As Chinese New Year celebrations evolve and make cultural traditions less meaningful for some, Media Monks’ Stephanie Tyan and team provide insights for brands on how to connect authentically with communities in the region so as not to become irrelevant.

In a world where cultural landscapes constantly evolve, Lunar New Year and Chinese New Year (CNY) celebrations are no exception. The old playbook no longer suffices. In this article, we've gathered insights from our regional strategists to offer a fresh perspective on this cultural celebration. Their viewpoints underscore a clear message: evolve with the celebration or risk irrelevance.

Learning from China: Younger generation, new traditions

In China, gone are the days when CNY was solely about following long-standing traditions dictated by older generations. Today, there's a conscious shift towards infusing personal meaning into the celebration, marking a transition from rigid customs to creating new, significant traditions.

From obligation to intention

The focus is shifting from materialistic excess to mental joy and satisfaction. Young people, in particular, are leading this change, opting for rational consumption over extravagant spending. Remarkably, 56% now purchase only necessities, emphasising a shift in priorities. Additionally, mental health has become paramount, with 64% focusing on well-being and selecting rewards that truly bring them happiness.

Redefining family time

Over 90% of pet owners find significant comfort in their pets during this time. We’re witnessing a redefinition of family time as an opportunity to recharge and relax.

The holiday's traditional requirement of hometown visits gives way to seeking genuine rejuvenation with chosen "families". 

Inter-generational exchange of traditions

CNY is increasingly about letting go of the old and embracing the new.

  • About 83% of young individuals assume the role of the "main responsible person" to create meaningful activities that foster inter-generational dialogue.
  • 55% plan special activities to craft unforgettable family memories.
  • 21% share their new year activities with their parents, like doing their parents' new year-themed nails.

Food for thought: As CNY traditions evolve and leave some in the past, brands need to avoid the fate of obsolescence by staying attuned to the cultural shifts. Can your brand stay up to date with these changing mindsets?

Learning from Singapore: Less is more

We are now in the second “business-as-usual” Lunar New Year since COVID-19 reshaped our world and we're not just shedding masks and travel bans. It turns out that enduring a global crisis gave people a new perspective on age-old traditions.

Take Singapore last year, for instance, where snack sales experienced an unexpected slump despite the festive season's return. Rethinking the essentials of Lunar New Year celebrations and ditching the superfluous for a less-is-more approach, welcome to CNY’s modern makeover.

Mindfulness over mayhem in celebrations

Big, lavish gatherings? Very pre-pandemic. The new wave is all about quality over quantity in festive socialising.

Data show 48% of SEA residents prefer domestic travels or cosy staycations, while an adventurous 12% of Singaporeans are choosing to spend the holiday abroad. The times are changing and so are ways of celebration.

Eco-friendly, the new festive trend

The narrative around the Lunar New Year is evolving from excess to eco-consciousness. 64% of consumers in the region now lean towards environmentally friendly choices and in Singapore, 94% expressed concern about waste pile-up due to the holiday.

Actions are speaking as loud as words, too, as seen in the growing popularity of second-hand shopping and the Singapore government's move to stop issuing “good as new” dollar notes as of last year, instead encouraging the use of digital red packets.

Food for thought: Post-pandemic life has irrevocably altered consumer behaviour, possibly for good. As marketers, how can we shift our mindsets from selling to solving? How can we facilitate a Lunar New Year celebration that is not just about selling more but celebrating smarter – with mindfulness and sustainability at its core?

Learning from Australia: Celebrate diversity and universal themes of family

In a multicultural Australia, the Lunar New Year offers a unique opportunity for brands to transcend traditional holiday campaigns and connect with a diverse, value-conscious audience. While celebrations differ from those in Asia, the core themes of fresh starts, family and delicious food resonate deeply across cultures and represent a promising opportunity for brands to broaden their appeal.

There are various ways that brands can make the Lunar New Year moment matter for your brand.

  • Understand the context: Lunar New Year falls closely after Australia Day (Jan 26), a deeply contentious moment in the calendar for Indigenous Australians, a large proportion of the population and increasingly many major retailers/brands. With the collective identity and associated values coming under close scrutiny and within close proximity, brands must approach the moment with some social sensitivity.
  • Invite inclusivity: CNY isn't solely for Chinese Australians. Brands can market to many other cultural groups like Koreans, Vietnamese, Malaysians, Singaporeans and European Australians who also celebrate.
  • Language matters: Given the mix of cultures celebrating, brands should consider using more inclusive language in communications such as "Lunar New Year" or even adapt language to resonate with each community.
  • Go beyond red envelopes: Each year, many Aussie brands simply rely on red envelopes, special edition packaging and maybe even an animal motif (cue the dragons). Let’s be honest, it’s a little lazy and lacklustre for your audience. Instead, try delving a little deeper into the moment and mindset. Embrace the spirit of joy. Acknowledge the celebration (and associated pressures people face).
  • Acknowledge the yearning for authenticity: While younger generations tend to enjoy a more relaxed version, some may also miss the true traditional elements. Consider offering experiences or products that connect them to their heritage or ways to embrace a "dual identity" that blends traditions with some Aussie quirks.

Food for thought: Faced with Australia's evolving Lunar New Year celebrations, marketers must seize the “Lunar opportunity” with genuine understanding and connection or risk irrelevance. How can your brand authentically engage with these rich cultural narratives, ensuring your campaigns are not just about opening wallets but opening doors to lasting connections?

So, what next?

The evolving nature of CNY across the region is a clarion call for marketers to rethink traditional approaches. From China's intentional celebrations to SEA's mindful festivities, and Australia's authentic commitments, the common thread is clear: adaptability and authenticity are key.

As we navigate these diverse cultural narratives, the challenge is to create campaigns that don't just seek profit but genuinely resonate and connect with communities. This year, let's embrace the opportunity to celebrate a festival and honour the rich tapestry of traditions and identities that shape our world. How will your brand rise to this occasion?