Luxury Brands in China: Beware The Wrath Of Li Jiaqi


What Happened:

Shortly after Hermès launched its widely anticipated line of lipsticks, called Rouge Hermès, with 24 shades in either matte or satin finishes, China’s top beauty influencer, Li Jiaqi (also known as Austin Li), gave the French luxurys brand’s first dip into the lucrative beauty market a scathing review. His Taobao livestream, which attracted over 12 million views, brutally criticized the various shades as “cheap looking,” “unsuitable for Asians,” and “as unflattering as an old mother’s shades.” He snarkily added that Hermès five-year preparation for the line “only served to provide outdated colors used five-years ago.” The clip went viral on Chinese social media, as a host of netizens raved over Li’s honest reviews and firm stance with consumers, leading to the hashtag — TheLookOnLijiaqi’sFace (#李佳琦的表情) — trending on Weibo.

Jing Take:

To have its Rouge Hermès line roasted on social media even before it was officially launched in China was certainly a blow for the brand. And compared to the much better received Armani and YSL lipstick collections, both of which come from businesses that moved into the cosmetic industry, Hermès is up against serious competition. As Jing Daily previously reported, China’s influencer industry holds unimaginable power over public opinion, which might explain why netizen’s comments, such as “If Li Jiaqi can’t rock Hermès colors, neither can we” and “Jiaqi is the savior of our wallets.” hold real sway. However, other online observers wrote that Li is attacking the new line as a way to build up his personal brand as “trustworthy” and to get more money from the many consumers that follow him. Either way, Chinese consumers are no longer willing to burn roughly two thousand dollars on a “thinly layered Hermès lipstick case.” But will they spend $67 dollars for a lipstick? If so, then Hermès will weather this influencer storm. 

The Jing Take reports on a leading piece of news while presenting our editorial team’s analysis of its key implications for the luxury industry. In this recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debates that sprout up on Chinese social media.





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Luxury Brands Digital Marketing That Worked in China During the COVID-19 Crisis


As COVID-19 spreads around the world at unprecedented speeds, major luxury players have to react quickly to supply chain disruptions, production halts, and store closings on a massive scale. Some have already made short-term changes to prepare for the worst, and since most brands will finish the first half of their financial year by the end of April, many are wondering if a deepening crisis will impact the marketing budget for the year’s second half.

Brands are looking to the market in China for answers. While it was the first country to be heavily hit by the virus, it was also the first to slowly recover. Therefore, global brands are shifting their focus back to China to help offset losses elsewhere. A report from the advertising agency Dentsu Aegis Network predicted ad spending in China would grow at a rate of 3.9 percent. So where is advertising headed in China? And what can luxury brands based in the West learn from China’s experiences?

We spoke with the head of ten different China teams of major luxury houses, highlighting six of them: Louis Vuitton, Prada, Burberry, Icicle, Lanvin, and Calvin Klein. As you’ll see, they’ve all quickly adopted new technologies and are pushing the envelope of how a brand can digitally market luxury.

Sales Associate-driven WeChat pop-ups

The quarantine forced brands to actively jump on e-commerce channels, namely WeChat pop-up shops. In this scenario, sales associates became super-KOLs for brands, enabling them to swiftly communicate with their clients. Brands can also track sales records down to each associate.

Photo: LV’s show re-see WeChat Mini Program.

Digital luxury innovator Louis Vuitton told us that because of their fully-functioning omnichannel platform — built before the virus began — clients in China can order and receive products promptly, and they encourage their sales associates to forward a QR code that clients can use on WeChat. Louis Vuitton even took another step forward by conducting the very first show re-see via WeChat, as actor Liu Haoran shared his show experience, and actress Dilireba shared her favorite items, which then became bestsellers. This has naturally recruited new clients for the brand since WeChat users can get an exclusive view of spring and summer products available to purchase. And finally, getting the customer’s information (WeChat account and phone numbers) is essential for brands that want to keep in touch and build long-term relationships.

E-commerce laggard Prada also built a similar system that incentivizes sales associates to communicate with their clients, and it has resulted in a bigger commercial impact than WeChat ads, according to the brand. Hermès, which is notoriously known for not selling digitally, also opened up limited sales from their Spring/Summer collection 2020, as well as accessories like sneakers and jewelry to its shop on WeChat.

Product-driven livestreaming

While most brands are still learning to use livestreams to showcase their Autumn/Winter 2020 runway shows, many digital pioneers have carved out their own livestream focuses by primarily using the technology to reach a wide variety of consumers with products or in-store experiences.

Photo: KOL Yvonne Ching hosts the Burberry Tmall livestream session.

Photo: KOL Yvonne Ching hosts the Burberry Tmall livestream session.

British luxury brand Burberry invited KOL Yvonne Ching to visit its Jing’an store in Shanghai and livestream her experience on Tmall. The session garnered over 1.4 million views, and within the hour, most of its featured products sold out. “We have seen a clear shift in customer behaviors in China over the past couple of months, and we are delighted that we could connect with so many customers during the Burberry livestreaming on Tmall,” said Josie Zhang, President of Burberry China, in her introduction. “Customers are craving newness, and the livestreaming is a safe and exciting way for us to deliver exactly that, especially at a time where some customers are not able to join us in stores.”

Forced by the virus situation to offset losses, Shanghai-based homegrown luxury brand Icicle also became an early adopter of livestreaming for sales. The brand launched livestreams across many platforms, from official brand channels on TikTok to sales associates at specific stores. The brand told us that they’re still exploring how to elevate brand image through livestreaming (with styling or storytelling content, for instance), but so far their efforts have paid off, as the official brand livestream sessions have garnered about $70,517 (500,000 RBM) on average, becoming a stable revenue stream for them during the virus retail apocalypse.

MCM is actively participating in livestream sessions at the mall level and are training their sales associates to be livestreamers, too. They’ve also invested more heavily in promotions via Tmall, and have seen a 600-percent increase in sales compared to last year.

Boundary-pushing VR

Brands also pushed the boundaries of virtual experiences by delivering an immersive, branded world to quarantined consumers. VR technology still needs to prove it can offer a commercial impact, but it’s certainly a trend that’s going to happen and an area that many continue to invest in.

Iqiyi

French high-fashion brand Lanvin, which is owned by Chinese Fosun group, has revamped itself at Paris Fashion Week with VR. Photo: Lanvin.

