Feb 28, 2024 - Economy

Lunar New Year awareness drives business experiments

A Chinese New Year parade featuring lion dance performers in a black and white photo

A Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco's Chinatown — the oldest U.S. Chinatown — in 1984. Photo: Steve Ringman/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Lunar New Year has come and gone, but its vibes remain.

Why it matters: Brands and retailers are increasingly experimenting with marketing around the holiday, which lands during a typically sluggish quarter relative to Q4.

State of play: Observed by several Asian communities in the U.S. and around the world, the annual 15-day period offers many a second time to celebrate a fresh calendar.

  • Among traditions is gift giving — the effects of which Apple execs have long nodded to when discussing the impact of its China iPhone business during its fiscal second quarter earnings.
  • The tech giant rarely holds promotional sales pegged to the period, but bucked the trend this year.
  • Brands like Ikea, Brooks Brothers, Lego, Kate Spade and Remy Martin, meanwhile, are selling limited edition merchandise this year for gift-givers and those wanting new red items around the house and on their bodies (also traditions).

What they're saying: Companies releasing targeted products and promotions tied to Lunar New Year are in a testing phase, Danny Taing, founder and CEO of Japanese snack subscription service Bokksu, tells Axios. "It's not like [a] Presidents' Day weekend sale."

  • But for Asian consumers, seeing brands like Kate Spade marking the holiday makes them feel seen and proud.
  • "They've never spoken to us like this before — we've never had any recognition of this holiday that has been important in our communities for a long time."
  • The decisions and limited products may be "symbolic," he adds, but still meaningful because "in many ways they didn't have to do it. It takes extra resources — and it's a bit of a risk."

The big picture: The Lunar New Year period has become like "a secondary Asian heritage month" thanks to greater unity within the Asian community, Taing observes of his crowded social and speaking schedule this year.

  • There's more awareness of the holiday now than in the past eight years since founding Bokksu, he adds.

Reality check: It took the pandemic, during which many Asian people were victims of hate and violence, to spark the change.

  • "Before the stop Asian hate time period, there was little to no recognition or celebration of Lunar New Year by mainstream America," Taing says.
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