How business should localize their promotions

Culture is a critical component of who we are and this principle applies to every country in the world. This is why it is vital to acknowledge and understand your clients’ culture as well as be able to adapt and localize your promotion strategy if you want your business to be successful in Asia. It’s not only globalization that is changing the way we do business, but also e-commerce that is picking up tremendously in this region. For example, on one Chinese singles holiday in 2015, Asian e-commerce giant Alibaba made $1 billion in sales within just 8 minutes of launching their sales campaign. The potential for adapting your business strategy and promotion in Asia is immense, but in order to be successful there, you will need to first engage in thorough localization and seamless translation into Asian languages to reach your market. One way of doing so is adapting your marketing calendar to suit and accurately match the holidays celebrated in Asia. This article explores the various holidays in China and Japan throughout the year so that you can create more strategic marketing plans for your business, which are more localized and targeted, ultimately helping you to make more sales.

January

  • Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi): This is a public holiday in Japan which celebrates the coming of age of young people who turn 20. This is the age at which they are legally allowed to smoke, drink, vote, and even pay amounts into their pensions. This day presents an interesting opportunity for marketers who can promote the sale of business suits, books, alcohol, and other coming of age-related items.
  • New Year and the sale of lucky bags: It’s common to celebrate New Year in the West with parties, drinking, alcohol, and fireworks. However, this holiday is celebrated differently in Japan where focus on the family is prevalent. People usually go to their hometowns to celebrate with family by having meals together and enjoying the company of their family members. Marketers should therefore be aware that fireworks and greeting cards depicting this and the consumption of alcohol are not likely to be well-received since they simply don’t make sense for Japanese people. Another element of New Year’s celebrations is the aspect of purchasing lucky bags which contain an assortment of items usually sold at half price. This is another opportunity marketers can explore when devising strategies on how what and who to sell to. 
  • Sending Nengajo greeting cards: Nengajo greeting cards are cards that are typically sent to celebrate the New Year in Japan. They may depict calligraphy, the specific zodiac sign of the new year, cherry blossom trees, bamboo, or other traditional and nature motif images. This is a great opportunity for businesses to send such cards to their clients or business partners, with wishes for prosperity during the forthcoming year.
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February

  • Valentine’s Day: The celebration of Valentine’s Day in Japan is an interesting example of translation gone slightly awry. Due to a mistranslated marketing message several years ago when this typical Western tradition was brought to Japan, it is now common for females to give their male counterparts chocolates. However, this is not done in a romantic setting, but rather in a more platonic one. Thus, chocolates can be given to male colleagues and friends.
  • Setsubun: In Japan, Setsubun represents a seasonal division. While not quite spring yet, it does signify the change in seasons. It is not typically a great time for marketers, but those in the food industry can use it to promote their offerings for people who celebrate the start of the new season.

March

  • Celebrating the Hanami season: March is a great time to see the cherry blossoms and plum blossoms in Japan. Families and friends usually gather together celebrating the beautiful unfolding of such blossoms and commemorate the occasion with food and drinks.  
  • White Day: On White Day, men who received gifts on Valentine’s Day in Japan are expected to purchase gifts for their female counterparts and such gifts usually come in the form of chocolates, jewelry, lingerie, and others, making for another excellent marketing opportunity and a way to adapt your business strategy.

April

  • Thank You Sale in Spring: Many businesses try to promote the sale of older stock from the previous seasons at lower prices by offering their customers “Thank You Sales”.
  • Celebrating Easter: While not celebrated as a religious event in Japan, this holiday is typically associated with the sale of chocolate eggs, sweets, and other goodies.
  • April Fool’s Day: This is an important celebration in Japan and many companies seek to market their products in a humorous manner. Essentially, going viral is the ultimate goal of many advertising strategies.
  • School and company welcome: April in Japan is typically associated with the start of new careers or educational endeavors. This is an excellent opportunity for marketers involved in selling business attire, home furniture and appliances, and other related goods that are closely linked to the start of a new phase in one’s life.
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May

  • Children’s Day and Mother’s Day: Children’s Day in Japan falls on 5 May and is part of Golden Week. This is a public holiday that is celebrated, unlike Mother’s Day. For the latter, gifts of clothes, shoes, and holidays are often presented.  

June

  • Chugen/Ochugen: This is a Japanese tradition that involves the presentation of boxed gifts to superiors and those around us in an effort to thank them for their support. Companies can also use this opportunity to give gifts to their customers or offer discounts on their products in order to boost sales.
  • Summer bonuses: Such bonuses are typically given bi-annually to salaried individuals. Although not a marketing opportunity in itself, it does present the opportunity to make more sales as workers have increased disposable income with which to make purchases.

July

  • Summer greetings and thank you cards: The summer is the start of holidays for many students and is a great opportunity for travel. It’s also a time of year when companies send their customers “Thank you” cards, as mentioned in the previous months, and this is another opportunity for marketers to target their messages.

August

  • Job applications: August is a time for intensive job applications, interviews, and job hunting altogether in Japan. This is an excellent opportunity for marketers involved in apparel to sell their suits as professionalism is valued in the country.

September

  • Autumn Equinox Day: Taking place on the 22nd or 23rd of September, this is a celebration that results in festivals around Japan to celebrate the change in seasons.
  • Keiro no Hi (Respect for the Aged Day): This holiday is usually reserved for people of the older generations, who are revered and celebrated. It is typical to host parties and present gifts to one’s elders during this day.

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October

  • Taiiku no Hi (Health and Sports Day): Celebrated nationwide, this day is used to commemorate the day of the Olympic Games in Tokyo. It’s a popular holiday which entails competitions and sports activities being organized by companies, schools, and others.
  • Halloween: Slowly starting to gain traction in Japan, Halloween is usually celebrated by younger people who dress up in costumes. Merchandising for this holiday is also gaining in popularity.
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November

  • Oseibo (gift-giving at the end of the year): In Japan, this period of gift-giving usually entails the giving of a gift from a subordinate to a superior. Companies can also prepare gifts for their clients.
  • Kinro Kansha no Hi (Labour Thanksgiving Day): Unlike Thanksgiving in the United States, this is a national holiday that takes place on 23 November each year. It is a day that is used to celebrate workers and production.
  • Bunka no Hi (Culture Day): Held on the 3rd of November each year, this holiday celebrates Japanese traditions, arts and culture. It is commemorated by parades and festivals throughout the country.
  • Singles Day (11.11): This is a special holiday in China which celebrates single people of whom there are approximately over 200 million. Blind dates are set up and gifts are given to singles celebrating their single status, or hoping that they won’t need to celebrate this day the following year. Alibaba in China has significantly capitalized on this holiday in China over the past couple of years, making serious sales on this occasion.

December

  • Christmas: Although not related to the Christian religion or a special public holiday in Japan, Christmas is still celebrated through gift-giving and family gatherings.
  • Omisoka (celebrating New Year’s) and Nengajo (cards): New Year’s is a much more popular celebration in Japan, which is followed by the sending of Nengajo or cards that celebrate the end of the old year and the start of the new. This tradition is usually accompanied by end-of-year parties with co-workers and friends.

Wrapping up

Although not an exhaustive list of holidays in Asia, the above-mentioned celebrations in Japan and China should be a great starting point towards developing your marketing calendar. Knowing your clients’ culture and customs and what they celebrate is the first step in developing your business strategy for Asia. Once your marketing and business strategy has been prepared, you will need to engage in effective translation and localization into the relevant Asian languages. This element of business promotion can be the first step in expanding your business into Asia and the Pacific.