Why Most Luxury Brands Fail with Chinese Millennials


Altogether, Chinese citizens represent the biggest group of luxury consumers worldwide. Within them, no other Chinese consumer group buys more luxury than Millennials, who account for roughly 70 percent of luxury sales — and no other luxury market in the world is younger or more digital.

Despite the strong growth rate of the luxury market in China, most brands still fail to address Chinese Millennials appropriately. But this seems to contradict the continued high growth rates of the most successful luxury brands in China like Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, or Gucci. How can we talk about them failing to address China’s biggest market?

Yes, many brands are doing well, but most successful brands aren’t tapping into their full potential, and many others are failing miserably. While the majority of brands entering China have a steep learning curve, nearly every brand is not maximizing their potential in the market today. Here are five reasons why brands are leaving good money on the table when it comes to millennials:

1. Underestimating Chinese consumers

Chinese millennial consumers are highly educated, and their familiarity with digital tools makes them highly empowered. Despite that, brands do little — or the wrong type of — market research. Traditional market research is a waste of money in China because surveys focus on too few cities, don’t reach enough consumers, and their results are too slow. In the fast-changing world of Chinese millennial consumers, studies that were taken even two months ago might already be useless or misleading. Only real-time consumer measurements of AI-powered social media listening techniques can steer brands accurately in China. Chinese social media networks are firewalled and challenging to analyze, but with the right expertise and machine learning, brands can correctly observe or analyze data on their consumers, brand, competition, and more.

2. Using the wrong communication content

Many brands fail because they convince themselves that the content produced for the rest of the world will also be relevant in China. Aside from the content itself, brands must know the delivery systems. Many underestimate the importance of Chinese key opinion leaders (KOL) and influencers, given that they help brands successfully engage with potential customers on local social media platforms like WeChat. Meanwhile, companies waste millions of dollars with “classic” advertising in China instead of fully embracing digital methods that produce a measurable ROI. Creating the wrong type of content not only wastes money on bad methods, but brands can’t even measure whether or not that marketing has lead to any significant sales.

3. Underestimating the power of brands in China

Chinese consumers love brands because they identify with them. That’s why brand storytelling is much more important in China than in any other place in the world. Yet despite this, most brands do not create an end-to-end brand experience for Chinese consumers. With few exceptions, they focus on selling and not on creating an experience across all touch points. That requires a thorough brand audit, a positioning exercise, and a customer journey assessment. Without perfect brand storytelling at each interaction point, luxury brands will lose the Chinese consumer, without exception. It’s surprising that luxury brands aren’t rigorous about experience creation. Chinese millennials are more discerning in China than in other countries, yet they are not serviced better.

4. Not being digital enough

Some brands have a CRM (customer relationship management) system, but it’s handled by customer service, while others have a CRM online, but one that isn’t at all related to store visits. In other words, many brands do not use their most valuable asset: data about their consumers. And by not using their data, they are not servicing their consumers sufficiently. Therefore, by not being digital enough, they create inferior consumer experiences. This is positively the kiss of death in China. Everything MUST be digital there. In all cases, a digital infrastructure must be designed and deployed that connects all data — including sales data — and uses advanced data querying methods to create highly personalized experiences that feel luxurious. Only digital means can do that today.

5. There is no free lunch

Launching in China without a budget and just hoping you’ll attract hundreds of millions of millennials in China is a guarantee for failure. Weak brands in China with bad economics, unprofitable store locations, and expensive overhead costs will infinitely weaken a brand, and in such scenarios, the brand’s best talent will quit, further accelerating its downfall. Investing in the perfect launch, after thorough brand and strategy development, is absolutely necessary. For many luxury companies, China has become their biggest headache and correcting mistakes winds up being much more expensive than if they’d done it right from the beginning.

In short, brands need to rethink their approach when it comes to understanding China and its millennial consumers. They need to become consumer-centric, meaning that they must create relevant content and build a strong brand identity. That requires a strong story and a rigorous customer journey design. They also need to become digital: If they think they are already digital, then they need to become even more digital. And they definitely can’t launch in China without investing first. This is the only way to have a chance at success in this highly competitive market.

 

Daniel Langer is CEO of the luxury, lifestyle and consumer brand strategy firm Équité. He consults some of the leading luxury brands in the world, is the author of several luxury management books, a regular keynote speaker, and holds management seminars in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Follow @drlanger





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The Chinese “Love” Holidays Brands Need to Know About


On May 20, Chinese citizens celebrated the internet-spawned holiday “520” (called such because the numerals said aloud sound like “I love you (我爱你)” in Chinese). But for luxury brands targeting the China market, 520 is just one in a long list of days celebrating love — or the lack of it — that now includes the official Chinese Valentine’s Day (Qixi), Singles’ Day on 11/11, and American Valentine’s Day on February 14.

