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JD Duty-Free Store Hainan

How One Brand Tapped Into China’s Booming Duty-Free Market

Key Takeaways:

  • In 2017, the duty-free and travel retail market was valued at $74.9 billion, and estimated to reach $153.7 billion by 2025.

  • In a year, COVID-19 wreaked unprecedented havoc in the industry, killing duty-free and travel retail.

  • Offshore duty-free sales on Hainan island rose to $3.82 billion over 2020.

After years of bullish expansion, the duty-free and travel retail market has been brought to a standstill by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2017, the market was valued at $74.9 billion and was estimated to reach $153.7 billion by 2025. According to the Duty Free World Council, $36.2 billion was spent on duty-free and travel retail that year in the Asia-Pacific region.

But the pandemic sank retailers, forced airport stores to close down, postponed cruise activity, and hindered sales growth. In just one year, COVID-19 wreaked unprecedented havoc in the industry, effectively killing duty-free and travel retail.

The silver lining for the industry has been China: a resilient market that benefited enormously from the relaxation of duty-free limits, the repatriation of wealth, and the country’s luxury appetite. Not long ago, the prodigal Chinese shopper satisfied his luxury cravings while traveling internationally. But with tight safety measures and cross-border restrictions in place, he turned his attention to China’s duty-free shopping paradise: Hainan island.

Offshore duty-free sales on Hainan island rose to $3.82 billion (25 billion RMB) for the year up to December 14 of 2020, according to official figures released by Invest Hainan to The Moodie Davitt Report. Since the adoption of the new offshore duty-free shopping policy on July 1 of that year, average daily sales have surpassed $18.3 million (120 million RMB), Hainan IEDB reported.

Through bold moves, some retailers and e-commerce players managed to thrive in this new reality. Those retailers built better brand engagement and attracted new shoppers by identifying consumer needs and capitalizing on demand shifts. The Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com is one example of a company making all the right moves on Hainan.

Right before the New Year’s holiday, JD Worldwide opened a duty-free store in partnership with Hainan Tourism and Investment Development Co. in Sanya, Hainan province. According to JD’s corporate blog and data from Haikou’s Customs, sales from three of its newly opened duty-free shopping centers (including Sanya Hailv) reached 540 million yuan from January 1-3, a year-on-year increase of 195 percent.

“JD has leveraged its expertise in e-commerce, marketing, and supply chain to create a store that is unlike traditional duty-free stores,” says the press release. “Whereas most duty-free shops focus on fashion, luxury, cosmetics, and even alcohol and cigarettes, JD has gone in an entirely different direction, equipping the store with consumer electronics and small appliances, such as hair dryers, speakers, and coffee machines.”

JD’s duty-free store in Sanya focuses on electronics and digital products from brands like Dyson and De’Longhi. Photo: JD’s Corporate Blog

As you can see, JD increased business profitability and sales revenues through a well-defined product diversification strategy that brought the right product to the right customer at the right time.

Take, for example, the company’s expansion into health supplements. JD understood that Hainan is the equivalent of Florida — a vacation hotspot for seniors and aging boomers. Therefore, instead of releasing new luxury products, JD came up with a personalized offer made up of health supplements and health-related products.

Providing consumers with a larger spectrum of products is a strategic move. But this is only one part of JD’s plan. The Chinese e-commerce company also digitized the retail experience by integrating JD’s cloud & AI technology while launching a cross-border experience store.

JD’s cutting-edge retail technology and its digitalization capabilities took the retail experience to a new level. By introducing “smart shelves” — electronic price tags that ensure real-time price changes and smart marketing technologies — the company built a more interactive and personalized experience.

Luxury brands and Western retailers that want to take advantage of the booming duty-free industry in China should follow in JD’s footsteps by building positive brand experiences, increasing product diversity, satisfying consumer desires for safety, and prioritizing convenience.

One company, the luxury beauty brand Helena Rubinstein, has already taken a page from JD’s playbook by collaborating with the China Duty Free Group to launch its very first online-to-offline premium luxury travel event in Sanya.

On December 21 and 23, luxury experiences at the Helena Rubinstein villa were livestreamed by two renowned beauty influencers, Teacher Xu and Kakakaoo. The livestreaming session attracted more than 25 million viewers, according to Duty Free & Travel Retailing Magazine.

Pinduoduo Users Surpass Taobao

Is Pinduoduo Ready To Compete With China’s Biggest Players?

What Happened: During the first two days of the Chinese Lunar Year, Pinduoduo’s daily active users (DAU) surpassed Taobao’s for the first time in the company’s six-year history. Over February 12 and 13, Pinduoduo had 259 million DAUs, dwarfing Taobao’s 237 million. This landmark was even more notable given that the former did not cooperate with CCTV’s Spring Festival Program this year.

US-listed Pinduoduo is the third-largest e-commerce player behind Alibaba Group and JD.com. Pinduoduo’s market value now stands at over $190 billion, and its founder, Huang Zheng, is now worth $30.6 billion, ranking him seventh on the China Forbes list of the country’s richest citizens.

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The Jing Take: It took Alibaba 14 years and JD.com 19 years to exceed $150 billion GMV, but Pinduoduo reached this ambitious milestone in only four-and-a-half years. And now, it has also surpassed Taobao in daily active users. However, the company still faces many hurdles to the way to besting either of its competitors. This milestone may have been a victory, but, looking closer, it is reflective of the company’s investment in promotional activities. Since February of 2020, Pinduoduo has invested $463 million in red envelope activities (digital monetary gifts given away during holidays) aimed at the Spring Festival. But due to the high cost of these promotions, the shopping platform has yet to make a profit.

Pinduoduo also faces increasing competition from China’s other sophisticated e-commerce platforms. Alibaba’s Tmall and the Luxury Pavilion, as well as JD.com, have successfully tapped into the luxury market. Wanlimu is also a rising star in the app world, using Pinduoduo’s subsidies strategy to sell products from brands like Celine. But in the meantime, Pinduoduo has stuck to offering its goods to lower-tier cities, particularly rural areas, where prices are the main attraction for users as the platform relies heavily on bottomless discounts and subsidies. And before it can even think of moving into luxury, Pinduoduo must first address its counterfeiting issue (called “Pinjiajia” or fake-fake among some users). But for now, that seems far into the future.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

Neiwai No Body is Nobody Campaign

Lingerie Brand Neiwai Takes Bold Stance On Body Diversity

The Social Edition is our weekly series which deep dives into luxury initiatives in China’s social media landscape. Every week, we highlight brand campaigns distributed on Chinese digital platforms — WeChat, Weibo, Tmall, Douyin, and beyond.

Our coverage spotlights global luxury brands, global beauty brands, and local Chinese brands. The latter gives insight into some of China’s most successful campaigns, which often come from local players, and are outside of the beauty and fashion space.

In this week’s roundup, we look at three campaigns, including Neiwai’s latest installment of its NO BODY IS NOBODY project, L’Oréal’s first-ever virtual idol, and JNBYHOME’s debut pet collection.

Neiwai’s Brave Stance On Body Diversity Pays Off In China

BRAND NEIWAI 
CATEGORY Lifestyle
PLATFORMS Weibo, WeChat, Tmall 
MEDIUM Short-film, Image, Podcast

OVERVIEW 
Chinese lifestyle brand Neiwai launched the second installment of its NO BODY IS NOBODY project on March 1. The initiative debuted in February 2020 with a series of documentaries exploring female body diversity, sparking extensive conversations on the topic on social channels. This year, the brand broadens the context to female power. In addition to telling stories about eight women with various body types in short videos and photographs, the campaign features in-depth content production in the form of a podcast about feminist discourse, bringing together more female consumers with shared values.

NETIZEN REACTION
Neiwai’s approach breaks away from the male gaze and leans into women’s perspectives, resonating greatly with female Chinese consumers. In turn, netizens showed their love for the brand’s appreciation and celebration of female power and inclusivity: The campaign hashtag #NoBodyIsNobody has received over 7.48 million views, and the teaser video has garnered 61,600 views on Weibo within one day.

VERDICT
Neiwai has developed a consistent narrative that celebrates women’s empowerment, strengthening its brand awareness in the local market. Unlike other brands that collaborate with celebrities or fashion/entertainment KOLs, Neiwai features normal women — without ideal looks or body shapes — in its campaign, making the brand more relatable to broader consumers. Moreover, the podcast episodes, which star female KOLs with professional backgrounds, generate in-depth conversations on career, family, and self-exploration that help build loyal brand communities.

L’Oréal Creates Virtual Idol To Connect With Chinese Female Beauty Shoppers

BRAND L’Oréal Group 
CATEGORY Beauty
PLATFORMS WeChat
MEDIUM Image

OVERVIEW 
On March 1, the L’Oréal Group announced its first-ever virtual idol named Mr. Ou (欧爷), along with his personal female assistant. Mr. Ou’s persona is set to be a 24-year-old Chinese-French eco-minded entrepreneur involved in the beauty industry. Ou plays multiple roles under various social columns: he serves as the news minister and brings users the latest beauty trends in “Mr. Ou Know-How”; he is an ingredient expert uncovering the secrets in cosmetics in “Mr. Ou Talks Ingredients”; he introduces celebrities and KOLs to users in “Mr. Ou Face to Face”; and he also delivers sustainability initiatives in “Mr. Ou for Public Welfare.”

NETIZEN REACTION
The appearance and personality of the character alludes to “Mr. Love: Queen’s Choice,” a Chinese female-oriented mobile game that allows players to text, chat, and call the male leads. This type of perfect-looking young male caters to many Chinese female consumers’ aesthetic preferences. However, there is criticism on the art design of the virtual idol: “the characters are roughly designed and painted.”

VERDICT
The animation of creating Mr. Ou aligns with East Asian consumers’ preference for two-dimensional virtual characters. Influenced by Japanese ACG (anime, comic and games), Chinese consumers show higher interest in animated characters as compared to digital avatars. Moreover, the technical requirements and financial investment of creating a 2D character are much less involved than developing a digital avatar that looks more human. Thus, the L’Oréal Group’s foray into virtual idols is a promising start in China’s market, especially highlighting the character’s social capability and sustainability mindset.

JNBY Sets Its Sights On China’s Booming Pet Economy

BRAND JNBYHOME  
CATEGORY Lifestyle
PLATFORMS Weibo, WeChat, Tmall 
MEDIUM Image, Mini Program

OVERVIEW 
JNBYHOME, a sub-brand of the Chinese fashion house JNBY, has collaborated with the pet product designer brand Pidan to launch JNBYHOME’s first pet collection. The debut features pet dining sets, pet apparel, toys, pet nests, and more, creating a one-stop pet destination. In addition to pet products, the collection includes pet-friendly loungewear meant to improve relations between consumers and their puppies and kittens.

NETIZEN REACTION
The WeChat post announcing the partnership between JNBYHOME and Pidan has received over 8,400 views within two days, and pet enthusiasts showed high expectations for the collection by spontaneously sharing photos of their pets. The functional and well-designed featured products resonated with young Chinese consumers, many of whom are willing to invest a lot of money in their pets.

VERDICT
This collaboration is not the first between these two brands. Their first launch was a limited-edition box that includes matching loungewear, an eye mask, and a kitten’s bow tie. This latest edition further tapped into China’s pet consumption market, which is predicted to grow at an average annual rate of 18.2 percent over the next five years and account for more than one-eighth of the global market by 2024, according to Euromonitor. Moreover, this consumption is mostly driven by single, urban customers with relatively high disposable income. Therefore, JNBY’s foray into the pet lifestyle arena will not only help it reach a broader audience with pets; it will also diversify the brand’s image among young consumers.

Second-hand luxury

Second-Hand Luxury — Don’t Have Second Thoughts

Key Takeaways:

  • Second-hand luxury sales should become incrementally relevant in a post-COVID-19 world in which buying with purpose and issues of circularity will take on a bigger role.

  • The trend is part of the third wave of change which will affect the luxury sector, after the COVID-19 shock and the economic consequences, with climate change and sustainability understandably bound to dominate luxury conversations.

  • Is this bound to remain a Western trend? How should brands ride the wave? Why are consumers really interested? Many questions will find answers in the years ahead but here are some thoughts.

Put your money where your mouth is

At the end of the last chapter of my book Future Luxe called “Disrupting Luxury: The Decade Ahead,” I write about the rise of rental and second-hand goods. While I find the first business model to be intricate and somewhat limited in potential, I believe the future of second-hand purchases in luxury is big and bright. It is indeed, in my mind, an attractive alternative to purchasing fast fashion brands while contributing to a circular economy that ultimately produces less waste.

In my first Luxe Decade column called the Third Wave, I had described how after the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic implications, the world would focus on a much graver, broader threat, that of climate change, as well as other environmental, social, and governance issues. These are issues that François-Henri Pinault, the chairman and CEO of Kering — and the kind writer of the foreword of my book — has had close to his heart for years. Indeed, Kering has been recognized for its focus on sustainability issues, is known for developing “EP&Ls” for its brands, and has a very active voice in their Chief Sustainability Officer, Marie-Claire Daveu. This week the Kering Group took a stake (and a board seat) in Vestiaire Collective, putting the focus once more on this up-and-coming segment of the luxury market and the attention is unlikely to wane any time soon.

This could become a global phenomenon

In 2011, e-commerce entrepreneur Julie Wainwright founded The RealReal. The company, listed as of June 2019, employs experts to authenticate second-hand luxury products that are sold on consignment. It is the US poster child for the principle of “re-commerce” of luxury. Rebag is a New York–based website that launched in 2014 as a platform to buy and sell designer handbags. And in a somewhat extreme take on second-hand, there was a burgeoning market pre-COVID-19 for used makeup among millennial consumers in Japan. 

Many other companies started up on the principle of second-hand ownership, taking a sort of vintage approach to luxury. Vestiaire Collective is 12 years old and has 11 million members, who buy and sell authenticated luxury fashion items. Similar companies include Material World, thredUP, Poshmark, and Depop. In hard luxury, Watchfinder & Co. was founded in 2002 as an online second-hand watch retailer and was purchased by the Richemont group in 2018. 

Most of these concepts are Western or Japanese but for now a very limited proportion of sales are made to Chinese consumers. This could change in the years ahead for three reasons. First, Chinese luxury consumers are mostly first-time purchasers of luxury items, so they often would prefer the latest and greatest products that will enable them to shine in society. As they evolve to becoming repeat purchasers, buying something from previous collections will likely be okay. Secondly, many American and some European consumers are quite value conscious. That will come in China eventually as well. Third, because many consumers in Asia are first-time purchasers, environmental or circularity issues are not the main priority in a first purchase as it is more about fitting in but that, again, is just a question of time. Are consumers buying second-hand because it’s cheap or because it feeds into circularity and makes them feel responsible or look good? I believe it is a bit of both, but it’s hard to tell if only asking those consumers as they will likely focus on the latter.

Where to and with who?

