Nick Cakebread
Mar 7, 2013

Five tips for engaging affluent consumers in China

Nick Cakebread, MD of BBDO Proximity Live, shares five tips for developing a successful strategy for luxury brands to engage with China’s growing group of highly affluent consumers.

Nick Cakebread
Nick Cakebread

With annual growth around 8 per cent, the global luxury market is more than healthy and ‘emerged’ markets, such as China, have become the major contributors to its success. Brands wishing to capitalise on this growth need to keep a few guidelines in mind. 

1. Luxury is about selling a dream

The concept of luxury exists on a purely emotional level. Unlike marketing for products in most other categories, there is nothing rational about luxury.

Diamonds are really just small rock formations found deep within the earth, until they were imbued with deep emotional meaning and value. The same can be said of any top-level Swiss timepiece (isn’t the time on your smartphone more accurate and reliable?), designer handbag (there is nothing rational about having a bag that costs more than its contents) or bespoke suits.

2. Brands do not have to be relevant to people’s current needs or wants 

Rather, luxury brands are at many times beacons of inspiration that make people aspire. We do a lot of research with consumers. But if faced with a choice between developing a strategy to match the brand to people’s needs versus developing a strategy to shift people’s needs towards what the brand represents, luxury marketers would choose the latter. It’s not about “consumer closeness”.

3. Global versus local 

Most marketers value local insights, a localized strategy and localized execution above all else. In luxury, “global” many times trumps “local.” Luxury is global. There is one campaign and one consistent brand around the world. And one set of executions.

Indeed, they may need to be adapted but never overly localized. Luxury is aspirational, so it has to be international—underpinned by the fact that luxury consumers demand that the brand experience they enjoy in China or Singapore is exactly the same as those of their counterparts in New York, London, Paris and Milan. 

4. Luxury is about nuance

What makes Tiffany distinct from Cartier? Zegna from Dunhill? Celine from Bottega? It’s the little things—the way a visual is shot, the way a model smiles (or perhaps doesn’t), the subtle tone of copy. Maybe it’s the playful way a Milanese man moves and accessorizes himself as opposed to the more gentlemanly gait of an Oxbridge man (as in the case of Dunhill). These may go unnoticed to most people, but they make a big difference in creating distinctions between brands on a highly visceral level.

5. It’s ‘Total work’ at its best 

For a luxury marketer, being media-neutral is instinctive. Yes, we’ll need to have print ads and big outdoor in the international terminal of Pudong Airport. But luxury brands also know they’ll need to communicate the long history of the brand in advertorials, implement a key opinion leader or celebrity strategy, hire bloggers to push the brand, develop a campaign mini-site with beautifully produced short films, run a CRM program for VVIPs, and host that one big event at the Forbidden City.

Campaign China

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