In China, Lunar New Year is a time of big ad spending, when marketers look to tap into the holiday spirit and appeal to consumers who spend on travel, restaurants and gifts during the weeklong holiday. But when it comes to the Chinese zodiac, all animals were not created equal. And marketers play favorites.
The upcoming lunar year, which starts on Feb. 19, is the Year of the Sheep. And sadly for sheep, the gentle, bleating little ruminants could probably use a rebrand.
For starters, some traditional Chinese parents avoid having a baby born in a sheep year, given that it's regarded as the "most inauspicious for childbirth," according to China Daily, which predicted slow business at maternity hospitals because of a superstition the babies will be unlucky.
Some brands might avoid the creatures, too, because of the message they send. "A sheep is weak; it's kind of bullied; it doesn't really do anything -- it gets shepherded," said Milo Chao, chief strategy officer at TBWA China. Worth noting, the zodiac year is also called Year of the Goat or Ram, because all three use the same Chinese character.
Kenny Chang, founder of local agency VK35, said sheep, along with snakes, often get snubbed by marketers. Even a pig, say, has more positive connotations, he said: "The pig means fortune, because he's fat." As for snakes, he said, marketers sometimes fudge the design to make them look like skinny dragons, the luckiest of the 12 zodiac creatures.