In a recent fascinating study, BCG assessed that second hand-sales of apparel, footwear, and accessories accounted for USD30bn to USD40bn in sales and should grow on average 15 percent to 20 percent per annum over the next five years. To paraphrase what Federico Marchetti, the visionary former CEO of the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, said recently at a conference: the future twenty years ago was online sales, the future today is sustainability. Besides, I believe that second-hand sales are a very powerful means to recruit consumers who may otherwise not have been shopping at your brand and who may eventually trade up to purchase the latest collections at full-price. 

Who should manage second-hand for a brand? Here, it’s a bit like for online sales. There is a pragmatic, “Italian” way to run second-hand, which is to find trusted partners, which Kering seems to have adopted. And there is a dogmatic, “French” way to run luxury, which is to control everything you can from production to distribution (think Louis Vuitton or Hermès) and that could imply that eventually you deal with second-hand sales yourself. I don’t know if one is better than the other, I just think the trend is nascent and promising.   

Yu Prize Designer China Finalists

16 Emerging Designer Names to Know

The 16 finalists of the Yu Prize 2021 have been announced. The line-up includes an epoch-defining list of Chinese names, including London Fashion Week brands Dan Shan and Susan Fang, alongside Milan’s Shuting Qiu and Shanghai’s Shushu/Tong. 

Roughly five years ago, the concept of an independent designer was unknown in China. Now, young trailblazing talents, often educated abroad, are working to transform China’s design reputation both locally and around the world. And while Chinese names have been appearing on international prize lists recently, (Chen Peng, for the Woolmark Prize), or growing their brands with international collaborations (such as nominee 8ON8), this line-up shines a light on lesser-known and up-and-coming domestic names — Oude Waag, Donsee10, Shie Lyu, At-One-Ment, Yueqi Qi, GARÇON BY GÇOGCN, Redemptive, Windowsen, and ZI II CI IEN are now all having a moment on the international stage too.   

Recommended ReadingAre Chinese Designers The Future Of Luxury Collabs?By Gemma A. Williams
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The Yu Prize is the brainchild of entrepreneur and investor Wendy Yu, founder of Yu Holdings. Yu, who recently launched her own C-Beauty line, Yumee, has put together an illustrious list of who’s who of industry professionals as part of her jury, including Diane Von Furstenberg and pioneers of the local industry like entrepreneur Edison Chen and Judy Liu, managing director of Farfetch China

The winner will be announced at Shanghai Fashion Week in April 2021. Sponsorship includes a substantial cash reward (roughly £150,000), 12 months of mentoring from international experts and business incubation at Yu Holdings, plus a retail opportunity at Harrods. And in a race this close to call, all bets are off. 

Dolce Gabanna Diet Prada Lawsuit

Dolce & Gabbana Can’t Get A Break, Nor Do They Deserve One

What Happened: The Internet is after Dolce & Gabbana again, as Diet Prada has filed a defense for freedom of speech on March 1. The move is in response to the Italian luxury brand suing the popular Instagram account for defamation in 2019 after its founders, Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, posted about its controversial #DGLovesChina campaign. The campaign caused outrage worldwide not only for its patronizing take on Chinese culture, but also for the subsequent DMs written by co-founder Stefano Gabbana responding to critics, which the industry watchdog circulated in full.  

The Jing Take: As Dolce & Gabbana tries to remedy its image in China, its shady past continues to haunt it. The lawsuit, which the brand surely thought was a smart move, has proved to backfire almost two years later and continues to paint the brand as aggressive. Moreover, the case itself is questionable, with the defense disputing D&G’s right to sue Diet Prada in its home country Italy. As Fashion Law Institute’s founder Susan Scafidi explained to Fashionista: “Arguably the lawsuit should have been filed in the U.S., where Tony and Lindsey reside, or in China, where Dolce & Gabbana had to cancel its show, but instead the plaintiffs engaged in forum shopping and perhaps hope for home court advantage as well.”

Legal drama aside, D&G is right about one thing: Diet Prada’s exposure had massive repercussions on its business. Although revenue for the Italian fashion house was actually up five percent to $1.54 billion in 2019 despite being iced out of China, it certainly paid for its mistakes in other ways. Shortly after the screenshots were posted, D&G was forced to cancel its runway show in Shanghai as local celebrities and models refused to attend. Meanwhile, Tmall, JD.com, Vipshop, Secoo and others banned its products from their platforms. The brand was then forced to lay low for two years, only rearing its head for a Qixi-themed pop-up in Chengdu last year. 

But even more recent news proves that D&G has yet to live down its 2018 faux pas. For example, the announcement on March 1 of its AW21 fashion show provoked outcry on Weibo, with netizens commenting: “Chinese people remember,” “Boycott,” and “Get out of China.” Additionally, local news outlet Jiemian reported on March 4 that the luxury company was relinquishing its strategic store location within IFS Chengdu, a high-end shopping hub, and moving to a less conspicuous spot, pointing to its shrinking China footprint. 

While luxury brands operating in China have had their share of controversy — from Prada cutting ties with ambassador Zheng Shuang after her surrogacy scandal to Coach, Givenchy, and Versace getting grief over misrepresenting the country’s geography — none have faced this degree of blowback. But as D&G’s case shows, the old adage “any publicity is good publicity” doesn’t apply when the gaffe is so heinous. With Chinese consumers showing spiking nationalism and an increasing affinity for local brands (see the “Guochao” trend), Western luxury cannot bank on the short-term memories of consumers to survive being canceled. Especially when social media’s got the receipts.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

Swarovski rebrand 2021 China

Swarovski’s Brand Refresh: China-Facing or China-Inspired?

Recently, Austrian crystal giant Swarovski teased its total brand makeover via short video, offering a sneak peek at its first major overhaul in more than three decades. Spearheaded by Agency General Idea (which has previously worked with Loro Piana, Moncler, and Louis Vuitton), the brand refresh reflects the influence of Giovanna Engelbert, who was appointed as Swavorski’s first-ever creative director last year. General Idea founder Ian Schatzberg told Marketing Brew that the new look was “born out of Giovanna as a designer, her vision, and her world. It’s a creative director-led brand now, and we worked in partnership with her.”

The “Wonderlab” short film stars model Adwoa Aboah, Gwendoline Christie (of “Game of Thrones” fame), and Isla Johnson from Netflix’s recent hit, “The Queen’s Gambit” (playing chess with crystal pieces, naturally). The broader rebrand, set to be fully unveiled on March 19, revolves around a colorful revamp of the traditional Swarovski packaging and a new swan logo.

 

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A post shared by SWAROVSKI (@swarovski)

Based on the brand collateral that has been released so far, it looks like Swarovski’s new look is China-facing, if not China-inspired. Last year the Chinese market offered a rare bright spot for luxury and premium fashion, and 2021 is expected to remain challenging for the industry as a whole, meaning that the competition to stand out among China’s increasingly important millennial and Gen Z consumers will take on even more urgency.

Swarovski “Wonderlab”

Last year, in an effort to appeal to younger demographics, Swarovski tapped the hugely popular Gen Z idol Wang Yibo as brand ambassador. Wang served as the face of Swarovski’s Women’s Day campaign, and shared a video message to promote a line of limited-edition crystal-studded jewelry that included the letters Y, I, B, and O that was quickly snapped up by his fans. In November, Wang helped the brand launch a collection of limited-edition pieces for the November 11 Singles’ Day sales and appeared in a series of short films to introduce the collection, which proved to be one of the most popular limited edition sets of the season, with fans sharing screenshots of their order confirmations to show their support for the idol.

The bold, colorful nature of Swarovski’s refresh will appeal to young shoppers in mainland China. As we have seen from domestic brands beloved by China’s Gen Z — among them Perfect Diary and Hey Tea — strong splashes of color and playful designs, when paired with affordable price-points and the right celebrity or influencer partnerships, are a winning combination. And now, what works among younger millennial and Gen Z consumers in China is also proving to work globally, such as Douyin/TikTok (even though TikTok, for now, has fewer features than its Chinese counterpart).

Now, one question is who Swarovski plans to work with in China to promote its new look — whether it will stick with the tried-and-tested Wang Yibo or enlist new faces, or whether the global Wonderlab campaign will be enough of a draw for young Chinese consumers, who are also huge fans of “Game of Thrones” and “The Queen’s Gambit” (the latter was the highest-rated English-language TV series of 2020 on the Chinese review site Douban). Another question is whether the brand makeover will be enough to help the family-owned Swarovski better compete against Tiffany & Co., which was recently acquired by LVMH and has already spent more than a decade expanding in China to corner the affordable jewelry market.

It also remains to be seen how the full unveiling of the brand refresh goes over in China. What has been teased out so far hasn’t been completely without criticism, with some netizens expressing a preference for the old logo, which was more recognizable and implicitly high-end, while others commented that the changes makes Swarovski look less like a premium jewelry brand and more like a “two-yuan shop on the side of the road.” Can’t please everybody.

This post originally appeared on Content Commerce Insider, our sister publication on branded entertainment.

Little Fresh Meat China Cai Xukun

Is China Killing off its “Little Fresh Meat”? 

Key Takeaways:

  • China’s love affair with androgynous males is a trend that has culminated in the term “Little Fresh Meat,” and now few can dispute the pulling power of male celebrities like Lu Han and Kris Wu over their dedicated fans. From Fendi to Prada, luxury houses are now codependent on the fan economy and use these feminine idols to directly target women.

  • A new proposal might put the fate of these beautiful young men in jeopardy as China has put forward legislation to prevent what it calls the “feminization” of young males. The Ministry for Education has suggested placing more emphasis on student “masculinity” training through physical education teachers.

  • Reactions to the news are mixed but generally negative as Chinese consumers are now discussing topics such as ‘toxic masculinity’ online and holding companies accountable for toxic environments. However if the legislation targets looks, then the many industries dependent on these androgynous men especially beauty could be at risk. Intentional brands will be first in line to face sanctions.

China loves “Little Fresh Meat,” the handsome young male celebrities and KOLs, famous for their androgynous looks and feminine aesthetic appeal. Whether it’s big draws like Lu Han, now the face of Gucci and widely considered the darling of the trend, or Kris Wu, contracted to Louis Vuitton and Bvlgari, or even the “King of Lipstick” himself, Li Jiaqi, these idols have turned “Little Fresh Meat” not only into a popular trend, but also into a very profitable and influential business — both for themselves and the brands they represent. 

Now, however, China might be clamping down on men being too feminine with a new proposal that could mean that their time is numbered. It has legislation in progress to prevent what it calls the “feminization” of young males. While the exact reasons are not listed, the 13th Five-Year Plan period, which laid out plans from 2016 to 2020, aimed to have the Ministry of Education set up to “study the influence of the phenomenon of Internet celebrities on youth values and countermeasures.” 

And, as much as China has tried to suppress males from doing female things in the past, such as Jing Boran wearing earrings, there are all manner of KOLs endorsing female products, from perfume to tampons. Given this, the use of male ambassadors to sell makeup is also normalizing the budding market for male make-up and skin care lines as well. Prada and Givenchy ambassadors Cai Xukun and Wang Yibo are but two KOLs who love to be seen wearing makeup.  

Shu Uemura’s global ambassador Wang Yibo poses with the Chromatics eyeshadow palette, available exclusively in China. Photo: Shu Uemura’s Weibo

Yet, the Ministry for Education has suggested placing more emphasis on student “masculinity” training through the addition of physical education teachers. In fact, during the past five years, around 20,000 new physical education teachers have been added each year through free teacher training students, targeted enrollment programs and other channels.

While the ramifications of such a leaning could have a startling impact on the “Little Fresh Meat” fan economy, advertising, and fashion endorsements, for now it’s still unclear. Here, Jing Daily looks at how netizens have reacted to this news and the potential implication for brands. 

China’s response to stereotypes of masculinity 

“Before you teach a boy to be masculine, teach them how to be a good person first,” is the title of article currently trending among Gen Zers on Weibo and is indicative of the mixed reaction the news has received from concerned netizens. However, the phrase “toxic masculinity” is a relatively new one on the mainland even though the issues it causes are not unknown. “It’s the phrase itself that is new,” Yishu Wang, founder of Half a World, a marketing consulting service, explained, adding that “people are now being more vocal about its implications,” especially over the last number of years.

“People know the problems exist in China and there are lots of discussions online regarding domestic violence and other negative issues, which is one of the backlash areas from this new ruling,” she continued. Recently, many KOLs and influencers such as podcaster Steve Shi and Tiktoker, known as @internet-garcon-pdf on Weibo, are spotlighting these issues on social platforms too, urging citizens to discard gender stereotypes. In fact, these educational posts may be advancing the debate, as well as highlighting what netizens will not learn from school education. 

Consumers too are taking to social platforms to voice their opinions on companies which they feel are promoting toxic atmospheres for women. Mostly recently, Bilibili faced online backlash for inappropriate posts, while underwear brand Ubras came under fire for comments from a male endorsee. On the other hand, male consumers are being more open as society embraces a more dynamic understanding of masculinity being put forward by these well-groomed male stars. Grooming products and wellness brands dedicated to the men’s skincare market have surged in recent years, experiencing a 31 percent year-on-year growth. 

Since the announcement, some local media have been against the guidance and state broadcaster CCTV for one criticized the students’ masculinity policy. Indeed, due to the media outcry on the issue, the Ministry has recently responded to clarify its definition of masculinity, stating it does not refer to masculinity or male behavior. Rather, it is “developing good exercise habits and a healthy lifestyle, refining a strong will, and cultivating a cooperative spirit.” 

It was also clarified that the term included other issues like “commitment, courage, and self-improvement” and that the cultivation of masculinity is a subtle process and not entirely the responsibility of physical education teachers. However, most importantly for fashion, it deduced that masculinity is also the result of the social environment, and that film and television dramas and celebrities have a greater impact on young people and indicated the need to provide these young people with the correct role model. Reading between the lines, this would seem to hint towards a questioning of the role of these media influencers. 

The power of male KOLs to sell to Chinese women 

China’s ongoing love affair with androgynous males has been influenced by neighboring countries Japan and Korea. In 1996, Japan’s superstar Takuya Kimura commercialized the trend selling three million Kanebo lipsticks in two months. The lure of these young, feminine looking men to sell female products, including lingerie, might seem at odds with China’s empowered women, but the list of luxury brands using these influencers is endless. 

Beauty is a key category for the trend; in 2015, the actor Yang Yang became the first male star to appear in ads for Guerlain lipsticks in mainland China and three years later Maybelline, Lancôme, and L’Oréal all had male KOLs fronting beauty products. The most famous, of course, is the aforementioned Li Jiaqi, who amazingly sold 15,000 lipsticks in just five minutes, while wearing the lipstick himself.  

Left: Takuya Kimura’s 1996 commercial for Kanebo; Right: TFBoy’s Karry Wang promotes lipsticks for Lancôme.

China’s pop idol fever has become a proven method to gain millions of interactions from a single post and has proven particularly pivotal in this sector. Add in the lure of boy brands, such as Uniq and TFBoys, and these contracts can run into big bucks for famous figures; This week alone C-Beauty brand Florasis (or Huaxizi) taped the boy group Teens in Times as its ambassador on official social channels.  

