Limited edition holiday products can be an effective way of marketing to luxury buyers in the lead up to Chinese New Year, but in recent years, the designs have garnered criticism from Chinese media, social influencers, and consumers. Many feel that foreign designers don’t understand how to incorporate traditional Chinese elements and zodiac animals in a way that appeals to increasingly sophisticated Chinese luxury buyers.
Heading into the 2018 holiday season, some say this year’s Chinese New Year items are even worse than last year. To better understand consumer sentiment and figure out what went wrong, Jing Daily compiled Chinese internet users’ reactions to many of this year’s New Year-themed products.
Estée Lauder’s Year of the Dog compact received mixed reviews. While some thought it was pretty, many thought they put too many diamonds on it, making it look gaudy and cheap. And many consumers thought the images looked more like cats or foxes than dogs.
Tacky, gaudy, and cheap were the words most frequently used in comments about this year’s D&G designs. One influencer remarked, “These shirts will be perfect to wear when I go visit my farmer relatives in the countryside!” In regard to a floral blouse with golden labs on it another blogger commented, “Only a middle-aged woman from a third or fourth tier city would be caught in a shirt like that.”
Others noted that it appears that D&G slapped every kind of dog possible onto different styles of shirts in the hopes that something would stick.
There have been two main complaints about LV’s Year of the Dog bags, the main one being that consumers think it looks childish and overdone, saying “One dog was not enough. They had to add three.”
The other issue people have with the bags is that they look like counterfeits, suggesting the designs could easily be reproduced and sold for a cheaper price on platforms such as Taobao.
Gucci’s bag also received a less than stellar reaction, with one blogger jokingly saying that the good thing about one of the designs is that, “It so ridiculous looking that at least it will keep you laughing all year.”
Similar to Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci incorporated a variety of dogs into several different style bag designs, but without much luck. Another bag with a dog’s face painted on the side had many people saying it looks like somebody casually DIYed it.
Some are saying that Dior’s choker-style bracelet is the only good New Year design they’ve seen so far. Others don’t like it much, but feel that at least it is better than last year’s childish designs. And then there are, of course, others who completely dislike the design, saying the bracelet “looks like a dog collar”.
Consumers feel that the brand’s New Year’s compact case lacks originality. It is almost identical to last year’s, just with a different animal pressed into the powder (and many said you can barely tell it’s a dog). They did notice that the font and color of the Fu symbol on the packaging have changed, and all agreed that it is a step forward, however many said that the new font still looks too cliché.
Armani has put out nearly the same product for several years now, leaving many wondering, are they just going to continue on like this? Or will they eventually come out with something new? One popular WeChat blogger sarcastically suggested that, “If they’re going to continue putting out the same product, at least they could make the pressed animal more interesting. Next year for Year of the Pig they could put Peppa Pig on it!”
Several of the big players including Chopard, Piaget, Panerai and Vacheron Constantin revealed their limited-edition dog designs. The majority of them received poor reviews, with one blogger noting, “Because there is such a small quantity of them produced, they are surely quite collectible, which is unfortunate because they are very ugly.”
Many consumers are laughing at both Adidas and Nike for slapping the word dog onto their shoes, with one blogger saying, “do they know if they do that no one will want to buy it?” The blogger is referring to the fact that, while in modern China many people love dogs and keep them as pets, this has not always been the case, and there are many derogatory sayings and curse words in the Chinese language that include the word dog. As much as they now love dogs, it’s definitely not a word they want plastered on their clothing.
People are especially amused by Nike, whose Year of the Dog design is very similar to the one from the last Year of the Dog twelve years ago, wondering, “If people didn’t like the fake dog hair and the word dog on their shoes back then, why do you think they would like it now?”
Obviously meant to be festive, Givenchy’s New Year lipstick packaging is a big fail with Chinese consumers who have been likening the lipstick tube to New Year firecrackers and the lipstick box to a box of incense.
Givenchy’s social media strategy hasn’t gone well either. To promote the product, the brand partnered with actress Tan Songyun to create a video which was shared on Weibo, however, the majority of the comments on the post were about the actress, not about the product.
In the comments about the product, many consumers were expressing confusion, asking where they could actually order it. It appears that, while Givenchy announced the order was limited edition available for presale, they forgot to share how to purchase it.
YSL’s packaging also received negative reviews, with bloggers saying: “Lasts year’s package design was tacky and this year’s is too”; “The style matches the interior of a karaoke bar”; “definitely something people from the countryside would like.”
Summing up the Chinese New Year efforts of luxury brand designers thus far, one commenter riffed: “When the foreign designers were asked, ‘What happened to your design aesthetics?’ they replied, ‘The dog ate them!’”
Others were more positive, suggesting, “I think they’ve improved. C’mon guys, you can do it! You’re getting closer to understanding us! Might take you another couple decades though…” And, more constructively, “I think they should partner with Chinese designers who could help them understand traditional Chinese design elements.”
Chinese consumers look forward to and appreciate luxury brands’ efforts to make custom New Year items, but it is obvious that brands need to put more effort into understanding the modern Chinese consumers’ desire for subtle and sophisticated designs. While it may have worked ten years ago, merely slapping a zodiac animal on an item and using red and gold packaging isn’t enough. On top of that, brands need to understand the deeper meanings associated with the zodiac animal if they are going to use it in their designs.
The popularity of the decorating tapes from the Forbidden City’s Palace Museum late last year show that well-researched design based on cultural references instead of assumptions can be incredibly successful with Chinese consumers. In the future, brands would be wise to heed consumers’ advice and collaborate with local experts and designers to improve their product’s chances of success.