What three Chinese influencers think of the UK's Chinese New Year brand campaigns

As UK brands try to woo Chinese consumers in the Year of the Dog, how will they gain cut-through without causing offence?

Jessie Hsu, editor at Harper’s Bazaar China

Jessie is both an editor and an independent writer who is currently based in the UK. The content of her Weibo account, "Zhu Life in UK" is highly focused on British culture and lifestyle. The channel covers culture, travel destinations and historical sites across the UK in a series of short videos, and has an avg. 400K audience per episode.

What she buys at New Year:

"Some jewellery, accessories, decorations for home. I prefer high quality products and hope I can have some long-lasting items.:

What British brand marketers should do:

"They need to understand audiences to produce promotions that work to reach Chinese consumers from a grassroots level leveraging resources such as KOLs (key opinion leaders). Lots of British brands are quite old-fashioned in their approach and believe their brand and quality speaks for itself, but if Chinese consumers don’t know your story they aren’t given a reason to buy.

Once I met a brand who told me a lot of people want to collaborate with them so they felt they didn’t need to do any formal promotions to Chinese consumers, but I would disagree with this. Every brand still needs to invest in media to share their story. There is an English attitude that we don’t go to them, they come to us. It won’t transfer to Chinese audiences.

I feel Jo Malone has done really well at marketing to Chinese consumers, inviting KOLs to London to do workshops, and they have done a lot of beautiful photo spreads."


Robin Liu,  Marketing consultant for Nouvelles D’Europe UK Edition, a UK Based Chinese print and digital media outlet

What Robin would like for Chinese New Year:

"Red decorations or clothes, and accessories with red highlights or a subtle Chinese New Year theme. ?

Time. Chinese New Year in the UK isn’t a national holiday, so anything brand wise that can be bought quickly and conveniently is always a top choice." 

Suggestions for marketers:

:In order to succeed brands need to learn to listen to and understand the audience much better than they do now."

Where brands fail:  

"Marketing strategy and campaigns that are not built on a basis of respect and understanding of the target audience, but rather focus on increasing or generating sales, this feels very insincere. 

Do not over generalise or expect to reach the whole China market. The specialities of British brand culture - niche, proud, elite – will not be appreciated by all Chinese consumers, so you must identify and target more specific audience segments."

How to get it right:

Harrods and brands that have established a presence on apps such as Ctrip and Alipay. Combining payment optimisation with in-app marketing is a great strategy. 

What to do:

"Establish a media presence on WeChat, Weibo and other platforms suited to your target audience, e.g. Zhihu, this is a standard requirement.

For selling in China establish word-of-mouth marketing, there are certain celebrities or KOLs in China who can an impact on demand for brands just from what they are photographed wearing on the street/ at the airport. This is especially the case with younger consumers."


Online shopping is now the main option, and has been an increasing trend among older consumers. I mainly buy cosmetics, smart technology, and usually buy before the holidays if in China. 

Nineties consumers have changed their attitudes to consumption, they spend less on products to show off or project wealth and more on products that reflect their personal values and meet their pragmatic needs ( more on health/ nutrition and interests or experiences)."


Emma Li, head of marketing and operation at The Chinese Weekly

About Chinese New Year and what Emma would like to see from UK marketers:

"To see UK brands producing creative and innovative campaigns that better reflects Chinese sentiment.

Brands need to put the same amount of effort into Chinese creative marketing as they do into creativity for English speaking markets. 

Brands do not build a strategy for Chinese consumers, they focus too much on sales.

Mulberry’s Instagram story was really good. The design was nice and not too ‘stereotypically Chinese’. It was both authentic and had a modern aesthetic." 

Comment from Marie Tulloch, account director, Emerging Communications:

"While traditionally, premium brands have been very popular, but they no longer carry the must have aura they did only a few years ago.

Chinese consumers have taken control and ownership of the premium product and service markets, they know it and now expect to have their expectations and demands met. This includes receiving marketing communication that is not perceived to be a poor version of what is produced for domestic western audiences. There is a real danger that the resentment produced by poor marketing outreach will build into a cultural gap that will be difficult to bridge. There is still plenty of opportunities to correct this, but it has to be addressed."

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