And these days, the fan economy is no less tricky, and “Little Fresh Meat” (Xiao Xian Rou) attract a much older audience as well. “Even luxury’s target audiences are getting younger, so it’s clever now that they are using male celebs to promote, but interestingly this “Little Fresh Meat” category also appeals to women in their 30s or 40s who are actively following these young men,” Wang stated.  

Implications for brands who must proceed with caution

All major beauty brands now are targeting these ambassadors fans, meaning the ruling could upend their KOL strategies. So, where exactly does this leave names, from Fendi to Burberry, who are working with these beautiful, young men? As Wang noted, for now, the official documents don’t necessarily mention putting regulations on how celebrities or influencers look; however, they do hint to them as a negative influence. 

“I don’t know yet if there will be any immediate impact on brands doing marketing or working with celebrities, but if I were in PR, I would be very cautious about this as you don’t know where it will end. And international brands will be the first targets — skincare and beauty brands, but luxury fashion houses too,” she added. 

Beauty could be especially hard hit if the overall trend is to move away from this androgenous look. No longer might we see inventive campaigns such as Yatsen Global’s brand Little Ondine’s which showed spokesperson Tao in both a male and female version of its makeup line. And naturally enough, some would be happy as not all Chinese citizens are open to gender blurring aesthetics. 

Little Ondine promotes its colorful eyeliners with Chinese idol Tao. Photo: Little Ondine’s Weibo

A video released from CCTV a number of years ago featuring this look received much negative feedback, such as, “men should be like men.” These “men” could well include the well-built actor Peng Yuyan, one of them most recognizable actors in China’s film industry and the global ambassador for an LVMH’s label, Berluti. This is a sophisticated menswear brand however, indicating that certain consumers will only buy from certain KOLs. 

If the overall trend is to move back to a more traditional version of masculinity, there might well be pressure for beauty to move away from these gender neutral or feminine idols; clothing seems to be less conflated. However, the premise of co-opting influencers because of fans is always going to be challenging, especially when particular endorsements say: if you want to be attractive like this idol, then you need to be sporting this look. 

“Even though the government might be pushing this, I can’t see it happening soon. The consumer will still want to look how they want to look and in China there’s an awareness that they don’t need to look certain ways or stereotypes,” Wang concluded.  And consumer power is no more evident than in China. 

Best Brand Collaborations February 2021

6 Brand Collaborations China Loved In February

Every month, CCI looks back at some of the most memorable initiatives in China’s active brand collaboration scene, where creativity and ability to connect with Gen Z and millennial consumers on the latest trends are keys to success. 

Top Pick: H&M x Pronounce

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Taking Chinese-style collaboration global, fast-fashion retailer H&M announced an upcoming drop created with the independent Chinese label Pronounce. The collection, designed by Yushan Li and Jun Zhou, takes its inspiration from China’s famed Crescent Lake in Dunhuang (an oasis on the ancient Silk Road) and traditional folk tales, with graphic patterns and embroidery in shades of burgundy and gold.

“We developed this collection during the pandemic. The idea of a lake in an oasis to us symbolizes a sense of hope in a difficult time,” Li told WWD. “We imagined a hike in front of the Crescent Lake, and we explored the subtle layers of everyday wear and combined them with unique craftsmanship to provide more possibility for the wearers.”

Pronounce has become a savvy pick for numerous other brands (such as Diesel, Gap, and Mini Cooper) seeking to reach China’s young, culturally-inclined consumers and fans of guochao (“national trend”) style, as the designers fuse traditional aesthetics with the sensibilities of contemporary streetwear. Pronounce’s latest menswear collection, for example, explores Chinese pottery from both physical and philosophical perspectives.

The collection will be sold through H&M’s premium streetwear label, Blank Staples, which is only available at select stores around the world, though in China it will be available via multiple channels, including H&M’s website and app, official Tmall flagship store, and WeChat store.

Five more noteworthy collaborations from February 2021:

Randomevent x “A Writer’s Odyssey”

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In the hyper-competitive Spring Festival marketing season, it’s become imperative for brands to look beyond standard forms of collaboration model and place a greater emphasis on creativity through partnerships. This is especially true in the fashion sector, where brands vie to outdo each other with holiday-themed limited-edition collections for either gifting or self-treating.

Rather than just put out designs that relied on the Chinese zodiac (the Ox this year), the Shanghai-based streetwear label Randomevent paired up with one of the hottest IPs of this year’s holiday, the suspenseful fantasy epic “A Writer’s Odyssey” (刺杀小说家). The men’s capsule collection includes embroidered jackets, t-shirts, hats, and other apparel that merges contemporary street culture with more traditionally-inspired imagery from the film— a combination meant to appeal to the growing number of fans of guochao (国潮, “national trend”) style.

Peacebird x Six Chinese Fashion Brands

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In the current era of “mega collaborations,” straightforward one-on-one brand partnerships may no longer be enough to stand out from the crowd. Chinese fashion label Peacebird teamed up with six domestic indie brands to expand on its “SuperChina” initiative, with designers from each taking the signature elements from their respective brands to create a capsule collection aimed at Gen Z consumers.

The SuperChina campaign also invited creative professionals from a variety of backgrounds to interpret the theme of the series via their unique personal styles, and Peacebird brand ambassador and uber-influencer Ouyang Nana also promoted the collection via Weibo videos.

Perfect Diary x Disney

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C-beauty brand Perfect Diary frequently uses brand collaborations as part of its broader strategy to win over China’s millennial and Gen Z consumers. A recent partnership with Disney introduced a limited-edition series of its amino acid-based facial cleansing products reimagined with inspiration from the Baymax character from the 2014 animation “Big Hero 6.”

Appealing to the love of cuteness and blind-box style toys among young consumers, two of the makeup remover bottles are capped with a Baymax head, while other products feature illustrations of the character on the packaging. The simple features of the superhero robot figure, rendered in black and white, mesh nicely with the minimalist aesthetic of Perfect Diary’s collection.

Honor of Kings x Peking University History Department 

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Higher education represents a new and largely untapped new front in China’s booming brand collaboration scene. After partnering with a range of top-tier consumer brands — from MAC Cosmetics to Burberry — Tencent’s Honor of Kings launched a strategic cooperation with the history department of Peking University (often called the “Harvard of China”).

The partnership involves working with two professors to jointly produce content for the game’s “Chang’An Competition Year,” named after the capital city for much of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), which is widely regarded in China as the peak of ancient civilization. Tencent also released an immersive mobile VR tour of the game’s Chang’an scenery and launched a public co-creation competition focused on art, design, video, and dance.

Ikea x ROG

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Taking a “China-first” approach to product innovation, Ikea debuted a hotly anticipated collaboration with Asus Republic of Gamers (ROG) on a new range of affordable gaming furniture and accessories. The jointly designed Uppspel family of products was launched in China in February, but will not reach the rest of the world until later this year, highlighting the importance of the Chinese market and its estimated 720 million gamers.

The black-and-red collection includes a sleek high-backed gaming chair priced at RMB 999 ($155), an adjustable table that can be used as a standing desk (with a more premium price point of RMB 3,999, or around $620), and a wall-mounted pegboard to keep gaming equipment organized. Ikea is also introducing a series of self-designed items that will be useful for gamers, like a headphone stand, cupholder, and floor mat.

This post originally appeared on Content Commerce Insider, our sister publication on branded entertainment.

Givenchy Brand Ambassadors China

Givenchy’s New China Ambassadors Have Work to Do

What Happened: On March 3, Givenchy announced two new brand ambassadors, the actor Fan Chengcheng (brother of Fan Bingbing) who is also a singer in the boyband Nine Percent, and the actress Ouyang Nana. Givenchy, who appointed Matthew Williams as its creative director last year, had already been developing relationships with the celebrities: Both attended its recent pop-up at the Beijing SKP mall earlier this year and promoted its exclusive edition, Antigona handbag. Givenchy also launched an official beauty store on Tmall at the start of the pandemic, which gained a whopping 500,000 followers on the opening day.

Recommended ReadingWill Matthew Williams’ Givenchy Work In China?By Wenzhuo Wu
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The Jing Take: Givenchy is gearing up for its Paris Fashion Week show later this week, making this the ideal time to announce two new ambassador hires in China. The news quickly trended on Weibo’s top 10 classifications, and the topic generated almost 400 million views on its official Weibo account, unsurprising as the two are beloved by China’s Gen Zers. However, several netizens used the opportunity to remind fans of Givenchy’s 2019 T-shirt scandal. Much of this discussion was captured in response to a post about the announcement by the influential fashion KOL Pipijuice (with 1 million Weibo followers), where many of her readers argued that it has still not apologized adequately.

Moreover, Givenchy is failing to reach anywhere near the popularity it had under the creative direction of its previous designer Riccardo Tisci. Putting Williams at the helm was predicted to give it a boost on the mainland given his streetwear credentials. But the brand will need to do much more. And while the two stars can amplify, they have a combined following of over 40 million fans, who knows if this can convert into sales.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.



Brand Diversify China GenX Marketing

When China’s Luxury Market Sputters, Brands Must Diversify

Key Takeaways:

  • International travel was brought to a standstill by COVID-19, so Chinese consumers stayed home and looked for alternative leisure activities like buying luxury items.

  • Around 70 to 80 million Chinese lost their jobs or could not work starting at the end of March of 2020, and 8.7 million recent graduates entered the country’s workforce in 2020.

  • China’s economic growth hit a 44-year low in 2020, so all signs are pointing to a significant cooling of that economy.

Last year, the luxury goods market was deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with sales registering a sharp decline reminiscent of the one initiated by the 2009 financial crisis. Bain & Company reports that the core personal luxury goods market fell by 23 percent year-on-year to hit $263 billion. This drop is the largest recorded since Bain began monitoring the industry.

Growth forecasts for the personal luxury goods industry in 2021 vary significantly. For example, Bain estimates that recovery to 2019 levels won’t occur until 2022 or 2023, while McKinsey forecasts a positive growth of 1 to 4 percent in 2021, compared to 2019.

And even when market participants and investors are optimistic about the industry’s recovery, their predictions and forecasts vary. Yet, they all agree that China will become the driving force of the industry.

China is on track to become the world’s biggest luxury market by 2025, and local consumption has “roared” ahead even during the global pandemic, according to Federica Levato, a partner at Bain’s luxury goods vertical.

Having said that, it’s worth mentioning that while international travel has been brought to a standstill, Chinese consumers who stayed home looked for alternative leisure activities. Instead of traveling to Europe, they spent their funds on luxury purchases. However, this positive trend will likely slow down once life returns to normal and international travel resumes.

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But, unfortunately, China’s cooling economy could cause serious problems for the luxury industry. Consumer debt has expanded, and the free-spending younger demographics are hardly coping well with financial stress. Considering that these debt-ridden shoppers are luxury’s most valuable consumers, the industry should prepare for possible setbacks shortly. Plus, the country is also grappling with high unemployment.

Last year, the domestic brokerage firm Zhongtai Securities released a report measuring China’s real unemployment rate at 20 percent. And according to UBS analysts, around 70 to 80 million Chinese lost their jobs or could not work starting at the end of March. Additionally, 8.7 million recent graduates entered China’s workforce in 2020.

China’s economic growth also hit a 44-year low in 2020, according to Reuters. As such, all signs are pointing to a significant cooling of that economy. So what is next for the luxury industry now that it has become even more dependent on China?

Unfortunately, the industry seems ill-prepared to deal with a new crisis. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has exhibited the industry’s flaws and showed its inability to stay ahead of the curve or have a visionary strategy for long-term growth. In fact, the luxury industry always seems to be one step behind cultural changes, digital transformation, and the implementation of cutting-edge solutions and technologies. This issue hinders economic opportunities and makes it impossible to find additional revenue streams.

There is much talk these days about the democratization of luxury. But despite improvements, the industry remains quite selective and exclusive. Instead of peddling European elitism as it did in the past, the industry now focuses on the needs of Chinese teenagers and young adults, hardly ever considering more mature demographics. So, what of China’s older, wealthier cohorts — for example, the country’s seniors, aged 60 and above? This group already owns properties and enjoys retirement savings. As such, they represent a money-making opportunity but are often overlooked.

Instead of going to great lengths to achieve loyalty from a traditionally disloyal segment or trying to cater to millennial whims, brands should redirect some of their marketing efforts toward this oft-ignored demographic segment. It should be noted that China’s group of seniors will grow to 300 million by 2025 and 400 million by 2033, according to the Office of the National Working Commission on Aging.

Well-heeled Gen Xers are also worthy of consideration. This group is gaining fame thanks to its professional and financial success. And as self-sufficient individuals who directly experienced Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms, they are far better off than the pampered, younger demographics. Yet, luxury brands don’t have elaborate marketing campaigns or selling strategies in place for them.

The luxury industry shouldn’t just reach out only to new audiences in China, though, but also to new markets in the Asia-Pacific, African, and Latin American regions. Growth can be further spurred by entering emerging markets where local elites are underserved.

Instead of aggressively expanding physical retail in lower-tier Chinese cities, luxury brands should consider enhancing their distribution channels or brick-and-mortar stores in other Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam that have become new luxury vacation destinations to the Chinese elite.

Luxury brands who want to thrive in the post-COVID-19 world need to reach out and become truly egalitarian. Currently, a China-centric approach might bring temporary gains. But in the long term, it isn’t likely to sustain profitable growth.

Yatsen Eve Lom

Owner Of C-Beauty ‘Unicorn’ Perfect Diary Acquires Eve Lom

What Happened: Yatsen Holding Ltd. (NYSE: YSG), the parent company of the China-based beauty industry unicorn Perfect Diary, announced on March 2 that it is acquiring the prestige skincare brand Eve Lom from Manzanita Capital. In the deal, Manzanita will retain a minority stake in the business and enter into a strategic partnership with Yatsen. Following the news, the Yatsen shares spiked in value. The company owns leading C-beauty brands Perfect Diary, Little Ondine, and Abby’s Choice. And recently, it acquired the French premium skincare brand Galénic. Last November, the company filed for its IPO status in the US and raised over 600 million dollars.

Jing Take: This deal is just the latest in a line of Western brand acquisitions made by Chinese conglomerates. Recently, Sequoia Capital China acquired a controlling stake in AMI, LionRock (Clarks), and Fosun (Lanvin), just to name a few. While Western brands are finding their way into China, local brands have come out by slowly building their brands. Yet few have successfully tapped into luxury.

Wellness and self-care are two of the highest opportunity sectors today, and the global skincare market is predicted to jump to 463.5$ Billion by 2027. With this move, Yatsen’s international ambitions have become clearer (the significant funds raised during its public offering back up this vision.) Meanwhile, Yatsen has revealed that this money will go to its marketing, operations, strategic investments & acquisitions, product & technology development, and physical retail expansion beyond China — which means the company isn’t just eyeing the China market.