During Paris Fashion Week, Lanvin worked with the video platforms Douyin, Yizhibo, iQiyi, and the luxury e-tailer Secoo to create a cloud fashion show. The collaboration experimented with VR, which let the audience experience a rare front-row view. Meanwhile, the brand also invited fashion bloggers to livestream about all the behind-the-scenes action from the show, causing the hashtag #lanvin云秀场 (#lanvinCloudBasedRunway) to collect over 5 million views, and the iQiyi show to garner 585,723 views. But what is more impressive is how the brand built a VR flagship that allowed customers to shop virtually at the BFC flagship store in Shanghai by instantly connecting with sales associates on WeChat.

Photo: Calvin Klein virtual exhibition on Tmall.

Calvin Klein’s motto at the time seemed appropriate, stating, “We are not asking you to go out, but we’re not asking you to be bored!” Similarly, the brand shifted its campaign focus away from sales and more towards entertainment. On March 17th, Klein partnered with Tmall’s loyalty club to open a five-day “cloud” pop-up store hosted by Chinese rapper Xiao Gui. Viewers were able to journey through a maze, browse assorted product lines, and enjoy fun promotions.

Interactive Social Ads

In times like these, fighting the virus calls for community and unity, and while timely donations are an important part of what brands can do, they can also demonstrate strong values via social media tools.

Photo: #pradaacronyms campaign on Douyin.

Prada dominated the social conversations in this way by asking key KOLs to join their latest campaign #pradaacronyms. Netizens were invited to decode each letter of “Prada” as a way to individually express their mood and interpret the brand, and celebrities like Zheng Shuang and Caixukun joined the movement in China. To create an interactive social experience, users can download WeChat and Douyin filters to make their own #pradaacronyms. The campaign on Douyin stickers received 14,028 submissions and over 8 million video views, involving 20 celebrities, 19 KOLs, 13 media accounts, and 7 writers. Meanwhile, it generated millions of impressions on Weibo and became a case study for successful UGC (user-generated content).

All brands are being tested and examined on their responses during this disaster, and, particularly in the luxury industry, the traditional playbook of upholding certain brand values has been disrupted. Marketers and decision-makers need to think in new ways to win over consumers. Whether they are relying on sales associates, livestreams, VR, or new social media tools, brands are offering more human interaction during this trying time. Because of this, creative and innovative ways to connect with consumers will continue to be highly valued.





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Asia’s Leading Yacht Builders 2020 (Part 1 of 2): Hong Kong, China, Taiwan


Asia’s builders continue to be a significant force in the 24m-plus superyacht sector according to the 2020 Global Order Book, where four appear in the top 20 (a list slightly affected by the exclusion of two of last year’s top-four builders).

Taiwan's Ocean Alexander (90R pictured) is seventh in the 2020 Global Order Book

Ocean Alexander (90R pictured) is seventh in the 2020 Global Order Book

Taiwan’s Ocean Alexander and Horizon appear in the top 10, while UAE’s Gulf Craft is at 16, showing the continued popularity of these well-established shipyards founded in the 1970s and 1980s.

Meanwhile, China’s Heysea continues its remarkable rise to 12th in the list – having been in the top 30 since 2014 – as it prepares to operate a second production facility in southerly Guangdong province.

There are also exciting developments in the powercat sector as Aquila builds increasingly large models in Hangzhou, while Australia-founded brand ILIAD Catamarans has quickly established itself in the market, building designs from 50-90ft in Zhanjiang in southwestern Guangdong.

Hong Kong-headquartered CL Yachts is preparing to launch its flagship CLB88, with its world premiere scheduled for the Fort Lauderdale show

Hong Kong-headquartered CL Yachts is preparing to launch its flagship CLB88

CL Yachts is a new brand in the luxury motor yacht sector, although it heralds from Asia’s most iconic and historic yacht builder, Cheoy Lee. Founded in Shanghai in the late 19th century, it has its head office in Hong Kong and a 120,000sqm production facility in nearby Doumen, west of Zhuhai.

Launched in 2018, CL Yachts has so far built its reputation on the CLB72, completing the fifth hull last December, and the CLA76. The yard is now preparing to launch hull number one of its flagship CLB88 designed by Milan-based Jozeph Forakis Design, the yacht winning the transportation category at last year’s US-based Good Design Awards.

Martin Lo, Director of CL Yachts, said: “When we began this journey, we had a strong vision for CL Yachts, to advance the luxury performance experience into uncharted territories, and to design with modern explorers in mind. Jozeph Forakis and his design team understood that vision, and were vital in bringing it to life.”

A new brand from Cheoy Lee, CL Yachts has made an impact with its design and branding

A Cheoy Lee brand, CL Yachts has made an impact with its design and branding

The brand is now a fixture at major shows in the US, displaying the CLB72 and CLA76 at Miami in February. It will show the same two models at Palm Beach (Mar 26-29) and also exhibit at Newport (Sep 17-20) and Fort Lauderdale (Oct 28-Nov 1), where it will stage the world premiere of the CLB88.

CL Yachts also has strong plans for Asia and was set to debut at the Hong Kong International Boat Show at Club Marina Cove in late April, now cancelled, while it’s also looking at representation in Australia and New Zealand.

CHINA’S CATAMARAN KINGS

It’s also an exciting period for Aquila, which has about 350 staff and is embarking on a large product and factory expansion in 2020.

In Hangzhou, Aquila is preparing to launch its new 54 power catamaran

In Hangzhou, Aquila is preparing to launch its new 54 power catamaran

Founded by Sino Eagle in 2012 with the cooperation of MarineMax, the largest distributor in the US, Aquila has grown its profile in Asia in recent years with the appointment of multiple dealers in the region including Simpson Marine (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia) and Saigon Yacht & Marina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar).

Aquila’s latest new model is the innovative 32 with wraparound swim platform, which premiered at last year’s Miami International Boat Show and expanded a range of powercats that also includes the 36, 44 and 48.

This year, the brand is set to enter the large powercat sector as it launches both the 54 and its flagship 70, with their world premieres likely to be at the Fort Lauderdale show. Other new models include a 28 and a new range of ribs starting with 14ft Sport and Tiller options.

