Singapore shares similar cultural contexts to China, with a majority of the Singaporean population being ethnic Chinese. Major festivals like the Spring Festival are hence celebrated on a large scale locally with similar traditions and themes. Therefore, during Chinese New Year, we observe that festival promotions in China are mirrored in Singapore as companies employ similar marketing strategies. In this article, we will take Hongbao marketing as an example to compare CNY marketing activities in Singapore with that of China.
In 2021, Alipay launched their annual “Five Fortune Card Collection” in China with a number of improvements and innovations from previous years to attract more participants. In Singapore, Google Pay and GrabPay have also jumped on the trend, launching similar marketing campaigns centred around Hongbao and traditional CNY elements, but are also unique in their own ways.
GrabPay: Zodiac Coin Hunt
GrabPay first launched the Zodiac Coin Hunt in 2020, due to data showing that usage for the Grab app typically declined during CNY. Users could join the hunt by taking Grab rides, making GrabFood or GrabMart purchases, transacting with GrabPay and more, and have the opportunity to win a new iPhone 12 Pro.
Figure 1: Zodiac Coin Hunt in 2021 CNY
The campaign, designed around the Chinese Zodiac, is meant to deliver a fun experience through gamification. According to designer Joshua Santoso, who worked on the project, what started as a simple experiment to avoid losses during the CNY period, actually allowed Grab to engage about half of its user base and raised their GMV.
Yet, with the campaign only in its early years, it remains to be seen if Grab can continue to work on improving and refining it. On a Facebook post by Grab about the Zodiac Coin Hunt, the post received 68 comments, with many users complaining about the difficulty in collecting the 12 coins and reacting with angry emojis. Most comments were not even relevant to the campaign itself – the top comment was actually about refund matters.
Figure 2: Comments about the Zodiac Coin Hunt on Facebook
As Singapore is a multicultural and diverse society, one reason why the campaign may not have resonated with a much larger audience is the fact that CNY is not celebrated by everyone in Singapore, and hence for some users, they would not have connected to the campaign on an emotional level. Learning from Alipay’s wildly successful campaign, Grab could look at incorporating ways for users to share, engage and interact with other users on the Zodiac Coin Hunt.
Google Pay: Huat pals Collection
In 2021, Google Pay celebrated the festive period with their “Huat pals” Hongbao collection campaign. Available between 4 to 26 February 2021, Google Pay users (both new and existing) could play ‘Huat pals’ together with family and friends. The gameplay was simple: collect five characters called Huat pals via Google Pay, and the user earns a virtual Hongbao worth anywhere between S$8.88 to S$88.88.
Figure 3: Google Pay Huat Pals collection in 2021 CNY
In this campaign, Google Pay focused on the element of sharing and interaction between users. Users could not only get Huat pals through transactions, but they also receive them if they successfully referred a new user to Google Pay, so many users started sharing this social game with their family and friends. Furthermore, some activities on the app also rewarded users with a gift basket containing a random gift (including a mix of Fairprice Online vouchers, more Huat pals or Hongbaos), which was shareable with friends. In addition, users could also give away their extra Huat pals to others to earn a surprise Huat pal in return.
In comparison to GrabPay, Google Pay had better incorporated the spirit of CNY in their marketing campaigns by encouraging users to join in the fun with their family and friends. This enables the campaign to effectively create emotional connections with consumers, so users do not solely focus on the prizes and rewards. By engaging them and spurring them to spread the campaign around, Google Pay was also able to increase its brand awareness among consumers. Tracing the keywords “Google Pay” and “GrabPay” in Google Trends (Time: 1 Feb 2021~28 Feb 2021, Location: Singapore), we observe that Google Pay had a much higher presence amongst consumers’ minds compared to GrabPay.
Figure 4: Google Trends result about “Google Pay” and “GrabPay”
Blue line: Google Pay; Red line: GrabPay
Based on the analysis of Alipay’s Fu collection and the comparison between Google Pay and GrabPay, the ability for a campaign to evoke an emotional connection is a key factor to the success of a CNY campaign, since CNY traditionally celebrates unity and familial ties. Developing a viral campaign also requires a comprehensive understanding of the local cultures and context and an accurate grasp of consumer psychology, and localisation remains as one of the most important aspects for international brands looking to engage local consumers. With a multi-cultural society in Singapore, the next step is also for brands to clearly understand the different cultures and position themselves to attract their target audience with the right marketing messages.
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