However, while C-cosmetics are finding wide popularity among Chinese consumers, skepticism around those skincare products persists. Chinese beauty brands do not have long-established laboratory backgrounds and lack exclusive formulas, making it harder for them to acquire luxury positioning. The acquisition of premium skincare brands from the West does not only help Yatsen secure a global distribution network; it also offers the brand access to top laboratories. As such, this deal is an unmissable chance for Yatsen to expand its product offerings around the world.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

Milan Fashion Week 2021 Chinese audiences

Milan Is In The Mood For Fashion

This season’s Jing Daily Fashion Week Score moves to Milan to analyze which brands and designers best-engaged with online Chinese audiences. And although some big names were missing (Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Versace, and local favorite Angel Chen were all absent from the schedule), the show still went on(line) in Milan.

But like much of what is happening now, it has become a tale of two sides. It’s hard not to connect this year’s schedule holes to COVID-19, which Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana says reduced turnover by 25 percent. But for brands like Fendi, which dished up a palate-cleansing collection, sales have gone up. Prada also reached profitability during 2020, with its sales jumping up by over 50 percent in China.

From a 1920-style cabaret setting to the Piccolo Teatro di Milano, designers made herculean efforts to present pre-recorded runways and fashion films. But disappointingly, engagement with fans in China was scant. Few ambassadors were involved this week. But when they were, names like Zhao Wei for Fendi, Mr. Bags for Ferragamo, and  Sun Rui for Ports 1961 worked their magic.

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Prada, however, always has it nailed. This season, the brand offered up a textbook example of how to cultivate engagement by enlisting no fewer than eight celebrities — including actress Jin Chen and new faces like Fei Qiming — and over thirty KOLs to share posts. By the end of the livestream, views had hit 41 million.

The Jing Daily Fashion Week Score is based on the following parameters:

  • Model representation: evaluates representation of Chinese models on the runway.

  • Digital impact: evaluates Chinese netizen reception and engagement on leading social media platforms, including Weibo, WeChat, and Little Red Book.

  • KOL / celebrity visibility: considers the star power associated with strategic KOL and celebrity partnerships.

  • Special brand efforts: considers special programs or efforts on a brand’s part to speak to the Chinese audience. Company or brand contributions toward the on-going virus crisis are also considered.

  • Design context: a qualitative assessment of how the brand’s collection will speak to the Chinese audience based on current trends and preferences.

  • Brand history: considers existing history in China, including overall presence, social reach, number of stores, earning trends, and missteps.

Prada

“Ease and movement” summed up the latest collaboration by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, with the house’s Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection spotlighting knits and drop-shoulder silhouettes (developed for Fall 2021 menswear) as well as glittering paillettes and soft faux fur, exploring a fluidity between masculinity and femininity. The effort was explained by Simons as an attempt to connect men and women — the masculine in women and the feminine in men — inspired by ideas of change and open possibilities. This time, Prada continued its seasonal conversation by featuring the designer duo alongside five other creative talents.

This season, the heritage brand leaned on social engagement by leveraging extensive celebrity endorsements: eight celebrities in total, including actress Jin Chen and new faces like Fei Qiming. Over thirty KOLs were also called upon to share relevant social posts both before and after the show. By the end of Prada’s livestream, viewership on the Jiemian, Weibo, and Douyin platforms rose to 41 million, proving the brand’s solidity and that its previous controversy with brand ambassador Zheng Shuang was ancient history.

Fendi

Kim Jones’ first women’s ready-to-wear presentation with Fendi paid homage to the house’s legacy with a deft and dynamic hand, as his methodological and meticulous approach reinvigorated the heritage brand with a modern twist that redefined woman-power in a contemporary context.

To drive pre-show engagement of Jones’ highly anticipated ready-to-wear debut, the brand had ambassador Zhao Wei and leather goods ambassador Zhang Ruoyun post invitations to the show’s livestream on Weibo. Together, they have a combined social following of 111 million and attracted over 12 million views among Chinese audiences to the virtual presentation as of publication.

Max Mara

To mark Max Mara’s 70th anniversary, Creative Director Ian Griffiths turned the runway into a celebratory procession. The collection featured the house’s iconic 101801 and teddy bear coats but also more functional silhouettes, bomber jackets, quilted gilets, and liners in new colors like khaki and green.

Apart from posting the virtual presentation on Weibo, Max Mara failed to initiate special social efforts. However, its online traffic has been growing organically, thanks to actress Zhang Xiaofei. The new star gained recognition from her acting in the blockbuster film Hi, Mom, which was launched during the Spring Festival. The actress’s endorsement at the 2020 Weibo Night Gala on February 28 resulted in netizens commenting that her appearance and personality perfectly match Max Mara.

Valentino 

Valentino’s Fall 2021 ready-to-wear presentation “Valentino Art Collection” was unveiled at Piccolo Teatro di Milano. The show was part of Pier Paolo Piccioli’s ongoing project, which digitalizes and catalogs over 10,000 pieces to create an interactive archive. Black-and-white tones — along with the brand’s iconic check, lace, and rivet — dominated the line-up, balancing house heritage with sleek playfulness.

The show’s broadcast on Weibo garnered over 6 million views on Weibo within an hour, while its livestream on Tencent Video, featuring Chinese singer Curley G from the girl group Hard Candy, drove considerable traffic for the virtual screening event.

Bally  

Legacy Continua pays tribute to this brand’s 170-year-old heritage and extraordinary leather craftsmanship. For its anniversary, Bally invited Offshore, a well-known Swiss design studio, to create a celebratory monogram. The iconic Bally Stripe has been reinterpreted through an embossing technique that emphasizes a trompe-l’oeil effect and uses 100-percent renewable or recycled materials, as well as natural and environmentally friendly dyeing processes.

Bally’s Chinese (and global) social media accounts have been extremely low-key, and exposure has mainly relied on the social platforms of major publishing companies like Madame Figaro, Rayli, and InStyle, helping the brand gaining 54,000,000 impressions on Weibo.

Salvatore Ferragamo 

Paul Andrew created a “future-positive” world, driven by digital improvements and sustainability for a greater post-COVID social context. Influenced by the American science fiction film Gattaca, the brand’s Fall season presented an optimistic yet futuristic vibe through the designer’s revisions of typical uniforms in sectors like military and sports.

While the embrace of digital and sustainable trends should resonate with young generations in China, the brand did not emphasize that enough on social channels, unlike some other brands. Though the brand’s official account still received a high engagement (thanks to fashion KOLs such as @Mr.Bags and @Fil小白), some social followers wanted more visibility for its ambassador Lin Yun within the brand’s campaign.

MM6 Maison Margiela 

MM6 Maison Margiela presented a topsy-turvy show this Fall 2021 season, drawing inspiration from the uncertainty and absurdity of our post-pandemic situation. The reversed blazers, inside-out denim jacket, and jeans, as well as upside-down knitwear, all conjured up an inverted world, based in a theatrical cabaret setting from 1920s Paris.

Two teasers and a five-minute presentation were posted on the official Weibo account, garnering nearly 13,500 views. While the brand maintains a low profile on social media, the show still generated impressive organic online content as well as positive reactions from Chinese audiences.

Shuting Qiu 

The Shanghai-based designer showed her Fall 2021 collection via a three-minute short film titled Water Ripples, which was filmed in the designer’s tranquil hometown of Hangzhou. Standing next to lakes and rivers, the models reflected the movement and fluidity of time. This collection also paid homage to the Swiss feminist artist Miriam Cahn, who explores the dynamics between self and surroundings. More than half of the garments were made from a stock of previous collections and newly introduced sustainably-sourced faux fur.

The designer brand has now built recognition in the local market due to endorsements from celebrities like Jolin Tsai, Wang Linkai, and Coco Lee, as well as a partnership with local retailer LABELHOOD.

Ports 1961 

Art director Karl Templer and his design team once again embarked on a journey of inspiration and discovery. By blurring the boundaries of functionality and attractiveness, the collection added a touch of homely comfort to the brand’s looks: a sculptural coat with buttons on the back, a flowing windbreaker, and layered skirts, each showcasing the new season’s indoor aesthetic.

An invitation to watch with Sun Rui, a member of the all-girl group SNH48, drove exposure to the brand’s Weibo account. Rui’s fans greeted this with positivity, saying, “Thank you for inviting SunRui, truly looking forward to the show.”

Sara Wong 

For Fall 21, Sara Wong (who is the creative director of her eponymous brand) presented her collection through a video-story created in partnership with Vogue Talents. The collection, called Tartary — Shades of Mongolian, was inspired by the 19th New Culture Movement in China when several Mongolian intellectuals returned from overseas and brought Western culture to China.

The inspiration was well-received by Chinese audiences, who praised its originality and called it “sublime.” Surprisingly, the Shenzhen-based brand failed to promote the show in its home market, where it has an impressive 183 stores and has won considerable notoriety on digital platforms like Little Red Book 10,000+ UGC. The video-story has reached over 5,000 views on Instagram but only 540 on Weibo.

Hui 

Zhao Huizhou is the founder and creative director behind this Shenzhen-based brand in its seventh outing at Milan Fashion Week. A few days before the launch of its Fall 2021 film, the brand invited several influential people to offer good luck to the brand, which launched a competition to encourage netizens to like and repost. The cultural elements can be seen in shadow puppetry elements that resonated with Chinese netizens and raised sentiments.

Dolce & Gabbana 

For Fall 2021, Dolce Gabbana presented DG Next Chapter, created in collaboration with Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia. The collection blended craftsmanship with technology while exploring the brand’s made-by-hand (or ‘Fatto a Mano’) craft through the new lens of robotics research and Artificial Intelligence. It was a colorful ’90s vibe, mixed with futuristic elements; robots even carried iconic handbags. In some way, Dolce & Gabbana is helping define the next chapter of fashion.

Netizens have not openly welcomed the return of Dolce & Gabbana to China since its 2018 scandal, and the Little Red Book keywords “dolce gabbana” are still banned from the search engine. And Chinese audiences did not spare Dolce Gabbana’s pre-show announcement, furiously commenting “Get out of China” and “Please don’t forget his insult to Chinese people.”

Reported by Wenzhuo Wu, Lisa Nan, and Gemma A. Williams.

China secondhand market depop

What Can China Learn From the West About Secondhand Fashion?

Long before sustainability became a central concern among socially conscious global citizens, Gen Z and millennial consumers in the West were relying on secondhand apparel as a badge of authenticity.

Emma Davidson, fashion features editor for style magazine Dazed, told CCI, “When I think back to going to charity shops [as a teenager], it was to supplement my wardrobe with cool pieces, rather than build a wardrobe in a sustainable way.”

According to Deloitte, the current love for thrifting among Gen Z youth derived partly as a result of the Great Recession more than a decade ago, when the oldest members of that demographic were in their formative early teen years. For them, part of growing up with financial hardship meant learning to save by shopping secondhand.

In contrast, China’s Gen Zers came of age during an astonishingly rapid rise in affluence, reaching adolescence as the nation saw the greatest annual GDP growth among the world’s major economies. As they reached adulthood, they have come to be known as the “moonlight clan” for their ability to spend an entire month’s salary over the course of a single lunar cycle, boasting an average monthly purchasing power of RMB 3,501 ($507).

For these Chinese consumers, the cheapest finds are less important, and the secondhand luxury market may hold greater appeal. Yet resale only accounts for around 5 percent of the overall luxury market in China, whereas in the United States it represents 31 percent of total sales, according to a 2020 report by China’s University of International Business and Economics and Isheyipai.

China’s demand for luxury goods, coupled with a cultural superstition that used clothing is unlucky, meant that the potential market for used apparel was largely ignored until recent years, a period during which secondhand sales boomed in the West. According to ThredUp, the resale sector is set to be larger than the fast-fashion market by 2029.

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Alibaba launched its re-commerce platform Idle Fish in 2012, with China’s PoizonPlum, and Ponhu arriving on the scene a few years later in 2015, followed by luxury livestreaming platform Feiyu’s move into secondhand sales in 2018. In the West, leading luxury resale platforms Vestiaire Collective and The RealReal launched in 2009 and 2011, respectively, focusing on the promotion of a circular fashion economy while also capitalizing on consumer interest in archival pieces.

Vestiaire Collective has developed a high-end editorial brand image with a green conscience, which has been enhanced by its work with A-list influencers including Chloe Sevigny, Olivia Palermo, and, more recently, fashion activist Nicola Cheung Young. The retailer’s marketing consistently focuses on sharing the stories behind items offered for sale in order to elevate the perception of secondhand fashion, such as through a YouTube series of interviews with expert vintage sellers or a 2019 Selfridges pop-up featuring rare pieces by the likes of VersacePaco Rabanne, and Maison Margiela.

As its name implies, e-commerce platform TheRealReal prides itself on professionally authenticated pre-loved art and designer fashion. Sasha Skoda, women’s category director at The RealReal, told CCI that, “By taking possession of all items and handling the entire process for the consumer – authenticating, merchandising, photographing and shipping – we established newfound trust and ease that I think helped set a real precedent in resale.”

The introduction of brick-and-mortar spaces has helped TheRealReal combat any lingering concerns from buyers about product authenticity (an issue that China is all too familiar with). “We opened Luxury Consignment Offices and stores where people could come in, engage with our experts, understand resale value, and touch and feel a Birkin or try on a Rolex,” explained Skoda. “These physical locations played a big part in introducing luxury consignment to those who weren’t quite comfortable shopping online for more high-value items.”

Opulent pieces with a history are central to TheRealReal. Chief Operating Officer Rati Levesque said, “We’ve seen more consumers adopt a heightened value consciousness and appreciation for sustainability. We’re seeing them shop with an investment mindset.” The top consumer trends at TheRealReal are investment pieces, new capsule wardrobe essentials, and vintage styles from the late 1990s to early 2000s.

Recommended ReadingUnderstanding The Power Of Luxury’s Iconic ProductsBy Erwan Rambourg
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Founded in 2011, trailblazing resale app Depop also aims to satisfy the appetite for fashion from the turn of the millennium, though at a lower price point, as some 55.7 percent of its users are teenagers. The platform has succeeded in fostering community around a shared affinity for cool style (rather than what’s seen on the runway) and places sellers at the center of its marketing strategy. Apart from appearing in every campaign, Depop sellers have also been scouted to join the head office in London, becoming an instrumental part of how the company brands individuality.

Depop’s pop-up at Selfridges in 2019 further cemented its status as an epicenter for the production of social capital around subcultures and style. According to Dazed magazine’s Davidson, “Given the homogenization of the high street and behemoths like PLTBoohoo, et cetera, dominating the scene with the same line-up of clothes, Depop offers an opportunity to cultivate something different from the masses.”

Francesca Muston, vice president of fashion at trend forecasting firm WGSN, added that “Secondhand marketplaces like Depop have introduced a social selling element to resale.” By incorporating features such as creative product photography and direct messaging, Depop highlights how sales and social media can be merged on one platform.

“Resale is no longer about buying or selling something cheaply,” said Muston. “It’s now allowing consumer demand to set the price based on what is arguably a better representation of its true value.”

