October is here. That means some of the most significant cultural festivals will be upon us over the next six months.

Diwali takes place on Thursday 19 October. Christmas is on Monday 25 December.

And Lunar New Year is on Friday 16 February 2018.

Wait… What’s Lunar New Year? Is that different from Chinese New Year?

They are the same, but just one different word can have a very significant impact.

You see, 4 years ago when I arrived into New Zealand, the term Chinese New Year was commonly used to celebrate the most significant cultural festival in Chinese community.

However, there are other non-Chinese ethnic groups who also celebrate Chinese New Year, such as Vietnamese, Koreans, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore etc. Hence I insisted with my team on changing our campaign name from Chinese New Year to Lunar New Year to be more inclusive for everyone.

Since then, many other companies have also followed the trend. It makes a lot of sense, because the more we can make ethnic festival inclusive, the more socially cohesive our society will become.

You hardly hear any other major festival with a specific ethnic name, eg:

  • Diwali, not Indian Diwali
  • Christmas, not Caucasian Christmas
  • Songkran, not Thai Songkran
  • Chuseok, not Korean Chuseok
  • Sinulog Festival, not Filipino Sinulog Festival
  • Easter, not European or Caucasian Easter

In fact, if you look at the Chinese words for Lunar New Year, it’s actually ‘农历新年’ which translates to Lunar New Year, or ‘春节’ which translates to Spring Festival. Obviously the former is more acceptable around the world whereas the latter will not be widely acceptable particularly in the tropic regions or southern hemisphere because of different season.

Now that we have covered the name, let’s talk about fun bit – ad designs.

When it comes to the ad design for Lunar New Year, companies need to carefully plan for these 3 things to ensure their message is culturally relevant and targeted:

  1. Imagery
  • Thumbs up: Chinese zodiac, 3 generations of family, landmarks, fengshui elements and symbols.
  • Thumbs down: incense, half-burnt incense, incomplete family portrait (eg 1 mum and 1 daughter), tacky 3D imagery.
  • Watch out: Flowers, as this can be politically sensitive because each Asian countries have their own national flower.
  • Trending: Cutouts, motion graphic, or simple anime

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

  1. Colour
  • Thumbs up: Fiery red, golden orange, sakura pink, caramel yellow.
  • Thumbs down: Black, white, blue
  • Watch out: White and light yellow combo (used in funerals), brown (similar colour to human waste), dark green (army colour)
  • Trending: teal and pink

Image credit: Dreamstime.com

  1. Language
  • Thumbs up: Localised language according to targeted media, bi-lingual in mainstream media, greetings that rhyme, homonym / “xie yin” / 谐音,
    eg 十十美,開花结.
  • Thumbs down: Wrong characters (eg using traditional Chinese characters to target mainland Chinese consumers),
    eg 新年快 vs 新年快
  • Watch out: Internet hot words – they can be cool and highly effective as a talking point but can also isolate those who may not come across it before, eg 碗得服 (Wonderful), “3 gram oil”.
  • Trending: Emojis, memes, animated stickers / animojis.

 

I hope this provides some insights on how to design cultural creatives to connect with the audience. It applies to other ethnic cultures as well, such as Diwali, Chuseok, Songkran and many more.

On that note, let me be the first person to wish you in advance a very Happy and Prosperous 2018 Year Of The Dog.

More importantly, I encourage all companies to adopt “Lunar New Year” rather than “Chinese New Year” and have fun in celebrating boldly and share the festive mood with friends from all backgrounds.

 

Eric Chuah is the founder of Cultural Connections, a multicultural consulting firm working with government agencies, community groups, and private sector in New Zealand. He is currently serving as Independent Advisor for Multicultural New Zealand; Board Trustee for Auckland Regional Migrant Services; and Ethnic Media Advisor for New Zealand Human Rights Commission.