On our next trip around the world, we stop in Taiwan to learn what unique challenges balloon businesses face and what cultural differences they celebrate.
- Currency: New Taiwan Dollar
- Currency Conversion: $1 USD = 27.89
- Language: Mandarin Chinese
- Population: 23,816,775
- Fast fact: Taiwan has an immensely rich cultural and spiritual heritage, amazing food, and stunning scenery. The island is so small you can drive around it in just 8 hours!
Questions and Answers
Would you say balloons are trendy and popular in your country/market?
Po-Hsun Liao: Balloons are used for business events, school events, birthday parties, wedding arrangements, and a small number of funerals. If the decoration of some venues already have nice ambience, consumers will not necessarily pay extra to have additional balloon decorations. Now that the balloon arrangement is becoming more and more refined, the host would want to have a beautiful balloon set up, with personalized backdrop and lighting effects, leaving the guests with wonderful memory of the important celebrations. Balloon bouquets, floating balloons, and floral arrangements are used to decorate, and some have live performances such as balloon twisting. Balloons have also appeared in prints and digital commercials, TV shows, and movies.
Edward Kao: Yes, many people love to decorate their party with balloons. Some TV programs also use balloons on special days. For example, many TV shows like to use balloons on Valentine or Mother's Day.
Shu-Min Chen: Yes, balloons are popular and trendy. They are normally used for birthdays, annual events, grand openings, and weddings. And yes, they do appear in advertising, television, and movies.
Hung Ai Ju: Balloons are quite common in my country, and everyone loves them. Most commonly used in weddings and birthday parties. They rarely appear in television or movies.
Is balloon popularity growing or decreasing in your country?
Po-Hsun Liao: The acceptance (popularity) of balloons has risen, but people still can't quite accept balloons' cost increases with other costs such as helium and wages. It's not expensive to buy a single balloon, but people will take the time to consider it when it comes to a balloon creation or decoration.
Edward Kao: Because more and more different materials are used for decoration, there are fewer and fewer people who decorate their party only with balloons. More and more people like to decorate their gift with balloons, even use balloons as a gift. With the popularity of social media in recent years, there are some new needs for balloons. Many influencers on Instagram like to post many beautiful photos with balloons, so some instafamous will buy balloons when going to a party. I think the balloon decoration is decreasing, but the bouquet or balloon gift is increasing.
Hung Ai Ju: In my country, I think the population that likes balloons is increasing because the government offers many courses, whether it is balloon modeling (twisting) or decoration courses. Many people in society learn balloon modeling or decoration through balloon courses to add fun to their lives. Coupled with social media platforms, more and more people are aware of the art of balloons.
What balloon trend have you noticed in your country?
Po-Hsun Liao: In my current place, Taipei, Taiwan, is an important city in the country. There used to be a few wedding occasions, but now there are fewer wedding decorations. Instead, the proportion of birthdays and baby banquets have an upward trend. The balloon's color has also gradually changed from the basic color in the past to a softer candy color (macaron colors) or light pastel color, or see-thru (jewel-tone) color. It has also changed from previously dominated cartoon characters theme party to soft backgrounds, marbles and gold edges, more classy and organic style of decor. The layout has also changed from the original rich to the simple, basic, but nice kind of style.
Edward Kao: Last year, the pastel color and Chrome color were very popular. Mermaid and unicorn themes are also used very often. Organic deco also is very easy to be accepted by customers. I think the customized balloons are the next trend. More and more people want some personal message (name or photos) on the balloon will make them feel more different and unique.
Shu-Min Chen: Balloon color – black, silver & white, rose gold, tiffany blue. Theme party in the colors of cartoon characters, e.g., Minion – yellow, Spiderman – blue & red.
Hung Ai Ju: The Chrome series launched in recent years has pushed balloons to a higher level, which adults and children love. Regardless of the balloons' arrangement or styling, as long as the Chrome balloons are added, the feeling is more noble and luxurious.
Some of Po-Hsun Liao's Work
Po-Hsun Liao, CBA
BalloonHeart Company (@po_hsun_liao)
Decorator in New Taipei City, Taiwan
What types of celebrations are popular for balloons in your business?
Po-Hsun Liao: I couldn’t say which decoration is very popular. Every month in Taiwan, there are commercial activities, new product releases, government activities.
Jan-Feb: Company (Lunar) year-end party
Mar-Apr: Company Spring Party (After a long lunar new year holiday, the company will have a “reopening” party to warm up everyone in good spirits to work hard for another year.
May: Mother's Day
Aug-Sep: New School Year Begins
Nov-Dec: Christmas & New Year
Birthday decoration--there is a birthday every day—demand from simple to general or even expensive decorations.
