Emotion + Culture = Prosperity!

Adorable snowmen, woolly hats and scarves, and a heart-warming story of togetherness… this ad from China could be a typical Western Christmas-themed ad. But the fireworks might give you a clue that this Coca-Cola commercial is something a little different. And if you’re Chinese, you’ll know exactly what. The Year of the Rooster is upon us, and this Coke ad is a terrific example of how to mix universal emotion and specific cultural cues to brilliant effect.

Great celebrations demand great advertising, and the Chinese New Year is no exception. With billions of people celebrating, the event deserves more than the standard social media greetings most brands confine themselves to. It’s an ideal time for a big brand to invest in a big, emotional campaign which can build Fame, Feeling and Fluency. This is the opportunity Coca-Cola wants to take.

But it’s easier said than done. It needs to be the right campaign and capture the right emotions. Coca-Cola’s ad gets Fluency right – using the brand’s distinctive assets prominently, but in a way that never interrupts or distracts from the storyline. The ad makes use of “Coke Red” – check out what colour the fireworks and scarves are! But it also mixes in local distinctive assets – the animated foam ‘wa fu’ characters have been a recent mainstay of its Chinese advertising.

It’s on Feeling, though, that this ad really scores. A heart-warming story of animated creatures isn’t exactly an original way of scoring emotional response, and no matter how cute your cast is, if you don’t really understand what drives the sentiment around a celebration, you will end up with only moderate response. But our Ad Testing score for this Chinese New Year ad was a very high four stars – it came a whisker away from scoring in our top, five-star category. That means it’s a highly efficient ad likely to reward investment with strong market share gain.

What did it get right? Chinese New Year isn’t just about parties or fresh starts. Those play a part – the red fireworks are a symbol of good luck for the year ahead. But Chinese New Year is also a festival for the family – harmony and family togetherness are vitally important. That’s why the choice of story – the lonely snowman getting a family – worked so well. As one of our respondents put it, “Very strong Chinese flavour, a harmonious, united family”.  Get the right cultural emotion and your advertising will be far more powerful.


At System1, we help the world’s largest advertisers make confident creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our powerful ad testing platform (Test Your Ad) and our idea testing platform (Test Your Idea) help brands predict the commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand testing tool which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health, ensuring long-term brand growth through predictive success.
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