Whether that value is a socially-constructed obsession with streetwear, or archival fashion that was last seen on a catwalk in the 1990s, successful secondhand retailers share common ground in their understanding of the power of storytelling, a strategy that can be incorporated to both appeal to China’s Gen Z and millennial shoppers and glamorize the concept of used clothing for older generations who may still be unsure of participating in the fast-growing, sustainable industry.

This post originally appeared on Content Commerce Insider, our sister publication on branded entertainment.

Farfetch Tmall China

Is China Ready for Farfetch’s Tmall Launch?

What Happened: On the heels of its landmark deal with Alibaba and Richemont last November, Farfetch is finally breaking ground in China. On March 1, the fashion e-tailer officially launched its store on Tmall, offering local consumers 3,500 brands such as Loewe, Off-White, and Pomellato — 95 percent of which did not have their own set-up on the site before. 

Farfetch’s new storefront is front and center on Tmall Luxury Pavilion’s homepage, boasting a premium permanent banner and one of five main navigation buttons. To entice shoppers, the British-Portuguese company is collaborating with Chinese influencers, running promotions its opening week, as well as providing the option of interest-free installments. And it’s working: these activations have already helped the marketplace draw 25,000 followers as it begins to refine its localization strategy.

Jing Take: After 12 years of operation, Farfetch reported last week that it hit profitability for the first time in 2020, thanks to its digital-first approach and budding China presence. The launch on Tmall is not only set to accelerate this growth, but also help the business test the market and position itself for deeper digital penetration. As CEO José Neves told Women’s Wear Daily about the e-commerce learning curve: “These platforms, they are a Google and an Instagram inside an Amazon. Just because you have a shop does not mean you maximize your traffic.” Credit Suisse analyst Stephen Ju forecasted that Farfetch’s active shoppers could hit 30 million in the next five years if it plays its China cards right. 

For brands, the Farfetch-Alibaba deal means access to one of the world’s largest stores and its 779 million consumers — a drastic change for many that did not have an e-commerce presence in the country to begin with. (Because China has strict laws about how foreign businesses operate and sometimes requires them to partner with an existing Chinese business, the barrier to entry is often too high.) Now, however, even small brands get to swim with the big fishes and profit off China’s insatiable luxury appetite. Senreve, which already had a Tmall platform outside of Farfetch, has seen growth in China surge 10 times year-over-year with its online and offline operations.

As Farfetch starts to “test and fail and learn” in China, it remains to be seen how its Tmall store will differ from competitors like Net-a-Porter. Moreover, as other e-commerce players ramp up their digital strategies — Mytheresa, for one, recently saw its profits double from new users — the company has a long way to go to win over Chinese consumers. But having fan favorites like Alibaba and Richemont in its corner will certainly help.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

Brand Purpose Covid Prada

3 Reasons ‘Purpose’ Is Today’s Hot New Marketing Trend

Key Takeaways:

  • During the early days of the pandemic, LVMH won fans by devoting its perfume production lines to making hand sanitizer for French hospitals, as did Prada, which manufactured 80,000 medical overalls and 110,000 masks to distribute to Italian healthcare workers.

  • Today, socially-conscious initiatives resonate well with consumers, and the pandemic has provided an even greater reason for luxury brands to intensify a purpose-driven image.

  • Over 62 percent of customers said they were more likely to reward brands that took extra steps to ensure their employees’ wellbeing during the lockdown.

Luxury brands did not hesitate to demonstrate a spirit of solidarity when helping to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. A distinctive feature was luxury brands’ ability to provide practical and visible assistance. Many companies quickly switched to manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) and other essential supplies. For example, LVMH devoted its perfume production lines to making hand sanitizer for French hospitals, while Prada manufactured 80,000 medical overalls and 110,000 masks to distribute to Italian healthcare workers.

But purpose-driven initiatives are not new for these brands, and luxury consumers expect their brands to take a position on social issues. For example, Gucci’s Chime For Change initiative, set up in 2013, has been instrumental for gender equality. The campaign has raised nearly $17 million to support projects in 89 countries. As these initiatives resonate well with socially-conscious consumers, the pandemic has provided an even greater reason for luxury brands to intensify a purpose-driven image. But ultimately, stakeholder pressures are crucial for change, disrupting how luxury brands deliver value beyond their products or service offerings.

Consumer Belief

Data presents a compelling case that consumers do care — and care deeply. According to YouGov Direct data, 60 percent of Americans are more likely to purchase from a company that has aided in the COVID-19 pandemic (YouGov, 2020). Similar findings were reported in a PWC survey in France. However, Chinese consumers are even more likely to reward companies that are perceived as delivering a positive impact. In an Edelman survey, 88 percent of respondents agreed that the way brands respond to the coronavirus crisis significantly impacts their future purchase intentions.

Recommended Reading4 Reasons Consumers Hate Your Luxury BrandBy Glyn Atwal
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Investor Sentiment

Investors are increasingly using criteria like the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) rating system to determine their investment decisions. ESG screening has even entered into mainstream investment policy. And the impact of COVID-19 will only accelerate the use of ESG in investment decision-making. According to an ISS survey of global assets managers, five percent of respondents reported that social issues attract more of their attention now than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. This phenomenon is reinforced by a J.P. Morgan investor survey, in which 55 percent of respondents expect COVID-19 to be a positive catalyst for ESG investment over the next three years.

Talent Engagement

Talent engagement refers to the emotional commitment an employee has to his or her organization. This issue matters because engagement correlates with critical human factors like motivation. BCG research shows that 67 percent of millennials expect employers to have a purpose and that their jobs will have a societal impact. This research implies that companies supporting Covid-19 initiatives will own greater employee engagement. In a UK survey, 63 percent of respondents said employee engagement had increased during the COVID-19 crisis.

Indeed, the outbreak of COVID-19 has certainly demonstrated how companies value their employees. For instance, Lululemon, Sephora, Apple, and Abercrombie and Fitch continued to pay their US employees while their stores were closed in the initial weeks of the lockdown. It pays for brands to see the bigger picture. According to a Deloitte survey, 62 percent of customers said they were more likely to reward brands that took extra steps to ensure their employees’ wellbeing during the lockdown.

COVID-19 will continue to disrupt the traditional luxury business model. Today, purpose matters. It is not just about ticking the right boxes. Moral authenticity must be the cornerstone of any purpose-driven marketing campaign — ask any consumer, investor, or employee. So, what is your ‘purpose strategy’?

Glyn Atwal is an Associate Professor at Burgundy School of Business (France). He is co-author of Luxury Brands in China and India (Palgrave Macmillan).

Luxury game new rules

Luxury Is A New Game. These Are The New Rules

Key Takeaways:

  • With a handful of exceptions, most luxury brands lost money in 2020, with drastic declines in their core regions (Europe and North America). But these troubles were due to more than just lockdowns.

  • The unprecedented magnitude of China’s rapid growth in 2020 was a one-time effect. China will still be the top growth driver of the luxury industry in this decade but don’t expect 2020 growth rates to continue.

  • Generation Z (consumers up to 25 years of age) has become the most influential consumer group and will dethrone millennials as the number one customer group for luxury by 2030.

Through a series of webinars, I recently had the chance to share my view on the luxury market in a candid discussion with over 200 luxury brand leaders from around the world. The series was thought-provoking, eye-opening, and even shocking to some participants, initiating deeper reflection on the need for radical change.

My conviction is that luxury brands must be brutally honest about the magnitude of change occurring in the luxury industry. We are not just living in times of disruption and rapid change; we are witnessing the most fundamental change in the recorded history of luxury.

The pandemic disruption has already rattled the luxury industry to its core. With a handful of exceptions, most luxury brands lost money in 2020, with drastic declines in their core regions (Europe and North America). But to assume that this was just a result of closed stores during lockdowns underestimates the deeper shifts happening.

Meanwhile, China’s rapid growth during 2020 was, in its unprecedented magnitude, a one-time effect. These gains were mostly driven by travel restrictions, forcing Chinese customers to purchase their luxury goods in Mainland China rather than Paris, Milan, Florence, or New York. It also meant they redirected their budgets — normally reserved for overseas trips — towards purchases of jewelry, handbags, fashion items, cars, and more. Once travel is possible again (some predict by mid or late-2021), many of these one-off effects will vanish. While I predict China will still be the clear growth driver of the luxury industry in this decade, we can’t expect growth rates like those in 2020.

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In other words, the pandemic reshuffled the cards, led to brutal short-term spending shifts across regions/categories, and impacted consumer sentiment, behaviors, and expectations. However, brands hoping things will get back to “normal” after the pandemic will receive a rude awakening.

The game of luxury is changing at an unprecedented rate, and – importantly – the speed of that change is accelerating. Generation Z (consumers up to 25 years of age) has become the most influential consumer group. They already contribute  5-to-15 percent of luxury sales (depending on the country), and by 2030, they will dethrone millennials as the number one customer group for luxury.

Today, they are already influencing the purchase behaviors of millennials, who, in turn, had been the trendsetters for Gen Xers and above them. Generation Zers are, without a doubt, the smartest luxury consumers ever. They scrutinize every purchase, they do their (digital) homework, and they know more about luxury categories and brands than any generation before them. They are the most difficult to convince and are the most value-driven.

Because Gen Z has spent more time on social networks and digital platforms than any previous generation, they value interpersonal experiences even more and expect them to count. Brands that do not provide superior experiences — either online or off — are simply not relevant to them. And don’t expect them to suddenly like your brand as they mature because preferences are firmly formed in one’s early years.

Their attention spans are shorter than any generation before them — not because they are dumb, as their haters believe. In fact, it is the opposite: They are unbelievably smart and have learned to process information and data more efficiently than any previous generation. With so many choices available to them, they refuse to waste time. Gen Zers see themselves as brands, so, consequently, luxury brands must match their values.

These attributes have changed the luxury game in the most profound way imaginable, as 95 percent of purchase preferences today are now decided during the digital journey. That means luxury brands either win or lose across the many digital touchpoints customers see — long before they even enter a physical or digital “store.” But to win this digital game requires a competitive digital advantage, which requires sophisticated digital infrastructures that allow brands to measure consumer sentiment and competitive dynamics in real-time.

When I asked my webinar audience if they could tell me how their brand’s perception had shifted over the past week or month versus their competitors, no one raised their hand. To me, that was a red flag that most brands — from market leaders to small brands — are not equipped with the right tools or insights to achieve digital competitive advantages.

And yet, this fault can be deadly if not addressed immediately. The new game requires digital leadership, not just the digital transformations all companies must suffer. Brands also need to know how consumer sentiments are shifting because they will underestimate the competitive activities aimed at their customer base. I have seen brands lose 20-40 percent of their customers within two-to-four years because they did not understand the magnitude of their competition and digital change.

But to truly reach younger customers, brand storytelling must also drastically improve. Luxury brand storytelling is a massive weakness for many brands. They still focus too much on item features while neglecting to clarify their brand equity aspirations. Many of them got away with this position when communicating to Gen X but aren’t going to with Gen Z. For them to reach the most sophisticated and discerning customers, brands must be authentic and convey relevant content and messages, which requires real-time customer insights. Otherwise, brands will dump millions of dollars into advertising that will never break through — all while their brand equities and sales drop.

The new game of luxury will be rewarding for brands that do their homework. Brands with proper brand positioning, real-time insights, and an understanding of sentiment shifts that allows them to create exceptional luxury experiences will win. But most importantly, they have to be authentic to connect with their customers better than their competitors, especially emerging ones. Over the next five years, as Gen Z takes over, we will see many established brands lose their relevance. New brands are ready to launch and have much deeper insights into younger customers and local cultures. They also have the digital savviness that many established brands lack.

Today, most brand experiences are not creating extreme value, and very few can consistently create magic or desire. While luxury brands always talk about the luxury experience, they rarely deliver it. And when dealing with Gen Z, the most experience-seeking generation, that is deadly.

No brand, no matter how big, is safe. Only the ability to reinvent their value creation models will save them. Brands cannot just stay relevant; they must gain a competitive advantage.

Daniel Langer is CEO of the luxury, lifestyle and consumer brand strategy firm Équité, and the professor of luxury strategy and extreme value creation at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He consults some of the leading luxury brands in the world, is the author of several luxury management books, a global keynote speaker, and holds luxury masterclasses in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Follow @drlanger

Anti-Asian Attacks Organizations Support

As Anti-Asian Attacks Hike, Here’s How Brands Can Help

Over the last year, Asian Americans have not just been battling for their health and livelihoods but for their lives.

Blamed for the so-called “Kung Flu,” hate crimes against this demographic have jumped by 1,900 percent in New York — from 3 cases in 2019 to 28 in 2020 — with many more incidents unreported or not classified as hate crimes. Nationwide, over 2,800 race-based verbal and physical attacks were reported firsthand to the Stop AAPI Hate site from March to December 2020. Several on the receiving end of this violence have been the elderly, including an 89-year-old Chinese woman set on fire in Brooklyn and a 61-year-old Filipino man slashed with a boxcutter on a subway. 

To raise awareness around this crime surge, Asian Americans are now using the hashtag #StopAsianHate to amplify news coverage as well as share their own experiences with discrimination. From prominent Asian celebrities like Olivia Munn and Henry Golding to fashion influencers like Phillip Lim and Kimora Lee Simmons, those with a platform are encouraging others to take a stand.

Brands, too, have begun breaking their silence. Kate Spade, Nike, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, and Valentino, among others recently made statements online condemning racism, though many simply offered variations of white text on black squares. But as speaking out on social movements becomes increasingly expected from businesses (Edelman found that 53 percent of customers agree every brand has a responsibility to get involved in at least one social issue), it’s not enough to “stand united.” Beyond talk, businesses need to take action — and perhaps the easiest way to do so is by donating. 

 

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For companies looking to make a difference, here are three organizations that can directly help the Asian American community.

Stop AAPI Hate 

Launched in March 2020 in response to the escalating xenophobia, Stop AAPI Hate is the leading aggregator of anti-Asian hate incidents in the US. The nonprofit and organizer coalition offers multilingual resources and technical assistance to impacted community members, supports restorative justice measures, and pushes for policies that reinforce civil rights protection. Learn more here

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC is one of five affiliates under the umbrella organization Advancing Justice, which advocates for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans. The nonprofit ensures Asian Americans can fully participate in democracy by providing legal referrals, organizing youth leadership summits, and building local partnerships through its 130-organization strong network which spans 30 states. Following the spike in attacks, AAJC now offers training workshops to break down the “spectrum of disrespect” Asian Americans face — from microaggressions to violence — and educate others on bystander intervention and conflict de-escalation. Learn more here

Asian Mental Health Collective

In addition to reporting crimes and safeguarding civic rights, it is also crucial to keep the community emotionally safe. That’s where the Asian Mental Health Collective comes in. The group works to destigmatize mental illnesses — which are often compounded by culturally-specific barriers like intergenerational trauma — while making wellness resources more accessible to Asian Americans. Through their interview series, podcasts, meet-up groups and other events, the nonprofit hopes to facilitate the difficult, but necessary, conversations. Learn more here

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg (for more organizations, check out the New York Magazine’s list.) Other ways companies can support Asian Americans include starting dialogue with employees and consumers, assisting Asian-owned small businesses, improving diversity within their organization, holding lawmakers and other leaders accountable, and continuing to educate themselves on the Asian American experience, which is too often erased by the model minority myth.

