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B.C. companies roar into Lunar New Year with dragon-themed products

More B.C. companies are tapping into the Asian festival and getting creative about their campaigns
Wynn Moody, vice-president of fan experience for the Vancouver Canucks, showcases the NHL team’s limited-edition Year of the Dragon jersey and scarf.

Some B.C. companies decided to tap into Lunar New Year this year by introducing themed products to celebrate the Year of the Dragon and deliver an inclusive brand image.

Vancouver Canucks revealed its special limited-edition Year of the Dragon jersey in January, designed by artist Trevor Lai and featuring a dragon wrapped around the Canucks logo in gold colour.

“We're so fortunate to be able to live and play in such a multicultural city such as Vancouver … so we want to celebrate what our fans are celebrating,” said Wynn Moody, vice-president for fan experience at Vancouver Canucks.

“This [jersey] is about us amplifying the voices within our Asian communities, and certainly our Asian fans. We believe that hockey is for everyone.”

It’s the third year the NHL team has introduced zodiac-themed jerseys. Moody said it has been very popular among its fans and the program has grown bigger year-on-year.

Other B.C. companies have also released limited-edition Lunar New Year products, including Lululemon Athletica Inc (LULU:NASDAQ)’s “harmony in movement" collections, Aritzia Inc.’s (TSX: ATZ) Year of the Dragon collections modelled by Chinese and Vietnamese-Canadian elders, and local shoe company Vessi’s sold-out edition of footwear with an embroidered dragon design.

“People are starting to understand more about Lunar New Year and that Asians are not just a big homogenous entity, so it's really great to see that it's being celebrated more widely,” said Alex Wan, co-founder and CEO of Vancouver-based multicultural marketing agency Periphery Digital.

“Vancouver is definitely a very multicultural city. It’s a way of them acknowledging it, showcasing and being part of the community by celebrating with these cultures.”

There is a rising trend of company campaigns and special collections around Lunar New Year and other multicultural festivals such as Diwali in B.C. in recent years, according to Eddie Ning, an assistant professor specializing in marketing at the University of British Columbia.  

He added that this is attributed to the rising number of Asian immigrants coming to the province with high purchasing power, and also a more blended cultural scene in the region.

“At this point, if you're living in Metro Vancouver, even if you're not from the east Asian countries, there's celebration in every community centre, in the mall, so it's become a cultural thing that's much more recognizable in the wider spectrum,” said Ning.

“This is a good opportunity, a new cultural event with a distinct style, and [companies] want to capitalize on that.”

Addressing cultural nuance is key

Wan said cultural sensitivity is key when companies put out promotions or collections around Lunar New Year and other multicultural events to achieve positive results.

“The tricky part for a lot of brands is making sure that they're not just culturally appropriating things. What we're seeing is [some] brands are just slapping … red on clothing or something, and expecting it to really resonate,” said Wan.

He said it’s great to see some B.C. brands including Aritzia and the Canucks “hit the mark” by, for example, working with local Asian artists on the design. 

“I think the result of that would be very different if someone else designed it,” said Wan.

Aritzia took a step further this year to model Chinese- and Vietnamese-Canadian seniors who are grandparents of Aritzia employees, which Wan said “is a great fit” for the Lunar New Year theme emphasizing family gathering and wearing new clothes.

“It's very important to be as culturally sensitive as possible when developing these types of promotions and campaigns…[and] being very nuanced in terms of the message that you're delivering and being very thoughtful of the content.”