A Marketing Opportunity

You might wonder what China’s Dragon Boat Festival could possibly have to do with your business and bottom line.

For starters… you probably don’t know a thing about dragon boats.

Doesn’t matter.

When it comes to China, thinking outside the square can pay off.

The Dragon Boat Festival is a terrific launch-pad for a marketing campaign targeting Chinese consumers.

The Dragon Boat Festival holiday is an important and exciting date on the Chinese calendar. It brings together ancient culture, the spirit of competition and a reflection on history.

It’s a day of remembrance for ancient Chinese Poet Qu Yan, who drowned himself in the Miluo river in 340 BC to protest the government.

The story goes that in an effort to save him, boats raced to his rescue but were too late. When his body couldn’t be found, rice was thrown into the river to lure the fish away.

In modern China and around the globe, the Dragon Boat Festival is marked by races where wooden boats are decorated to resemble Chinese dragons.

Up to 60 people paddle each boat and racing is fun and competitive.

Modern celebrations also include eating traditional foods in particular Zongzi and gift giving.

This is a perfect opportunity for brands to catch the attention of Chinese consumers.

Keep your promotions vibrant and festive with keynotes focusing on the dragon boat and Zongzi. There is a strong overtone of ancient Chinese tradition during this festival.

Marketing Ideas

By looking at what other established brands in the China market have done, you can get ideas for your own marketing campaign.

Starbucks, for example, has long celebrated the Dragon Boat Festival in China, producing a range of foods and merchandise.

Since the Zongzi is the celebratory food on this day, their adaptations have been varied and creative including: ice cream filled Zongzi and ice fruit flavoured Zongzi. Each year they also offer dragon boat emblazoned coffee mugs and other products.

If you’re stuck for ideas, a gift card is a great way to appeal to Chinese customers and it suits just about any business.

They are easy to produce and you can even create an online version. A gift card with decorative imagery of dragon boats or traditional foods, will be very popular with Chinese customers.

If you’re in the tea business or sell other food products, why not use packaging to tempt Chinese consumers? Since Zongzi is wrapped in banana leaves and tied with string, you could do the same with your gift-wrapping.

Restaurants, hotels and other venues can also get in the spirit of the Dragon Boat Festival, with specialised food offerings and activities.

If you have an online or eCommerce business, it’s a good time for a special offer in celebration of this day which is an important reflection on Chinese history.

Gift giving can focus on traditional foods but luxury items are also now popular in modern China.

If your company has chosen to participate in the dragon boat races, it’s a good idea to promote your participation to show team spirit and respect for Chinese traditions.

The marketing opportunities are many. Here are some links to what other brands have done:

China Travel Guide have created a unique Wallpaper for Download

Lego have created a traditional dragon boat set

Nike Air Woven Sneaker with Dragon Boat Style

Restaurant adaptations of the Zongzi 

Pendants Shaped like Zongzi for Gifting 

It’s important to remember that when incorporating traditional Chinese culture into your marketing mix, it must be done with care and consideration.

Many brands have unintentionally come unstuck. The Chinese are nationalistic and protective of their culture, so having a poke at it, even tongue-in-cheek can be easily misconstrued. Just ask D&G who tried to mix chopsticks with pizza in a not-so-clever marketing campaign that backfired.

As always, education and testing is the best strategy for coming up with something that doesn’t offend.

To make the most out of marketing campaigns linked to significant dates on the Chinese calendar, we recommend these books on Chinese traditions and activities during festivals.

After coming up with a campaign idea, it’s important to first run it past your Chinese audience before committing to production.