Chris Reed
Jan 28, 2014

Brands gallop into the Year of the Horse (apart from the fast food ones)

Everywhere I look I see horses. There are more horses in Singapore at the moment than people. Every brand has a horse associated with it. Why? Because we are about to enter the Chinese New Lunar Year of the Wood Horse (don’t mention Trojans) and every brand in Asia has to include horses somewhere in their marketing.

Brands gallop into the Year of the Horse (apart from the fast food ones)

Singapore has adopted the strapline “Galloping into Prosperity” which is very apt for Singapore. When I get to work in China Town all I see are enormous horses flying above me!

At night time they are lit up to entertain the masses of misguided tourists who come for the stalls that pop up at this time of year and sell basically that that you wouldn’t buy at any other time of the year.

In Asia CNY is bigger than Christmas and new year combined.  The association with the new animal (we have just had the mythical water dragon) for the new Chinese Year is a must for all marketing teams. No matter what the association there must be one interwoven into your marketing campaigns.

This has led to some frankly really stretching it adverts where the horse looks like it would rather be anywhere else but next to that particular brand desperately trying to gain some good luck with the association.

No matter how irrelevant, from estate agents to FMCG brands, financial services especially to retail and F&B brands. Some brands do this very well, some appallingly. All have to do it or just not be bought for a month.

Beer brands have a habit of associating all CNY with money, usually all money promotionsaround CNY are $88 or $888 or if you’re really lucky $8888. It has to be the lucky number 8.

One of the other musts is that everything has to be lucky colour red. This is great for Coke and McDonalds less so for Pepsi and Subway.

The other musts are mandarin oranges and for some reason pineapples. On any given walk around my Singapore neighbourhood I see both huge lit up pineapples and mandarin trees. All for luck.

At the various garden centres and florists in Singapore there are thousands of mandarin trees that have just replaced the Christmas tree for that must-have office and home decoration, the bigger the better.

There are golden rules with regards to what you can say too. Every strapline must include the words like Lunar, prosperity, abundance, health, happiness and wealth. CNY has lots to do with money.

Coke have produced their usual boring dragon fronted massive packs for sharing (that was so last year guys) and a particularly forgettable advert which while including eating wisely doesn’t include anything to do with horses.  This seems to be a theme, as you will see.

McDonalds have produced their traditional “prosperity burgers” advert which again wisely (given the scandals in the UK and Europe to do with horse meat in burgers) have steered away from the association of horses with meat. They have kept to the more traditional dragon imagery instead. That works every year, whether it’s the year of the dragon or not.

Pizza Hut too have shied away including horses in their marketing. There really does appear to be a trend here. I can’t imagine why. They have gone for the “add a touch of gold” and focused on pineapple and cheesy golden crust. Not a horse in sight.

Subway are giving away lucky wallets that aren’t even red with prizes like extra toppings, meat and money. But no horses appeared in their marketing, probably because of the association of horses with sandwiches being again potentially too risky.

Little did Europeans know that when they bought beef burgers and lamb kebabs that turned out to actually be horse meat that 1) they were a year too early and 2) it was lucky.

Local super brand Tiger always come up with some really weird and interesting creative that seems very different to their usual brand image and design. This year is no exception.

Usually they try to be laddish and sporty with the obligatory Singaporean girl in the frame, this year their CNY creative is all arty (above).

Luxury brands also get into the picture with limited edition horse branding, merchandise and marketing. Gucci has produced something very relevant that ticks all the boxes of horses, red but not 8. DKNY have just gone with the tacky horse on a red jacket, shoes, bags, scarves…anything really that they can flog.

Local super brands SingTel and DBS are producing traditional evocative red Chinese themed adverts offering luck and themed phone cards and dining deals, respectively, and of course the ubiquitous red wallets.

I like the Robinsons (premium department store in Singapore) approach. They have gone with the “Ride Into Prosperity” angle but used the Ferrari horse (and car) along with motorbike to be more creative than just going with a standard horse. Very out of the box.

Even Richard Branson is trying to get in on the act appearing as “God of Fortune” on Virgin Atlantic’s Red Envelopes in Hong Kong.

BA have just gone with the red envelopes promoted on China Social Network WeChat.  Not to be outdone (and especially as their largest market is now China) Burberry have produced some specific year of the horse merchandise and a particularly tacky advert to go with it.

Ironically the one brand that should be making hay (excuse the pun) from the year of the horse have been quite slow out of the tracks (and another one). The Turf Club in Singapore should really be marketing themselves as not only the place to have your CNY dinner (which they are with a special Feb 1 race meeting), but they should also be promoting a year-long range of activities to celebrate the association and gain more punters. Odds on they won’t be handicapped from doing so. (That’s enough horse puns – Ed.)

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