The #StopAsianHate movement has dismantled the notion that Asian Americans don’t experience modern-day discrimination. But the hate didn’t start with COVID-19 and won’t end with it either — not unless society collectively acts. While businesses that take a stand can potentially influence the issue and even win over the country’s socially-conscious consumers in the process, those that are complacent will be seen as complicit. And backlash in this economy is not something any brand can afford.

Beijing SKP Luxury Mall

Is Hohhot Luxury’s Next Hotspot?

What Happened: SKP has announced it will open a flagship in Hohhot, the provincial capital of Inner Mongolia. Local media outlets reported that SKP Beijing garnered $2.7 billion in sales over 2020, surpassing famed luxury destination Harrods. And according to Beijing Business Daily, the high-end mall has been China’s top department store by revenue for the last ten consecutive years. SKP’s state-owned parent company, Beijing Hualian Group (BHG), is growing its luxury retail network by building additional sites in Hangzhou, Chengdu, and the new second-tier city Kunming. BHG owns two publicly-listed companies and several holding companies primarily focused on hypermarkets, supermarkets, department stores, and commercial properties.

Jing Take: The immense spending power of high-net-worth individuals in China is no longer disputable. Even COVID-19 did little to halt it. According to Bain & Company, China’s 2020 domestic luxury goods consumption went against the trend, predicted to achieve 48 percent growth ($53 billion). So the next piece of the puzzle for luxury brands and companies is where to find these new consumers in lower-tier cities. Recently, both international names (Maison Margiela, Gentle Monster) and local players (Harmay and Shang Xia) have opened stores in Central and Western China, and Chengdu in particularly has emerged as a viable alternative to Shanghai and Beijing.

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But progress is slow, and brands are hesitant. After all, Chengdu has been tipped as a luxury hotspot for years. Hohhot, on the other hand, is less of a safe bet yet, still tantalizing.  Ten year ago, Louis Vuitton tried it out for size and failed – it opened a boutique there in 2010 and shuttered four years later. And as the city commercializes, SKP will face competition.

However, the demand for luxury goods in lower-tier markets is undeniable and its residents have seen their incomes rise. Now too, the consumption landscape is dramatically different: In 2019, Deloitte found that third- and lower-tier cities had shown strong spending growth and purchasing power. That same year, Seeco reported that these cities were highly-ranked in annual purchase frequency as well. With its latest move, the influential SKP is beating a path into these cities, hoping to be as the locals say  the first person to eat crabs. Let’s see if Hohhot is worth the risk.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

C-beauty Disruptor Florasis Taps Rising Boy Band TNT As New Ambassador

The Social Edition is our weekly series which deep dives into luxury initiatives in China’s social media landscape. Every week, we highlight brand campaigns distributed on Chinese digital platforms — WeChat, Weibo, Tmall, Douyin, and beyond.

Our coverage spotlights global luxury brands, global beauty brands, and local Chinese brands. The latter gives insight into some of China’s most successful campaigns, which often come from local players, and are outside of the beauty and fashion space.

In this week’s roundup, we look at three campaigns, including Peacebird’s latest capsule collection in collaboration with homegrown designer brands, Florasis’ new brand ambassador announcement, and Clarins’ newly launched commercial film.

Peacebird’s New Capsule Collection Redefines Originality

BRAND Peacebird
CATEGORY Fashion
PLATFORMS Weibo, WeChat
MEDIUM Short film, Image
FEATURED TALENTS Ouyang Nana (20M Weibo followers)

OVERVIEW 
Peacebird teamed up with six domestic independent fashion brands — XU ZHI, WMWM, GARÇON BY GÇOGCN, CALVIN LUO, NOMANOMAN and STAFFONLY — to extend its “SuperChina” initiative. The designers extracted iconic elements of their respective brands to create a capsule collection for dynamic Gen Z consumers, which debuted on February 22. The campaign also invited six young talents from various areas, including the musician Cacien, fashion publicist Yuri, street dancer Fiona, showroom director Xiaoxiao, fashion art director Yiniyin, and digital media artist Maming, to interpret the theme of the series via their unique personal styles.

NETIZEN REACTION
Peacebird’s brand ambassador Ouyang Nana also posted a short video introducing the capsule collection and her styling tips on Weibo, generating 46,700 views and driving online traffic of the campaign hashtag #PeacebirdDesignerReplicaCapsuleCollection. However, one Weibo user @Yaokoubaisi commented that the brand’s style tends to be weird and hard to fit into daily looks.

VERDICT
The “SuperChina” initiative, which was launched last October, continues to explore the dynamic definitions of Chinese youth culture through drawing inspiration from young talents. Given this, Peacebird’s collaboration with six representative homegrown designer brands not only can further push the boundaries of domestic youth power, but also enrich the brand DNA with originality and an avant-garde spirit. Though the reception of this capsule collection was not necessarily better received than other Peacebird collabs, such as with popular cartoon characters like TED bear, these initiatives only help to increase brand equity in the long-term.

C-Beauty Brand Florasis Adds A Rising Boy Band As Brand Ambassador

BRAND Florasis (Huaxizi)
CATEGORY Beauty
PLATFORMS Weibo, WeChat, Douyin, Kuaishou, QQ Music, Tmall
MEDIUM Short-film, Image
FEATURED TALENTS Teens in Times consists of 7 members including Ma Jiaqi, Ding Chengxin, Song Yaxuan, Liu Yaowen, Zhang Zhenyuan, Yan Haoxiang, He Junlin (47M Weibo followers in total)

OVERVIEW 
On February 23, the C-Beauty brand Florasis (named Huaxizi in Chinese) announced that the boy group Teens in Times will be its brand ambassador on its official social channels. The collaboration also marks the fourth anniversary of the brand with the unique origin of “ancient Chinese style.” As the brand noted, “Teens in Times represents the spirits of Chinese young generations from inside and outside.” To maximize the online and offline engagement, the brand will launch open-screen ads on Weibo, Douyin, Kuaishou, and QQ Music, as well as billboards and digital signage displays across over 20 cities.

NETIZEN REACTION
The campaign hashtag #TeensInTimesFlorasis has gone viral on Weibo, with over 400 million views within one day. The two-minute campaign video featuring the seven teen boys in an ancient Chinese setting received over 25.9 million views, which is a considerable number for a commercial video. The boy group’s huge fan base is fueling the online campaign traffic with organic engagement.

VERDICT
Appointing male faces as brand ambassadors is not novel for beauty brands in China. The partnership with one of the most popular Chinese boy groups helps Florasis increase its brand awareness and social influence. Though the typical “Little Fresh Meat” look has recently been looked down upon by Chinese authorities on social media, the campaign spotlights the power of youth and how this spirit complements the brand’s dedication to Chinese cultural legacy. Moreover, an endorsement by the state-run media Xinhuanet guarantees the brand’s political position and promising growth in China’s vast C-beauty market.

How Clarins Enchanted China’s Booming Female Working Class

BRAND Clarins
CATEGORY Beauty
PLATFORMS Weibo, WeChat, Tmall
MEDIUM Short-film

OVERVIEW 
The French cosmetic brand Clarins, owned by L’Oréal, collaborated with the digital media company Xinshixiang on a short film called Deep Breathing. Launched on February 22, the film promotes the brand’s Bright Plus serum, which helps revive skin dullness and targets all types of dark spots. The three episodes showed common workplace frustrations for women working within China’s hustle culture.

NETIZEN REACTION
The three-minute commercial film has received 140,000 total views on Weibo thus far. Netizens find the story highly resonant and their shared experiences about staying up late due to overwhelming workloads. They were also impressed with the film’s realistic perspective and high-quality production. Moreover, many female users confirmed their need to invest in luxury skincare products that improve skin health.

VERDICT
The so-called “womenomics” sector has been sweeping the luxury market thanks to rising female employment rates in China and the more intense pressure women face from stereotypical social expectations as compared to their male peers. But this shift is also creating women shoppers who have higher disposable income and purchasing power. Therefore, self-purchasing and impulse buying by themselves are taking over gifting in the female sector in China. Discerning players like Clarins are tapping into this trend and leveraging the rising self-awareness of female consumers in China by showing a female perspective in their campaigns instead of the male gaze.

Luxury Demand Rebound Western Consumers Tiffany

The Luxury Rebound — Brace, Brace, a New Era of Exuberance Has Started

Key Takeaways:

  • Human nature — and some favorable macro-economic factors — have led to a rebound of luxury sales growth already towards the end of last year.

  • As we lap the early impacts of the pandemic spread from February-March 2020, growth should mechanically be very high, a counterintuitive reality given the world remains broadly restricted and travel still shut down.

  • Purchases could become more mindful, more skewed to bigger brands and bestselling items with more demanding consumers but expect exuberance of growth to take you by surprise.

A surprising late 2020 rebound

A year ago, I was happily meetings friends and clients, going out to restaurants, and enjoying life in the Big Apple. And then, mid-March, everything suddenly shutdown, and I have been working from home ever since and reading articles about the great New York exodus, how the city would never be the same again, and how maybe, according to one New York Post article, it is the case that “New York City is dead forever.” 

To be sure, the city is clearly not the lively one I grew up in, as friends flying in from less restrictive states (think Florida) always remind me, commenting on how dull it now feels. So all of this grim reality should tell us luxury demand has evaporated in New York, right? Wrong! Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany are all still bustling. Why? 

Human nature prevails, of course. Wealthy consumers, stuck at home, have come back to spend on luxury. True, they have been incentivized to do so, as they entered the pandemic being wealthy, plus a combination of favorable equity markets, secondary property markets and staycationing has enabled them to feel even more wealthy. But even before financial considerations, human nature has prevailed retailers talking to “a survival trade,” i.e., “I’ve been through this, it’s ok to reward myself.” What happened in New York with local clienteles, and in parts of Europe with locals there as well, is not too dissimilar to what happened in mainland China a lot earlier on in 2020. 

Even more surprising to the brands was the rebound of Western consumers given very few would have imagined them to be so engaged and motivated to purchase luxury goods while circumstances remain so dire. Sure, there are exceptions. The UK vaccination roll out, for instance, has been impressive. But in most of the Western world, restrictions are still painful (think France) and COVID-19 fatalities remain saddening high (think US). And yet the rebound has started.

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“Anniversarying” the shock

Go back to the pandemic timeline and you will remember that by last February, most of China’s stores were shut and by mid-March both Europe and the US as well. You don’t need to be a math guru to understand that if luxury sales for any given brand were halved in the March-May period last year, all things being equal this year, they should double. The media tends to sensationalize what otherwise should just be a logical outcome. Last April, the press was all about how an Hermès Guangzhou store beat record sales when it reopened post-pandemic. 

Well, considering Chinese citizens had bought nothing for two months and, more importantly, that most sales to Chinese nationals used to take place abroad — but now going abroad was an impossibility with all borders being shut — what was optically incredible was just plain logical. Similarly, if brands double their sales in the March-May 2021 period year-over-year, the media will likely highlight “astonishing sales,” when we will just have gone back to 2019 levels, plain and simple. And, as I just published my book, Future Luxe, discussing a strong decade of post COVID-19 growth for luxury, I could go around on a “I told you so” tour, but I won’t… 

Not just about the optics

All in, the optics will look good this year for the luxury industry. But beyond the optics, luxury has emerged as being way more important to wealthy individuals’ lives than we could have imagined. Sure, big brands with iconic ranges are outperforming, while smaller, independent companies struggle. Sure, consumers are asking more questions and greenwashing is making way to ensure a proper conscience. But beyond the 2021 rebound, I remain confident that luxury demand can thrive. The crisis has improved the quality of management and sales staff in the sector, the level of knowledge and engagement to consumers and, as I discussed last week, a shift from product to purpose will make the relationship between brands and consumers that much stronger. Luxury is by definition something you don’t need but it changes your perspective, puts a smile on your face, makes you hopeful and enthused and we still need that right now.

Erwan Rambourg has been a top-ranked analyst covering the luxury and sporting goods sectors. After eight years as a Marketing Manager in the luxury industry, notably for LVMH and Richemont, he is now a Managing Director and Global Head of Consumer & Retail equity research. He is also the author of Future Luxe: What’s Ahead for the Business of Luxury (2020) and The Bling Dynasty: Why the Reign of Chinese Luxury Shoppers Has Only Just Begun (2014). 

Margaret Zhang Vogue China Fashion Media

What Margaret Zhang’s Vogue Hire Says About Fashion Media In China

What Happened: Margaret Zhang has been appointed the new head of Vogue China, confirming previous rumors that she was in line for the role. At 27, she sits at the opposite end of the age spectrum to her experienced predecessor, Angelica Cheung, and will become the youngest-ever editor-in-chief at Vogue. The Australian-born Zhang cut her teeth at the company by producing two digital covers for the Vogue China spin-off, Vogue Me (she also models and fronted one) but hardly has any editorial experience. Instead, she has established herself as a global-facing fashion influencer and digital maven, amassing over one million followers on Instagram, thanks to her blogging and photography.

Jing Take: China certainly is a land of opportunity where, as the saying goes, “anything is possible.” Zhang’s unusual appointment also speaks to the country’s love of a polymath, which has been a key driving force behind its economic and creative rise (the ambitious Zhang also directs, wrote a film script, co-founded the consulting company Background, and worked with companies like Airbnb, YouTube, Moncler, and Mulberry.)

Vogue’s hiring news was greeted with much positivity in China. And, at a time when print publishing is struggling to maintain its relevance in a dynamic, fast-paced digital landscape, Vogue must be applauded for this inspired and aspirational choice. The bold move also indicates a changing of the guard and an acknowledgment of the way target audiences are now consuming and being exposed to media primarily through social channels. Vogue China has a print run of 1.6 million copies but has yet to become the fashion Bible in China that it is considered elsewhere in the world. Who knows if the internationally-minded Zhang can resonate with mainland audiences or has the credibility to ensure Vogue‘s reputation in the market? But, for now, she has moved from sitting front row to voicing fashion’s most valuable global market.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

Mytheresa Earnings 2020

Mytheresa Rides a “Record High” of First-Time Buyers

While other retailers toiled and tumbled through the holiday season, Mytheresa thrived. 

On February 25, the luxury fashion platform released its first results since debuting on the New York Stock Exchange in January, with net income more than doubling from 6.3 million euros to 15.7 million euros. Meanwhile, sales increased 32.9 percent to 158.6 million euros in the three months ending December 31.

This growth was fueled by more than 100,000 first-time buyers and over half a million active customers, up 28.2 percent from last year, as global lockdowns accelerated the shift to e-commerce.