A rendering of the interior of Aquila's new flagship 70

A rendering of the interior of Aquila’s new flagship 70

The company is also expanding its purpose-built facility in the Fuyang district of Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province.

The site opened in 2012 with a 22,000sqm shed before a further 23,000sqm was added for R&D in 2016. Last year marked the opening of a 39,000sqm shed dedicated to smaller models, and a new office building. All Aquila hulls are infused in a humidity and temperature-controlled room, while new equipment includes a five-axis CNC milling machine for tooling.

ILIAD is a new force in the powercat market and was founded by Australian CEO Mark Elkington, owner and Managing Director of dealership Multihull Solutions, so the new brand benefits from existing sales offices across Australia and in New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand.

ILIAD Catamarans builds in Zhanjiang and launched its 70 last year

ILIAD Catamarans builds in Zhanjiang and launched its 70 last year

Three units of the ILIAD 50 – which has a 2,500nm range – have already been delivered, two to Southeast Asia and one for Australia. The 70, which has a range of nearly 5,000nm, made her debut at the Sydney show last August, while the second hull has been sold to Asia.

The next model in the range to appear will be the 60, which has already secured multiple sales, and buyers have also come forward for the flagship 90, which will have helicopter-landing facilities.

ILIAD’s catamarans are built at the Yuanhe Xinlong shipyard in Zhanjiang and the company is gearing up for increased production by building a new shed measuring 300m by 45m (13,500sqm), which will enable eight large catamarans to be constructed at the same time.

Heysea, also in Guangdong, is currently China’s most prolific superyacht builder and recently launched its first Atlantic 115, Dopamine, which has a top speed of 24 knots. The yacht, developed with Heysea’s US dealer Atlantic Yacht & Ship, will be followed by deliveries of the yard’s first 126ft model in March and a 139-footer, also sold.

Heysea, China’s most prolific superyacht builder, is completing a 139-footer

Heysea, China’s most prolific superyacht builder, is completing a 139-footer

Other ongoing builds include 139ft (hull two), Atlantic 115 (hull two), 108ft (two hulls), 82ft (two hulls), 48ft (two hulls), a 42m powercat (hull one), 112-footer, Zoom 58 and a newly designed 56ft sailing cat that’s scheduled to launch this year.

The company employs about 200 staff plus subcontractors at its site in Jiangmen and is building a second facility in Zhuhai that’s scheduled to open for production towards the end of 2020.

Later this year, Heysea plans to again attend the Sydney International Boat Show (Jul 30-Aug 3) in Australia – where it’s represented by Morgan J Ross Marketing – and the Fort Lauderdale show for exposure to the US market.

Heysea is building a second production site in Zhuhai

Heysea is building a second production site in Zhuhai

It also expects to return to the Cannes Yachting Festival, where co-founder and Chairman Allen Leng led its show debut last year, albeit only with a booth. Heysea is also in the process of appointing new dealers for Europe and Asia.

TAIWAN’S LEADING LIGHTS

Ocean Alexander and Horizon have long been Asia’s most prolific superyacht builders and are among many shipyards based in Kaohsiung in southwest Taiwan. Ocean Alexander is seventh on this year’s Global Order Book, with 31 projects at an average length of 31.7m.

It has traditionally been focused on the US, where it also owns marinas, operates service yards and a large dealership, Alexander Marine, that also represents other brands including Tiara and Galeon.

Ocean Alexander believes its Revolution series (90R pictured) will help it break into markets outside the US

Ocean Alexander made its debut at the Cannes Yachting Festival with the 90R

Last September, however, the company made its debut at the Cannes Yachting Festival and staged the European premieres of the 90R, which debuted at Fort Lauderdale in late 2018, and the 45 Divergence, which had its world premiere in Miami in February 2019 and is the company’s smallest model by some distance.

CEO Johnny Chueh, whose father Alex founded Ocean Alexander in 1977, said he was increasingly looking to diversify the company’s markets.

“About 90 per cent of our production goes to the US, where we have a very high market share, about 40 per cent for the bigger models, so it’s almost impossible for us to grow,” said Chueh, who succeeded his father as CEO in 2000.

Ocean Alexander hopes its Revolution series will help it break into non-US markets

Ocean Alexander hopes its Revolution series will help it break into non-US markets

“As we started thinking about Europe and other regions, we thought we could develop best in international markets with our new Revolution series and the 45, as our other lines are more obviously designed for the American market.”

The 45D – available in Sport and Coupe models – is built at the shipyard’s smaller Merritt Island facility in Florida, where it also manufactures the 70e, its second-smallest model.

Ocean Alexander’s newest model is the 84R, the second model in the Revolution series, which debuted at Fort Lauderdale last November, a year after the 90R.

Taiwan’s Horizon (FD102 pictured) is ninth in the Global Order Book

Horizon (FD102 pictured) is ninth in the 2020 Global Order Book

Horizon has traditionally had a much wider distribution spread around the world due in large to the leadership of CEO John Lu, who co-founded the company in 1987 and has long-term relationships with dealers in the US, Australia, Europe and Japan.

It recently appointed Phuket-headquartered Derani Yachts as its dealer for Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Listed ninth on this year’s Global Order Book with 24 projects at an average length of 29.6m, the builder has about 800 staff working across its four sites in Kaohsiung. It continues to focus on its FD (Fast Displacement) series designed by Cor D. Rover, last year debuting the FD77 at the Palm Beach show and the FD77 Skyline at Sanctuary Cove.

In January, it added to its FD portfolio by unveiling the FD75 and FD102 at its marina in Kaohsiung, and the models are expected to make their international show premieres at Palma and Cannes respectively. In addition, the first FD92 will be launched in the summer, while an FD125 is in development.

Horizon (FD75 pictured) is now represented in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore by Derani Yachts

Horizon (FD75 pictured) is represented in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore by Derani

“The FD series has seen record sales in the last four years, with 20 yachts sold and delivered to clients from the US, Australia, Europe and Asia,” Lu said.

To reach its core markets this year, Horizon is again attending shows in the US (Palm Beach, Newport, Fort Lauderdale), Europe (Palma, Cannes, Monaco, Barcelona) and Australia (Sanctuary Cove).

Furthermore, Horizon is developing 6D infusion technology that can be used on FRP hulls over 140ft. By using a one-shot process for the hull, complete with stringers and girders, Horizon states that its hulls are now eight per cent lighter compared to only infusing the hull shell and 40 per cent stronger than the hand-laid process.

