Will all our holidays in 2021 be celebrated this way?

Image: FT News

It’s no secret that the Lunar New Year is an important tradition for many Asian (especially Chinese) communities around the world.

Like Christmas, those who celebrate it will find themselves on a shopping spree for many different kinds of consumer goods (i.e. food, clothes, electronics and etc.) to prepare for the upcoming holiday.

While other lunar-based celebrations follow in the months after, many brands latch onto this one due to the sheer size of its celebration, as studies have found that Chinese consumers spent a whopping $149 billion across the week-long Chinese New Year holiday in 2019.  

But with a pandemic still looming around in 2021, many of these celebrations will unfortunately go on hold which significantly affects the top-line profits of many companies (especially retail, hospitality and travel) across the globe.  

So, how are brands adapting their advertising and marketing plans for this Lunar New Year?

More importantly, what can we learn from these examples to help us apply it within our very business?  

Let’s find out.


Flipping wooden blocks that contain numbers 2021 and 2020

Before diving in, we’ll begin by analyzing how brands have performed certain holidays and celebrations of 2020 as hindsight can provide us with a better understanding of the opportunities and successes that have emerged from those periods. 

Hari Raya

Hari raya ketupats being hanged from ceiling

In Malaysia, many brands have deferred their festive campaigns during Hari Raya in 2020 due to stay-at-home orders.

As a replacement, 79% of them shifted to create new messages instead that respond directly to the pandemic’s impact on consumers’ lives through measures such as educating the public with various COVID PSAs (i.e. TM) or the creation of social initiatives (i.e. #KitaJagaKita) that are meant to assist vulnerable communities across the nation.

On the other end, there were also brands who utilized advertising commercials as a tool to help consumers brave through the crisis by focusing on the core values of the holy festival, which were - empathy, love, forgiveness and togetherness to name a few.

Empty city with no one allowed to go outside due to COVID-19

While marketing spend was dramatically scaled back during this period, many businesses were cautiously taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach in the weeks leading up the holidays to get a feel of the current customer sentiment, alongside their changing behaviors in this unprecedented crisis.

As a result, at-home mediums quickly became the advertising solution for brands as they have found that consumers actively rely on various platforms (i.e. Search Engines, Social Media, TV etc.) to satisfy their informational and entertainment needs on a daily basis.

Overview of online content activities in Jan 2020 Malaysia by Hootsuite
Image: Hootsuite X WeAreSocial

In addition, this study further reinforced the notion that brands could capitalize on those channels by adapting their advertising content into various digital formats (especially videos) to reach their customers more effectively amidst this environment.

For instance, UEM Sunrise launched their online campaign 'Home is where Raya is' with a social media contest that encourages Malaysians to share videos and photos of their unique Hari Raya moments experienced within their homes while including the hashtag #HomeIsWhereRayaIs.


UEM Home is where raya is campaign key visuals
Image: UEM Sunrise

Whether it’s festival preparations, prayers or even simple family time, everyone was encouraged to be as creative and innovative as they can with their submissions to stand a chance in winning attractive prizes from the contest. 

As such, this means businesses will need to rethink how their products and services can (and should) be offered to accommodate their customers’ new formed behaviors as old rituals and traditions break away to make room for new ones.  

While the main goal of this campaign was to spread cheer and joy amidst difficult times, their strategy in leveraging user-generated content (UGC) from consumers through hashtags kept their brand awareness high which populated various social media channels with their name throughout the holiday.

By doing so, they were able to accomplish the objective of creating a memorable campaign that positively impacts the customer’s overall perception of the brand, which not only strengthens their connection towards the business but also in reinforcing their loyalty towards their offerings going forward.  

Here’s another example:

Image: Max Becherer

During the pandemic, many Malaysians suffered from layoffs, furloughs and a loss to their livelihoods. As a result, the topic of personal finance started to garner significant attention across the country as unemployment levels were starting to rise.

To add to the difficulty, topics relating to finance can also be challenging to some due to its natural complexity, which is often the main reason behind why most would refrain from getting started in the first place.

Image: GoPayz

In response, U Mobile launched their online campaign Sama-Sama Savvy through their GoPayz app during Hari Raya to not only join in the celebrations but to highlight the importance of financial literacy and its benefits for the public.

Throughout the campaign, it utilized 40 planned comic strips alongside 15 short videos to convey useful financial tips in an understandable yet relatable way, which not only tackled the learning difficulties in financial topics but also the challenge of keeping users engaged throughout each content piece.

In addition, a Raya greeting video was also featured to encourage those that were celebrating the holidays to fulfil their Zakat obligations (charity donations) through the app, which perfectly captured one of the traditions that are most commonly performed during this holiday.    

With that being said, reaching out to consumers during their time of need doesn’t just demonstrate the humanitarian values of a brand, but shows that the business can provide value through other means besides their products and services.

