How Chinese Must It Be?

While it is not a public holiday here in Bangkok, Chinese New Year appears to be celebrated, among those who do, with as much festive fervour as it is in China. But when you ask many of the young Chinese-Thais what is characteristic of their celebration, the answer is often, “I don’t know.” If you press on, they’ll say, “I don’t celebrate; I have to work”. Is this why retailers here must use overtly Chinese motifs in their advertising to remind  them of the arrival of the most important festival in the lunar calendar? Or do the store owners need reminding themselves?

Each year, when Chinese New Year approaches, the big stores such as Central, will put up billboards, posters and other outdoor media featuring some kind of Oriental fantasy populated by Chinese zodiac creatures of the corresponding year, set within overworked graphic elements such as frets and swirls. It is almost always exotica overload.

It is hard to convince local marketers that Chinese New Year is, for so many, also Spring Festival. Welcoming spring is not the same as Phuket’s Nine Emperor Gods festival when gaudiness has a role in summoning the divine. During Chinese New Year, flowers, too, can be symbolic, and that has more relevance in modern marketing communication than mythical beasts. No?


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