Like Horizon, Johnson Yachts was founded in Kaohsiung in 1987 and today has about 250 staff in its 12,600sqm facility, which has two test tanks and can build up to six semi-custom vessels up to 130ft.

Taiwan’s Johnson is scheduled to launch its 70 in the second half of the year

Johnson is scheduled to launch its 70 in Kaohsiung in the second half of the year

Johnson, which has a long relationship with UK-based Dixon Yacht Design, debuted its 80 last year and is scheduled to the launch the 70 in the second half of 2020, both new models joining an updated range that also features the 93, 110 and 115. Construction began on the latter last year.

Open to customisation, the Johnson 70 has an 18ft 3in beam and an interior by Design Unlimited, with the option of three or four staterooms, and the choice of an open flybridge or an enclosed skylounge.

Peter Chang, General Manager of Johnson Yachts, said: “With the design of the Johnson 70, we have a yacht developed to be versatile. We want to create a new line of yachts that sets the trend rather than follows it.”

The builder exhibits each year at Fort Lauderdale and has strong representation around the world, with individual dealers for the US west coast, US east coast, Europe (three), Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Yacht Style Issue 52: Asia’s Top Builders, Reviews & More

 



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How Fashion Maven Declan Chan Connects Brands to China


Fashion stylist and influencer Declan Chan is the next creative that Jing Daily is highlighting as part of China’s community of individuals who bridge the gap between global brands and the country’s fashion industry. This section profiles industry leaders who contribute to both national and global fashion communities, from consumers and behind-the-scenes employees to business executives and influencers. 

On his social media, Declan Chan identifies himself as a globetrotting pro-fashion-al [a play on the word professional] based in Hong Kong. Much of his popularity is based on this kind of astute humor as well as his willingness to genuinely connect global brands and audiences. 

In his early career, Chan transitioned from working as a fashion editor to an in-house creative manager for the retailer Lane Crawford. Along the way, he developed a unique sense of content creation that established him as both a go-to stylist and a global influencer. Now, Chan’s work speaks for itself. He has styled for major media outlets, including Vogue Hong Kong, South China Morning Post, Men’s Uno Hong Kong, and Mainland China. More recently, he’s plotted numerous well-received campaigns for international luxury houses like Cartier, Estée Lauder, and Calvin Klein that target the local market.

On the ground and from behind-the-scenes, Chan holds the coveted position of witnessing China’s changing fashion industry firsthand. Yet it’s his ability to communicate fashion to the world that’s made him a person of interest. On social media, his followers include a tight circle of industry insiders — editors, buyers, and retailers — and a large pool of enthusiastic fashion and travel fans.

A regular on the front row, Chan delivers instant, unfiltered updates to his 60,000 Instagram followers from the market’s front lines. His on-the-street looks are featured in renowned fashion media outlets such as Vogue and GQ. But his awareness of being rooted in China’s fashion community is what has really distinguished his career. “Asian people are from all around the world and they love to see posts from the perspective of an Asian person like myself,” he acknowledged.

Since early February, Chan had been traveling across Europe and was among the few Chinese faces present at the 2020 fall-winter fashion week season. As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in Europe and affected flights departing from countries like Italy, France, and the UK, Chan soon found his itinerary delayed. But, fortunately, he managed to return to Hong Kong where he sat down to speak with Jing Daily. From his home quarantine at Happy Valley, Hong Kong, Chan shared his fashion week experience, his unique take on the current dynamic between brands and audiences, and more.

Has your work schedule been impacted by the virus outbreak? 

I was off to the fashion weeks in early February when the flights between Hong Kong and Europe became restricted, so I was worried that my schedule would be affected by travel bans. Though I made London, Milan, and Paris this season, all the events were canceled or put on hold. Some fashion shoots were still happening, but logistically it was a nightmare. Hopefully, things will go back to normal in a month or two.

How was your experience at this season’s fashion week? 

There were still some familiar Chinese faces such as influencers like Dipsy, Leaf Greener, Yuwei Zhangzou, and editor Tim Lim who attended. The Chinese section at the shows was downsized but only as a temporary measure. Once the virus is over, it will be revived. I was glad I was able to represent while I could.

Declan

Chan’s on-the-street look outside JW Anderson’s runway show was featured on British Vogue and Vogue Italia. Image by Jonathan Daniel Pryce.

What challenges do you think the outbreak will bring to the industry and the influencer economy? 

The challenge for influencers is that there are no physical events — and therefore activations — that they can participate in. But since brands still need to drive online transactions, I am sure they are figuring out how to keep working with influencers to create online conversions. After all, people can still shop at home.

What changes have you noticed among your followers since you began using social media?

When I started on Weibo (which I have given up now since it was hacked), followers only wanted to see what you were wearing in an OOTD [Outfit Of the Day] format. Since I started using Instagram, and with the addition to Instagram stories, there has been a lot more audience interaction. They want to see your whole journey, especially during fashion week. They want to see the real behind-the-scenes of fashion, the show, and how you experience an event. 

You can also show them your day-to-day decisions. An outfit snapshot, street style pictures, or an editorial image just doesn’t cut it these days, I think. It needs to be a 360-degree presentation of what you go through in your life, as someone living and breathing the fashion industry. 

Also, I think offering relevant advice to them is important. Like recently, I had the most engagement when I was talking about my experience of going into self-quarantine. People actually crave and need advice sometimes.

How do you think Chinese customers want to interact with brands today and in the future?

Apart from brand content and livestreams, Chinese customers react well when they see a brand initiating some positive contribution to society, like contributing to environmental issues, sustainability, or donating to fight the virus. 

Speaking of the future, I think the interaction between brands and consumers will depend on the development of platforms. Though many brands have tapped Weibo and WeChat, there’s still room for brands to play further. For example, Tiktok is another ecosystem that still needs more thinking in terms of how to work effectively with fashion. 

What type of campaigns do you find audiences actively respond to?  

I think the endorsement of a celebrity is a MUST in a campaign from a major brand as it will drive critical mass. The Calvin Klein CNY campaign that I styled featuring Lay Zhang is a good example of how you need a grade-A celebrity for a blockbuster campaign. 

