Italian fashion house Max Mara was one of the first to see China’s enormous potential: it entered the market in 1993 and has since rapidly expanded its footprint. Today, there are over 300 boutiques in Mainland China.
Attentive to local consumer trends shifts, the 71-year-old coat-maker recently joined the e-commerce platform JD.com to sell its timeless women’s outerwear. The move comes as little surprise: domestic luxury shoppers in China are a decade younger than the global average of 38 and are comfortable spending up to $4,600 (30,000 RMB) on a luxury product online.
Yet, despite their enthusiasm for online shopping and avid appetite for luxury, this young generation of digital natives is also highly demanding. They require labels to offer a seamless experience between online and offline, as well as a fresh and entertaining approach to marketing campaigns that exemplify a diversified image of women. They appreciate luxury brands that are associated with art and culture and which align with their own beliefs and values. Clearly, there is no surefire way to win over Gen Z’s hearts and wallets in China.
In light of this, Max Mara has recently updated its business strategy here. Creating a tailored marketing tactic to cater to young consumers, the brand launched a series of initiatives throughout 2022, doubling down on omnichannel experience, committing to diverse and inclusive female representation, and consistently integrating with the arts to deepen its influence on local youth.
Here, Jing Daily explores how these strategies have translated the luxury brand’s seven-decade legacy into Gen-Z-friendly language and engaged anew with Chinese shoppers.
Omnichannel engagement to further open up China’s market growth
Newness-driven Gen Z is attracted by brands that bring them authentic consumer experiences and tap the latest trends. As part of the group’s tailored business strategy, Max Mara uses an omnichannel communication strategy that combines offline pop-up installations and interactive online mini games to offer a unique shopping journey for its young clientele.
The cartoon bear “Teddy” is one of Max Mara’s most successful IPs. The Italian coat-maker has held the “Teddy” campaign for three years, making the character an instantly recognizable house mascot. Given its popularity, the label launched the “Max Mara Teddy Alpine” pop-up installation in eight major cities across China this year. Echoing the brand’s Alpine-inspired Fall 22 runway show, these pop-ups featured statement pieces from the collection with a cute and nifty addition of skiing “Teddys,” bringing the fairytale-like experience to life for Chinese Gen Z. The effort paid off. On Xiaohongshu, the pop-ups have attracted remarkable organic traffic; visitors have enthusiastically shared posts of the event on the social platform.
Alongside the offline events, the Teddy Alpine initiative also included an interactive WeChat mini game to promote the new season collection. People could earn points to redeem coupons and limited-edition “Teddys,” while learning about Max Mara’s Fall 22 release through a simple, fun, and immersive game.
For its Resort 23 collection, Max Mara held the catwalk in Lisbon. Portuguese traditional culture — for instance, gifting a handkerchief to one’s beloved — inspired the designer. When adapting and localizing this campaign for China, Max Mara combined its romantic elements with those of the Qixi Festival, or Chinese Valentine’s Day. For the occasion, the brand launched an online mini program, giving away virtual red envelope covers inspired by its Resort 23 offering to users who participated in the interactive game. Nowadays, red pockets are an essential part of this romantic holiday. The tailored project brought Max Mara closer to today’s young generations.
By authentically intertwining cultural aspects of the Chinese tradition with the house’s heritage and its global campaigns, Max Mara has ratcheted up its relevance among different audience clusters.
Dedicated to women’s diversity
Young locals are rejecting traditional, stereotypical representations of women. They show a greater preference for brands with a more inclusive and diversified interpretation of these. Max Mara’s iconic coat campaign for 2022 is one example of how businesses can embrace these new Gen Z values. In China, it collaborated with women from different backgrounds, professions, ages, and identities to express their support for female diversity in various fields.
Just like its women, Max Mara’s iconic coat is not constrained to any one age group. To communicate this, the label took over coverage of influential magazines and billboards to feature a mother and daughter pair with both wearing the brand’s signature outerwear. Starring Liu Mintao and her daughter Chang Yumi, celebrity mother-daughter duo Yan Ni and Zou Yuanqing, as well as actress Xu Fan and Zhang Jingyi (who are not mother and daughter in real life, but are known in China for their roles in the film All About My Mother), together these renowned figures showcased different interpretations of the coat.
Restricting the brand to one or just a few personalities could have the effect of alienating some consumer groups. So to fully convey inclusivity, Max Mara opted not to have one dedicated ambassador but instead promoted this concept by dressing a variety of different personalities.
Recently, the famous talk show comedian Wang Siwen, popular Gen Z actress Zhao Lusi, and well-known dancer, singer, and idol Song Qian all made public appearances wearing Max Mara outfits. They all play well with younger demographics who see them as successful and independent role models, allowing the brand to resonate with a broader audience.
Cultivating brand value through decades of commitment to empowering women in art and film
In 1951, Achille Maramotti, the founder of Max Mara, borrowed from the US’ advanced clothing production concept. It reinvented the Italian tradition of hand-making garments and introduced the prêt-à-porter as we know it today.
By doing so, Mr. Maramotti made fashion accessible to the rising middle classes in Italy, who wanted to dress elegantly but had little means post-Second World War. “We dress the town doctor’s wife,” he used to say. Mr. Maramotti was also a passionate collector of art, and Max Mara’s historical headquarter in Reggio Emilia is now a private contemporary art collection site — Collezione Maramotti — that includes a permanent exhibition of more than 200 works dating from 1950 to 2019. The founder’s beliefs have in turn led to the brand’s many initiatives supporting female talents in different fields.
For over a decade, the Maramotti family has been supporting outstanding women in art and film: for instance, partnering with Women In Film Los Angeles to launch The Women In Film Max Mara Face of the Future Award® in 2006 and collaborating with the Whitechapel Gallery and Collezione Maramotti to recognize extraordinary women in the field of art. The Max Mara Art Prize for Women reflects the close relationship that Max Mara maintains both with the cause of women’s empowerment and the world of art.
This year actress Lili Reinheart was the recipient of The Women In Film Max Mara Face of the Future Award®. Back in 2020, British-Chinese actress Gemma Chan received the prize after her performance in Crazy Rich Asians. Long-term investment in these fields has deepened the brand’s ethos of championing women in consumers’ minds.
A brand of today
It is not only hyped collaborations that attract the young. Today’s youth are more sophisticated than ever. Many prefer classic pieces and value them as investment pieces, and are eager to learn the story, craftsmanship, and culture that a brand or luxury product embodies.
By consistently staying true to its roots and DNA while, simultaneously, being sensitive to market trends and shifts, Max Mara’s localized strategy has successfully paved the way for engaging luxury’s growth engine — Gen Z.