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A Gift to the Land of Etiquette

Posted on June 10, 2013 and read 2,371 times

A Gift to the Land of Etiquette thumbnail

QinGuo A Gift to the Land of EtiquetteQin Guo

Brand Strategist

BSUR Shanghai

Today it is no surprise to see the luxury spending of a Chinese tourist who is traveling to Paris or Italy. He or she will possibly purchase most of the luxury goods there, with handbags, clothing, watches and jewelry being the most popular. These are often the gifts they plan to bring back home, to give to family, friends and business acquaintances. It is a favorable phenomenon, particularly in the luxury market, and in which Chinese gifting culture plays an notable role. Gift-giving behavior shapes the market of what is offered to Chinese consumers, and in recent years we also see a market which shapes the gifting culture in China. Not only new gifting moments are being introduced and accepted, but they also change what Chinese consumers purchase as a gift.

New gifting moments

I have been living and working in Shanghai, a city said to be the most vibrant and metropolitan in China. A few times a year I will visit my family back in Wuhan, a city in the middle of China and known to marketers as a second tier city. I think my emotions are equally divided between the two cities although they are very different in terms of dialect, lifestyle and ambitions. The weekend I went home was Mother’s Day. It intrigued me to see how imported holidays harmoniously mix with Chinese traditional holidays, and also how inspirational these dates can be to China’s market today, no matter to which city it is.

Just a few years ago, our family started to hear about Mother’s Day through market promotions. We did not know much about it and it was not in our celebration agenda. This day never existed in our tradition. This year, my brother and I gave our mother her favorite flowers and cooked a nice meal for the whole family. It was a happy day for everyone and created great moments to talk and share the latest with the family. Thanks to the marketing of Mother’s Day, we now have a special occasion to say ‘thank you’ to our mothers; another “gifting moment” has successfully been created and marketers of flowers, jewelry, health care are winning these moments in China.

About gifting in China

Holidays and gifting occasions in China have seen an interesting development over the past decade. They have also mirrored and reflected greater social changes that are happening all around China. Historically, China has always been deemed “lǐ yí zhī bāng 礼仪之邦” , which is a land of etiquette and propriety. Gifting culture has been of the utmost importance, along with the etiquette and lifestyle associated with each occasion. Written letters, fabrics, tea and silk used to be the ideal gifts. Today, the variety of gift options are abundant, luxury goods, wine & cigarettes, perfumes, fancy gadgets, etc. Gifting has become less conventional and more creative, traditions and modernizations are intertwining. It is no secret that business definitely booms around the holidays. Special moments are being recognized with material goods like never before—and consumers are more and more hungry for new experiences.

So when is a good time to give a gift? When do people do most of their gift shopping? Chinese New Year, birthdays, weddings, new babies, housewarmings, and business openings—all of these events are occasions when gifts are given and expected, probably pretty much the same as elsewhere in the world. Gifting behavior though, has ballooned thanks to the marketing and business developments in China: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day were not on people’s radar until recent. But now all of these special days are known and observed in China. Consumers are seizing every opportunity to buy, give, and get. The holidays are the driving force behind much of China’s gift consumption today.

442 360767 800f7579aeccfc5 A Gift to the Land of Etiquette

The copy reads: “Dear Dad, I’m not very good at expressing, but there are some words I don’t need to say, and you will understand. The most thoughtful gift is what takes care the most, and it makes everyday a Father’s Day. 

Creating new gifting moments

What if you are the marketing director of products that not yet seem to fit in the conventional gifting environment in China? You may try to introduce a new reason to purchase or a new moment to celebrate. For instance, diamonds. It was not at all a traditional symbol for Chinese weddings. Nowadays a diamond is almost a must for all the newlyweds, not to mention the meaning of size or clarity. Certainly interesting stories were told to consumers, such as “believe that diamond is the only proof for your love”. Aside from people’s open heart to a new material culture, the increasing purchasing power made it very possible. Another example, China was not a big consumer of chocolate due to its sweet taste and cocoa ingredients. However, since its introduction to China’s market, much effort has been made to introduce it as the gift for Chinese New Year, birthdays, and especially Valentines. More and more people have tried chocolate and then started to consume it on regular basis. Creating new purchase moments means forming a new habit or culture; a big step forward to grow a sustainable market.

The growing gifting nation

Chinese consumers’ passion for luxury goods will remain and for gifting, this is still the desirable option. The nation is growing wider on the gifting market; Father’s Day is approaching and it seems this new day is taking over the traditional Dragon Boat Festival, as the focus of gifting promotions. Although both in the coming two weeks, online and offline stores have started asking question ‘what is the perfect gift to your beloved father?’ whereas things are still quiet on the Dragon Boat Festival. It must because this traditional event is know to have Rice Dumpling as occasional offering, and nothing else. Imported holidays seem to allow for more gifting options, every marketer can possibly find a piece of pie. Chinese consumers are eager to celebrate new occasions, which come with active buying and giving. This is the gift to the land of etiquette, a market that starts to shape the culture.




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