On the social media side of things, picking the right influencer is really important, and the client needs to think about their sphere of influence. For example, I recently worked on a social campaign for Lane Crawford to launch the Thom Browne edition of the Samsung Z Flip phone. We didn’t pick people with big followings; instead, we picked a handful of talents who were connected to the right crowd, and the phones were sold-out before they hit the shop floor.

Declan

The Calvin Klein CNY campaign that Chan styled featuring Lay Zhang. Image by Kai Z Feng. Photo: Courtesy of Calvin Klein.

What factors do you consider when you start a new brand collaboration?

From my experience, I am mostly approached by clients who see work I’ve done that’s relevant to their business or their direction. I don’t really approach clients myself. So usually the collaborations I’m offered fit the style of my work. 

But I keep the scope of what I do flexible. That includes styling a brand campaign, creating a social media campaign, setting design for a hotel’s visual branding, and promoting a product as an influencer. I think it’s about how you fit your skillset to the client’s needs and then find a synergy to make the collaboration work.

Lastly, how do you measure personal success as a stylist and fashion influencer? Is it based on taste, authenticity, or relationship with brands?

I think the success of a stylist is measured by the ability to help your client transform or elevate their image — be it a brand, celebrity, or magazine. The taste is the reason why your clients find you, but it also comes down to your relationship with brands, because in most cases, they are the ones that provide you with the working tools, which is the product.

As an influencer, the most important part is to be authentic and have your own voice. Just being able to wear looks like a model isn’t enough to build a digital career. Having the ability to produce content your audience can resonate with is very important. 

The way you communicate with people on social media is no longer a one-way dialogue — it’s more interactive. You need to take time to cultivate a relationship with followers. Also, the quality of what you post is more important than the follower count.





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Tencent Launches “Buy Now, Pay Later” Credit Feature


What happened:

Tencent launched a “buy now, pay later” credit feature in WeChat, allowing it’s one billion-plus community to avail of a deferred payment plan. This feature offers users a “Fen Fu” option, meaning they can buy on credit without the need to withdraw the credit in advance. These microloans — with added unfixed interest rates — can be repaid at any time which differentiates it from other instalment offerings. It cannot be used to make payments to other platform users.

Jing take:

This is good news for citizens already predisposed to using the same online ecosystem for a multitude of transactions. Moreover, while Chinese people in general dislike credit cards, they are more open to purchasing with online credit. Younger consumers particularly are more eager to avail of credit when making luxury purchases. The new function mirrors “buy now, pay later” options that have popped up in Western markets through service providers like Klarna, QuadPay, and Affirm. Depending on its popularity and uptake, this function that follows the likes of Alipay’s Huabei feature, could be seen as another incremental step on the road to shifting China’s perception of credit. It will also help to democratize the act of buying high-ticket items such as luxury fashion — on the surface anyway — by making these products more widely affordable from WeChat stores and opening them up to a new demographic of Chinese consumers.

The Jing Take reports on a leading piece of news while presenting our editorial team’s analysis of its key implications for the luxury industry. In this recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debates that sprout up on Chinese social media.





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How Fashion KOIs Bonded with Readers During COVID-19


Two months after announcing the unprecedented quarantine of millions of people, the Chinese authorities are trying to get the country back to work. But China’s facing a delicate balancing act between containing the virus and supporting a faltering economy. The outbreak has taken a heavy toll on retail by forcing the majority of Chinese residents to stay at home. According to Bloomberg, store traffic in China is creeping back up after falling as much as 80 percent during COVID-19’s peak in China earlier this winter, which dried up sales for fashion brands like Burberry Group Plc and Kering SA’s Gucci.

Consumers showed less interest in making significant luxury purchases during the lockdown, forcing luxury brands to come up with more effective Omnichannel campaigns while remaining sensitive to their consumers’ new reality. But now might be a great opportunity to push forward brand values, whether that means making a huge donation or just demonstrating a positive attitude.

While working as ambassadors for many brands in China, some of the country’s top Fashion KOIs (Key Opinion Influencers) have set a good example of how to make the most of the moment and cement relationships with fans. Some KOIs even got more followers during the quarantine period. Brands should study the way these Fashion KOIs interact with their followers as it’s a good way to get to know the Chinese market, and for their benefit, Jing Daily has categorized the main topics of Chinese Fashion KOI posts from the quarantine.  

As one of today’s most popular KOIs, Viya and her team generated a great series of caring posts on WeChat while her livestream was on pause because of the outbreak. She has nearly 6.5 million followers on Taobao, who range from teenagers to 50-year-olds, and most are eager to buy.

Fashion

People’s Joyworks profiled Viya for her virus donation and charity work. Photo: Weibo

She holds a single-day selling record ($66 million worth of products) and helped sell all of Kim Kardashian‘s 15,000 KKW fragrances in five minutes. On January 24, Viya announced that she was donating one million RMB (as well as one million RMB worth of medical supplies that included food, masks, and disinfectant) to the city of Wuhan. The fashion KOI added that she made the donation on behalf of her loyal followers, who she refers to as Viya’s Women. She also launched a seven-day “virus precaution” WeChat campaign where she would post updates about the virus crisis, salute medical personnel, and organize livestreaming Q&A sessions to help answer questions about fans’ concerns.

Meanwhile, Viya’s male counterpart, Li Jiaqi, donated protective medical clothing and masks worth approximately 1 million RMB. He also organized a fundraiser during his livestream, where he raised over 70 million RMB from his followers. The hugely popular KOI once sold an incredible 15,000 lipsticks in five minutes, and now he goes head-to-head in sales contests with Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma.

Fashion

Li Jiaqi updates his donation arrived in Wuhan. Photo: Weibo

In less than three years, Li Jiaqi has gone from a monthly salary of 3,000 RMB to annual earnings of approximately 10 million RMB. Now the star spends most of his time researching his fans and learning about consumer psychology and sales techniques. Netizens trust him because he provides honest reviews and makes genuine recommendations. He has fans believing that he puts them first when selling. 

Becky Li is a fashion blogger with over five million followers on Weibo. She is popular among women in their thirties who live in first-tier cities in China. She makes recommendations for their daily workwear, handbags, and accessories and donated one million to the Wuhan Charity Federation while also helping to gather much-needed medical supplies. 