In China, what began as innocent gestures of love — much in the way Singles’ Day was at first celebrated by college students gifting Pocky candy to their fellow single friends — has now been transformed into a massive shopping festival. Yet the competition is stronger than ever before for foreign brands participating in these holiday sale events. Last year’s Singles’ Day, for instance, saw Alibaba report sales of over $30.8 billion (RMB 2,135 billion) in 24 hours, a hefty jump up from 2017’s $25.3 billion (RMB1, 682 billion) record.

So how can smaller brands compete? To be honest, they can’t — at least according to last month’s London breakfast briefing by Chinese Digital Marketing Agency Tong Digital. “If shopping is a national sport in China, then Singles’ Day is the Olympics,” says Tong’s co-founder Adam Knight to Jing Daily. “Thousands of brands lined up to battle in a hotly-anticipated and high stakes competition that begins with the kind of pageantry-filled gala worthy of any sporting opening ceremony. But as with any elite sporting event, brands need to know where they stand amongst the competition. You shouldn’t be jumping head first into the big leagues.”

Knight warns brands that for every November headline they read about companies smashing their Singles’ Day expectations, there are many more untold stories about the pain and financial loss that the vast majority of brands participating in the festival experience. Is your brand ready for the Olympics? If not, be warned.

Beyond Singles’ Day, Qixi, and 520, China offers brands a whole host of unique festivals with the potential to be capitalized. One example of these is Children’s Day, which was on June 1. Children’s Day has been celebrated in China since 1949, but lately it’s become increasingly shopping-focused, boasting over $1.5 billion in sales during last year’s holiday. Of the key products from the 2018 celebration, luxury children’s wear and shoes were one of the bigger hits with young parents wanting to show off their fantastic-looking progeny.

The 99 Wine Festival, which falls on September 9, could become a major boon for companies specializing in hospitality, drinks labels, hotel brands, and restaurants. Like 520, the wine festival was born from a pronunciation coincidence, when, in 2016, Alibaba’s CEO Jack Ma designated the dates for a wine and spirits festival because the number “9” has the same pronunciation as wine in Mandarin. During the 9-day promotion, deals on the hard stuff were everywhere, including online retailer Tmall’s great deals on wine, Chinese Baijiu, and other spirits.

But believe it or not, there are also many traditional Chinese celebrations, such as the Mid-Autumn Festival on September 13 and Golden Week from October 1 – 7, that still offer brands opportunities to steal a piece of the China market by demonstrating an authentic understanding of the country’s cultural history. The Mid-Autumn Festival is a key time to promote small gift items, including the holiday’s traditional mooncake treats. With the help of local influencers, promoting sales during the week can be relatively low cost, but the rewards can be exceptionally high. Because of this, Golden Week is travel industry gold and is a great opportunity for brands to run a comprehensive campaign that includes promotional codes or lucky draw campaigns as a way to interact with Chinese customers.

“Following some very real brand fatigue, many companies are now having to reconsider their promotional strategies in China, Knight adds. “Increasingly, we find ourselves advising brands to look beyond Singles’ Day at many of the other less headline-grabbing and more niche shopping festivals. This is often where they see the best results.”

Three Key Takeaways from Tong Digital:

  1. It’s easy for brands to get lost in the sheer volume of promotions during major celebrations.
  2. Focus on a handful of relevant and accessible events, as it’s better to invest intelligently in fewer festivals.
  3. Plan well in advance — at least three to six months — with a comprehensive and localized strategy.





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Prada names the first-ever Chinese spokesperson


In “Chinese Whispers,” we share the biggest news stories about the luxury industry in China that have yet to make it into the English language.

In this week’s edition, we discuss:

1. Prada taps into the power of a 20-year-old idol to reach China’s young generation – Prada

The Italian luxury brand Prada, which in the past rarely liked to associate itself with a specific celebrity, finally succumbed to the allure of young Chinese male idols. Popular as a marketing tool to engage the country’s youth, Prada has made this decision at a time when the brand urgently needs to rejuvenate its image so as to restore the growth in China.

On May 31, Prada’s official Weibo account named Chinese singer and actor Cai Xukun, who was born in 1998, to be its Chinese brand spokesperson. The announcement was made ahead of the brand’s Men’s Spring 2020 fashion show in Shanghai, which, for the first time, will be held outside of Milan, the brand’s homeland.

