For the Love of Luxury - Communicating with Young, Chinese, Urban, Female Luxury Consumers
MSL China Executive WhitepaperFor the Love of LuxuryCommunicating with young, Chinese,urban, female luxury consumers By Charlotta Lagerdahl, Caroline Dahl and Venus Chan
About the ResearchThe findings in this whitepaper are based on 22 in-depth interviews, five of which weredone during shopping trips, with female luxury consumers aged 20–32 in big cities inChina. Another ten interviews were held with experts on the Chinese luxury landscape,including managers and executives of luxury brands, executives of online lifestylecommunities, and high-end boutique owners. We also conducted detailed desktopresearch and tapped into our own experiences from previous luxury and lifestylemarketing and communications campaigns in China. The aim of the research was toenhance MSL Chinas knowledge and insight into young, female luxury consumers inChina. It was not commissioned by any third party commercial venture. We haveremoved all brand references made by the respondents. Brands are mentioned only toillustrate points made by the authors.About MSL ChinaFollowing the union with Eastwei MSL, MSL China is now a top 5 international strategiccommunications agency in Mainland China. With 200 colleagues across 4 offices, MSLChina brings together over 20 senior consultants with more than 12 years of strategiccommunications experience in this key global market. Part of MSLGROUP GreaterChina, the largest PR & social media network in the region today, MSL China providesknowledge driven, integrated campaigns and advisory services spanning nearly everyindustry and communications discipline. MSL China has received recognition from theInternational Business Awards, The Holmes Report’s “PR Agency of the Year,” the ChinaInternational PR Association and China’s New Media Festival for its creativity andeffectiveness in strategic communications and industry-leading social media offering.About MSLGROUPMSLGROUP is Publicis Groupe’s speciality communications and engagement group,advisors in all aspects of communication strategy: from consumer PR to employeecommunications, from public affairs to reputation management and from crisis com-munications to event management. With more than 3,000 people, its offices span 22countries. Adding affiliates and partners into the equation, MSLGROUP’s reachincreases to 4,000 employees in 83 countries. Today the largest PR network in GreaterChina and India, the group offers strategic planning and counsel, insight-guidedthinking and big, compelling ideas – followed by thorough execution.Learn more about us at:www.mslgroup.com http://blog.mslgroup.com Twitter YouTube
Women taking overChinese luxuryconsumptionIn 2010, luxury consumption in mainland China reached 7.9 billion Euro – and thisdoes not include luxury cars, yachts and private jets. China is now the worlds secondlargest consumer of luxury goods after Japan, and by 2020 is forecast to surpassJapan and become the largest luxury market1.For luxury brands, women are now the key target group. In a traditionally male-dominated market, women accounted for more than 50 percent of luxury sales2 in2010. In China, young urban women born after 1980 differ greatly from their oldersisters (please see MSL China Executive Whitepaper From Collective to Individual:Marketing to the Chinese 70s, 80s and 90s Generations for more on this topic). Theybelieve in the right to a career and spend their money as they please. Having grown upin a capitalistic China with modern Western influences, they have been exposed toluxury products that define their way of life.These young, female luxury consumers are therefore a large and significant targetgroup. Despite this growing audience, many marketers know far too little about them.Most research on luxury consumers has focused on the more general segment of“Chinas wealthy”. But this definition is both too general and too narrow by focusingon an older target group and neglecting a large and growing segment of non-wealthyluxury consumers in China.Many women born after the 1980s are currently enjoying the fruits of their parentslabor while not yet having reached the peak of their own careers. We wanted to focuson these young, urban, female luxury consumers to learn who they are, what theirlives look like, what they dream about and how best to communicate with them. 1 World Luxury Association | 2McKinsey & Co
International fashion blogs, websites and iPhone applica-The China luxury tions such as Shopstyle.com and Style.com are constantlycommunications opportunity consulted, but more importantly, there are several influential local fashion blogs on Sina weibo (the mostThe research has clear implications for brands’ communi- popular Chinese equivalent of Twitter) which are consid-cations strategy. Below, we outline a few key findings. ered just as credible as famous international print titles. Our respondents highlight the importance of weibo to getBrands need to segment the market more information about luxury, brands and lifestyle. We also seecarefully an emerging new media, modeled after the US successThis report discusses an important sub-group of Chinese story Daily Candy, of highly curated lifestyle content beingluxury