Baby party – full moon party (30-days), 100 days, or one-year-old party is usually based on consumers with better financial ability. For my company, I do better at the year-end party and the graduation ceremony.
Edward Kao: Birthday party and “marriage proposing." Gender Reveal Party is also becoming more popular in Taiwan.
Hung Ai Ju: I am a performer, wedding, Mid-Autumn Festival (Chinese Reunion Festival), Christmas, and New Year. As long as there is a party, people will need my performance.
When is your busiest time of year? What about the slowest?
Po-Hsun Liao: My busiest time will be around Jan-Feb for the lunar year-end company party and June to July for the school graduation ceremony. Usually, after the Chinese New Year (end of February) to May before the graduation ceremony is my business's slow period.
Edward Kao: There are many graduation parties in June and a year-end company party in December. These two months are our busiest time. But there are fewer activities in July and after lunar Chinese New Year. These two months are our slowest time.
Shu-Min Chen: October-January is the busiest, and the slowest is Feb & March.
Hung Ai Ju: During the year, October to January is the busiest, and February to May is the slowest.
Are there many independent balloon retailers (storefronts) in your country, or are mass retail chains more common?
Po-Hsun Liao: There are not many professional balloon retail shops. Some florists also engage in the arrangement of simple balloons. There are also home-based balloon artists like me. In proportion, there are more home-based decorators than storefronts. The entry for the balloon business is low. Some people with simple skills will use “low price” to get jobs. This is a process. If they are determined to stay in the balloon industry, they will have to enrich themselves. If not, the market will eliminate them.
Edward Kao: There are some independent balloon retailers in Taiwan. But the most common is personal studio office and home-based.
Shu-Min Chen: Independent balloon retailers are more common.
Hung Ai Ju: There are more independent balloon retailers.
What is the craziest or most bizarre balloon request you have ever received?
Po-Hsun Liao: When I look back, there was no special request from customers. But when I participated in the balloon competition, I always hope that the balloon's shape will change from the impression of cuteness to realistic facial expressions, body showing muscle lines, etc. I want my creativity to break through people's perception of balloons are only round/teardrop shapes.
Edward Kao: Many customers always like to find some beautiful photos on the internet and ask us to implement them. But sometimes, these photos are made by photoshop, and they are not real balloons. We try to explain what the difference is and have to make them almost the same. Some customers want to decorate the party in their company and want the balloon color is the same as their CIS color. They often give us their CIS color Pantone and ask us to find the exact color balloons. We usually try to find them with double or even triple stuff balloons to satisfy their needs.
Shu-Min Chen: Balloon to float more than a month and decorations to last more than one month.
Some of Edward Kao's Work
Edward Kao, CBA
Dream Balloon House (@edward_kao)
Decorator, Artist, and Retailer in Taipei City, Taiwan
How/where do you do most of your business? Online or in-person?
Po-Hsun Liao: Most of my jobs are introduced by peers (balloon artists), a small number of Internet customers. Usually, the communication is through social media or APP.
Edward Kao: Some private party’s book online, but almost all businesses have to talk in person.
Shu-Min Chen: Internet.
Hung Ai Ju: I post work photos and performance videos on FB. There are online contacts with customers, and there is also face-to-face with customers. The wedding guests or the decorating guests will ask for face-to-face. For customers who need only performance service, then it can be done online.
What about marketing? How/where do you get most of your customers? Word of mouth? Social media? Foot traffic?
Po-Hsun Liao: Marketing by Internet advertising keyword search. Most of my customers are still referring from peers/other balloon artists.
Edward Kao: Most customers are from word of mouth and social media. Some are foot traffic.
Shu-Min Chen: All of the above.
Hung Ai Ju: No advertisements, all through word of mouth and referrals given by old customers to new ones.
Who is your target market/common customer?
Po-Hsun Liao: At present, the company consumer's age is about 25-40 years old. Most are white-collar and is the person in charge of company activities. A small number of young people are around 18-25 years old and usually with a lower budget.
Edward Kao: For party balloons, the customers are usually young office workers. But some complicated works from a brand marketing company. These customers often are midlife managers.
Shu-Min Chen: 25 to 40-year-old females.
Hung Ai Ju: My target customers are mainly performance companies, event organizers, especially for camping groups and family event activities. In addition to the corporate works, parents with small children would engage my services. Those mothers who have money and free time to pay attention to family life are willing to spend entertainment expenses, and they usually have high-income level guests.
How has diversity played a part in your career? What challenges and opportunities have been presented?
Edward Kao: Different and customized balloons make customers feel that they are special. Balloon diversity could make this easier. If the customer wants his balloon is only just for him, we have to make his balloon different.
Shu-Min Chen: The attitude of being innovative.
