Which hard luxury brands are winning Chinese social media engagement?

    Re-Hub’s 2024 Q1 ranking reveals advances by hard luxury brands in China’s digital ecosystem, highlighting Cartier’s performance and Qeelin’s top-10 debut.
    Cartier's mastery of celebrity endorsements and culturally resonant activations sets it apart in China's hard luxury space. Actress Wang Churan attends Cartier's 'Into The Wild' event on April 19, 2023 in Shanghai. Photo: Getty Images
      Published   in Hard Luxury

    Luxury watch and jewelry brands have made significant strides in China’s digital ecosystem, according to Shanghai-based luxury data analytics company Re-Hub, which has just published its latest Compass Index for the first quarter of 2024.

    The index highlights luxury consumer engagement across WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, and Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu), analyzing the brand and user-generated content that has become crucial for luxury brands looking to succeed in mainland China. Jing Daily analyses which brands went up, which went down, and why.

    In the hard luxury segment, Cartier emerged as the standout performer, clinching top position in the Watch and Jewelry category. Particularly high engagement was seen around the 100th-anniversary celebration of Cartier’s Trinity collection, thanks in part to collaborations with high-profile celebrities like Jackson Wang.

    A post promoting this partnership generated 136,268 engagements on Weibo, highlighting the power of celebrity endorsements in amplifying brand reach and resonance within China, while another WeChat post promoting the Trinity collection garnered 100,351 engagements.

    Image: Re-Hub
    Image: Re-Hub

    What spurred on the local newcomer#

    Notably, the Kering-owned Chinese jewelry brand Qeelin ascended nine places to secure a spot within the top 10 for the first time. This achievement marks the first time a Chinese brand has broken into the top echelons of Re-Hub’s hard luxury Compass Index.

    Qeelin's success can be attributed to its 20th anniversary and strategic focus on iconic products like the Wulu collection alongside highly resonant celebrity endorsements and activations like the Yu Long river golden dragon parade in Guilin. Qeelin’s announcement of Chinese rapper and singer-songwriter Lay Zhang (Zhang Yixin) as brand ambassador in January garnered 2.2 million engagements, while a Weibo post promoting the Ma Jiaqi and XiXi diamond pendant racked up 1.37 million engagements.

    Image: Re-Hub
    Image: Re-Hub

    Perhaps owing to its deep understanding of what resonates in its home market, Qeelin stands apart in the hard luxury space, boasting 8.7 million brand-generated content (BGC) engagements, compared to an average of 135,000 among competitors Graff, Tasaki, and Van Cleef & Arpels. Qeelin achieved 15.8 million user-generated content (UGC) engagements, compared to 5.4 million among the same competitors.

    The hard luxury segment also saw notable shifts in the first quarter of the year, with brands like Breitling and Zenith demonstrating the importance of strategic marketing efforts and celebrity partnerships.

    Celebrity clout#

    LVMH-owned Zenith, for example, leveraged its association with popular actor and singer Xiao Zhan to drive engagement and increase its user-generated content mentions across platforms. Zenith's collaboration with Xiao to promote the Chronomaster Sport garnered 320,125 engagements on Weibo, while a New Year’s message featuring Xiao attracted more than 18,000 engagements on Xiaohongshu.

    Image: Re-Hub
    Image: Re-Hub

    In February, Zenith’s “red envelope” activation on WeChat amassed more than 56,000 engagements, underscoring the importance of culturally resonant initiatives alongside choosing the right brand ambassadors.

    Using a similar strategy, Breitling, owned by the Swiss private equity firm Partners Group, outperformed in the first quarter of the year, propelled by its brand ambassadors. A Chinese New Year announcement featuring actor and model Huang Jingyu garnered 45,134 engagements on WeChat, while a Weibo post highlighting actress Angelababy’s visit to a Breitling store in London exceeded 96,000 engagements. A Douyin Q&A featuring Angelababy also performed well, generating nearly 6,500 engagements.

    While Breitling lagged behind Zenith, IWC, and Jaeger-LeCoultre in terms of BGC and UGC mentions, it did manage to outpace the competition in new followers, with 8,700 compared to 7,200 on average among its competitors.

    All data provided by Re-Hub

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