consumers: young females. But even this group is spread to a larger audience though daily email newslet-far from homogeneous; the women we talked to have ters, aiming to guide Chinese to a higher quality lifestyle.vastly different backgrounds, dreams, aspirations and Given the novelty of this concept in China (still a Betabudgets. Luxury brands need to understand the motiva- version in November 2011), it is too early to speak of itstions underlying the purchasing behavior of these differ- success. In any case, no matter how influential the bigent consumer segments to more effectively craft compel- fashion magazines still are, luxury marketers need toling messages for the China market. closely watch the constantly evolving Chinese media landscape, and actively connect with current and emerg- ing key opinion leaders.Communications need to start from theinside outEvery employee must be able to tell the brand story and There is a huge education opportunityto “live the brand”. In our work with employee engage- Our respondents lack product and brand knowledge butment we constantly meet executives who have spent big crave better information. They buy and love luxury goods,amounts of money on developing the brand and the but are the first generation of luxury consumers in Chinabusiness, but are frustrated with their own employees who and therefore know surprisingly little about both brands“destroy” the brand through both lack of brand under- and products. They are also largely in the dark about howstanding as well as engagement in their company. Internal to make the most of the luxury experience – for example,communications is becoming an important communica- in applying makeup or creating a style of their own.tions discipline for managers in all industries. In the Because of this, they are surprisingly open to beingChinese luxury business, one area where the need for “educated” by brands – about the brand itself, but alsointernal engagement becomes especially obvious is retail. about broader issues related to lifestyle. This provides aAlthough the internet is making inroads, and will become huge opportunity for communications professionals toan important sales channel as consumers become more provide advice and insights about brand and lifestyle to anknowledgeable, most of our respondents still look to the audience who are willing to listen and accept the brand ascomfort of a physical store to provide the full brand an authority.experience and safety from counterfeits. But despite theheavy investment in the Chinese shopping experience by Consumers are more traditional than theybrands, shoppers still say they are unhappy with both the seem at first glanceattitude and knowledge level of store staff. Like in other Despite her independent exterior, our young, femalemarkets, the store and its staff are key parts of the overall Chinese luxury consumer is still a traditional woman inbrand image. The store is also a unique venue for educat- many ways. She may be trying to break free of the con-ing consumers. Because of this, our findings show that straints of tradition, but under the surface, she is close tomany Chinese prefer to do their luxury shopping abroad. her family and prioritizes starting her own family life.No matter how good your external PR or advertising is, Because of this, marketers often need to complement thebranding must start from the inside out. message of the “woman as the ultimate individual, worthy of self gratification” with more traditional values.Endorsements should be a key component ofcommunications strategy Brands must avoid becoming the playthingsYoung female luxury consumers rely heavily on “endorse- of the nouveaux richesments” to guide their purchases. These endorsements can Female luxury consumers want to avoid the “baofahu” orcome from non-professional, non-traditional, real or “newly rich” label at all costs. Make no mistake that youngfictional “curators” who may directly influence shopping Chinese urban women buy luxuries to demonstrate theirbehavior. All brands need to keep a keen eye not only on hard-earned status and to show off. But they dont want toestablished fashion editors, celebrities and evangelists, come across as nouveaux riches – despite the fact thatbut also on local opinion leaders and the circle of friends most money in China is new. Our respondents point towho can play an important role as brand endorsers. several luxury brands which have failed to define their exclusivity, and which are therefore perceived as “second-Social media are becoming increasingly rate” in China in spite of their success in other globalimportant markets. For luxury brands looking for long term successBecause of the importance of trusted endorsers, as well in China, it is therefore crucial to provide a context for theas the media habits of our target group who spend a big brand that goes beyond mere luxury products. Brandsamount of time online, social media such as weibo can must provide an avenue into a lifestyle that includesplay an important and complementary role to traditional travel, health, art and sports. The subtle difference“glossy magazine” PR. between “new money” and “newer money” makes this distinction more important than it might seem at first glance.
