Nearly 30 years after entering the mainland Chinese market, Cartier has been an unlikely fast mover in adopting a comprehensive digital-first marketing strategy, helping the storied brand reach a new generation of millennial and Gen Z shoppers. Unlike its more traditional campaigns in Europe and North America, Cartier has shown a greater willingness to experiment in China, and it could see that market serving as a testbed for the initiatives to be rolled out globally in the years ahead.
One year after launching an official flagship store on Tmall Luxury Pavilion, Cartier has ramped up its digital efforts to capitalize on steadily rising demand for luxury watches and jewelry and product customization among younger consumers in China. Cartier was the first fine jewelry and watch brand to offer bespoke services such as engraving, gift-wrapping, and white-glove delivery services via Tmall, and it also participated in the platform’s custom marketing programs such as Tmall Hey Box (for new product releases) and Super Brand Day.
Cartier has also become an active player in e-commerce livestreaming, with a debut on Taobao Live ahead of last year’s Singles’ Day shopping festival that saw nearly 800,000 viewers tune in to an exhibition of more than 400 items promoted by guests such as Song Qian and Li Xian, with a lavish diamond necklace priced at RMB 190 million ($28.3 million) as the showstopper. The broadcast was a hit in e-commerce terms as well, recording more than RMB 100 million ($15.8 million) in sales. Soon after, Cartier once again took to livestreaming for a “city takeover” campaign in Shanghai to promote its new Pasha watch, broadcasting the VIP launch party and giving viewers access to exclusive brand content.
Despite controversy over its August 2020 Qixi campaign, Cartier has largely stayed on the good side of consumers in China, and there are indications that the brand has successfully managed to avoid the stigma of being perceived as an “older brand,” a label that can pose a challenge to global brands that have been active in China since the early 1990s. According to Alizila, China boasts the youngest clientele in the world for Cartier: Millennials make up an estimated 65% of its consumers in the market, while Gen Z accounts for another 25%. That’s especially surprising when we compare Gen Z’s relatively low spending power to that of Gen Xers, who would have first encountered Cartier in Beijing or Shanghai nearly three decades ago.
But those figures speak to Cartier’s effective use of digital marketing to reach and influence younger consumers via the celebrities, platforms, and shopping formats that matter most to them. And with parent company Richemont continuing to ink major deals aimed at positioning its portfolio for ongoing success in China (while fending off rival LVMH), Cartier could very well turn out to be an MVP in a critical market and offer examples of best practices for its global future.