Daily Insights

Luxury’s Biggest Holiday: Chinese New Year

By: Liz Flora | Jan 22, 2019

If you head over to the U.S. homepages of Gucci, Bulgari, Burberry, and Louis Vuitton, you won’t find Valentine’s Day gift promotions, but rather a more important upcoming holiday for luxury: Chinese New Year.

With Chinese New Year around the corner, luxury brands have not only inundated the China market with Year of the Pig fashion, handbags, jewelry, and other gifts, but are promoting their campaigns globally as well.

Gucci has launched one of the most elaborate digital Chinese New Year campaigns. Many of its homepages feature its NYC photo shoot by British photographer Frank Lebon showcasing tiny pigs and its Year of the Pig capsule collection. Featuring pig-adorned clothing, watches, accessories, shoes, and handbags including some featuring Disney’s Three Little Pigs, the collection is being sold online worldwide. The brand also posted the campaign on non-Chinese social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

It also purchased ads targeted toward Chinese users based in the United States, including Chinese-language ads on Facebook and WeChat that direct to the brand’s U.S. site.

Gucci has received a warm reception for the campaign on Chinese social media, with users praising how cute the pigs are in Weibo comments. For the China market, the brand created a Chinese New Year WeChat mini program that includes animated Year of the Pig stickers, branded mobile wallpaper, a selfie filter, and e-commerce.

But not all brands have had a smooth experience with their globalized Chinese New Year campaigns. Burberry took a similar approach to Gucci with a holiday campaign shot by a famous international photographer, but the somber feeling of the photos failed to hit the mark with some Chinese commenters online. While the British fashion house received praise from fans of brand ambassadors Zhao Wei and Zhou Dongyu, Chinese actresses featured in the campaign, others expressed distaste for the overall vibe of the photo shoot. The state-run tabloid Global Times pointed out that Weibo users had been comparing the photo shoot to the poster of the Chinese horror film The House That Never Dies.

The campaign was part of Burberry’s artistic transformation at the helm of its new creative director Riccardo Tisci, who is simultaneously trying to attract younger consumers through a pivot to streetwear as well as elevate the luxury status of the brand. The brand’s emphasis on its Chinese New Year campaign shows how important Chinese consumers are to its global success going forward.

Burberry was surpassed by Gucci in in Gartner L2’s most recent Luxury China Digital IQ Index ranking, dropping to sixth place after earning the Genius designation and first place the previous year. Gucci improved in part thanks to strong brand buzz, and it was one of the most-mentioned brands by influencers on WeChat and RED.

Bulgari also created a Chinese New Year campaign that was lost in translation with a global audience. The jeweler’s WeChat campaign for Chinese New Year originally featured a play on words that abbreviated the English word “jewelry” to “jew” and featured idioms swapping the abbreviation for the word “pig” in Chinese, which is pronounced similarly (“zhu”). While the language did not spark controversy in China, the wording was criticized internationally for cultural insensitivity and quickly removed from the campaign. Like Gucci and Burberry, the brand has made a big investment in its Chinese New Year promotions with its international homepages dedicated solely to the holiday and a Chinese New Year WeChat e-commerce mini program.

Chinese web users have been on high alert for luxury brand missteps since Dolce & Gabbana’s spectacular China meltdown in November, and have been increasingly assertive about speaking out about them. With Chinese consumers projected to make 45% of the world’s luxury purchases by 2025, it is only becoming more crucial that global brands get China’s most important holiday right.