Who are todays Young,Chinese, Female LuxuryConsumers? Photo from Dave Samuel on Flickr
Life, Love & MoneyGirls Just Wanna Have FunOur group of young luxury loving women in China consistsof independent and well-educated career women. Manyhave studied and worked abroad. They are breaking freefrom tradition and want to live their lives now rather thansaving for tomorrow.“Im a person who lives in the moment. I wouldnt say Imhedonistic but I still have the philosophy of living in themoment and enjoying life. I always have control of where Imgoing but I dont wanna worry. Just go with the flow.” - AliciaColliding WorldsDuring the interviews, many mention having conflicts withtheir parents regarding family, work and their lifestyle.“They are not actually very supportive. I want to be anEnglish writer, but they think Im crazy. They are traditionalparents. And conservative.” - YvetteThe biggest source of conflict is marriage. Their parentsgeneration married and had children by the age of 25, andtheir greatest wish is to see their daughters do the same.“They want to choose a husband for you. Maybe hes notwho you want. Our generation does not have the samevalues as my parents.” - Angela“Usually parents decide everything. When I was 23, theystarted asking me to meet with a guy.” - Clarissa“They think I should find a man and get married here inShanghai.” - Yvette”Our respondents share a strong, vocal desire to fulfill adream. They are in the middle of two worlds; the tradi-tional Chinese world and a modern world with new valuesand influences. These modern values are generallybeyond the understanding of Chinas older generations.The two worldviews often collide and give rise to difficultchoices and pressures. But rather than confronting this
MSL China Executive Whitepaper Communicating with young, Chinese, urban, female luxury consumers 7challenge, our respondents tend to keep their reserva- For communications professionals, it is important totions to themselves. understand this fine line of celebrating female success“Our generation has a totally different life. I think that it is and independence, which must not come at the expensebetter to hide my true opinions from my parents.” - Louise of traditional values and aspirations.As opposed to the western world, young Chinese urbanwomen often lack role models in terms of lifestyle and lifechoices. The world has changed too much for them to be Shopping behaviorable to ask their mothers for advice. Instead, they look tofriends and media for guidance, giving rise to movies like Shopping means Escaping, Indulging andthe 2010 hit Go Lala!, a blockbuster Chinese Working Girl Verifyingmeets Sex and the City hybrid. A new kind of Chinese Living and working in Chinas big cities is stressful. For ourheroine has been created: the young, ambitious career girl respondents, consumption is a fundamental part of lifewho wants and gets it all; the career, the salary, the clothes and a way of releasing the pressures of everyday life.and the (successful) man. China may be a gift giving culture, but luxury shopping is mainly a way of indulging oneself.And I am a Material Girl “After I close a good deal at work, I go shopping.” - ChristineThe concept of freedom is crucial. And freedom for thisgroup means one thing: to be able to buy what they want, Luxuries are considered a verification of a good life andwithout financial constraints. This financial freedom professional success. Being able to buy these exclusiveshould preferably be self made from their own careers. labels means you have reached the top of your profession.They derive a sense of enjoyment from earning and “When I moved back to Shanghai, when I met Chinese girlsspending their own money. at parties or something, I noticed they didnt buy expensive“The reason why I love money is because I love the feeling of stuff; they didnt have luxury bags. I think I have a relativelyspending what I have earned myself.” - Fiffy better life than them.” - Kelly “When I get a new one, I feel good about my life. I feel I haveAt a first glance, it might look as if this group is very a good quality of life. I can get what I want! I can satisfynontraditional and independent, rejecting the old fash- some needs.” - Joannaioned values of their parents generation. But on a closerlook, we find that despite the “modern” aim of beingsuccessful and financially independent, our respondents Its all about the Experienceare actually quite traditional. Financial success is not It is well known that for a majority of these women,enough. These women want a husband. But not any shopping is not just about a product. As in other markets,husband; they want a rich one. Even though romantic love it is about the whole experience. But we were surprised tois seen as the number one factor when selecting a partner, find that our respondents didnt think the local shoppingall of our respondents also explicitly pointed to financial experience measures up to international standards. Manystatus as an important consideration. of them have been abroad and consider the service and attitude of the sales personnel in mainland China to be“First I have to have a boyfriend I love. As for finances, if poor. Sales personnel are seen as being either toothere is a big discrepancy between us, there will be bigproblems for our relationship.” - Christine