She also has shown concern for female medical personnel by teaming up with Tmall to have feminine products like tampons and hand cream delivered to workers in Wuhan. Caring for the women who are fighting the virus hardest sets a great example of how to build a strong, caring female influencer image. On her Wechat account, for example, she stated, “We got a comment from a nurse saying they are in need of shoes to wear with a protective suit, so we contacted the brands and worked on shipping them over.”

Fashion

Becky Li supports the female medical personnel working at Wuhan by donating hand cream, repair cream, and power bars. Photo: WeChat

Other KOIs like Gogoboi and Mr. Bags have posted donation receipts on their accounts. As professionals who earn their money by promoting brands and products, this seems like an appropriate time to show gratitude and care for the people who have supported them.   

Aside from donating to show concern, influencers have also crafted purposeful and caring messages for their fans on both WeChat and livestreaming platforms. Many have used their influence to help broadcast proper precautionary measures, like the correct way to wear masks and dispose of them or instructions on how to use other healthcare products and cleaning supplies.

KOIs were also valuable in helping to clear up false rumors circulating within social media circles, like that aspirin and pure alcohol could be used to fight the virus. They’ve also persuaded fans to stay away from crowds as a way of contributing during the crisis. This was especially true during the lunar new year holiday when it’s a tradition to prepare a huge feast and organize family gatherings. “Staying at home is the best support for this national health crisis, and we appreciate your cooperation,” Mr. Bags wrote in a letter to his fans on WeChat.

A key strategy for influencer marketing is knowing your audience and what they want to read. While their fans stayed at home with time to spare, fashion KOIs came up with a list of things their fans could do without stepping outside. One common choice was suggesting entertainment like movies, books, online lectures, or even mobile games. Becky Li came up with lists like The 100 Best Movie Looks and The Best Fashion-Related Movies and Books.

The extended holiday also turned the Taiwanese love drama “Some Day or One Day” into a trending topic. One influencer (XiMenDaSao) analyzed all the accessories in the show along with links so readers could purchase them. Meanwhile, fashion influencer Shenyefashi organized a list of 32 different games for her fans to play on their phones. She even made a list of the best cartoons so her fans’ kids would have more to do.

How to stay healthy and strong soon became a priority for citizens in an outbreak, and many fans worried about putting on weight during the staycation. Because of this, many influencers came up with a series of well-designed workouts that didn’t require equipment. These included core training, cardio, and fat-burning sessions. Some also gave diet recommendations to complement exercise programs. For bloggers, promoting health and beauty comes from within. As such, they offer the content they care about, whether it’s health management, financing, or something else.

Fashion

KOI’s Social Media posts with suggestions of things to do at home Photo: WeChat

As they watched the urging coronavirus numbers from within quarantine, people desperately craved psychological comfort. Influencers’ heart-to-heart conversations with their fans were helpful and also strengthened the bonds between them. “It is a difficult time, but we’re in this together, and I’m with you,” read the title of the letter from fashion KOI Mr. Bags to his followers. This has been the gist of most influencer messages to their audiences, and it comes from the perspective of people who are experiencing the crisis alongside everyone else. 

Influencers are looking to build deeper emotional connections with their audiences. In Becky Li’s letter to her fans on WeChat, she reflects on how life has changed since she started her blog. She talks about the importance of health, family, and work-life balance. And by mentioning the difficult times in her career, she relates to the anxiety and pressures her female readers feel, while also allowing them to see the human and vulnerable side of their favorite fashion icon. 

In one of Viya’s posts on WeChat, she collected 50 inspiring news stories as a change from just updating the disturbing news. She also attached the phone numbers or professional psychologists and added that followers were also welcome to reach out directly to her through WeChat and Weibo. Several other influencers collected comments and stories from their followers and shared them on their account as moral support.  

It is a smart choice for fashion KOIs to be sensitive to their consumers during a crisis like this rather than just push out the same promotional messages. That is something brands could learn from. And as consumers in China wait patiently for a tipping point to arrive with the warm weather, they won’t forget the people and companies that offered them help and support over the winter.





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Cult Brand Huda Beauty Launches on Tmall Global


What happened:

The hyped cosmetics line Huda Beauty tapped into Mainland China’s beauty market by launching on Tmall Global on March 25. Founded by Iraqi-American makeup artist and influencer Huda Kattan, Huda Beauty has a strong following on Western social platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. The cult has spread to China as well, and 20,000 posts were already tracked on Little Red Book prior to the official launch.

To celebrate the Tmall Global flagship store opening, Huda Beauty initiated a “Spring Eye” challenge on Weibo along with top influencers Li Jiaqi (also known as Austin Li) and Becky Li. The brand sold over 1,112 palettes of the newly-launched “Mercury Retrograde” eyeshadow that was featured in the challenge.

The Jing Take:

It’s good timing for Huda Beauty’s launch, as eye makeup products are appealing to Chinese beauty shoppers more than ever. Since Chinese citizens have been required to wear masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, makeup looks with masks are going viral on China’s social platforms, and the highlight of these looks is, undoubtedly, the eye makeup. According to Tmall’s sales outcomes from January to March, eyeshadow sales increased 40 percent over the same period last year.

However, the beauty market in China tends to be oversaturated, as local beauty players who have a decent understanding of the country’s digital channels are springing up everywhere. Whether Huda Beauty can adapt to the rules of the local e-commerce game is what will determine the brand’s lifespan in this fast-paced market.

The Jing Take reports on a leading piece of news while presenting our editorial team’s analysis of its key implications for the luxury industry. In this recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debates that sprout up on Chinese social media.





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Bain: How Will Luxury Change For the Better Post-COVID-19


The luxury industry, as we know it, will be fundamentally changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent Bain & Company brief published last Thursday “Luxury after COVID-19: Changed for (the) Good?,” amid overall losses, companies could make this a positive turn of events for their future operations if they are fast to adapt. 

The global consultancy’s Milan office modeled three scenarios on the luxury market’s future performance and predicted that the industry will shrink 15-35% depending on how hard the pandemic hits. Moreover, the brief breaks down six consumption trends, with an ever-more important China market at the top of the list. 

Here, Jing Daily summarizes what companies should do to rise above the global crisis and put themselves in a leading position to thrive in a post-pandemic luxury landscape. 

