With the Chinese New Year just around the corner, big brands are pulling back to market their products in the Chinese market. And because this year is the year of the rabbit, the Dutch rabbit Miffy plays a big part in this.
The company that manages Miffy’s rights, Mercis, has recently received many inquiries from companies and institutions to do ‘something’ with Miffy, says director Marja Kerkhof. She mentions, among other things, a Miffy exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai, a collaboration with an American fashion brand for Miffy clothing, a British luxury brand that sells bags with a picture of Dick Bruna’s famous rabbit, and a cosmetics company. who sells a Miffy. pop-up shop opened.
“Miffy is already popular in Asia anyway,” she says. “We always collaborate with brands, but there are now more than usual because of the Year of the Rabbit.” She calls it logical that this interest has increased. “There are some familiar bunny characters and that includes Miffy.”
“Missed opportunity if you don’t do something about it as a company”
“We can philosophize about it for a long time, but it’s actually very simple: It’s the year of the rabbit, and many companies take advantage of that theme to make money and retain customers,” says sinologist and strategic advisor Valérie Hoeks. “If you sell in China as a business and don’t respond to that, it’s a missed opportunity.”
Although it is difficult to find out what international companies earn on Chinese New Year, it turns out that it is a huge revenue opportunity. For example, figures from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce between 2011 and 2019 show a huge growth in Chinese spending during the first week of Chinese New Year. In 2019, the total consumption in restaurants and shops in the first week of the New Year amounted to more than 136 billion euros.
Kerkhof nuances that Miffy in China stands for more than commercial gain. “Miffy was already popular in Asia, but that popularity is now increasing. The rabbit has a special meaning because of the Chinese constellations.” In Chinese culture, the rabbit is, among other things, a symbol of mercy and elegance.
2023 is expected to be a good year for sales in the New Year period. China’s covid rules have been eased to allow people to travel again. Hoeks: “There was nothing celebratory about the past period, so now there may be some kind of discharge. Despite the fact that a lot of people have had a hard time lately, there is still a large group that is doing well financially good. , but haven’t used anything. They got their year-end bonus and it’s now being used.”
Although sales figures are yet to come, Hoeks already points to online sales at, for example, Alibaba, which is an indicator of the state of the Chinese economy. “These are the weeks when many Chinese consumers make purchases, just like we do at Christmas. Based on online purchases, you can already see a cautious recovery.”
Lego sets and coke cans with rabbits
And many brands also know that the ‘Chinese Christmas’ is interesting. A small selection of brands responding to this: Coca-Cola, which has a big campaign selling cans with a family of rabbits on them, the fashion brand Moschino, which has a Bugs Bunny collection, and Lego sets around the Chinese New Year theme.
The great attention is not new. In previous years, the companies have also proved to be large. According to sinologist Hoeks, the Chinese generally react positively to the attention of companies if they have thoroughly immersed themselves in the culture. Hoeks: “But you also have examples of big blunders.”
Orange jacket without context
For example, Canadian blogger Linda Hoang cites the example of a Canadian outdoor clothing brand that called an orange jacket a ‘Lunar New Year Jacket’ but gave no further context. Hoang would have preferred the company to have communicated more clearly that the color is a symbol of good luck.
“On this orange jacket, ‘Lunar New Year’ was simply added to the description and that’s it,” she writes. “But the jacket might as well have been called ‘orange jacket’.”
She is committed to ensuring that companies immerse themselves in Chinese culture and collaborate with designers who also celebrate the holiday themselves. “If you have themed products Lunar New Year serve only to make money, do not earn it.”