Its all about the Experience aggressive or too indifferent, and having poor knowledge about the products and brands they represent. “They have no passion for the customer.” - Linda Therefore, many of these women choose to take their luxury shopping abroad or to Hong Kong. This is not only because of lower prices, but also due to the superior shopping experience. “Like for sure, if I am going there to shop then it means Im spending money, right? So if the service is no good, then I am not going to go there again because I can go to other places.” - Cecilia We also found that our respondents are not too keen on purchasing luxury goods via the Internet. While they often shop for other things on Taobao – the popular Chinese equivalent of eBay – they seldom go online for luxury goods. Some of the respondents complained about the lack of customer service and logistics. Others were concerned about the possibility of inferior quality. Perhaps most importantly, our respondents wanted to be able to first touch the products. “Ive tried once or twice at Taobao, but I want to see [the “Are there any? The Chinese brands are too young, they have product], try it on.” - Christine no heritage.” - Angela Chinese luxury consumption is still a novelty, compared to More surprisingly, respondents also mentioned several Europe or the United States. Chinese consumers in modern Asian brands and concepts as highly desirable, general have less information about the brands and highlighting the fact that successful brands can compen- products. The physical boutique is not only a part of the sate for a lack of heritage. experience, it is also a key source of information. Some brands have understood this. In 2011, Burberry chose Fake – No Thank You! China as the first country in the world where all stores In an appearance dominated culture, being “caught” with a would be equipped with touch screens for customers to fake luxury item is an embarrassment of gigantic propor- enjoy the brands special multimedia series of features on tions. Our respondents show strong feelings against fake products, fashion shows and entertainment. products, in particular when the logos are highly visible, indicating that the bearer will be seen as trying to come For online luxury retailing, either the target consumers across as something she is not. need to be knowledgeable about the available goods, or the retailer needs to lower the perceived risk of buying the “We wont use fake stuff. Chinese people wont use it. It “wrong” item for the not-so-luxury-savvy consumers. One makes us feel ashamed. Fakes wont make me more example is the Italian luxury e-commerce specialist Yoox confident.” - Fiffy Group. In 2011, together with FedEx, the company “If you wear a fake one, you will be afraid that someone will launched a new “try-it-on” service designed specifically see it. Its not very comfortable.” - Angela for Chinese consumers. After FedEx deliver Yoox prod- ucts, the courier waits so that the customer can try it on and return it directly with the same courier if dissatisfied. Also, Yoox offers a 24-hour call center, instant-messaging, Luxury and Social Status fashion advice, a brand shopping bag included with each shipment and a reusable extra-durable gift box. To Oh, those bumptious baofahu! encourage counterfeit-wary Chinese consumers, Yoox also In a country with virtually no old money, it might come as a uses RFID tags to track goods, allowing constant monitor- surprise that all of our respondents, independent of social ing from warehouse to customer. status, have very strong negative feelings towards “new money”. Nobody wants to be regarded as, or associated with, the nouveaux riche or “baofahu”, even though several of our respondents – or at least their parents – would Brand Essentials probably themselves be seen as such in an international setting. Newly rich are identified as “peasants” without Little Trust in “Made in China” taste, who became rich overnight during the economic As luxury marketers already know, Chinese prefer Euro- reforms in China, and now want to show off. pean luxury brands. “Made in China” is associated with inferior quality, imitation and a lack of brand heritage.