“Mytheresa is about inspiration not aggregation,” said CEO Michael Kliger about the company’s Q2 strategy. “It is about an unrivaled, highly curated offering, a focus on high-end luxury customers, sophisticated technologies, and a first-class in-house managed service experience.” 

According to Kliger, acquiring and retaining customers is about putting brand relationships at the center. As such, the Munich-based firm, which curates from over 200 global names, not only launched exclusive capsule collections and pre-launches with luxury giants such as Valentino, Moncler, and Max Mara, but also teamed up the designers of Khaite, Wardrobe NYC, Eéra and other influencers to host digital events. 

China is also on the company’s agenda, as signaled by the physical VIC event held in Shanghai last December. Guests joined Gusto Luxe’s co-founder Chloé Reuter, fashion curator Boko Rok, and Mytheresa’s fashion buying director Tiffany Hsu for a fireside chat on current fashion and art trends, while catching glimpses of the exclusive Christian Louboutin x Mytheresa and Khaite x Mytheresa capsule series. This follows the appointment of actress Cecilia Song as the first brand ambassador for Greater China in September.

Mytheresa invited Chinese fashion bloggers, media, and brand friends to chat about the industry and commemorate the release of a new capsule series in December. Photo: Weibo

Mytheresa’s market share in the mainland remains small, with only a quarter of its business coming from the Asia-Pacific region. But now with the IPO settled and extra money to spend, the German e-tailer is eyeing China for greater expansion to reach its coveted consumer base.

“It is a region where [in] the last decades so much wealth was created, and also it is a region where there is a true appreciation for true luxury products, the craftsmanship, the European heritage,” said Kliger to SCMP.

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However, with the landmark Richemont, Alibaba, and Farfetch partnership threatening to squeeze competitors out of the Chinese luxury e-tail market, the journey won’t be smooth sailing.

Gucci's Content-Commerce Marketing 2020

Why Isn’t Gucci’s Near-Flawless Content-Commerce Strategy More Successful?

All eyes were on the recent release of Gucci’s 2020 annual results to see whether the company could bounce back from the Covid-imposed fallout that swept through the luxury industry. But observers expecting the company to return to growth were disappointed as the Italian luxury giant announced a 10.4% year-on-year drop in fourth-quarter revenue, with North America and Europe recording significant declines.

Gucci reported annual revenue of 7.4 billion Euros ($9 billion) in 2020, a 22.7% drop from the previous year. Those results weren’t just bad for the brand itself, they were a drag on parent Kering, which depends on Gucci for roughly 60% of group revenue.

But looking through Kering’s 2020 financial report, it is clear that Gucci’s performance is far from uniform across global markets. While the brand saw overall sales in the Asia-Pacific region shrink by 8.1% for the full year, sales were up more than 9% in the second half of 2020, powered chiefly by strong growth starting in mid-April in China, where Gucci’s online sales doubled compared to 2019.

And, interestingly, the luxury e-commerce boom in China did not cannibalize in-store sales. Domestic retail luxury shopping was also boosted as a result of travel restrictions that prevented consumers from making their big-ticket purchases on overseas trips to Europe, Japan, and the United States.

Reviewing Gucci’s activities for 2020, it quickly becomes clear that the brand is one of the best in the world at applying content-commerce marketing and sales strategies, begging the question: why didn’t Gucci do even better in 2020?

Leveraging the “clever collaboration” trend also used by competitors like the LVMH-owned Loewe, which recently launched a collection with My Neighbor Totoro, Gucci recently unveiled a Doraemon collaboration for the Year of the Ox, which proved to be a hit in China, and has also teamed up with The North Face and Pokémon Go on global initiatives.

The brand has also been upping its digital focus in China through its ongoing tech-oriented partnership with Tencent and the debut of an official flagship store on Alibaba’s Tmall Luxury Pavilion in December 2020.

Content creation figures heavily in the equation, such as through its GucciFest online film festival in November, which featured films for Chinese designers Rui Zhou and Yueqi Qi in its global lineup, or the “FM520 Gucci radio station” and “520 Gucci Stories” campaign for last year’s May 20 Chinese Valentine’s Day.

Also savvily noting the growing spending power of China’s ACG (Anime, Comics, and Games) enthusiasts, Gucci joined Chanel Beauty as a luxury pioneer in investing in ads shown on video streamer Bilibili’s opening screen, and tapping the esports community via the aforementioned Pokémon Go collaboration. The brand also adapted the Chinese e-commerce livestreaming model globally with the rollout of personalized live video shopping, while using livestreaming to present its Epilogue collection across various Chinese platforms such as Weibo, drawing an audience of more than 16 million.

Another trend that Gucci jumped on last year was the growth of secondhand luxury, inking partnerships with third-party platforms such as The RealReal in October to offer something akin to “certified pre-owned” items. The brand even got in on the luxury food trend, opening a branch of its Gucci Osteria restaurant above its Beverly Hills flagship, with more planned for this year.

Gucci has clearly thrown everything at the wall, especially in China, to fuel hype for its new collections through slick influencer and celebrity marketing campaigns and ultimately entice consumers to shop both online and in stores. And while this clearly had an effect on year-end revenue, considering the growth seen in China, could Gucci have done better globally?

Besides the obvious blame on Covid-19 for tightening consumers’ purse-strings and dampening enthusiasm for shopping, there are indications that Gucci can and should tighten up its sales and marketing approach. As Daniel Langer recently wrote for Jing Daily, Gucci still needs to up its game in digital retail and work harder to improve its in-store experience, which does not fully dovetail with Gucci’s bold brand image.

But beyond that, it is clear that Gucci has become far dependent on Chinese shoppers to buoy global sales. According to Kering’s 2020 annual results, despite Gucci’s momentum in South Korea, overall sales in the market remained stubbornly low due to the lack of Chinese tourist-shoppers, noting the brand’s reliance on duty-free business in the country. A single-minded focus on Chinese tourists is simply unsustainable, threatening to alienate local shoppers and subject to the risks of outside forces such as the coronavirus pandemic or the occasional diplomatic spats that break out between China and South Korea.

The other issue with Gucci’s global strategy — seen most starkly in China — is that the company may be spreading itself too thin. Despite an expansive content-commerce strategy that covers virtually every base, Gucci may create a scattershot impression, in contrast to the laser-like focus shown by creative director Alessandro Michele in revamping the brand after he took over in 2015.

But a bigger question that could have a longer-term impact on the brand is whether it is seeing the early signs of consumer fatigue. While Michele’s retro-inspired, colorful looks were a breath of fresh air in 2015, it’s now 2021, and more luxury consumers are demanding minimal yet ultra-high-quality styles (commensurate with our current work-from-home lifestyles) — a point that is perhaps borne out by the 4% growth in 2020 revenue seen at fellow Kering label Bottega Veneta.

This post originally appeared on Content Commerce Insider, our sister publication on branded entertainment.

Ubras Controversy China Female Empowerment

Chinese Lingerie Brand Ubras Comes Undone

What Happened: DTC underwear brand Ubras is the latest Chinese name embroiled in a controversy over the objectification of women. The lingerie brand invited a number of stand-up comedians to create videos for a marketing campaign, including the star Si Wen. However, another comedian, Li Dan, has caused spectacular consternation online with his comments. The Chinese phrasing was ambiguous and clearly made some readers uncomfortable, particularly one comment which, when translated, referenced bras as a weapon that allows women to easily “lie-down-win” (tangying) in the workplace. This, along with Li’s claim that there are no products he can’t promote or sell — “Just believe it or not!” — has caused particular offense. 

In addition, netizens also unearthed two more brand slogans which hinged on humiliating workers and toyed with the idea of sexual harassment in the workplaces. Ubras has already apologized for the inappropriate use of words during the campaign, which included the word “boobies” to address customers on its official Weibo account.

Li Dan’s problematic post states that bras help women lie down and win in the workplace. Photo: Weibo

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Jing Take: Firstly, the practice of men promoting women’s products in China is not unusual and male celebrities endorse everything from tampons to lipstick. Companies use these ambassadors to target their followers who will often purchase the products simply based on the influencers endorsement. Comic talk shows are especially popular in China right now and what should have been a fun, good-spirited initiative has backfired dramatically for the Beijing-based brand. Incensed netizens are not holding back. 

Some choice comments include: “Banned, I will never ever purchase your brand really disgusting!” and “Is this really from a female team? Women will never write such a thing. Please keep up.” It certainly looks like the days of hiring tone-deaf KOLS are numbered, at least for Ubras, which should stick with positive female influencers such as Ouyang Nana — though even she has come under fire in the past.

As reported earlier this month, international luxury names need to take a stand for their valuable women and non-biary customers; so too must Chinese companies ensure they have safe spaces and feel protected. Especially Ubras, a brand that made an impressive $46,400 million during last year’s 11.11 from selling these products. 

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

Puma China Earnings

Puma Sales Roar Back With China Growth

After a pandemic-served beatdown last year, Puma has clawed its way to recovery.

On February 24, the German sportswear giant reported that sales jumped 9 percent to 1.52 billion euros in the last three months of 2020 a promising upswing from the 55-percent plummet in its second quarter. Overall, sales were down 1.4 percent to 5.23 billion euros for the financial year.

This rebound was led by strong performance in the Asia Pacific, which surged 11.8 percent in the fourth quarter to 480.5 million euros, driven by mainland China. But the country alone was not enough to stop the region’s full-year sales from falling 3.2 percent compared to 2019 levels, down to 1.48 billion euros.

Given the importance of these global markets, Puma doubled down on establishing local relevance, particularly through sports, influencers, and communication platforms. This was not only reflected in the brand’s return to basketball and collaboration with grammy-winning artist J. Cole, but also its increasing partnerships with popular Chinese talents, including actors Yang Yang, Li Xian, and Liu Haoran as well as supermodel Liu Wen

The brand further grew its China footprint by leveraging the country’s biggest shopping holiday, Singles’ Day, logging 2.8 million orders and 80 million euros in revenue over the week. And already, Puma is making good on its goal to design more products specific to the market, partnering with Hong Kong-based artist Michael Lau, “The Godfather of Toy Figures,” to ring in the new year. 

That said, all Puma products did well in the fourth quarter, with apparel growing 15.7 percent, accessories up 7.3 percent, and footwear increasing 3.8 percent.

“We clearly see a running boom in the whole world,” CEO Bjorn Gulden told journalists, adding that orders for 2021 are up almost 30 percent compared to last year, especially for running products. 

This tracks with Puma’s Q3 results, which showed a strong demand for performance-related products, especially for individual sports like running or hiking. With the healthy living trend expected to persist after the pandemic, the sporting goods sector is positioned to weather the crisis better than most.

But Puma isn’t out of the storm just yet. With almost half of its retail stores in Europe still closed and other markets operating under significant restrictions, the apparel maker is bracing for impact in the first half of 2021. However, the brand is also confident that its quick Q4 recovery and strong order book — along with global efforts to combat the virus — will lead to a moderate sales bump later this year.

“I am convinced that 2021 will be a better year for us than 2020,” Gulden said. Knock on wood. 

London Fashion Week Chinese

Burberry Wins London Fashion Week

This year, the Jing Daily Fashion Week Score, which, through a range of parameters, evaluates how a designer’s collection resonates with the Chinese audience, kicks off with another packed digital schedule at London Fashion Week

Designers and fashion fans in the UK are still cooped-up and locked down, struggling with COVID-19. However, they now face the sharp aftershocks of Brexit too. Even the BFC itself faced criticism following the appointment of Clearpay, a popular flexible payment option company, as a principal sponsor, a move which faced backlash from cross-party MPs fearful of pressure on young shoppers to defer debt

This season, the digital showcases were weird and wonderful, but authentic reach to Chinese fans was disappointing. In the absence of Chinese celebrities, KOLs and buyers from the mainland, the BFC teamed up with WWD China to host a webinar exploring how British and Chinese are navigating a pandemic landscape. Insights from personalities like Stephanie Phair, Anya Hindmarch, Angelica Cheung, and the Chinese brand Pronounce were enhanced by a guest appearance from David Beckham.  

But, as the virus outbreak wears on, cracks are starting to appear on digital schedules. Yet, online connections are more important now than ever, particularly with Chinese citizens. Despite a dazzling vaccine offensive, and some light visible at the end of the tunnel, the UK is bracing itself for a bumpy number of months ahead as it prepares to transition to a new normal —whatever that may be.

For London Fashion Week Autumn 2021, Jing Daily looked at a mix of Chinese brands who are maintaining a profile at the event alongside international names with a stake in the China market. What is evident is that all designers could be doing more to bring their fans and communities on a more immersive digital journey; it’s time to get on board or be left behind. 

Yet again, Burberry was the standout, effectively leveraging local talents like Song Wei Long, Yin Fang, and Wang Yi Jun for its menswear only collection. Simone Rocha was also suitably lauded by her fans and Dunhill too deserved an honorable mention as it has certainly upped its China game recently. Finally, Xander Zhou and Pronounce are two local names that are cutting through both at home and abroad.

The Jing Daily Fashion Week Score is based on the following parameters:

  • Model representation: evaluates representation of Chinese models on the runway.

  • Digital impact: evaluates Chinese netizen reception and engagement on leading social media platforms, including Weibo, WeChat, and Little Red Book.

  • KOL & celebrity visibility: considers the star power associated with the brand through strategic KOL and celebrity partnerships.

  • Special brand efforts: considers special programs or efforts on a brand’s part to speak to the Chinese audience. Company or brand contributions toward the on-going virus crisis are also considered.

  • Design context: a qualitative assessment of how the brand’s collection will speak to the Chinese audience based on current trends and preferences.

  • Brand history: considers existing brand history in China, including overall presence, social reach, number of stores, earning trends, and brand missteps.

Burberry

Riccardo Tisci men’s collection, “Escape,” imagined a countryside landscape celebrating the outdoor sprit. This inspiration echoed city residents’ aspirations for beaches and forests while under tight lockdowns. As digitalization has become a new norm, Burberry has once again proven its creativity in the social arena, especially on the heels of its impressive Chinese New Year 2021 celebration.

Despite only being directly livestreamed via Tmall, this first menswear-focused show still managed to engage local Chinese audiences effectively. Much like the season before, it leveraged celebrity power virtually through pre-show social promotion, especially from ambassador Song Wei Long and celebrities Yin Fang and Wang Yi Jun. Meanwhile, the brand is still benefiting from its social responsibility initiatives in China during the pandemic, which has been showcased via the narratives of campaigns and presentations. 

Dunhill

Mark Weston, creative director of the British fashion house, focused on “clothes rather than themes” for the Fall 2021 collection. Highlighting “utility, function, and elegance,” the presentation added a contemporary and avant-garde twist to the classic menswear label. Dunhill’s efforts for this season leaned heavily on engaging Chinese audiences on social channels — and it worked. In addition to promoting the show three days ahead, the label teamed up with GQ China to initiate a virtual interview with Weston to share his inspiration and creative outlook for the house. Moreover, the considerable following of the house’s global ambassador Yang Yang drove huge traffic, as his many, many fans showed their support and adoration. 