Whether it’s through creating engaging content that is valuable to customers or even a celebration video that reminds them of the cultural significance of said holiday, keeping your brand relevant to the current issues of society will be a key to effective advertising in this new normal.


Image: IndiaToday

Similarly to Hari Raya, Malaysia was currently in its conditional movement control order (CMCO) during the dates leading up to Deepavali, which meant a relaxation of lockdown restrictions to allow businesses more flexibility to run their operations.

While the country was currently battling their third wave of the pandemic, brands were more experienced this time around as they were better equipped in adapting their marketing plans in a socially distanced world.

So, this begs the question - how did brands advertise themselves during Deepavali?

Like other holidays, festive commercials were one of the highlights for many consumers as stay-at-home orders were encouraged but not mandatory, which meant that online content creation was still favored but traditional TV advertisements were also an option for many brands.  

For instance, RHB’s 2020 Diwali film Light in a Time of Darkness:

Image: RHB

The film tells the tale of Vikey, a magician who lost his job due to the country’s lockdown orders which prevented live shows and performances from being hosted.

In order to make ends meet for him and his family, Vikey had to take up the job of a durian seller, which proved to be difficult as he did not have much success in selling his products.

So, he decided to add in elements of his performance within his new job in an attempt to attract customers, leading to the creation of Vikey’s Magic Durian shop.

While viewers can expect to be thoroughly entertained throughout the film, its main idea was to highlight a real-life story that is relatable to many, while conveying the message of ‘change’ and ‘reinvention’ in difficult times as the country was trying to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Not only that, but it also emphasizes the determination one should have instead of giving up during this journey, which made it even more relatable to the public as they worry about their future well-being with the worsening crisis in the country.

In essence, RHB utilized one of the most important advertising tools - storytelling.

What makes this tool especially crucial for businesses, is its ability to help set one apart in an increasingly competitive world dominated by online content.

With so much being created, distributed and advertised at every platform, storytelling helps brands ‘cut through the noise’ by communicating what truly matters to customers, which engages them and keeps them hooked on the brand itself.

Especially in trying times, people connect through stories because it uses human experiences as a means of building relationships that resonate with one’s emotions.  

Done properly, businesses will be able to transform themselves into a brand that’s memorable and unique to customers regardless of the competition posed by other organizations.


While the country has not transitioned out of the CMCO during this period, consumer confidence was much better and slowly picking up as many were going out to spend during the festive season.

This meant that traditional advertising mediums (i.e. print & OOH) were becoming more viable, but nonetheless still outmatched by its digital counterparts as this report shows that ad spending in Malaysia grew the most in social media (+15%).  

With that being said, let’s take a look at how brands adapted themselves during Christmas.

Image: Rich Products

As mentioned in the report, social media channels recorded the largest amount of growth, which isn’t much of a surprise as many businesses have turned to these platforms to run their marketing activities.

Besides using paid ads (i.e. social media), brands have also discovered another way of attracting customers to their business, especially the ones from the stay-at-home segment.

Shown in the example above, Rich Products is an international brand that offers bakery products, frozen foods, and other non-dairy goods to F&B businesses and retail marketplaces.

To get ready for the festive season, they decided to host regular live-streams of their chefs on creating delectable treats and dishes for Christmas through Facebook, which attracted foodies, bakers, passionate home-cooks and other audiences from across the SEA region.

Within each live-stream, the brand also engaged with their viewers through Q&As, cooking tips and mini contests in the comments which not only made the whole event interactive but incredibly memorable for everyone who participated.

So, what can brands learn from this?

Live streaming is an underrated tool for advertising.

When done correctly, businesses will be able to notice these benefits:

  • Improved Customer Relationship - By interacting with your viewers, you’re not only helping them understand your products and services better, but also building a deeper and more meaningful connection that translates to brand loyalty.    
  • Audience Growth - When viewers share the live stream with their own followers, the potential for customer acquisition begins to increase as your brand is able to generate awareness by being exposed to people who have previously never seen you before.
  • Brand Building - Live streams can be planned, but the beauty of it lies in its spontaneity. From there, viewers get to experience the ‘human’ side of your business by watching how you act through unique and real-time moments that make you seem more ‘real’, which ultimately builds credibility as followers know they are always buying from a trustable brand.

Chinese New Year 2021

Now that we’ve seen how businesses adapted in the other holidays, we can start taking a look at what others are doing for this year instead.

1) Uniqlo

Image: Uniqlo

Instead of using external platforms, Uniqlo decided to create a dedicated landing page to celebrate the holiday.

Within the site, users can view their new year’s commercial, seasonal products and other branded collaborations that thoroughly entertains them while hooking them in for an online shopping spree.  

Here’s a glance at some of those sections:

2) Tiger

Image: Tiger

Next up, we have Tiger’s ‘Bring on the ONG’ 2021 CNY campaign, which not only features a standalone website with various games for customers to play and win amazing prizes, but also festive products that can be bought during the period.