MSL China Executive Whitepaper Communicating with young, Chinese, urban, female luxury consumers 9“I think that they might not be confident enough. They have I Need Those Luxuries!to buy the big logos for support.” - Joanna Like most Asian societies China is all about face. Luxury“And new money, they are like… a disaster. They are all brands are closely tied to social status and peer pressure.disasters. Seriously. Inside they are still the same person, In this market and in this group – particularly amongstill the same poor person. They only try to look rich on the younger girls – the respondents claim to need luxuries.outside, but it is not compatible with their inside, which is “When I was a little younger and lived in the States, I didntstill poor.” - Cecilia care about brands. Here in China, there is huge peer pressure; my friends can have the branded stuff. Psychologi-The notion of “old” and “new” money, and the strong cally you have pressure. Everyone in my class has namesentiments attached to it, has led to a strong need for a brand stuff.” - Lisaluxurious lifestyle to obtain a certain social status, incontrast to being able to buy the status through brands. One of the respondents, coming from a wealthy entrepre-Social status, our respondents claim, is about being free neurial family, stressed that she frequently attends(to buy and do what they want), having an international business parties with her mother where appearance is ofeducation, traveling the world, being wine connoisseurs, utmost importance. Wearing a designer handbag ishaving a healthy lifestyle, practicing yoga and partaking in mandatory to gain respect and be a part of the group.outdoor activities such as skiing, water sports, horseback Another, less wealthy, respondent stressed that:riding, golf and tennis. “For Chinese people it will be a little bit embarrassing to“I play tennis, go to the gym and practice yoga. I like water always use the same bag. Especially when you work in thesports, I sail and Ive tried wind surfing, swimming and PR industry, and you have important meetings with clients,diving.” - Christine who care about what brands you use. You need to have more than one or two luxury brands to present yourself.” - AngelaBut these opinions appear to be voiced only whenrespondents are looking to distance themselves from thenewly rich. In all other parts of the interviews – and moreimportantly, in the purchasing behavior – it is clear thatour young female consumers buy luxury productsprecisely to reaffirm their social status. But they certainlydont want to be seen in this way. Communication profes-sionals need to provide a rationale to “legitimize” theluxury purchase for the bearer: the craftsmanship, thequality, or a “greater good” such as environmentalism.Luxury for luxurys sake risks being associated withbaofahu, and several internationally known luxury brandswere highlighted in the interviews as less desirablebecause they were seen as catering to the pretentiouscrowd. Clearly, this is an area where international commu-nications professionals need to proceed with great care.
Segmentation:Introducing Desktop Cinderellas,Golden Dolls and Trench CoatTigers
MSL China Executive Whitepaper Communicating with young, Chinese, urban, female luxury consumers 11 Segmentation Desktop Trench Coat Golden Dolls Tigers Cinderellas Monthly 500-3000 RMB 10 000 RMB-unlimited 5000-30 000 RMB shopping (≈50-300 Euro) (≈1000 Euro- (≈500-3000 Euro) budget unlimited) Social background (Lower) Middle Class/ Wealthy/Very Wealthy Upper Middle Class/ Salary Class Wealthy View on luxuries A way to increase A necessity to a A part of luxury social status life on top lifestyleOne of the most important findings from our interviews was that this group is nothomogeneous. While our group shares many similarities, they are also separated bydifferent values and aspirations. We have identified three groups of young, Chinese luxuryloving women belonging to the one-child generation: Desktop Cinderellas, Golden Dolls andTrench Coat Tigers.
Desktop Cinderellas“Look, I have status!”The Desktop Cinderellas are usually white-collar office Perhaps because of such sacrifices, happiness of posses-ladies. Individually, they do not spend large amounts of sion is much higher than with the other groups; there is amoney on luxury, but they do spend, and they are a large stronger feeling of gratification and achievement for thesegroup. Moreover, of all three groups, they are the most women.desperate for luxuries. “I remember when I got my bag. I saw it and thought I needed it. At that time I was still a student, so I got a part-They may have international experience from studying time job. After one month, I rushed out and bought the bag.”abroad, but in general, they have a more local outlook. - JuliaThey dream about the world of the Golden Dolls, whousually, as we will see, really are part of the established Since Desktop Cinderellas dont go shopping as often asupper class in China. Since Cinderellas usually still live the other groups, the shopping environment is lesswith their parents, they are able to indulge in conspicuous important to them. They mainly focus on the product itselfconsumption two to three times per year. Due to their and not so much on the service or customer experience.(lower) middle class background, Cinderellas are espe-cially likely to find that their parents do not understandtheir lifestyle choices. Brand Preferences Cinderellas prefer “safe” well known marques with highAs Chinas urban middle class grows and becomes more brand recognition in China. They are not willing to riskaffluent, this category will continue to grow and luxury spending large amounts of money on the locally unknownbrands should therefore build a strong connection with label, even if this “unknown” is a high-status brandthese consumers today. One recent attempt has been internationally. Desktop Cinderellas get most of their brandmade by Dolce & Gabbana (D&G), which launched a high- education from friends, colleagues and other peers. Sinceend cosmetics line in China in 2011. The product, devel- they dont have much experience with luxury brands,oped together with consumer-goods giant Procter & brand reputation is their key priority. Since they cannotGamble, looks to introduce a new era of D&G glamour to afford to buy luxuries often, they prefer classic andless affluent consumers. timeless items.Consumer BehaviorCinderellas typically buy less expensive luxury items suchas skin care products, cosmetics and perfumes. Due totheir limited purchasing power, they are not impulsivebuyers when it comes to larger items. They carefullycompare prices and calculate their expenses to buyluxuries. As an example, one interviewee saved for morethan a year to buy a designer handbag worth about 16 000RMB (≈1850 Euro). During that year she took the metroinstead of a taxi and always ordered the cheapest mealsfor lunch.
