Byravee Iyer
Sep 17, 2013

Experiences, social sharing, are key to luxury marketing in China

SPIKES ASIA 2013 - Without offering luxury experiences, brands are doing more harm than good in their attempts to woo luxury buyers, Dan Carter, vice-president and senior creative director, Jack Morton Worldwide (China), told a Spikes Asia Forum audience today.

Dan Carter
Dan Carter

Carter noted that consumption trends are shifting in China. Chinese consumers are beginning to seek luxury experiences versus luxury products. There has also been a dip in ostentatious wealth that China is known for. For example, sales of imported wines and Swiss watches have slipped.

“It’s part of a greater aspiration to align themselves with power players,” he said of luxury buyers, adding that it’s about moving from rich to noble—described as educated, sophisticated and self aware. “Consumers ask, 'What is this brand going to say about me', and this presents an enormous opportunity for luxury brands,” Carter added.

Many luxury brands have either underutilised or completely ignored the experience and social components. But a few luxury brands are doing it right. Carter’s talk focused on alcohol beverage brand Johnnie Walker and auto company Porsche’s efforts in social media.

Johnnie Walker

Diageo’s Johnnie Walker launched a hugely popular luxury campaign that included opening two experiential brand centers in China. The company wanted to bring its 200-year-old brand to life through the history of craftsmanship. The two Johnnie Walker Houses in Beijing and Shanghai feature bars, museums and even a members-only area.

Carter said the initiative stemmed from consumers’ desire for deeper knowledge of whiskey. “They could afford it but they couldn’t understand it,” Carter observed.

Johnnie Walker wanted to engage next-generation buyers too, without diluting the brand. So they took a tiered approach. “There is no one-size-fits-all strategy in luxury marketing,” Carter stressed. Johnnie Walker launched high-energy brand experiences targeted at young consumers. For example, brand experts were sent out to hip bars in cities to seek out whiskey drinkers and ultimately invite them to the Johnnie Walker Houses.  

At the same time, the brand reserved its personal one-on-one experiences for the ultra-premium market. It hosted dinners and facilitated networking events to educate the highest echelon.

The result: Since opening the houses, sales of ultra-premium whiskey in China have shot up 64 per cent year-on-year.


Porsche took a targeted dip into mass marketing without diluting its brand. The auto company’s brand had high awareness in China, but no one understood what it was known for, apart from the fact that it was an expensive car. Carter said. 

Jack Morton Worldwide and Porsche thus decided to work together to bring the brand’s legacy to life in China. To turn people from casual motoring fans to hardcore Porsche enthusiasts without diluting the brand, Jack Morton Worldwide suggested a multicity road show to engage a larger audience.

The event was focused and had an enormous online component. The key was to ensure that Porsche owners and potential owners were given a higher level of service while the general public was also included, but at a lower tier. For those who couldn’t attend, Porsche linked the event to its social-media pages.

The multiday event focused on four things: Porsche’s racing history, DNA, lifestyle, and performance. To promote the event, the brand created a dynamic online experience center. Fliers were distributed across premium restaurants and venues.

At the event, visitors were provided with RFID gadgets that they could scan to update their social-media profiles. Porsche flew out models from its museum in Stuttgart, Germany. To help people understand its racing lineage, it included high-tech simulators in the experience. And it partnered with high-end brands in China.

Members of the top audience, consisting of Porsche owners and potential owners, were allowed to drive the cars on a race track. The general public was allowed to visit the race track. Where VIP guests were offered personal tours of the museum, the general public was treated to an audio tour. The event had 7000 attendees and garnered 100,000 unique posts across social media. 

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