ZEITLINES | 02.08.19
This Week in Zeitlines we get personal. On Tuesday, millions around the world celebrated Lunar New Year. For some it is a marketing exercise, maybe even a reason to eat your favourite Asian cuisine but not for Cassie Chan who – in the next instalment in our “I am Republic” series, not only schools us on this “Super-holiday” but reflects on her Chinese heritage and the importance of normalizing narratives of people of colour. Finally, through the lens of a first-hand encounter, VP Joline Matika brings us the true magic of SuperFandom.
I AM REPUBLIC
New Moon: The Lunar New Year and Life Between Cultures
Cassie Chan, Jr. Designer
As someone who grew up in a household with Chinese parents, Chinese holidays aren’t uncommon to me. I remember every kid in elementary school making a huge fuss over holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but even the hype surrounding those holidays couldn’t compare to that of my family preparing to celebrate the Lunar New Year where festivities can extend anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, depending on the family celebrating.
I studied in Hong Kong last year, and some of my classmates would take at least four weeks off school to visit family and relatives living in Mainland China. To put it in perspective, imagine combining Easter weekend, Thanksgiving, and Christmas into one month to create a Super-holiday. I’ve never been tired after celebrating a holiday, but I guess there’s a first for everything.
For those of you who haven’t been exposed to the occasion, here is a brief rundown on Lunar New Year: The holiday is widely celebrated in many Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia. The holiday marks the start of the new year on the lunar calendar, differentiating from the Gregorian calendar traditionally used in western countries, which always starts on January 1st. The lunar calendar is based on exact astronomical observations of the sun's longitude and the Moon's phases. Festivities include spending time and eating large meals with close friends and family, giving out red envelopes (known as red pockets) filled with money, decorating homes with red and gold ornaments, shopping, and even cleaning the house to welcome the new year.
As a Chinese-Canadian, it’s interesting to see the rise and progression of Lunar New Year in North America as time goes on. In the case of Lunar New Year, it used to be a holiday few paid any attention to. In fact, there wasn’t much awareness about this holiday when I was younger, possibly because the Asian community living in my area was quite small. I still remember doing (awkward) class presentations on the Lunar New Year in elementary school as an effort to introduce my peers to a pretty large part of my East Asian heritage. It’s a stark comparison to now, when a large chunk of the people I interact with on a daily basis have wished me a happy Lunar New Year in one way or another.
This increase in awareness also overlaps with a lot of seasonal advertising and marketing I’ve come across in the past month or so. With a holiday as big as this, it’s natural that brands would want in on the action. In recent years, Lunar New Year has proved to be a critical period for advertisers in North America with an estimated 300,000+ Chinese living in Toronto alone. That’s a huge market — and that is not including the numerous other East and Southeast Asian populations living in the city.
I feel this is actually a part of a larger phenomenon — with the rise of the digital age, we’ve also seen a shift towards a more culturally aware and diverse approach in how we address audiences. Granted, it may not be perfect (like when I see brands position Lunar New Year as a Chinese-centric holiday, when that’s totally not the case). But it’s a start.
Messages and conversations like these didn’t exist when I was younger, but it would have impacted how I view my own ethnic identity. I think that’s something most people of color living in Canada can relate to; despite being part of two cultures, there are times where it feels like you don’t belong to either of them. In my case, I’m too Canadian compared to my friends and family living in Hong Kong, but in Canada, my Chinese ethnicity is one of the first things you’ll notice about me.
The tough part about these challenges is that there’s no guidebook or rules to help you; rather, your experiences and interactions with the people around you shape how you navigate living in and between two (oftentimes, very different) cultures.
But, if we normalize the stories and narratives of people of color, perhaps it’d make this diaspora a little easier to navigate. Which is a very good thing. What you see often becomes a part of your memory, which makes it a part of your life experience.
Seeing representation like this would have made a very large and important impact on how I share and celebrate my ethnic heritage with the people around me even today. And that is something at the very core of my identity.
Hans the Human Billboard and the Magic of SuperFandom
Joline Matika, VP of Client Success
Meet Hans Madsen, the 69-year-old curling super fan from Yorkton, Saskatchewan. If you’ve ever watched curling, you’re sure to have seen Hans in the stands, sporting a painted beard and wild wig. He’s been doing it for over a decade now, and has become a household name in the curling world. The fans know him, the curlers know him, and everybody loves him.
My team and I attended the TSN All Stars Curling Skins Game in Banff, Alberta this past weekend where our client, Everest Funeral Concierge was the official sponsor … and where Hans was sporting his signature look directly across from where we were sitting. On Day 2, I recognized the Kubota logo and thought to myself, “That’s brilliant, I wish we had thought of it for Everest.”
I had the great pleasure of speaking with Hans after the finals. The conversation went something like this:
Joline: Hello! What’s your name?
Hans: I’m Hans.
Joline: Nice to meet you Hans. I love your style. How do we get an Everest mountain on that beard?
Hans: I have the stencil ready to go! But I didn’t have time to paint a mountain this time around. It’s an intricate piece. I’ll do it for sure the next time you guys are at a game.
Joline: Wait a minute, you just do this? For free? So, you just put Kubota on your beard yesterday and they didn’t pay you to do it?
Hans: Nope, I’ve never been paid by a sponsor. It would be nice to be paid, but that’s not why I do it. I do it to make people smile. And I do it to thank you guys – because without sponsors like you, curling wouldn’t be what it is today.
Of course, as a marketer, I automatically assumed that it was organized and paid for by Kubota. But no. Hans actually sports event sponsor logos on his beard – for no pay at all.
How do I feel about this?
Well, on one hand, I think Hans is a human billboard and he should be negotiating pay for his services. On the other, there is some beautiful magic in the fact that he does it all on his own, with no expectations. He is authentic beyond words. An influencer who doesn’t have to say #paid #ad #sponsored. Because he’s doing it for no other reason than his unequivocal, profound love of the sport.
If you have a story of your own to share, reach out to Fiona at firstname.lastname@example.org! #FreeYourStory