MSL China Executive Whitepaper Communicating with young, Chinese, urban, female luxury consumers 13Chanel conducting high The Self and Social Status Desktop Cinderellas are more collectivistic in theirlevel educational branding mindsets than Trench Coat Tigers and Golden Dolls. They prefer to have a similar style as their friends rather thanin Shanghai standing out. Office ladies go for a more professional and feminine style, with a touch of luxury. Others have a moreIn 2011, Chanel shared its brand history, values juvenile style. They prefer to go shopping together withand culture in an innovative and comprehensive friends since they like to hear their friends’ opinions.way through Culture Chanel. This two-monthexhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cinderellas are aspirational social climbers who believein Shanghai was especially made for the Chinese that luxury brands are an indication of social status.audience and showcased the design legacy and Consequently, they purchase luxury brands in order tolife of the brands iconic founder Coco Chanel. improve their social position in society.The exhibition displayed roughly 400 items,including loans from private collections and “You can use luxuries to upgrade your status. We buy luxurymuseums worldwide. By doing this, Chanel took brands to create a better image, boost our success andthe opportunity to educate the market about its confidence.” - Jenniferbrand and its heritage, filling the void in a This desire to be a member of a higher class may imply amarket where luxury brands do not have a long great deal of peer pressure.history and many consumers lack in-depthinformation about the brand essentials. The “Some of my friends’ families have very, very much money.broad marketing targeted a wide group who They will ask me to go shopping in Hong Kong with them butmight not individually be able to afford luxury in I don’t have so much money. And I felt pressure when aquantity; the idea was to put Chanel on this friend of mine bought a very expensive bag a couple ofgroups shortlist of “safe” brands whose value is months ago in Paris.” - Sabinaknown to many and whose status and legacy ishighly desired. Desktop Trench Coat Golden Dolls Cinderellas Tigers Shopping behavior Aspired Spontaneous Time pressured
Golden Dolls“Look, Im rich!” Golden Dolls are often second-generation entrepreneurs. They have often been sent abroad at a relatively young age. They might be working in the family business, but there are some who dont work at all. Their materialistic lifestyle is the envy of many young women. Dolls have similarities with the ill-regarded “second generation rich” or “fù èr dài”, but many in this group work hard to support their extravagant lifestyle. For them, “being rich” is not enough, they harbor real aspirations of “achieving something”, such as starting a business. It is important for working Dolls to position themselves as smart and ambitious, having the ability to create for themselves what their parents once did for the family, and they tend to look down on the non-working Dolls, or fù èr dài, a term which usually refers to a person who is content with spending the money of his or her parents. “Sometimes when I drive on the street, I see those people who drive shitty cars, they are ugly, they wear like shitty clothes. But they are so happy. Like, how can they be so happy? Thats the life I want.” - Cecilia Consumer Behavior Golden Dolls are the most impulsive and unpredictable of the three categories. They usually dont fantasize about shopping like the Desktop Cindrellas or squeeze it in like the Trench Coat Tigers; they just consume. “I never think about it. If I go out and see it and like it, I will immediately buy it. Its better for me not to take too much money with me when I go out.” - Tiffany “My mum always gives me enough money. I never feel that I dont have enough money.” - Joanna Golden Dolls are frequently on waiting lists for the latest items from well known brands. Yet, they strongly dislike waiting. The happiness of possession is relatively short- term and there is a sense of indifference and nonchalance towards luxury brands. Luxuries are seen as disposables. “[…] it is so practical. It is not in leather, and I am such a careless person; I would just drop my bag on the floor and bla bla bla. Basically I dont give a damn about my bags and […], no matter how many times you drop it on the floor, it is still good.” - Cecilia Dolls are generally members of the VIP clubs of more than one luxury brand. This is considered an additional indication of social status. They expect royal treatment in all encounters with the brand, and get upset if they dont receive it.
