the world’s largest human migration”.

Spending also goes up as gifts for relatives and friends are purchased and festivities are prepared for. Items such as food and ingredients for reunion dinners are bought in advance, while jewellery, clothes and even technology are popular offerings to give.

With so many people travelling and looking to buy new items, this affords brands the opportunity to tap into the Asian market, the world’s fastest growing consumer base, and connect meaningfully with their audiences. Whether it be through Lunar New Year community events, or retail outlets, Australian-based brands participating in the festive promotion season who make a genuine effort to engage their Asian consumers, will garner a positive brand image for themselves.

If you’re looking to connect with Asian and other multicultural audiences, MultiConnexions is your partner to help you build important relationships and develop your marketing strategy. Get in touch with us today.

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