According to Jing Daily x R3 celebrity popularity rankings, Cai was the most popular Chinese celebrity on social media in March and April. He rose to fame by participating in Idol Producer, a hip reality talent show in 2017. He is now a member of a boyband formed with other show participants named Nine Percent and also acts as a solo artist on many occasions. There are some controversies around Cai, due to his performance skills, style, and personality. When he was selected as the Chinese ambassador of the NBA League, he received backlash from online citizens who saw a huge mismatch between him and the brand.

However, Cai’s popularity is indisputable. By the time of this publication, Prada’s post to introduce Cai Xukun, which came as several videos shot by Chinese artist Cai Fei, has garnered an average of 51,220 likes and 15,987 comments, surpassing the brand’s other posts. Meanwhile, online reactions to the partnership are mostly positive for the moment, with lots of users showing excitement about it and praising Prada’s choice. Whether it will truly transform into a deal that lifts Prada up in the competitive Chinese market remains to be seen.

Saint Laurent launched the second Chinese flagship store in Beijing. Photo: Shutterstock

Saint Laurent launched the second Chinese flagship store in Beijing. Photo: Shutterstock

2. Saint Laurent opens a new flagship store in Beijing – Winsang

French luxury brand Saint Laurent unveiled its second flagship store in China this week. Located within Beijing’s Guomao CBD district, the brand hosted a grand opening to celebrate the store launch. The move signals Saint Laurent wanting to ramp up its retail network in China. For now, Chinese consumers can find the brand on a number of Chinese e-commerce platforms like Farfetch China and JD.com.

Sneakers are important for Valextra to reach Chinese clients. Photo: courtesy of Valextra

Sneakers are important for Valextra to reach Chinese clients. Photo: courtesy of Valextra

3. Valextra CEO on the importance of sneakers for the brand to reach Chinese clients – luxe.co

Sara Ferrero, CEO of the Italian luxury handbag brand Valextra, told the Chinese fashion site luxe.co that its sneaker collection, launched in 2017, became the force to drive consumers to the brand. The collection, which was only available in stores in Beijing, Tokyo, and Milan, sold out in less than two months since its release. The brand plans to have more sneaker-related projects in the future, including a collaborative capsule collection with a famous designer.





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Are Chinese Millennials Willing to Pay More for Sustainable Goods?


In our latest column, One Question, Three Answers, we pose a current, hot button question to industry executives, researchers, and consumers to demystify, or at least, to take a deeper look into one aspect of the business of luxury in China.

Question: A vast number of reports state that Chinese millennials are ethical shoppers—that they would be okay with paying a bit more for a sustainable product. How true is this in today’s China, where the notion of sustainability is in its infancy?

Shaway Yeh, Group Style Editorial Director at Modern Media, and Founder of yehyehyeh, an agency bringing together sustainability, creativity, and innovation to instigate valued-based change.

Shaway Yeh, Group Style Editorial Director at Modern Media, and Founder of yehyehyeh, an agency bringing together sustainability, creativity, and innovation to instigate valued-based change.

“I believe Chinese millennials will pay more for sustainable goods. Unlike their processors, which purchase goods out of necessity or status, millennials purchase goods in reference to its quality, style, and meanings. ‘Sustainable’ goods tend to have better quality, especially in terms of “safety” and “toxic-free”; sustainable goods also reflect positive values: caring for the community, the planets, the animals, etc. If the stories are communicated well and the values are recognized, it can create the halo that appeals to consumers. However, a consumer won’t simply pay more because something is “sustainable”; you need to break down to its various merits and attributes in order to attract specific consumers more accurately.”

Janice Wang, CEO of Alvanon, a global fashion technology company, advocating that profit can coexist well with a social and environmental impact.

Janice Wang, CEO of Alvanon, a global fashion technology company, advocating that profit can coexist well with a social and environmental impact.

 

“Chinese millennials, especially in urban areas, are increasingly sophisticated and making intelligent purchases. They are highly conscious of brands, quality, and value. They expect, like all young people around the world, to buy something that embodies their lifestyle choice. However, like every global consumer, they may not know how something is made or the multi-layered definition of sustainable. But they have a very strong social presence, ask questions, voice strong opinions and also expect the brands that they buy from to have an ethical stance both socially and environmentally.”