MSL China Executive WhitepaperCommunicating with young, Chinese, urban, female luxury consumers 15 Brand Preferences The personal relationship with the luxury brand is also the main source of brand education. Golden Dolls have extensive knowledge about the best-known brands, and during their trips abroad they are also becoming increas- ingly familiar with lesser-known houses. Dolls desire young, lively and colorful brands with an extravagant and sexy image. Prestige and exclusivity are the key character- istics. For instance, one interviewee pointed out a specific luxury brand which she actually thought had poor quality, but which she still buys since she thinks the logo confers high social status. Dolls are open to try new trends and innovative ideas – more so than the Desktop Cinderellas who prefer to play it safe, and the Trench Coat Tigers who are less flexible when it comes to changing styles. The most desired luxury item amongst these consumers is a specific bag, which carries a high price and is very hard to find. Only the top layer of society can afford this bag – something that the Dolls find extremely attractive. “You have to carry [it]. It’s also a way to start a conversation, that you are one of the group.”- Alicia Fendis fashion extravaganza on the Great Wall In 2007, Italian fashion house Fendi, together with legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld, held an extravagant fashion show on the Great Wall. The show was staged on the top of the ancient structure, with spotlights lighting up the models and casting the surrounding scenery into gloom. As measured by its 1,500 mile length, it was probably the longest catwalk in history. The entire production was said to have cost around 10 million dollars. "I seriously doubt that there will be anything of this magnitude or anything this magical for a very long time," said Kate Bosworth, one of the A-list celebrities attending the fashion extravaganza. The mix of the over-the-top, larger than life production and the international A-list glamour was highly appealing to the young, rich Golden Dolls, who referred to this event as the “perfect branding”.
The Self and Social StatusGolden Dolls do not care about what people think of theirstyle, as long as they are seen as being rich. But they alsowant to be seen as trend setters among their circle offriends.“I always have girl friends who say: Oh my God, I love yourshoes! Like where did you buy your shoes? And then they gobuy exactly the same ones.” - CeciliaThey change styles frequently and are always looking forsomething new and exciting. Desktop Trench Coat Golden Dolls Cinderellas Tigers Worst fear Be perceived as Be perceived as Be perceived as newly rich newly rich newly rich“I have to change my look every day, otherwise Ill get sobored. I think clothing, change clothes… Its a fast way tochange my mood. You feel like you are a new person. Its anew day.” - AliciaDolls view luxuries as a reassurance. Buying luxury brandsmakes them feel they belong to a superior status group. Intheir social circles, it is generally expected that peopleshould use luxury items. Golden Dolls do not necessarilyhave a passion for fashion, but there is still a strongsentiment of needing the luxury brands within this group,almost to the point of being an obligation. Desktop Trench Coat Golden Dolls Cinderellas Tigers Shopping Belonging Self expression Social status drivers“If everyone has it, maybe I will have one too. […] If I dont likethe brand, I will still buy it. It shows social status.” - JoannaLike everyone in this group of young, urban luxury lovingwomen, Golden Dolls generally fear being associated withthe newly rich. But they still like ostentatious brands. In anattempt to distinguish themselves from “those newlyrich”, they always go for the latest models or items fromthe new season, limited editions and items that are onwaiting lists. This makes them feel fashionable andunique.
