Insight & Analysis

The Mid-Autumn Festival: What Marketers Need to Know


Marketing at mid-autumn day

Asia’s Mid-Autumn Festival, a lunar festival celebrating the autumn harvest, is synonymous with mooncakes.

Usually marked with the characters meaning “harmony” or “longevity”, these soft cakes are given as gifts, and are increasingly a mark of status in China.

Beautifully wrapped and expensively produced in a growing range of flavours, mooncakes represent a huge opportunity for businesses – and not just for the bakeries creating and packaging them.

Get ready to get gifting

Mooncakes are a subtle way to network and cement relationships, notes, and in the weeks leading up to the festival, are given away enthusiastically to friends, family, clients and colleagues.

As indicators of prosperity and affluence and a way to mark the importance of a relationship, the mooncakes on offer have increasingly become more sophisticated and complex.

Gourmet flavours and specially created hampers have trumped the more humble traditional cakes, so if you’re planning to offer mooncakes to clients or staff, or to pitch your own line of branded mooncakes, be sure to tap into the sophisticated, status-driven tastes of China’s urbanites.

Companies getting in on the mooncake game

High-end hotels such as the Shangri-La have turned their gourmet mooncakes into a multi-million dollar offering, reports

Western companies such as Starbucks, Haagen-Dazs and Lindt have all seen the opportunity to leverage the popularity of mooncakes in their marketing efforts, and have each created mooncake lines that showcase their product offerings along with their brand.

Starbucks’ line features its iconic mermaid, along with flavours suited to its beverages line, while Haagen-Dazs’ range is ice-cream themed.

Mooncakes as a business opportunity suggests that the appeal of foreign flavours represents a unique opportunity for food and beverage companies looking to sell their product into China.

With high quality ingredients tailored to the distinct culinary tastes of China’s different regions, along with attractive packaging, mooncakes can be an ideal way to raise brand awareness and trust while also participating in Chinese culture.

Avoid a mooncake faux pas

 As a 700-year-old tradition, there are plenty of norms around the giving of mooncakes.

One faux pas to avoid is turning down the gift of a mooncake, which is considered rude and may affect business relationships.

If giving mooncakes, opt for high-quality ones, deliver them with a personalised message (and preferably in person) and ensure that your list of mooncake recipients is exhaustive – don’t leave anyone out.

Sales and branding

 Mooncakes represent both a sales opportunity for those in the food and beverage industry, as well as a superb branding exercise for marketers.

Additionally, they’re a key way to show your respect for Chinese cultural traditions – and those in your networks.

To ensure that you’re making the most of the important marketing opportunities offered by the Mid-Autumn Festival (and adhering to mooncake etiquette when you’re using them as a branding tool) contact one of the consultants in our China Online Marketing division.

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