Yufei Li, Guangzhou-resident, Chinese millennial sustainable fashion shopper:

“First of all, I don’t think there are that many brands that are truly sustainable beyond Patagonia and Reformation. There are, however, some small, environmentally-friendly brands in China, which have insisted on using natural materials, such as cotton and linen, or using blue dyeing technology to reduce the damage to the environment.
Unfortunately, these small brands are unlikely to scale up with such strict manufacturing and design issues. For much larger brands, I think the leading trend is for them to use their capital and influence to educate the consumer about the cost of fashion to our environment.”





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Athleisure Can’t Stop Winning in China


China is getting into shape and the athleisure trend is booming. According to the wellness trends report (2019) published by the Global Wellness Summit (GWS), “over 104 million have at least one fitness app on their phones” and 15 million consumers have a gym membership in China. Meanwhile, China was home to approximately 500 gyms in 2001 but today boasts over 37,000 fitness facilities, says the Chinese business site China Briefing.

And as international franchises and local specialized gyms become fashionable options, more city dwellers are embracing wellness routines. Additionally, China boosts various mobile fitness apps, training clubs, and sporting events; basically, there’s a customized experience for every sports enthusiast. But this reflects only one side of the story. There’s also the government’s push to find a quick fix for the rapidly aging population and the country’s health problem.

With rising healthcare expenditures and a crumbling public pension system, the government had to intervene and back the extension of the wellness sector. Consequently, the State Council introduced the Healthy China 2030 initiative in 2018. Through this plan, China’s government hopes to engage 700 million people in physical activities at least once a week, while 435 million will exercise regularly.

Aside from the aging population, China’s past demographic policy has created a gender imbalance that’s responsible for the new “sheconomy.” Chinese women spend 81 percent more than in the past five years, and this means that the female population drives consumer trends like the wellness push. With so much happening in China on the wellness front, it’s no wonder that the athleisure trend has taken off.

As reported by Euromonitor International, sportswear in China grew 12 percent to $31.4 billion in 2017, and analysts expect that positive growth trend to continue in the upcoming years. Additionally, analysts predict that athletic brands will continue to capitalize on this trend. In 2016, Adidas announced a plan to expand from 9,000 to 12,000 stores across China by 2020, and their strong Q1 2019 results (mainland China up 16 percent) confirmed that the sportswear company’s ambitious long-term goals are, in fact, reachable.

Colin Currie, Managing Director of Adidas Asia-Pacific, says that the “16 percent growth in Q1 2019 represents yet another strong and encouraging start to the year, as well as Adidas’ 20th consecutive quarter of double-digit growth in Greater China.” Meanwhile, Canadian yoga-inspired brand Lululemon also sees China as a key market for achieving the company’s growth targets. According to Who Knows China, “Lululemon anticipates a 25 percent revenue generation from Asia by 2020 while expanding the product line to improve total revenue internationally.” Lululemon hopes to build brand relevance through targeted advertising campaigns, influencer marketing, and partnerships with wellness gurus.

The brand Uniqlo is also profiting from China’s newfound love of wellness. The Japanese company offers a colorful selection of hoodies, shorts, sweatshirts, leggings, tops, and sports bras and is a popular choice in middle-class Chinese households. Uniqlo products stick out thanks to their versatility and functionality, and with innovative fabrics like the odor neutralizing Dry-Ex and the water-repellent Blocktech, the brand has attracted younger consumers who care about high-tech performance fabrics. Additionally, the brand proposed assorted tailored products that deliver customized options in accordance with the needs of the consumer base. According to Fast Retailing’s financial results for the first half of the fiscal year, Uniqlo’s revenues rose by 14.3 percent while operating profits by rose 9.6 percent. The revenue and profit growth was exceptionally strong in Greater China where the brand registered double-digit growth.

But Uniqlo is also looking to expand brick-and-mortar stores in China. The forecast calls for over 1,000 stores by the end of August 2021. But international players aren’t the only ones benefiting from China’s wellness craze. Local brands like Particle Fever and Maia Active have profited from these shifting consumer trends. Local companies compete with global sportswear brands by offering unique consumer experiences and tailored products designed specifically for Chinese bodies. Because of their commitment to quality and product development, local brands have created niche businesses by appealing to younger, consumers who crave authenticity or individuality — and aren’t afraid to experiment. Lisa Ou 欧逸柔, Founder and Creative Director of Maia Active, told Jing Daily that the demand for activewear in China is seeing nonstop strong numbers. According to Ou, “increasing consumer sophistication” in China is what’s behind her company’s boom.

