For the third year running, China’s grappling with flare-ups of COVID-19 in the buildup to the Lunar New Year. With a new, more contagious variant becoming the dominant strain, China’s zero-COVID policy – suppressing the virus when and wherever it appears through mass testing, quarantines, and lockdowns – is under more pressure than ever.
February 1st marks the start of the Year of the Tiger and the beginning of several days’ celebrations to mark the New Year.
But with Xi’an and Yuzhou under strict lockdowns, after a small number of cases were discovered in each area, and 51% of China feeling concerned about COVID-19, New Year celebrations may look different to some.
Of those who are concerned about COVID-19, the most distinctive way they plan to celebrate the New Year is through gifting red envelopes (a gift of money given during the holiday) – a tradition that can be done virtually if necessary. WeChat has made this possible by allowing users to send and receive red envelopes, along with making the process fun by adding functions such as personal messages and stickers.
Singapore has taken this a step further by encouraging people to give red envelopes electronically, both to support sustainability and to reduce overcrowding at banks during the pandemic.
COVID-19 scuppered last year’s plans for many, as local outbreaks across China prevented travel.
The lessons learned from last year and 2020 will be vital if the situation escalates.
Many were also encouraged to stay at home through compensation. Beijing gave out 20GB free mobile data, and companies in Zhejiang, Ningbo, and Quanzhou issued “red packets” for workers who chose to stay at home.
Last year also saw a number of brands getting on board and sending out messages showcasing people celebrating the New Year remotely. For example, antibacterial soap brand Safeguard showed a family enjoying their dinner via video call, with the message to safeguard each other’s health in the New Year.
We may see similar messages from brands this year too, with the nation currently being told to risk-assess any plans to travel, and authorities upholding severe restrictions ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Right now, almost two-thirds of those concerned about COVID-19 are planning on enjoying a reunion dinner, but many may be united via video connection instead.
As a result, the New Year travel rush is likely to be the least busy for the past seven years. With less than 1 in 10 planning on taking a vacation abroad, this could be a blow for the travel industry.
Many shoppers may be spending less money on gifts for friends and family, but retail brands can thrive if they make sure to have a solid online offering while fewer consumers head to brick-and-mortar stores.
With more people staying at home over the holiday, many are prioritizing indulging themselves more.
Our data also shows that the number of people in China who buy the premium version of products has risen 16% since this time last year.
Shoppers might, therefore, be tempted to spend more on personal care and luxury products.
But brands will need to tread carefully to ensure they get their New Year messaging right. Campaigns that harnessed the power of positivity and were sensitive to their audience’s feelings were the most successful in 2021, and these themes are also likely to be well-received in 2022.
Prada’s 2021 Chinese New Year campaign was praised for giving a nod to exciting prospects in the year ahead, while Coca-Cola explored the meaning of Chinese New Year in a world changed by the pandemic. The campaign showed three real-life independent stories of people living in China and how they celebrate the holiday.
Tapping into how Chinese consumers have changed
We’ve noticed some interesting consumer trends in China over the past year. More are becoming environmentally aware with a 9% increase in those who always try to recycle since Q3 2020. Another 66% value fighting climate change over their country’s economic growth.
This means that brands taking steps to optimize celebrations online, like encouraging online red envelopes in Singapore, don’t need to only rely on marketing them as a “virtual alternative”, but rather engage with consumers about how they’re better for the environment.
Altruism has also grown among the population, with a 13% increase in the number who value helping others before themselves.
For Chinese New Year 2022, some brands have already harnessed these trends and are taking thoughtful action. Singapore’s National Parks Board and electricity retailer Geneco have collaborated to create a campaign focusing on sustainability for the upcoming celebrations.
The campaign aims to inspire Singaporeans to help Singapore achieve its biodiversity conservation goals. It’ll highlight four of the nation’s native flowers on red packets, including facts about the green spaces where each flower can be found. The packets will also include information on the conservation of local flora and fauna.
Prada’s taking a similar approach. To honor the year of the Tiger, the brand will be launching a campaign and project dedicated to safeguarding the endangered animal.
Actor and singer Li Yifeng and actress Chun Xia will be the faces of the campaign, while artists at art schools across China will have the opportunity to submit designs which will be used as part of the special project. The Prada Group will also donate to the conservation of the endangered Amur tiger.
The campaign has created quite a buzz already. With their hashtag gaining 22 million views on Weibo within a day, it’s predicted to resonate with the young Chinese generation who appreciate meaningful activities.
This New Year’s celebrations are likely to be different for many, but brands who optimize their online presence and adapt their messaging to the 2022 Chinese consumer are primed to succeed in the year of the Tiger.