Hung Ai Ju: I work very hard to maximize the effectiveness of balloons. Let balloons make sounds, use them to teach the little one music, teach the elderly physical coordination to prevent aging. Let balloons be toys in children's dramas, lead children in the fairy tale world, teach ethics/safety/courage in daily routines, or simply let the balloon burst to change color or flip to achieve magic visual effects.
Some of Shu-Min Chen's Work
Shu-Min Chen, CBA
Charming Balloon Company (@chicago_balloon)
Retailer in Taipei City, Taiwan
What unique challenges do you face in your country?
Po-Hsun Liao: Taiwan is a neighbor to China. Therefore there are lower prices and multiple styles of balloon materials available in our market. When people in the same industry create designs with low-priced materials or sell materials, the prices are usually lower. The higher unit price balloons that come with real value, trademarks, and copyrights will be less acceptable. How to increase a company's exposure and enhance balloons' perceived value is a direction that every player in the industry is working towards.
Edward Kao: Some unscrupulous vendors sell balloons by hydrogen to lower the cost. And some people do not want to buy balloons because of the environmental protection policy by the government. It still needs some time to tell people the helium is safe and latex balloons is very environmentally friendly.
Hung Ai Ju: The economy is the biggest problem. I want to do different decoration works, different performances, but Taiwan's average income is low, and customers generally have insufficient budgets, and I can only do ordinary things.
What unique cultural customs in your country create challenges or opportunities for you?
Po-Hsun Liao: In cultural celebrations or national festivals, the demand for floral art must account for a larger proportion than balloon art. Usually, guests think that balloons cannot be displayed on formal occasions. Of course, this is also the goal we have to strive for. Push balloon art to the same level as floral art.
Edward Kao: In Taiwan, we could release a sky lantern with our wishes written on it. Balloons always bring feelings of happiness and joy, so I think we could use helium balloons instead of traditional sky lanterns. This suggestion is highly accepted among young people.
Hung Ai Ju: Taiwan has a very special cultural belief-Mazu. During Mazu (starts in March of the lunar calendar every year) for nine days and eight nights, some believers will order Mazu balloon sculpture.
What is your biggest challenge as a business owner in your country?
Po-Hsun Liao: In Taiwan, the threshold (entry point) for balloons is relatively low. In Taipei City, you can find 50 to 100 balloon service providers. When a customer asks for a price that cannot meet the budget, they will immediately find the next one. In Taiwan, there are too many balloon service providers. Everyone must survive, resulting in a low-price competition. Although this situation is the same everywhere in the world, I only think that Taiwan generally disrespects professionalism. Instead, they think that consumers will pay more for themselves.
Edward Kao: There are more and more balloon studios in Taiwan, and they can snatch the customers by low price policy because it's very easy to become a balloon artist in Taiwan. When there are more balloon product providers' choices, the balloon shops engage in the price war easier.
Shu-Min Chen: Price and Quality.
Hung Ai Ju: The passing/sharing of professional stage performance skills.
Some of Hung Ai Ju's Work
Hung Ai Ju
Ms. Strawberry’s Happy Balloon (@kaitaihong)
Entertainer & Decorator in Taichung, Taiwan
We have found that balloons are a universal language of joy that crosses all socioeconomic, cultural, and religious beliefs. Do you have any stories or anecdotes you'd like to share that support that sentiment?
Edward Kao: There are many foreign spouses from different countries in Taiwan. Our government held an event and encouraged them to bring their kids. We decorated the stage and have some balloon interaction with kids. We have two balloon trees on the stage. The fruit on the trees is all foil balloons with the word "love" in different languages on them. Because we think that love is the common language in the world. Although they are from other countries and cultures, they could break down the wall of different languages and thoughts with balloons.
Shu-Min Chen: Balloon is the best medium to decorate space and create a happy atmosphere. Everyone sees balloons with a happy and touched heart.
Hung Ai Ju: Taiwanese men are more masculine. If they are successful men, they will look down on balloons even more. They subconsciously and intuitively react that balloons are for children. In the past two months, I have received two corporate events with no children at all. Through the exquisite balloon art, the masculine bosses also laughed warmly.
Anything else you think people should know about your country?
Po-Hsun Liao: Taiwan is a passionate country. When you need help, people are willing to lend a helping hand. Taiwan's law and order are very good, so don't worry about going out in the middle of the night. It is very convenient to live in Taiwan. The density of convenience stores is the highest in the world. I hope that with balloons, everyone can try to travel to Taiwan.
Edward Kao: There is a saying in Taiwan: "The Most Beautiful Scenery in Taiwan is People." Taiwanese is very friendly and hospitable. And the embracing of different cultures in Taiwan makes people more creative.
Shu-Min Chen: Taiwan is a beautiful island with friendly people. The most beautiful of all is Taiwan people’s passion and attitude towards its culture.