Tips on online marketing for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year celebrations start on 27th January 2017 and it’s the biggest gift-giving event of the year. It’s a time for celebrating with family and friends and is marked by several rituals including the giving of red envelopes, known as Hongbao, containing small sums of money. In recent years, digital Hongbao have been at the centre of several high profile mobile marketing campaigns.

Digital Hongabo are a clever way of targeting your online marketing in China to ensure it hits the right audiences on the right social media platforms. However, if you want to create brand awareness and traction in the Chinese market, then you must create a presence on WeChat. WeChat has a wide range of functionality and is ideal for nurturing highly personalised customer relationships.

The rise of the digital Hongbao

The WeChat digital Hongbao game saw 1 billion envelopes change hands in 2015, 200 times greater than the year before. Users can send small sums in digital Hongbao to their contacts and this simple game saw WeChat become the number 1 app download in the pre-New Year period. By digitising an ancient tradition, WeChat made it relevant to the estimated 623 billion smartphone users in China.

Users of the Baidu wallet sent 4.2 billion red envelopes online for a total dollar value of $45.6 million in 2015 and Alibaba also gets in on the act, sending out virtual red envelopes containing cash and vouchers. Alipay has around 400 million users. Alibaba and Tencent sparked an online war for red envelopes during the New Year Gala, China’s ‘Super Bowl’ in a bid to drive new user engagement. Line Pay in Thailand and Taiwan are also getting wise to the mobile marketing possibilities of digital Hongbao.

International brands join the Hongbao game

Céline, Coach and Hugo Boss have all seen the possibilities of a Hongbao campaign to increase their reach in the Chinese market. Luxury car manufacturer Bentley allowed users to create bespoke designs for their Hongbao and Burberry create campaigns were users are encouraged to twist, shake and manipulate their mobiles to unwrap luxury virtual gifts they can then share with friends.

Pepsi gave a twist to their “Bring Happiness Home” campaign, by allowing WeChat users to record a greetings message to be mixed into the popular song. Pepsi kept the brand messaging subtle, keying into ideas of home and happiness to leverage user buy in. Pepsi used WeChat’s simple to use audio recording facilities to create user generated content to drive engagement.

Creating your own successful Hongbao campaign

If you want to access the Chinese market directly with your Chinese New Year campaign, you’ll need to be culturally aware and WeChat savvy. By tying in your campaign to the Hongbao tradition and staying true to your users expectations, you can amplify your message across the WeChat network and achieve a high level of brand identification and penetration. However, it is crucial that you are seen to have a deeper connection with the celebrations than simply exploiting traditions for bigger sales. We can help you to hit the right note, so please contact us for more details on creating your own unique Hongbao campaign for Chinese New Year.

(Image source: Image created by koratmember |