Some of them include:

Limited-Edition Cans

Image: FollowMeToEatLa

The packaging design of the cans consist of four individual Chinese characters, which spell out ‘Wang Shi Ru Yi’ when combined, translating into the phrase ‘Be Prosperous As You Wish’, to encourage customers to look forward with hope and confidence for the coming year.

Branded Festive Bowl Sets

Image: Hype Malaysia

Lunar New Year Ang Paos (Money Packets)  

Image: Bowie Cheong


Exclusive Merchandise

Image: Bowie Cheong

To make the whole campaign even more exciting, customers can use their smartphone to scan the beer cans for a unique augmented reality (AR) experience that sends them an invitation to participate in even more games on the website with a chance to win other assorted goodies.


Image: AEON

Just like Rich Products, AEON utilizes live-stream to get customers on board with their Chinese New Year campaign.

They also combined several platforms (i.e. ecommerce, delivery, personal shopper etc.) to create a seamless shopping experience for those that are missing out the Chinese new year retail therapy.

In essence, the live stream managed to produce some favorable results as shown in its social media engagement (i.e. comments and shares) which not only demonstrates the viability of virtual events but also the brand’s ability in keeping viewers engaged throughout the whole event.

Key Takeaways For Brands

As shown, businesses are finding new and creative ways to celebrate Chinese New Year with their customers, regardless of the physical limitations put in place.

So what can brands take away from this?

Technology Empowerment

With so much uncertainty surrounding the current landscape, companies will have no other alternative but to adopt various technologies as a means of tackling the demands and challenges posed by the pandemic.  

Essentially, this translates to digitizing one’s physical operations by moving traditional functions online to not only refocus their previous offerings, but to create new and ‘digitally enhanced’ products that meet the needs of the consumers today.

Some will even take it a step further and move towards digitalisation as a safety measure against future shocks and disruptions.

As shown above, the use of live-stream (especially during holidays) empowers brands with the ability to recreate events with an ‘experiential’ aspect that offers customers new ways of interacting with their products (i.e. live step-by-step cooking with the chefs from Rich’s products).  

This engages customers in real-time by providing them new knowledge of the brand’s offerings, which helps foster a better understanding of the business while building personal connections that leads to deeper one-on-one relationships.

Image: Verno Chan

Another example is the utilization of branded mobile applications by U Mobile in providing audiences with useful content to empower their customers in making better financial decisions.

This allows the brand to provide even more value to consumers as the platform can now serve as a digital asset for executing various campaigns in the future that offers audiences various products and services tailored to their individual needs.

Go Beyond Digital

In the current environment, digital mediums (particularly online channels) remain the most practical way of reaching customers.

While there’s nothing wrong with utilizing those channels alone, brands, businesses (and advertising agencies) need to consider how they can move past surface advertising strategies to create memorable ‘at-home’ brand experiences for their customers.

Image: eRayn3

To emphasize, Tiger demonstrates this point perfectly.

Besides giving their products a seasonal makeover, the brand utilizes its standalone website in tandem with their physical offerings to provide gamification features and augmented reality experiences for consumers.

Not only does this provide customers a new way of enjoying their products, but it also paves the way for bringing the brand closer to the most intimate and cherished moments of a customer’s life, which opens up new opportunities for strengthening connections with the brand.

Act with Empathy

The effects of the pandemic are still being felt by consumers, and will stay with them for quite some time even after its end.

While holidays are a time to celebrate, brands need to be mindful in how they approach their audiences as each segment experiences the festivities with different perspectives depending on their individual circumstances.  

By reimagining how one’s products and services can help them alleviate some of these burdens, brands will be able to foster stronger relationships that build longer lasting trust and loyalty, resulting in brand ambassadors who will consistently stay by your side regardless of the disruptions.

Thus, from this period to the next normal, one needs to place themselves in the shoes of their customers as their priorities have shifted onto tackling individual challenges that present a threat to various areas of their lives and livelihoods.  

Image: RHB

Clear examples of this are shown in the holidays of Diwali and Hari Raya, as brands shifted their messaging from advertorial to a humanitarian focus on strength and empathy at the consumer’s touchpoints that matter the most.

By observing, thinking and acting in real-time within the needs of your customers, one will be able to cut through the ‘noise’ and reach them far more effectively than any other traditional strategies would.


Image: @Beijing_gourmet

While this year’s festivities may not be as grand as the previous years, consumers are still finding new ways to celebrate the tradition amidst a global pandemic.

For brands, the challenge then becomes finding new ways of reaching their audiences through at-home solutions, while competing for their attention in an already saturated online world.  

Thus, employing new strategies and practices empowered by professional expertise in the fields of advertising, branding and digital marketing will become crucial to not only sustaining one’s competitive advantage in their respective industries, but also in the growth and success of their business in the world of tomorrow.

To do so, you can start your transformation here.

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