It’s no secret that Australia has been a hugely popular destination for Chinese outbound investment in the last decade. There have been large investments in high-end real estate, property development, agriculture, dairy and IT. These investments have created a super wealthy class of local Chinese residents who have taken up residences in Australia’s most affluent suburbs. Along with this boom in wealth has been a desire for luxury goods for both Australian brands and international brands, with many high-end brands setting up exclusive boutiques in upmarket shopping strips in Sydney’s Castlereagh St. and Melbourne’s Collins St. The majority of these brands have establishments which are new or have undergone significant refurbishment in the past few years.
With the increasing number of exclusive boutiques, salons, and maisons, brands are aggressively competing with each other for a small but very influential group of local Chinese buyers. Brands engage in various strategic and creative experiential marketing campaigns to attract, retain and excite Chinese customers, who are highly sophisticated and well-travelled. They demand not only exclusive and beautiful products, but fully branded experiences to go along with them.
Perhaps one of the most interesting recent examples of this trend is the House of Dior‘s recent collaboration with the National Gallery of Victoria for the maison’s 70th anniversary. The brand brought in high profile international and Australian icons including Winnie Harlow, Nicole Kidman, and Jessica Gomes for the launch of the exhibition in September, attracting selected local Chinese buyers to attend the launch and gala events. The NGV timed the launch of their local WeChat account to coincide with the launch of the exhibition, along with a new Chinese website.
In February this year, Van Cleef & Arpels opened their Australian flagship store in a high profile location on the corner of Sydney’s Castlereagh St., and is neighbors with Hermes, Prada and David Jones. VCA hosted a series of exclusive events for local buyers, including Chinese buyers at the historic U.S. $60 million Barford House, with 80 jewelry pieces from the maison’s collection brought over for the event. Timed to coincide with its sponsorship of the Australian Ballet, the maison hosted lunches and dinners in a temporary glasshouse overlooking Sydney Harbour and ferried guests to and from the events in a fleet of Rolls Royce‘s and Bentley’s. The event was of such significance that Nicolas Bos, CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, along with Nicolas Luchsinger, International Retail Director/Director of Heritage Collection, and Catherine Renier, President of Asia-Pacific were out in force to host their guests.
Watch and jewelry retailer Kennedy, who owns the Rolex store in Sydney’s Martin Place as well as outlets in the casinos in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, is now a major partner of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, hosting a French-themed marque, complete with burlesque dancers and snake charmers, at Flemington during the Melbourne Cup. Kennedy invited an exclusive group of Chinese buyers to join them in their Marquee to experience the brand and some of the finest horse racing in the world.
The trend in experiential marketing is not restricted to high jewelry and timepieces. With the boom in the real estate development market and the number of luxury developments in capital cities increasing, real estate developers have been hosting elaborate and over-the-top functions to attract potential buyers. Developers, such as Melbourne-based property group LK Property, frequently host events for potential buyers aboard owner Larry Kestelman’s privately owned superyacht Vegas. Such events often include champagne and caviar tastings and jewelry from Cartier and Oly Lyngaard.
Looking ahead, Cartier‘s 2018 partnership with the National Gallery of Australian in Canberra will bring an entirely new level of sophistication to luxury experiential marketing. The maison will bring iconic pieces from its collection, including pieces worn by royalty and celebrities. The maison is well known for its international high jewelry events and it will be interesting to see how they will use this partnership to groom new local Chinese buyers; further challenging brands to create even more innovative customer engagement strategies.