Trench Coat Tigers“Look, I have style!” Like the other groups, most of the Trench Coat Tigers are career- focused professionals. Like the Golden Dolls, many of them are entrepreneurs. They are on their way up in their careers, but are not fully funding their luxury lifestyle on their own yet – they still rely on money from their families. The main difference with the other two groups is that they feel more “cosmopolitan” than “Chinese” and they have adopted a rather foreign lifestyle. Also, they are the most knowledgeable in terms of lifestyle amongst the young, female luxury consumers in China, and they pride themselves on having an international outlook on life. For example, they might like to get a tan, while most Chinese women are using whitening products for their skin. For them, having an active and healthy lifestyle is fundamental, as is being well-traveled and cultivated. Desktop Trench Coat Golden Dolls Cinderellas Tigers Get-togethers with Chilling Yoga friends, Karaoke, Nightlife Outdoor activities Interests Adventure, Travel Online chatting, Luxury travel Books Cars Wine Desktop Trench Coat Golden Dolls Cinderellas Tigers Public domestic Exclusive Exclusive ones domestic ones international ones Social Renren.com P1 A Small World Networks weibo Kaixin001 weibo weibo Consumer Behavior Trench Coat Tigers have a genuine interest in fashion. They have developed, or are actively working to develop, a strong personal taste, often based on their experiences abroad. They are picky, and unforgiving if they have a bad experience with a brand. Tigers are curious about up-coming trends and designers and seek information from the sales personnel. They also appreciate when sales staff understands their taste and can show them reserved items. Many of these women are VIPs of different luxury brands. Tigers do talk about fashion and haute-couture with their friends, but they usually do not talk about a specific new purchase since they are afraid to show off. They may recom- mend different brands and products, but everyone in their circle is very particular about having her own style – uniqueness is seen as a status symbol in itself. “I am a person who likes to do things quietly. I have my own thoughts about dress and fashion.”- Jennifer Since Trench Coat Tigers are hard-working career women, they do not have a lot of time for shopping and their shopping habits are unstructured. They typically do their shopping abroad, trying to find unique pieces from other countries. They are fond of vintage items and cherish the story behind a rare vintage find. These women are also more aware than the other groups about social issues such as environmentalism. “I try to contribute more than consume.”- Alexandra
Brand PreferencesTigers prefer low-profile brands and new, up-and-comingdesigners. They also tend to like multi-brand boutiqueconcepts – something that only exists on a small scale inthe largest Chinese cities. Excellent quality, brand historyand heritage as well as the aesthetic and emotionalcontent are what the Tigers are looking for in a luxurybrand.“There is a difference between luxury goods and expensivegoods. Expensive goods have no history, no luxury. Just anormal product, just more expensive than others.” - RinnaTigers emphasize that they dislike big logos. One inter-viewee pointed out that she once got a very expensiveluxury handbag as a gift from a friend, but then never usedit because she did not like the big logo on the bag. Again,this is because big logotypes and too much profiling giveassociations to newly rich and counterfeits. Desktop Trench Coat Golden Dolls Cinderellas Tigers Hermès Human and Nature Modes of transport- Metro/bus Prestigious Expensive or Aware exhibition appeals to the ation Trench Coat Tigers“I think its too common and there are too many fakes, too In 2011, “Hermès” for its sub brand Shang Xia,shiny and too high profile. I like something low-key, classy, created as a celebration to Asian craftsmanship,timeless. Not a big logo, not look at me. Its so much more organized a one month exhibition in Sinanlow-key.” - Alexandra Mansion in Shanghai. The exhibition was called Human and Nature and was devoted to modern craftsmanship and design. The 2012 showcasedThe Self and Social Status collection includes furniture, decorative objects,Trench coat Tigers are more fashion aware than fashion garments and accessories; combining heritagefollowers. They like to be “in the know” and appreciate mixed with innovation.being updated about trends and new products. However,they do not frequently change styles. Sinan Mansion, where the exhibition was“I admire people who can wear their own style. They wear the situated, is a historic villa constructed in thestuff, not the stuff wears them. The financial value of each 1920s. Recently restored, the villa mixes tradi-accessory is not so important. Its the whole outcome.” - tional architecture with contemporary facilitiesAlexandra and design. For the exhibition, the villas interior was designed to mirror the theme Nature. ForThe fashions of the 50s and 60s are popular with Tigers. instance, the first floor space was decorated withTo obtain a unique style, they mix different brands: 580 hand-made bamboo screens from Anji, inexpensive with cheap, luxury with non-luxury, well-known Zhejiang province.with unknown.“Like me, I usually use luxuries and very cheap things This creative, yet low key approach is attractive totogether. Just make my own style. The beautiful things are Trench Coat Tigers, who are looking for luxurythe most important. I dont care about the price.” - Cathy while wanting a reason to buy. The Hermès exhibition was successful in radiating exclusivity while avoiding anything too spectacular, and Desktop Trench Coat Golden Dolls Hermès has been rewarded by being extensively Cinderellas Tigers highlighted by Tigers as one of their go-tobrands. International International Local Celebrity Glamour Icons Fashion Icons Fashion Icons Victoria Beckham, Coco Chanel, idols Zhang Ziyi, Angelina Jolie, Jacqueline Kennedy, Fan Bingbing, Photos from Dave Samuel on Flickr Megan Fox, Carla Bruni, Gong Li, Shu Qi Blake Lively Alexa Chung
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