Christmas at Starbucks: An Americanized Treat for Chinese Audiences


HO HO HO Santa Starbucks is coming to China

If you think that Starbucks is anti-Christmas, just take a look at its Chinese language website. Yes, there are red cups, but the Chinese script on the homepage boldly reads, “with you, Christmas is warm”. The English underneath, while it looks like it should be a translation, reads: “coffee brings us together”. Suckered in, I click on the picture. Brought to a new page, now the Chinese script is “Have you prepared your Christmas presents?” while the English remains a wonderfully politically correct, “the gift of togetherness”.

starbucks christmas hq

Starbucks advertises the idea of Christmas to associate itself with American holiday festivities.


Starbucks Uses Christmas to Associate with American Holiday Festivities

This marketing move is surprising on many levels. Of course, China is not known to be a country that celebrates Christmas. But also, Starbucks made a name for itself in China because it adapted to local culture, not because it forced western tradition on local customers. So what is going on here?

starbucks christmas3

Have you prepared your Christmas presents?

Starbucks seems to be trying to capitalize on a growing trend among young people in China. Western holidays, like Halloween or Christmas, are becoming popular in China because, frankly, they’re fun. I recently had a discussion with a group of Chinese college students about what they think America is. One of the students said, “Christmas”. When I told her that America in no way created Christmas she just said, “but we think it is American”. As the college students kept listing different things that define America for them (Hollywood and apple pie being among the listed), to my surprise another word surfaced: fashion. “What about American fashion?”, I asked. “No no, America is fashion”.

As a fashionable, nouveau riche brand in China, Starbucks is deftly playing up the Christmas marketing. For more information on Starbucks’ unique marketing strategies in China, check out Resonance China’s marketing reports.

About Author

Social Brand Watch (SBW) is a collection of experts in digital, mobile and social media in China. SBW was created to complement Resonance's China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly report focusing on modern marketing methods of the world's top brands in China.

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