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Tradition meets innovation: How can HK brands better leverage 'mooncake marketing'?

Tradition meets innovation: How can HK brands better leverage 'mooncake marketing'?

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Every year at this time, we can see an influx of brands introducing creative mooncake collections for consumers to enjoy or send as gifts to their loved ones. Apart from pastry or mooncake brands such as Maxim’s and Kee Wah Bakery, luxury retail, coffee or hospitality brands in Hong Kong are also delivering co-branded merchandises or branded mooncake collections to boost sales and engage with consumers.

For example, coffee brand NOC Coffee Co. has unveiled a "Not Only Coffee" gift set that is filled with caffeinated delights instead of mooncakes, aiming to curate a “brew-tiful” moment for the season of reunion. A spokesperson from NOC Coffee told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that the marketing strategy of non-pastry or mooncake brands launching gift boxes during the Mid-Autumn Festival is becoming increasingly popular, as consumer demand for festive gift boxes has become more diversified.

"For these brands, they can meet the needs of different consumers and provide more choices. In this way, they can expand their target audience, attract more consumers who pay attention to gifts during the festival, and gain a competitive advantage in the market competition."

Meanwhile, Regal Hotels has collaborated with TEA CHÂTEAU, a tea capsule brand under health com­pany Vita Green Health Products, to unveil two mooncake and tea gift sets this Mid-Autumn Festival. The collaboration aims to encourage consumers to embark on a wellness journey that combines the art of mooncake making with the lingering notes of tea.

In a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Philip Chau, vice president, group head of marketing, Regals Hotels International, said one main objective for this type of collaboration is diversification. Under the partnership, both brands are open to reaching new audiences, so that hopefully they can cross sell into their core products, he said.

“Mooncake is proven to be a large market, which drives a lot of volume and sales. It is also a hot seasonal topic, that is almost guaranteed to generate media buzz and coverage, provided you have an interesting and differentiated product to sell,” he added.

In terms of ROI measurement, Chau said regardless of the focus, an important strategy for mooncake is to have a clear value proposition and unique selling point to cut through the clutter.

“You need to do sufficient research to understand the consumer preferences and current marketplaces. Then, you can come up with a very specific angle that is unique to your product to be able to sell it. The actual marketing channels used to push this are no different than the usual online/offline channels sharing well put together image/video content.”

Reasons behind the move 

In fact, China's rich cultural history and vibrant traditions have long served as significant marketing touchpoints for brands. Industry players MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to believed that as Mid-Autunm festivals have evolved beyond their traditional roots and become prime opportunities for consumer engagement. 

Kelvin Lee, marketing director, APAC, Assembly, said he has noticed that lifestyle verticals such as luxury retail and hospitality brands are more likely to launch branded mooncakes as it’s a great way to foster brand associations with more meaningful cultural moments and engage loyal customers who are likely to advocate for the brand.

Receiving these luxury packages and delicious mooncakes can also often elicit an emotional response, strengthening the customers affinity for the brand, brands can also associate themselves with deep customer sentiments like family time, he added.

“More luxury brands have been launching exclusive mooncake collections every year, continuously raising the bar in terms of the level of personalisation and packaging to create even more luxurious and memorable experiences for their loyal customers,” he said.

As the Mid-Autumn Festival has emerged as one of the most important festivities, mooncakes undoubtedly hold deep cultural significance throughout East Asian countries, according to Carmen Wu, head of Havas Market, Havas Hong Kong.

“Recognising the power of this tradition, non-F&B brands have incorporated mooncakes into their marketing strategies, forging meaningful and emotional connections with consumers,” she added.In a competitive landscape, this creativity helps these brands stand out and engage customers in a unique way, she said.

Florence Wong, CEO, OMD Hong Kong also said the move intends to tighten brands’ relationship with the festival and draw attention from customers for a crowd message period. "The harmony between the mooncake and non-pastry or non-mooncake brands depends on the correlation between product usage and the unique design of the festival packaging."

How can brands in HK better leverage "mooncake marketing" in campaigns? 

It’s no surprise that more brands are jumping onto this trend to drive short-term sales and boost brand awareness during Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong. According to Admango, the local adspend for mooncakes has recorded HK$15.3mn from 19 to 25 August, 2023, which was the highest expenditure week during the period of July to September. Furthermore, Maxim’s Caterers, Kee Wah Bakery and Wing Wah were the top three advertisers with the highest adspend in mooncake category.

Havas HK’s Wu said the Mid-Autumn Festival prompts a surge in demand for mooncakes, as people seek out these delectable treats for gifting and personal enjoyment.

“Non-F&B brands that offer their own branded mooncakes or collaborate with established mooncake brands cater to customers in search of distinctive and high-quality options,” she added.

Simultaneously, Wu said these initiatives help fuel brand awareness, leaving indelible impressions on consumers' minds. “By embracing mooncake marketing, non-F&B brands successfully marry tradition with innovation, thus positioning themselves at the forefront of a cherished cultural event,” she said.

While such partnerships or collaborations may not work for every single brand, Saw Gin Toh, head of strategy, VMLY&R Singapore said brands should always return to the objectives and the intention a brand hopes to achieve through any initiative.

“The short answer to this question is there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The only definite is that as with all marketing initiatives, a clear objective needs to be defined to ensure brand fit and relevance,” Toh added.

In some instances, it could make sense for brands in those other categories to curate interesting mooncakes to send greetings to VIP customers, which could result in social sharing or viralability, Toh added.

Agreeing with Toh was Assembly’s Lee, who said brands must understand how this activation would fit into the larger brand strategy. "Given the cultural importance of the festival, poorly executed partnerships can easily be misconstrued as a gimmick and do more harm to the brand than good," Lee said.

Related articles:

Mooncake mania: How are brands trying to outdo each other and stand out?
Branded mooncakes: The newest trend for Mid-Autumn marketing?

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