For the first time in recent history, Asia is now home to more high net worth (HNW) individuals (those with more than US$1 million in investable assets) than any other region. But even as Asia’s group of millionaires grows, a lot about them is still misunderstood. Ask people to describe the typically Asian high net-worth consumer and images of women laden with luxury shopping bags or men with more money than taste may come to mind. Though these stereotypes may still exist, today’s Asian HNW consumer is fast evolving.
Discretion and sophistication are not the words one would typically hear when Asia’s millionaires are described. However, this is rapidly changing. China’s millionaires now feel that conspicuous consumption is best avoided. In some Southeast Asian markets, there is a growing consciousness of the risk of kidnapping and abduction among the wealthy. In Asia today, few want to stand out.
Monogram handbags and diamond watches are being replaced by niche and stealth wealth brands. As attitudes and tastes change and consumer sophistication grows, Loro Piana and Bruno Cucinelli are just some of the businesses capitalising on this shift. Asia’s millionaires are also shopping for far more than the latest designer handbags and ready-to-wear collections.
From second (or even third, fourth and fifth) homes abroad to the best school places for their child to historically important Warhol canvasses, this group of consumers is quickly making its presence felt across diverse geographies and industries. Global hotel groups such as Kempinski and IHG have and are rolling out new brands aimed at Asia’s 5-star global traveller. And major auction houses are setting up shop in China.
Lastly, when it comes to marriage and fidelity, Asia’s high net-worth men will not squirm at the idea of having a mistress. This is especially true in China where 35 per cent of them admit to thinking that it is alright for a married man to keep a mistress, according to BBDO’s Voices research (note: the figure rises to 46 per cent among married men).
In fact, it is quite commonplace to hear a man admit he aspires to have a mistress if and when he becomes wealthier. We see the same pattern in Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia where the bedroom exploits of many powerful businessmen and politicians are quite well known and are the fodder to café gossip. Given the strong gifting culture in Asia, this can really be a boon to luxury brands.
Nick Cakebread is managing director of BBDO Proximity Live. Hans Lopez-Vito, executive planning director, BBDO Greater China, contributed to this article.