A China-Forward Consumption Trend 

While the China market was hard hit in Q1, it would also be the first one to bounce back, according to the brief. As the national lockdown has been lifted, with people cautiously back on the streets, stores are slowly starting to open up. To encourage spending, both China’s central and local governments are also doing their part. Beijing is waiving off the value-added tax (VAT) across Hubei Province — the former epicenter of COVID-19 and the first region to feel the effects of the lockdown —and has reduced the VAT rate is reduced to one percent until May 2020, according to state television CGTN’s website. Additionally,  China’s local governments are issuing digital vouchers to encourage consumers to spend more freely, as Jing Daily previously reported. 

“Luxury shopping is likely to restart first in China if the virus remains under control there,” the brief stated, adding that travel restrictions would also mean Chinese consumers are likely to shop within China. Bain also predicts an accelerated shift to digital shopping, heightened environmental and social consciousness, increased recognition of brands’ ethics, strengthened local pride, and expanding need for including middle-class consumers.  

With an understanding of future opportunities, how should companies cope with the crisis now?

Three Approaches for Companies to Rise above the Crisis

From a leadership framework to the supply chain, there are many aspects that luxury companies could work on to mitigate threats and prepare for a fast recovery in the post-pandemic era.

  • Govern through a new leadership framework, which involves a team of crisis leaders. 

Bain suggests the usual narrow committee of leaders should be supported by experts and advisers when needed, as well as a sound project management office. In the meantime, priorities and plans should be constantly reassessed and communicated clearly, the consultancy says.

  • Maximize short-term financial, operational and brand resilience

There are many ways for companies to up their resilience from front-end to back-end. The brief breaks down this approach into four areas: stay relevant to customers by fostering a sense of community, protect the top line by investing in online sales and test new campaigns, adjust operating and capital expenditure by postponing marketing activities and store openings.

Last but not least, companies should take short-term contingency actions while preparing for the future, Bain recommends. For example, companies should split core functions in prototyping, manufacturing and warehousing to a “red and blue team” in case someone from one team gets sick. “The COVID-19 response can become the catalyst for a supply chain reinvention in the luxury industry,” the brief added. 

  • Transform the value proposition and business model for the future

Fundamental changes that were already happening before the crisis will be fastened. Companies that embrace digital tools during the crisis for internal communications will become more agile. On the other hand, the digital-focused mindset can also be shifted toward e-commerce for consumers. 

Bain is optimistic about the future of the global luxury market, and believes that brands will come out the other end stronger. “Lessons in resilience learned in the dark days of 2020 can power a sustainable recovery in 2021 and beyond,” the brief concluded. 





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We’ve had Athleisure. Is Homeleisure China’s Next Big Thing?


Across the globe, life is changing and we are seeing the emergence of a COVID-19 economy. While China is slowly going back to normal as residents outside of the worst-hit Hubei province start to venture out again, many citizens have rediscovered the joy of staying home. Two months of quarantine have fostered a strong stay-inside culture, especially among the millennial population who were once living their entire lives outside by strolling malls and eating out. While this sounds like bad news for most luxury and fashion players, one very specific outfit has infiltrated all corners of young, affluent Chinese’ recent wardrobe: the homeleisure wear. 

Starting from late January when China halted all CNY-related festivities to stop the spread of COVID-19, homeleisure has reached unexpected stardom across social media. On the micro-blogging site Weibo, #OnePajamaForTheWholeCNY topped the site’s most searched hashtags during the CNY period as Chinese youngsters shared themselves wearing pajamas instead of the outfits originally planned for the celebration. 

Soon, as more stay-home millennials searched for ideas to up their pajama game, the acceptance of stay-in apparel that could pass for the work video-conference has grown. In February alone, home-fashion community hashtags such as #StayInFashionGuide and #StayInPajamaContest amassed hundreds of thousands of online participations. Some of the most influential voices in fashion’s upper echelon, like top-tier KOL Becky Li and media like Vogue China, published stay-in style manuals on WeChat, guiding their massive followings to endorse the act of living stylishly at home.  

Homegrown brands targeting China’s trend-conscious groups have acted quickly to the craze with creative marketing. Lifestyle brand The Beast hosted a share-your-pajama initiative on Weibo and a “pajama + facial masks” promotional package via WeChat e-shop. Lingerie brand Neiwai pushed home-gym virtual classes across social channels, astutely repositioning its activewear line into multi-purpose home wear. 

Premium loungewear brand Dodococo hosted a #WorkFromHome outfit contest while launching a Spring home leisure collection with bold colors and vibrant design. Attempts to bring all kinds of looks previously worn outside the home indoors, is a common thread among these crisis-agile Chinese labels.  

Chinese premium loungewear brand Dodococo made #WorkFromHome its campaign slogan. Photo: @Dodococo Weibo.

However, consumers’ current thirst for feel-good home wear isn’t a temporary thing provoked by the COVID-19 crisis. Young Chinese professionals have embraced the “work hard, spend harder” motto for years, as they actively experiment with personal identities through fashion, work, and curated home environments with social media-worthy visuals. 

While home ownership becomes an increasingly unattainable goal in China’s top-tier cities, a carpe diem attitude is now common. Statements such as, “your apartment is rented, but your life is not” have gone viral among millennial networks, fueling the consumption of interior design pieces, ambiance fragrances, and other spirit-boosting objects for the home.

In addition, the improbable possibility of future home ownership, coupled with the promise of a flexible career, and increasingly digital dependence are all contributing factors to more youngsters choosing to “stay in” over “going out.” Today, the two-month-long social distancing enforced by the state has urged them to redirect spending further to enhance the pleasure of being at home. 

In fact, this has already been grasped by millennials around the world who have been reportedly spending more time at home than previous generations simply because going out is too much work.

Licheng Ling, a NYC-based Chinese designer and founder of luxury loungewear brand Homeism, told Jing Daily that the brand’s Chinese clientele exceeds American. “In comparison, China’s young generation pays more attention to the quality of life in different aspects. They care about the attitudes a brand embodies and want to get the best in their affordability range,” Ling said. 

Her brand’s Chinese-culture-inspired flowery lounge sets aim to blur the lines between casual chic and lazy wear is perfect for a generation that increasingly blends work, sleep, play in the same place — their home. 

Homeism is a luxury loungewear brand founded by Licheng Ling in New York. Photo:@Homeism’s Weibo.

