Sale or Slump? International Holidays and Your Marketing Campaign

Which international holidays should be part of your marketing strategy?


Which international holidays should be part of your marketing strategy, and which ones can be ignored? It’s hard to tell—some are nearly analogous to their Western counterparts, some feature variations on typical North American themes, and others are completely unique. How do you pick the right holiday marketing and make sure your message doesn’t take an accidental vacation?

Holiday Spirit The most important thing about your holiday marketing? Accurate translation. Consider, for example, Valentine’s Day in Japan. The holiday is a Western tradition, but as noted by Mental Floss, chocolate companies started looking for a new market in the 1950s. A mistranslation, however, led the Japanese to believe that it was customary for women to give chocolates to men. What’s more, women often give chocolates to men they don’t love, such as coworkers or friends. These “giri-choco” are purchased and given out of obligation rather than feeling. When the Valentine’s Day mix-up was discovered, “White Day” was created. On March 14 of each year, men buy women cake and chocolates.

Though Valentine’s Day in Japan worked out well for chocolate companies, it’s not hard to imagine how a market penetration attempt like this could go wrong. If holiday campaigns wildly misinterpret Western traditions or fail to accurately capture local customs, consumers might ignore your message or avoid the holiday altogether. Using quality translations backed by a secure translation management system, your brand message can always get across.

Worth Watching So, what are some international holidays your company should consider when designing a marketing campaign? In China, the most important holiday of the year isn’t Christmas, but rather Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. According to Jing Daily, this holiday includes a seven-day break, gifts, and traditional greetings. In Japan, meanwhile, Christmas is celebrated with gifts and decorations but has no religious overtones. It is almost entirely a children’s holiday and does not include a day off from work. Golden Week, meanwhile, includes multiple holidays in a one-week period. Many Japanese people take trips domestically and abroad during this time, giving savvy marketers ample opportunity for product placement.

The list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Singles Day. This invention of Chinese retail giant Alibaba falls on November 11 and generates nearly $6 billion a year in sales. On Singles Day, Alibaba and other online vendors slash prices, giving bachelors, bachelorettes, and anyone else with disposable income a chance to grab great deals. The holiday isn’t popular in the United States because Veterans Day also falls on November 11 and Black Friday is just around the corner. Companies with a mind to break into new markets, however, could make serious inroads with Singles Day.

Holiday sales are on the way up—according to e-commerce firm Volusion, they’re set to increase by 20 percent this year and reach more than $42 billion. Just another reason to make sure your holiday message hits the mark globally through translation and localization.

About Doug Bonderud Doug Bonderud is a freelance technology writer with a passion for telling great stories about unique brands. For the past five years, he's covered everything from cloud computing to home automation and IT security. He speaks some French, is fluent in Ancient Greek and a master of Canadian English — and yes, colour needs a 'u'.