This year, the Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year), falls on Feb. 5.

Did you know the popular greetings “gung hey fat choy” is a Cantonese phrase meaning, “happiness and prosperity?”

So, now imagine greeting a Vietnamese or Filipino consumer with the phrase. Let’s assume they appreciate the sentiment but they will no doubt be irritated by your ignorance of the fact that there are a cluster of at least half-a-dozen or more countries in South-East Asia—besides China— that celebrate the New Year.

Asian-Canadians whether they are from Mainland China, Hongkong, Vietnam, Philippines or Japan are disparate and distinct. So, before you jump the gun and order hundreds of new packaging scripted with “gung hey fat choy”, it’s essential to get schooled on the sub-cultural subtexts because each nation has its own dialects, languages and tradition.

Linguistic and geographic markers aside, customs vary. For instance, in China, people eat food with long shelf life as part of their New Year ritual. In Japan, it’s tradition to scatter dried beans and drive evil from house. Thais sprinkle water on each other during Songkran (Thai New Year). During the Vietnamese New Year, (Tet) which falls between late January and early February, people typically greet each another with “Chuc Mung Nam Moi” (Happy New Year). They believe in warding off the evil with fireworks.

The list is unending.


A marketer’s dilemma

 The complexity of the sub cultural gradations in Asia can make marketing to Asian-Canadians at home tricky as it’s not a harmonised market.

Any marketing plan will have to uncover the common elements as opposed to trying to unraveling the differences.

Linguistic and geographical differences aside, all Asian cultures mark the New Year with food and family. This means brands selling chocolates, fruit juices, meat, vegetables, cleaning supplies, apparels, electronics, kitchen towels, dish-washer detergents, etc. can easily target Asian-Canadians with a common and cohesive campaign.

While it would be easy to do a quick search on the Internet, the smart thing to do would be to reach out to a speciality communications agency like Maple Diversity and let their team help you understand the subtle layers of multicultural marketing.

This will ensure you don’t step on anyone’s toes with politically and culturally insensitive gaffes.

Last year, apparel-maker GAP, had to issue an apology to China after its T-shirts—featuring a map of China—that were for sale in North America omitted Taiwan, a self-ruled island which China says is an integral part of its territory.


Marketing for a fractured sub-group demands brands research the audience to extract specific characteristics of the subculture’s membership and their life experiences: are they first or second-generation immigrants? Are they fluent in English or French? Do they live in blended families?

Visible minorities (not just Asians) spend some $76 billion annually and make-up for more than 20 percent of the consumer market, especially in urban centres like Toronto, Vancouver, etc.

A generation’s attitudes towards a brand will most likely be influenced to a large extent by “Acculturation.” Acculturation is how much an individual or group has assimilated to a different culture, i.e. mainstream.

Marketing campaigns planned around special occasions can become more effective if they are able to make strong connections.

Maple Diversity wishes everyone a Happy Lunar Year!