“The idea of a perfect activewear for Chinese consumers can be very different from the West’s,” Ou says. “This is deeply rooted in the culture difference between China and the West, even between China and the other countries in Asia.” In order to respond to these trends, Maia Active was designed “based on a consumer-centric business mindset, which is the common DNA in all DTC brands,” she says. “Our products are all specially Asian-fitted from day one, which differentiates us from a lot of existing activewear brands in the market from the product perspective. Meanwhile, we break through the conventional design approach for activewear and blend in fashion elements in our product design.”

And this customer-centric strategy led to growth, but also to building a connection with the audience. “Besides our outstanding products, I think what supports Maia Active’s continuous strong growth is how close we are to our consumers,” Ou adds. “As a DTC brand, I can proudly say that we are able to deliver the products our consumers really want. We have been consistently communicating with our community, listening to their needs, and have been adjusting and innovating our products much faster than the other traditional sports brands.”

Meanwhile, independent sports brand Particle Fever offers a funkier interpretation of the athleisure trend, proving that a sports startup can become stiff competition to established luxury players. By favoring innovation and avant-garde designs, Particle Fever responds to the aesthetics and technical needs of sports aficionados in the China market. Their partnerships with the Woolmark Company and the posh retailer Lane Crawford prove that Particle Fever is another Athleisure company seeing extraordinary momentum. Given the above examples, it’s safe to say that the future of the wellness sector, and the athleisure trend, in particular, will only continue to grow in China. The message to brands: Just Do It!





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Prada to Start Selling on Chinese Luxury E-tailer Secoo


In a bid to recover from declining profits in China, the Italian luxury conglomerate Prada Group will make two of its key brands – Prada and Miu Miuavailable on Secoo: China’s leading luxury e-commerce platform and the preferred online shopping platform for over 27 million Chinese clients with high-purchasing power.

The move, which begins this June, represents a huge change to the company’s e-commerce strategy for a Chinese luxury market that now accounts for over one-third of the world’s total luxury consumption — and still has the potential for even more growth.

Since 2017, both Prada and Miu Miu have launched Chinese e-commerce boutique stores exclusively aimed at Chinese-speaking customers. To facilitate the buying process, both stores enabled AliPay and WeChat, the two online payment solutions favored by Chinese consumers. Now, adding another online sales channel, the parent company will give Prada and Miu Miu even more exposure within their target market.

What’s noteworthy about this deal is that it’s still relatively rare for luxury megabrands to team up with third-party Chinese e-commerce platforms nowadays. The Prada Group’s major competitors, which includes Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Hermès, are currently in complete control of their official e-commerce services in China. And last year, Gucci’s global CEO Marco Bizarre was outspoken on counterfeiting concerns he had about Chinese e-commerce platforms like Alibaba, and as a result, ruled out the possibility of working with any of them in the near future.

Secoo’s strong reputation against counterfeiting may have alleviated the Prada Group’s concerns about collaborating with the platform. “The partnership with Secoo is part of a broader distribution strategy aiming at reaching a larger consumer base for the Prada and Miu Miu brands in the Chinese market through a trusted digital player who is able to guarantee a luxury experience line with the brands’ identity and our retail network,” a Prada Group spokesperson told Jing Daily via email.

The partnership is a result of the group’s review of distribution channels, which happened on May 16, during the Board of Directors meeting. There the group analyzed the structure of the company’s wholesale channels and concluded that independent partners were essential to enhancing their price consistency.

Founded in 2008 by Li Rixue, Secoo has come a long way in transforming from a second-hand luxury platform to a full-fledged omnichannel player, attracting brands from Tod’s to Roger Vivier to sell on their site. The success of this collaboration should be crucial for Prada and Miu Miu to grow in the competitive Chinese market.





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Chinese Millennials & Anti-Aging Pills: A Love Story


“Having white skin is not enough for me. I want my skin so white that it glows,” says Yang Shen, a 22-year-old Chinese fashion student living in London. To achieve this, Yang takes at least three types of beauty supplements a day, including the French brand Biocyté’s collagen drink, the Japanese brand Pola’s skin-whitening pills, and the Australian brand Swisse’s Ultiboost Grape Seed tablets, among other powders that speed up metabolism. According to her, each of these supplements is an indispensable part of her beauty routine: the collagen drink for firmer skin, skin-whitening pills for a clearer complexion, grape seed extracts for antioxidant effect, and metabolism-boosting powders to stay skinny. “I am at my prime time to combat the first sign of aging,” she adds.

