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5 Chinese New Year themed executions that didn't quite work

5 Chinese New Year themed executions that didn't quite work

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With Chinese New Year around the corner, brands are off to the races to execute themed marketing executions. As with any race, there will be winners and there will be losers. Most recent we saw UK publications BBC and The Guardian missing the mark with their showcase of Chinese New Year themed recipes, and closer to home Suria KLCC also found itself facing some criticism for its pagoda structure.

We've compiled a list, consisting of executions from the past few years, where brands unfortunately fell a little short.

1. BBC and The Guardian


UK Media outlets, The Guardian and BBC made the list with its Chinese New Year recipe images which showed the food accompanied with joss paper, ancient Chinese coins, and an envelope given out at funerals (吉儀). BBC's  "Lo mein with scallops and Tenderstem broccoli" recipe caught the attention of netizens for pairing the dish with a red packet and an envelope given out at funerals.  Meanwhile, The Guardian's "Pork and crab dumplings with spicy sour sauce" dish featured a side of longevity joss paper for decorative purposes. Traditionally, joss paper is burnt by the Chinese to pay respects to the departed and for ancestral worship. 

2. Suria KLCC


Suria KLCC's Chinese New Year pagoda decoration that was placed outside its mall was criticised by netizens for being rather "Qingming-like". Qingming is a Chinese festival known as the Tomb Sweeping Festival. In a series of Facebook comments, some said the pagoda reminded them of a temple while others were quick to joke that the decoration can be recycled and burnt during the Qingming Festival. A handful also requested for Suria KLCC's management to be mindful of other cultures and seek clarification if they are unclear. According to Suria KLCC's press statement, the pagoda is Malaysia's tallest replica, standing at 70-feet-tall and was brought back after being introduced in 2020. 

3. Gucci


While Gucci might have escaped the wrath of netizens with its Chinese New Year ads, it caught the attention of non-profit animal rights organisation, World Animal Protection for "glorifying captive wild animals" in its latest Tiger collection. In the ad, the luxury fashion house released campaign images of models with real tigers superimposed into them. Gucci also said in a Facebook post that the tigers were photographed and filmed in a separate and safe environment complying to the brand's policies and then featured within the campaign.  Third-party animal welfare organisation, American Humane, was also said to have monitored the set on which animals were present and verified that no animals were harmed. Nonetheless, World Animal Protection said Gucci is sending the wrong message through its ads - even if it has used digital technology -  by portraying tigers as pets and luxury items when they are wild animals who belong in their natural habitats.

4. Burberry


In 2019, fashion house Burberry's Chinese New Year campaign raised eyebrows in China for being too sombre and coming off as "horrific". The campaign image featured eight solemn-looking models across generations posing for a family photo in Burberry outfits. According to the brand at that time, the picture was meant to celebrate "togetherness", an important value in Chinese New Year.  After the launch, netizens were quick to describe the ad to be "terrifying", some even likening the models to "ghosts" and questioned if this was actually an ad that was meant for the new year or a funeral. Meanwhile, other users called out the picture of having a "void of emotion" and "lacked warmth", which did not sit well with the festive spirit that is associated with the Chinese New Year.

5. Bvlgari


Also in the year 2019, Italian luxury brand, Bvlgari missed the mark with the Chinese market with its "Jew" of the year for The Year of The Pig. While the word "Jew" may sound similar to "猪" (zhu), which translates to pig. The bizarre wordplay managed to offend international markets, and some netizens were quick to post cheeky comments, with one user saying if Bvlgari "consulted with any Jewish people first". Meanwhile, another user said the fashion house was offending Jews with this wordplay, especially when "pigs are prohibited in their religion". 

Seen any other faux pas that caught your eye? Email me at

Related articles:
BBC and The Guardian Chinese dish recipes showcased with a side of joss paper and funeral envelopes
Suria KLCC's CNY decor compared to Tomb Sweeping Festival by netizens
Gucci's Year of Tiger ads slammed by animal rights NGO for 'glorifying' wild animals
Should D&G have refrained from marketing during CNY with a new collection?
Not festive enough? Burberry raises eyebrows with rather solemn CNY campaign
Analysis: Why Bvlgari's online store in SG shouldn't just be a replica of its boutique

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