For Ling, multi-purpose home wear is a solution to the fashion industry’s slow future, both in terms of production processes and consumer’s behavioral change. “Well-made loungewear can be worn outside the house if you style it well. Compared to most ready-to-wear garments that cause large amounts of waste, loungewear is a better choice for the environment,” she continued. 

The designer also sees the pandemic as a prophetic reminder for us to, no matter where we are, adopt a slower way of life, adding: “The crisis today is letting consumers be more aware of their stay-in quality of life, and homeleisure wear is the symbol of that slow lifestyle.”    

In a global moment of self-quarantine and social distancing, staying in is officially the new going out. Even in China, where the virus has stabilized compared to the rest of the world, most people are still advised to practice social distancing and go out only when wearing a surgical mask. 

As athleisure swept the industry a few years ago, the evolution of home leisure has started today in no small way. Both overlapping trends are manifestations of the same message — in the modern age, personal comfort is above everything else. While the home leisure trend sounds like a temporary crisis-driven need, it speaks to a greater desire around the world to find comfort in a time of uncertainty and distress. And, it’s time for luxury and fashion brands to rethink their strategies and adapt to consumers’ new realities.





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In Luxury, Leadership is Crucial in a Crisis


These are unprecedented times. While Europe and the US are battling the pandemic, China is showing a speedy recovery. In an interview last week with WWD, Tom Ford said that in China, “with our cosmetics, we’ve completely recovered. We’re back to 100 percent.” He added that his brand’s “ready-to-wear and accessories, which were down about 95 percent, [is] now back up to 50 percent.” This is an important message: This crisis will be over eventually. Every crisis is a temporary disruption, albeit with lasting effects.

Tom Ford’s assessment of his sales in China after the crisis confirms my extensive research on this topic: that luxury brands are more resilient to a recession than other categories. In 2008, the luxury sector was one of the few not tanking. Instead, luxury sales had flattened, and they returned to growth by the end of 2009, outperforming all other sectors. I expect the same to happen after this crisis, even if many industry commentators disagree.

But make no mistake: The current crisis is different from practically all previous downturns. First, it’s an unprecedented humanitarian challenge, and worries about health and interruptions to our normal ways of life have given way to panic. For millions, the crisis has already led to a loss of jobs or decreased income. Many of those who are still working can’t be sure their companies will survive despite unprecedented stimulus packages from countries all around the world. Second, this is not just a crisis of demand but also supply. Shelves are empty; supply chains have been interrupted; and stores, services, and restaurants are closed. This compounds our issues considerably. Lastly, this has been an extreme personal challenge for many because of social distancing, working and schooling from home, and the isolation of lockdowns.

What makes matters worse for many brands is that we were already in a state of massive disruption before this crisis started. I dedicated many of my past Jing Daily columns to the need for brands to meet new market challenges. Millennials and Gen Zers are driving disruption, and many traditional brands already had difficulties communicating with those younger consumer groups. Massive technology shifts, digital business models, and rapidly changing consumer preferences were regularly upending the luxury industry before COVID-19. In fact, most of my projects over the last two years were focused on transforming brands so they can survive in this new reality. Even before the outbreak, it was clear that most brands couldn’t just go on with business and usual.

Still, many brands are struggling to stay relevant to younger customers because they don’t have their value creation model defined precisely enough, are far behind in terms of digital capabilities, have their products priced incorrectly, and own retail spaces that aren’t future-ready. Many brands still struggle with the term “luxury” — defining it solely as objects with a high price — but they forget that luxury is, first and foremost, about extreme value creation.

But one thing should already be clear to brands because of this crisis: It will usher in what I call an era of “digital super-acceleration.” Any gap in digital mastery will put luxury brands (or any other brand) at a strategic disadvantage. And more changes are coming, including rising expectations for experiences since consumers have been isolated for weeks or more. As of now, brands aren’t prepared enough for this.

Leadership is important when disruption hits. To maintain the perception of luxury and create extreme value, brands must be influential and innovative. Brands have to be recognized as thought leaders, and for this to happen, they need to lead their field — not take a wait-and-see approach. Now is the time to step up, to connect more strongly with your employees and customers, and prepare your brand for the “new normal.”

Leadership is most important in a crisis. Your team has to make decisions under pressure and uncertainty, so they must know they’re protected, empowered, and valued. This is the moment to make a difference in their lives and allow them to be their best. If leaders increase fear by spreading uncertainty about the future or immediately cutting staff to save costs, then no one in the organization can take proper risks or be decisive thinkers. Doing that is putting the company’s long-term outlook at risk on behalf of short-term profit.

Similarly, now it is the time to show leadership with your customers, to support and nurture them, and to help them get through the crisis as a team. Any authentic or truthful effort that helps make a change in their lives during these unprecedented times creates enormous equity, and this is something you can build on in the future. Be creative, decisive, and fast. There is no time to waste. Last week, one of my clients asked me to support them in doing a spontaneous livestream for their clients to advise them and their businesses on what to do in these uncertain times. We set it up in under 24 hours, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. In a crisis, reactions must be quick, make sense, and be relevant and supportive.

Leadership also means to step up and contribute to the solution of a crisis. LVMH and L’Oréal were among the first companies to retool their production toward making hand sanitizers, which they donated to hospitals. Dolce & Gabbana and Armani made donations to help the scientific communities, and others soon followed.

The common thread here is that crisis management must be proactive — not reactive. It takes strong leadership to empower people so they can function well while their world seems to be collapsing around them while also giving employees and customers the perspective and reassurance they need.

But leaders must also start preparing for the new normal once this crisis is over and be asking themselves: How well prepared are you for the era of digital super-acceleration? How well is your brand positioned? How accurate are your pricing and assortment structure? Are there gaps in your growth strategy? If brands need to act on these questions, they should act now.

Every crisis leads to a new order with new rules, behaviors, and expectations, and they often lead to new market leaders. Those leaders will be better-prepared brands, reacted more proactively, and collaborated closely with their employees and customers. In short, it will be the brands with the best leadership. Now is the time to prepare your brand for the future.

Daniel Langer is CEO of the luxury, lifestyle and consumer brand strategy firm Équité, and the professor of luxury strategy and extreme value creation at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He consults some of the leading luxury brands in the world, is the author of several luxury management books, a global keynote speaker, and holds luxury masterclasses in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Follow @drlanger





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