The #beautysupplement community on Little Red Book platform, featuring young women sharing their supplement routines. Photo: screenshot

The #beautysupplement community on Little Red Book platform, featuring young women sharing their supplement routines. Photo: screenshot

On the lifestyle platform Little Red Book (a.k.a. Xiaohongshu), over 80,000 users have shared stories similar to Yang Shen’s in the #beautysupplement (美容内服) hashtag community. Posts titled “Supplement homework for a 20-year-old” or “How to glow from the inside out in your 20s” are usually accompanied by a heavily filtered selfie of a fresh-faced girl. The latest self-care formula that’s become popular among Chinese millennial women sounds exhausting. It goes: 10-step beauty routine + medical beauty surgeries + beauty supplements + physical exercises = looking your best.

For the past year, Jing Daily has covered a series of beauty trends in China, ranging from “black tech” beauty devices to pro-level skin management, but none of those were as pervasive as the beauty supplements craze that’s captivating an entire generation at a profound level. For 22-year-old Yang Shen and the ever-growing, beauty-obsessed Little Red Book community, skincare is no longer a treat in the form of self-care — it’s a lengthy and complex treatment system that requires a holistic approach. On top of applying luxe facial creams every day, using the most innovative “black tech” face rollers every week, and making regular skin management clinic visits, Yang Shen takes beauty supplements as a crucial step in achieving her beauty goals. “So white that it glows (白到发光),” has even become a trending catchphrase to describe the ideal female look on Chinese social media.

According to the “2018 Cross-Border Wellness Shopping Report” issued by CBN Data, the number of beauty supplement consumers on Tmall Global between July 2017 and June 2018 grew 2.8 times compared to that same period two years earlier. The report also points out that Chinese consumers’ favorite origin countries for beauty supplements are Australia, the U.S., and Japan. Collagen protein drinks, dietary fiber, and “antioxidant” grape seed pills are the best-selling supplements, but since 2017, instant bird’s nest, Korean ginseng, and peach gum have become increasingly popular. Now, with a broader knowledge of holistic beauty products available to them, Chinese consumers have begun to spend more on this category. During Tmall Super Category Shopping Day in 2018, the average amount spent on beauty supplements saw a year-on-year increase of 70 percent.

These “pretty pills” have officially entered the young, urban mainstream in China. Influenced by the beautiful young idols of K-pop, a growing plastic surgery culture, and ever-present social media pressure, Chinese women have become hyper-focused on obtaining perfectly smooth and radiant skin. In a New Yorker article from December 2017 titled “China’s Selfie Obsession,” author Jiayang Fan illustrated how the photo-editing app Meitu was influencing what’s attractive to young generations in China. Her interviewees spent an average of 40 minutes editing their selfies, and they said that editing a group photo was almost an obligatory social norm in their friend groups. With the help of Meitu, women would enlarge their eyes, whiten their skin color, and sharpen their chins to adhere to China’s highly codified beauty standards.

Rigid and highly aging-anxious, those guidelines are now driving the country’s twenty-somethings to invest heavily in anti-aging products to avoid the future effects of aging. But a few voices are fighting against those standards. In May of 2018, the actor Lixin Zhao posted a controversial Weibo rant that criticized China’s age-shaming culture, and it quickly became the platform’s most-searched topic. “Actresses like Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, Juliette Binoche, and Frances McDormand would find their career doomed in China,” the post reads. “Even if they do get a chance, they would get roles like a mean mother-in-law in a telenovela. Our screens are only occupied with the ‘young and pretty’ faces that don’t care about artistic depth or other values. Keep entertaining yourself!” In 24 hours, his post had attracted more than 6000 shares and 12840 likes. The “younger is better” rhetoric is so ingrained in China’s perception of beauty today, that younger, fresher-looking candidates in fact, regularly replace actresses over 30.

Actor Lixin Zhao spoke about Chinese cinema’s age-shaming culture on Weibo. Photo credit: Sohu

Actor Lixin Zhao spoke about Chinese cinema’s age-shaming culture on Weibo. Photo credit: Sohu (note: Actor Lixin Zhao’s Weibo account had been deleted in 2019 after he posted an “unpatriotic” news comment.)

Millennials across the globe are enamored with the idea of wellness, yet their narratives differ across cultures. In the U.S., taking beauty supplements is considered an act of self-love and self-care that stems from a desire to better oneself. In China, however, beautifying is can be seen more as an attempt to comply with the country’s collective expectations about beauty — one that rarely wavers. That’s why, for now, it’s safe to foresee continued growth in this market’s uncompromising beauty industry.





