Luxury-focused media company Tatler Asia today announced to the market that is “reinventing itself” for "a new era” in which high-net-worth individuals are more interested in sustainability, philanthropy and entrepreneurship than they are in photos of the latest high-society weddings and parties.
In reality, Tatler Asia’s evolution has been underway for some time, arguably since chairman and CEO Michel Lamunière came from Switzerland to run the Asia division for family-owned publisher Edipresse about five years ago. In fact, Lamunière alluded to some of the changes the company is touting today when we spoke to him in April 2020. At that point the company had already redesigned its print publications and was announcing it would begin to use Tatler as its company name in Asia, rather than the parent company’s moniker.
In conversation a few days before today’s announcement, Lamunière makes a convincing case that a vision he and Tatler have been working toward for a few years is now coming to fruition, with a series of new offerings up and running and a redesigned, multilingual, multimarket online platform in place (since September) to show it off.
"Tatler has gone through a tremendous transformation from a positioning point of view to development of new products and solutions to the development of new business models,” he tells Campaign Asia-Pacific. While the pandemic put the brakes on some of the moving parts of that transformation for a while, everything is accelerating now.
And there are quite a few moving parts. In addition to Generation T (a list and community of influential entrepreneurs, launched in 2016), Front & Female (a platform for women wanting to make a social impact, launched in 2020), there’s:
- Tatler Dining, including the Tatler Dining Kitchen, where top chefs take residence to cook for small groups during limited-run engagements.
- The Tatler Bar, a curated online and offline platform for drink connoisseurs.
- OffMenu, a food-and-beverage event.
- Tatler Roots, a platform focused on wellness events done in collaboration with fitness brands and experts. This started as an internal programme during the pandemic, was piloted to the public as Wellness Week in July (with Lululemon as a partner), and will expand across the region.
- Tatler House, a venue for intimate luxury gatherings such as dinners, roundtables and product activations. Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore and Malaysia all have Tatler Houses, with more to open across the region in the coming year.
- Tatler Unlisted, an ecommerce play that offers exclusive, time-limited products and experiences for Tatler audiences.
- And yes, a catamaran (officially branded as Tatler Escapes), which can be spotted hosting at-sea events and experiences in the waters around Hong Kong.
“We very much see ourselves as community builders—more than just a media property that is reaching a specific audience,” says Lamunière. “And all our strategy is now designed around developing those specific communities.”
The company’s pillar communities, in turn, are very much in line with what Tatler thinks affluent consumers are looking for now, he adds.
Whereas the Tatler of old was associated with a small group of high-society elites who accounted for the bulk of luxury spending, today that group is both larger and younger. “The luxury consumer is getting younger and younger, and I think that what matters to the consumer today differs greatly from what it used to be,” he says. “So I think that this evolution needed to be manifested in the way we position ourselves. “
Tatler is not aiming to serve a small group of elites, but sees itself as the go-to platform for and about Asia's most influential people, Lamunière says.
“And when we say influential, it is throughout all the different verticals of society," he adds. “Who are really the people that matter, the people that are driving the conversation, the people who are shaping their respective industries? From the moment we started looking at the business and our brand from that angle, that enabled us to start identifying a few communities that we believe are the ones driving the future of the region.”
The strategy is all about combining content, commerce and community, Lamunière says.
"The idea is really not so much looking at Tatler as just an audience of wealthy or affluent individuals. We’re kind of reversing that. We're looking at, what are the communities that we believe are extremely influential, and that are shaping the conversation. And we go backward and start creating a platform for them. And when I say platform, it’s an ecosystem of media and commerce products.”
Lamunière is particularly excited about the part Tatler Unlisted can play in that mix.
"It's a pretty innovative concept where basically, we work hand in hand with brands to help them to launch their new products and new collections,” he says. “There needs to be an element, in everything that we're doing, of being limited in time."
Tatler Unlisted soft-launched earlier this year in Hong Kong. It has now officially launched in Hong Kong and Singapore, and will launch in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines and Taiwan over the next year. So far, Tatler Unlisted has featured brands such as Procera Gin, Charbonnel et Walker, Rare Finds Worldwide whiskey brokerage and Man Wah restaurant. Food-and-beverage brands will continue to be an important theme, but in 2022, Tatler promises, Tatler Unlisted will diversify to fashion, jewellery and watch brands.
Lamunière believes Tatler has a uniquely advantageous position to make the Unlisted platform a valuable one for brands.
"There's a level of trust with the Tatler brand. The luxury brands, as we know, are very careful about in which environment they operate, where they distribute products. And working with the Tatler brand, they understand that obviously it's an environment that will understand their brands, their objectives, their products. And secondly, they see us being able to engage and reach a consumer base that is extremely affluent but also influential.”
It helps that an evolution is taking place in how brands see and work with influencers, Lamunière observes. Reliance on well-known, big-audience KOLs is fading as those personalities become more expensive and evolve into mass-market media brands in their own right. "The reality is that the level of engagement and the way brands could really convert, they have realised over time that there was a lot of wasted inefficiencies in the process,” he says. “They are excited that we are engaging with what we call the microinfluencers, who are themselves consumers and are themselves passionate about the different products and verticals that we tap into.”
Introducing a product line or collection via the ‘Unlisted’ route not only creates buzz but also helps brands gauge reactions before kicking wider promotion into high gear, he adds.
What brands want
Tatler Asia expects to benefit from brands' eagerness to tap into the same themes that today’s young, wealthy consumers are interested in, such as sustainability, DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), and health and wellness.
“We can see that a lot of players are trying to tap into that,” he says. “But they don't necessarily know how to from a communication standpoint, so they go with us because we have the ability to tell the stories, and we have the ability also to engage with a very qualified community and deliver those experiences that we creating whether it's on a catamaran, or in a restaurant, or in a big food festival.”
Another thing luxury brands want and need to respond to, in Lamunière’s view, is fatigue with homogeneity. “I think that we've lived in the world of globalisation,” he says. “And consumers in general have become sick, especially on the luxury side, of seeing the same brands everywhere—or not so much the same brand, but the same expression of the brand—absolutely everywhere. They want to buy something that is probably more authentic and closer to their set of values.”
Tatler sees its ability to address multiple markets from its multi-language website (with more languages coming this year) as a key advantage meeting this need. Asked why some of the initiatives the company is pursuing exist only in Hong Kong, Lamunière admits that innovation tends to happen in the HQ market. But he insists that everything the company is doing is being done with the entire region in mind.
"Some concepts will tend to work better in one location or the other, so we still need to customize in certain instances. "But we have a regional strategy in everything that we do.”