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Superyacht Management Services Centre Planned for Hong Kong


Hong Kong Cruise and Yacht Industry Association (HKCYIA) has reached a partnership agreement with China Merchants Industry Holdings (CMI) for the establishment of a superyacht management services centre in Tsing Yi Island.

HKCYIA’s Kara Yeung (third left) and Euroasia Dockyard management at the signing ceremony witnessed by lawyers of Stephenson Harwood

HKCYIA’s Kara Yeung (third left) and Euroasia Dockyard management at the signing ceremony witnessed by lawyers of Stephenson Harwood

Located at the Yiu Lian and Euroasia dockyards, the centre will provide supporting services for 45m-plus superyachts including yacht refit, repair and maintenance, and is expected to be operational in 2020.

Kara Yeung, Executive Director of HKCYIA, said: “The establishment of a yacht management services centre specifically designed for superyachts marks a major milestone in the development of the yacht industry in Hong Kong. The demand for quality superyacht management services is on the rise, but existing facilities in Hong Kong are lagging behind, leaving some very big space for development in this field.

“Currently the majority of the maritime business in Hong Kong is taken up by commercial and cargo ships, so the repair and maintenance systems are mainly designed for these kinds of vessels. The current system cannot cater to the specific service needs of yacht management and maintenance.”

Euroasia Dockyard in Tsing Yi; Photo: HKCYIA

Euroasia Dockyard in Tsing Yi; Photo: HKCYIA

The HKCYIA, which has a strong relationship with the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association, said the move is in line with China’s plan to develop its maritime economy, with Hong Kong expected to be a ‘super connector’ in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Yeung said the superyacht centre is being set up in response to this national strategy as it will provide a transit point for superyachts to obtain supplies and fuel when they travel to destinations in Asia.

According to Yeung, the superyacht centre will collaborate with international yacht brands and yacht management companies to provide supporting services including repair and maintenance, audit and survey, bunkering services, crew administration and logistics support. There are also plans to develop exclusive onshore tours with tailor-made itineraries for owners and their crew.

HKCYIA will also work with Hong Kong’s Maritime Services Training Institute and Italy-based RINA Services to develop a superyacht management course, providing hands-on training to young people with an interest in pursuing careers in the yacht industry.

Yiu Lian Dockyards in Tsing Yi; Photo: HKCYIA

Yiu Lian Dockyards in Tsing Yi; Photo: HKCYIA

“Nurturing the next generation is important for the long-term development of the high-end maritime economy,” Yeung said. “The superyacht management services centre will provide the perfect environment for youngsters to learn the necessary skills from industry practitioners, as well as getting the opportunities to develop their careers.”

With the plan of fostering the development of the yacht industry in Greater China, HKCYIA has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Asia Pacific Superyacht Association, Taiwan Yachts Industry Association, Shenzhen Boating Industry Association, Zhuhai Ocean Association, Yacht Industry Development Association of Fujian, Hainan Cruise and Yacht Association and Sanya Yachting Association.

HKCYIA organised the first International Cruise and Yachting Festival (Hong Kong) at China Merchants Wharf last November and plans to organise another show from November 17-23 – with the venue yet to be confirmed – to coincide with Hong Kong Maritime Week (November 18-24). It also plans to organise a Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area Maritime Commerce and Economic Development Expo during this period.

This article first appeared in Yacht Style Issue 47

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How Hermès Uses WeChat to Provide VIP Experience for Fans


WeChat, China’s top social media platform, has become a handy tool for high-profile luxury brands to not only reach their Chinese consumers, but also to strengthen the prestige and exclusivity of their products. And Hermès, the French luxury powerhouse, is the latest megabrand utilizing it to offer a top-notch experience for its digital customers.

From May 29 to 30, Hermès is hosting a two-day flash sale pop-up store at Shanghai’s Cha House, a historical building that has lately turned into a chic event space, to reintroduce its newest “IT” perfume, Twilly d’ Hermès (retail price at $133), which the Maison created in 2017. Two days before the event, Hermès created an HTML campaign on WeChat for followers to make online reservations.

Two days before the event, Hermès created an HTML campaign on WeChat for followers to make online reservations. Photo: Jing Daily illustration

Two days before the event, Hermès created an HTML campaign on WeChat for followers to make online reservations. Photo: Jing Daily illustration

WeChat followers can click on the inviting GIF to land on the campaign page. Once there, a black-and-white photo a model, wrapped around constantly changing, multi-colored strands of Hermès-patterned ribbons, appears. Users are told to swipe left to discover the Twilly d’ Hermès perfume. By clicking on the text underneath the bottle, consumers will then land on the reservation page with event details. They are then asked to fill in their personal information and contact details to reserve a place. In exchange, this reservation will give them privileged rights, including VIP access, a free gift of Twilly ribbon (first come, first serve,) and a special drink. Plus, reserved guests can bring a plus-one.

The Hermès WeChat event reservation case is a strong example of how luxury brands can direct digital followers to offline, and reward them for their loyalty. By time of this publication, the post garnered over 42,000 pageviews and received 126 likes.





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Can C-beauty Wrestle the Market Back from Western Ones?


It has been a while since the Chinese beauty market saw an influx of domestic beauty brands. For a long time, premium labels that offer higher quality and prices from countries like France, the U.S., Japan, and South Korea didn’t see them as a real threat. That, however, is changing quickly. It seems as if the C-beauty era has arrived.

According to a May 21 report co-released by consultancy Kantar Group and Chinese tech company Tencent Holdings, Chinese-born beauty players are having a breakout moment in 2019. They are climbing the value chain, moving from producing low-cost items to high-end goods. Because of this, they’re now seeing their client base increasingly overlap with those of international luxury beauty brands.

The Kantar x Tencent survey indicates that three out of four Chinese consumer respondents purchased beauty products from a Chinese brand in the past six months, and for 50 percent of them, it was their first-time purchasing C-beauty items. Meanwhile, the report also states that over 40 percent of consumers are willing to choose C-beauty products in the future, and nearly 90 percent of them will consider a repeat purchase.

The transformation of how C-beauty companies are perceived among Chinese consumers is happening at an unprecedented speed, and it’s not just because of price advantages. The report writes that those who considered price as the primary reason why they chose C-beauty brands dropped from 48 percent in 2007 to 26 percent in 2018. Instead, today’s Chinese consumers find that C-beauty brands stand for a mix of good qualities that they seek in their beauty consumption: innovative Chinese style, a high price-to-quality return, trust, and original homegrown ingredients. Powered by localized marketing campaigns and innovative storytelling, it’s clear why C-beauty brands are rising rapidly.

The allure of Chinese style

C-beauty is the latest fad for a group of Chinese shoppers who are trend-seeking and innovation-driven. The report identifies them as a group of consumers who enjoy C-beauty brands for their Chinese origin, history, cultural elements, and aesthetics, even though they have the purchasing power to buy luxury beauty products. They are mostly female, between the ages of 15 – 25 years old, and live in first-tier cities. They are drawn to creative marketing campaigns by C-beauty brands that are based on their childhood memories. For example, the Shanghai-based food company White Rabbit, known for decades for their creamy candies, ventured into the beauty sector by unveiling skincare and perfume products last year and created a sensation among young Chinese consumers that thought fondly about the brand from their youth.

Chinese skincare brand Marubi named A-list actress Zhou Xun, who is also the face of Chanel in China, to become its brand ambassador. Photo: Marubibe

Chinese skincare brand Marubi named A-list actress Zhou Xun, who is also the face of Chanel in China, to become its brand ambassador. Photo: Marubi

High price-to-quality ratio

Consumers who are budget-conscious and care about investment return see C-beauty as a cheaper alternative to some international, big-name beauty brands. In fact, many C-beauty brands claim their products can offer the same skincare or makeup effects as international brands at one-third the cost. Meanwhile, C-beauty brands collaborate with top-tier Chinese celebrities and a great number of key opinion leaders (KOLs) on key social media channels including Weibo, Little Red Book, and WeChat, which adds to their credibility and reinforces their branding among Chinese consumers.

Inoherb is famous for incorporating Rhodiola Rosea into its formula. Photo: Inoherb

Inoherb is famous for incorporating Rhodiola Rosea into its formula. Photo: Inoherb

Chemical-free, natural herbal ingredients

Some C-beauty brands are tapping into the power of traditional Chinese medicine to win over the support of consumers. For instance, the Shanghai skincare brand Inoherb is famous for incorporating Rhodiola Rosea, a plant that was used by ancient Chinese to make skincare goods, into its formula. According to the report, there are respondents who believe C-beauty fits the skin conditions affecting Chinese people the best, while foreign brands are seen as using chemical ingredients that damage their skin.

C-beauty brands are moving toward playing a larger role in the Chinese beauty market. Though the status of international luxury brands in the field is still stable — as evidenced by the latest rankings of the most-chosen beauty brands of 2018, which prominently featured big-name players like Dior, Estee Lauder, and L’Oréal — the momentum of C-beauty must be noted and monitored.





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