Simone Rocha

Since Spring 2019, the Irish designer’s recognition among Chinese audiences has been growing on our seasonal fashion week score. By embellishing leather products with staples such as embroidery, floral prints, and pearl accessories, this season presented a cooler take for the typical Simone Rocha fan. Meanwhile, the show has been shared with Chinese audiences via fashion KOLs like @Kindom Of Xiaoxiang (小象王国) and @Maissen-H. And while the brand runs a Weibo account, it barely posted its latest campaigns and initiatives, including this season’s presentation, which may hamper further market expansion.

Xander Zhou

Creative minds will not be constrained by physical restrictions, or so says Xander Zhou’s latest presentation. And away from its theatrical show setting, the designer delivered his inspiration via his lookbook — or a “manual” as he called it — in which detailed descriptions and prototypes of each garment were listed for readers. 

Approaching the collection as a technical product that reorganizes previous details and shapes means the collection relies on Zhou’s fascination for virtuality and futurism. The fantasy of cyberpunk was well received by young Chinese audiences; the 16-second preview video received 34,600 views on his Weibo account. 

PRONOUNCE

Chinese menswear duo Pronounce’s Fall 2021 collection under the theme of “Fragments” explored the concept of Chinese porcelain. Sourcing inspiration from the porcelain making process, the pair collaborated with the illustrator Chenxi Li to visualize elements like embroidery, fragmented pieces, and line painting, which was applied to garments of various textures. On the day of the LFW presentation, Pronounce also announced the launch of a collection with H&M inspired by Dunhuang’s Crescent Lake, showcasing the brand’s idealism for redefining Chinese fashion and taking it to a wider audience.

Susan Fang

This is only the second LFW outing for Chinese designer Fang, who opted for an early photographic process elaborately titled, “Collodion Wet Plate Process,” to showcase her latest collection. In addition to fresh new looks, the presentation documented the freedom of time and the filming process of the ancient method via a two-minute short video. In keeping with the label’s “air” DNA, this season played on the theme and challenged chronological narratives by way of an ancient fairytale. While still a young label, it has created greater awareness thanks to its signature bubble shoulder bag, over 800 relevant posts on Little Red Book and endorsements from female celebrities such as Yang Chao Yue and Lei Wan Ying. 

Molly Goddard

This season marked a special one for British designer Molly Goddard, not only due to the restrictions amid lockdown, but also her pregnancy. Disapointingly, her label has a large following yet is failing to make a dent in China’s social media landscape. Still, it is definitely niche, evidenced in little over 300 related mentions on Little Red Book with introductions and posts that share looks. The good news is that this season, the addition of practical details to the designer’s signature tulle dress, floral prints, and conspicuous bow ties resonated well with Chinese shoppers fascinated by these overtly feminine styles

Yuhan Wang

Since her debut at Shanghai Fashion Week last October, the Chinese designer has received a much broader awareness among Chinese fashionistas; this latest outing has attracted even more attention. This season’s floral and romantic portrayal of femininity went down well with fans. One Weibo user commented: “It was a harmonious and complicated manifesto of femininity that blends Eastern and Western representations.” However, the brand’s social traffic has been mostly driven by its collaboration with the local retailer Labelhood. As more Chinese consumers look to discover the designer’s aesthetic and inspirations, a more active and dedicated communication strategy will help better engage home audiences.

Bianca Saunders

The emerging menswear designer’s Fall 2021 collection was inspired by Man Ray and Erwin Wurm’s photographs, as well as Jean Cocteau’s experimental film, The Blood of a Poet. While the black-and-white short film took a surreal approach, the looks showcased a balance between masculinity and femininity, which catered to the growing demand of inclusivity for today’s menswear. However, awareness on China’s social arena is underperforming with low exposure and traffic. 

Reported by Wenzhuo Wu and Gemma A. Williams.

Asian Hate Crimes Fashion

Why Hasn’t Luxury Taken A Stance Against Asian Hate?

Key Takeaways:

  • Donald Trump’s “adoption of race-baiting labels” such as “China virus” or “Kung flu,” have amplified racism and Sinophobia.

  • According to data released by Stop AAPI Hate, between March 19 and December 31 of 2020, the coalition received over 2808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate from 47 states and DC.

  • The creative industries depend on Asian talent. Just in the US, 48 of the 477 members in the Council of Fashion Designers of America identify themselves as Asian, according to Los Angeles Times.

One of Donald Trump’s most dangerous legacies is America’s heightened anti-Asian sentiment. His contempt for China and “adoption of race-baiting labels” like the “China virus” or “Kung flu” have amplified racism and Sinophobia across the country. Unfortunately, the arrival of a new administration in Washington DC didn’t bring an overdue solution to racism in America.

While President Joe Biden did sign an executive order condemning attacks against Asian-Americans, it was merely a sign of goodwill. The order states that COVID-19 responses from federal health authorities must demonstrate “cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards AAPIs,” said the Huffington Post.

But endorsements and recommendations do not have real power if they are not supported by federal policies. And the recent surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans requires solutions.

Policymakers, law enforcement agencies, community leaders, and civil rights organizations have to work together to adopt suitable solutions and promote racial equity. But until this finally occurs, leaders from the fashion community have come together to fight injustices and hate.

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These high-profile figures are trying to raise awareness about violent attacks against Asians and Asian Americans through social media posts. Meanwhile, social media users are encouraged to talk about their own experiences with harassment and abuse while using the hashtag #StopAsianHate.    

Designers Prabal Gurung, Phillip Lim, and Kimora Lee Simmons — alongside Allure magazine’s editor-in-chief, Michelle Lee, and influencers Tina Leung, Chriselle Lim, Bryan Boy, and Tina Craig — have already taken a stance by creating social media posts that discuss harassment and racism.

The situation is dire, and the wave of violence against Asians and Asian Americans is growing. According to data released by Stop AAPI Hate, between March 19 (when Stop AAPI Hate began collecting reports) and December 31 of 2020, it received over 2808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate from 47 states (including DC). Moreover, 7.3 percent of those total incidents involved Asian Americans over the age of 60, and many of those attacks featured elevated levels of aggression and violence.  

In San Francisco, 84-years old Vichar Ratanapakdee died after a man violently shoved him to the ground. While in Oakland’s Chinatown, a suspect attacked a 91-year-old man, a 60-year-old man, and a 55-year-old woman. Meanwhile, in San Diego, an elderly Filipino woman was punched, an elementary school worker, who was assaulted at a bus stop in Rosemead, California, lost his finger, and a man pushed an elderly woman in Queens.

Unfortunately, this new wave of violence has even been exported to Europe. Next Shark reports that a Japanese citizen was attacked in Paris by an aggressor who tried to injure him with a bottle of acid. “The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an increase in racist and xenophobic incidents against people (perceived to be) of Chinese or Asian origin, including verbal insults, harassment, physical aggression, and online hate speech,” the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) said in a report published on 8 April 2020.

Considering that policymakers don’t understand the hostility and violence against Asians and don’t seem capable of detecting, preventing, or responding to hate crimes, initiatives like the #StopAsianHate should be encouraged.

The creative industries depend on Asian talent. Just in the US, 48 of the 477 members on the Council of Fashion Designers of America identify themselves as Asian, according to Los Angeles Times.

In the coming weeks, we foresee more voices joining the fight to condemn and denounce these brutal crimes. Disappointingly, key players in the retail and luxury industries that boosted their brand image by encouraging their audiences to discuss social issues are now silent.

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China is on track to become the biggest luxury market by 2025. So, the future of the luxury industry depends on China and the Asia-Pacific region. But despite its reliance on the Asian consumer, the industry seems incapable of overcoming its own bias against Asians.

Luxury brands that want to survive and thrive in a post-pandemic world should prioritize a culture of inclusion and diversity. In other words, they should develop strategies to tackle and combat hate against Asians.

At the time of writing, Valentino is the only major luxury brand that took a stand and expressed its solidarity with the Asian community. Other major brands who responded to this racial injustice include Nike, adidas, Converse, Tommy Hilfiger, Benefit Cosmetics, and U Beauty. However, questions remains regarding the real power players — luxury conglomerates LVMH, Richemont and Kering — who bet big on China and the Asian continent. Is their “woke” message and fight for social justice simply a branding tool — or is it something more?

Retail Hacks 2021 China

Retail Hacks Luxury Stores Must Know For 2021

Key Takeaways: 

  • China is set to hit a milestone as the first country in history to carry out most of its retail sales online instead of through physical retail stores. This puts added pressure on retailers to entice shoppers back in person post-pandemic, but means they must push the boundaries of brick-and-mortar.

  • Consumers’ growing expectations means that now all of a brand’s digital media should be completely shoppable supported  by technologies like AR, and AI which will create an even better buying experience in stores.

  • Finally, retail is now considered a journey, whether metaphysical or geographical. This will see stores becoming fully-realized independent lifestyle destinations as a way to strengthen their differentiation. Livestreaming too is a necessary way to engage your luxury community.

Since 2020 began, most brick-and-mortar stores have spent more time closed than open. Now, China is set to hit a milestone as the first country in history to carry out most of its retail sales online instead of through physical retail stores. So now, the question retailers need to ask is: What is the point of a store post-pandemic?

Curbside pick-ups, available e-commerce, and increased delivery speeds have offered unimaginable convenience and choice — not to mention safety — to shoppers during the pandemic. It’s being predicted that one in every four purchases will be made online by 2024, when e-commerce sales will hit $3.9 trillion, according to the media investment company Group M.

Although three of four sales will still be in person, COVID-19 has shown us that a retail store isn’t necessary. During 2020 — but even before  — many companies were forced to recalibrate their business models, reduce footprints, and rethink the roles of their stores in today’s omnichannel landscape. Many companies are now moving away from physical retail to digital-first or digital-only platforms, incorporating automated offerings and we have even seen the advent of augmented-reality stores.

But China is still the anomaly. Countless brands from Boucheron to Tom Ford have opened stores in China during the pandemic. But how can they keep sophisticated consumers across various tiers interested and engaged? Bain & Company has suggested that more stores will start operating as “showrooms or hubs for order pick-ups or click-and-collect services, with increasing levels of automation.”

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The likes of Chanel and Tommy Hilfiger have upped their digital game post pandemic. Much of this innovation has been through the introduction of smart fitting rooms which recognise items though RFID tracking and can enable orders on e-commerce sites and recommend new products.

Rent now is no longer a cost of distribution. Doug Stephens, the founder of the retail consultancy Retail Prophet, explained how that is the cost of customer acquisition. “[Before the pandemic,] brands that understand this [in-store value] were investing disproportionately in creating outstanding experiential playgrounds with which to acquire new customers,” he stated.

Whether it’s embedding the store experience with sustainable interventions (such as L’occitane’s sustainable pop-up), reimagining your store as a livestream studio (which many brands attempted during the pandemic), or even the unlikely act of handing out products through a hole in the wall while wearing a bear claw, there are several lively ways brands can reinvigorate their store formats in 2021 and beyond.

Now, as the retail world braces itself once again to take tentative steps towards reopening post-pandemic, Jing Daily asks what the role of stores might be in our ‘new normal’ and how that will play out in China.

The store as media

First, Stephens thinks that omnichannel is a dead concept, particularly in the Asian market. In fact, what’s happening in retail today is far more profound, and the way he prefers to think of what we’re seeing is that, essentially, all forms of media have become the store. And, conversely, physical stores are evolving to become “powerful and measurable media channels.”

“As consumers, our base expectation is rapidly becoming that media, across all channels and devices, is no longer simply a call-out to go to the point of purchase… We are no longer consciously ‘going online’ to shop, [as] we live in a constant semi-digital state,” Stephens explained, adding that physical stores are transitioning into “media channels so brands can engage customers with physical content, drawing them into the brand ecosystem.”

That means consumers’ growing expectations are now that all of a brand’s digital media should be “completely shoppable.” Stephens continued by saying that the cost of digital media will continue to skyrocket post-pandemic, making it “untenable for many brands to even use as a means of customer acquisition.” In effect, digital media must be held to a higher standard to be effective.

“We can expect to see media across channels and devices become far more shoppable and supported with technologies like livestreaming, AR, and AI, while working to create an even better buying experience than a customer used to enjoy in a store,” explained Stephens, offering Nike stores as an example. The goal is to create “highly experiential stores, fully-shoppable digital media, and excellent technology that connects every customer touchpoint.”

At the Nike Rise store in Guangzhou, shoppers can get their feet scanned by a store athlete to find the best fit for any footwear. Photo: Courtesy of Nike

As a consequence of this monumental shift, Stephens said physical stores will be measured on three key figures — “four-wall sales, online sales from inside a store’s catchment area, and the store’s media value (the number of consumers that visit the store multiplied by a base dollar value per consumer impression, modified by the store’s net promoter score.)” For Stephens, these three figures form the essential equation for valuing the productivity of a physical store.

Retail as a nomadic journey 

With consumer purchasing power on the rise and attention spans getting shorter, the pressure is on brands to keep customers coming back for more — especially in China, where consumers are spoiled by a bevy of online choices. That can play out in two ways, says Gregory Cole, the director of CDGL Strategic Communications.

The first technique is to immerse consumers in the brand’s lifestyle proposition. It creates a positive way to “refresh” consumers’ understanding and appreciation of the brand but makes more sense in cities with mature consumer bases. “Traditionally, we’ve seen this approach from shopping malls, using their architecture as part of the experience, like their atriums as community spaces for hosting events such as fashion shows, talks, etc.”

Much like the Starbucks “third-space” flagship in Shanghai, Cole expects to see more luxury brands enhancing their boutiques to become “fully-realized independent lifestyle destinations as a way to strengthen their differentiation.”

Starbucks’ flagship in Tianjin reimagines the third place by rejuvenating a centuries-old heritage building and adding new features like the Starbucks Bar Mixato. Photo: Courtesy of Starbucks

The second twist is immersing the brand in its consumers’ lifestyles via nomadic retail, pop-ups, or mini shopping mall stores across the country. Cole noted that these initiatives would increase shopping convenience and brand relevance with local consumers who are just discovering the brand. Otherwise, those consumers would have had to travel to Shanghai, Beijing, or Guangzhou to reach a brand’s nearest store.

“An interesting aspect of this nomadic retail is that cities across China have strong local cultures and traditions,” he added. “Instead of replicating the same store concept around the country, brands will stand a better chance of resonating with consumers by reflecting local culture, and more importantly by transforming regularly to match the accelerating consumer journey that we are seeing.”

The store as a temporary creative cohort  

Opening doors is especially challenging for emerging brands given the vast commercial overheads; being stocked by destinations like Selfridges or Lane Crawford can raise seasonal inventory difficulties. Muaz Notiar, Co-founder of Revstance, states his philosophy is based on temporary installations with a clear ROI.

In a move away from permanence, designers can control their parallel visions of the prestigious multi-brand retailer that still brings people into the brand story. “Working with a specific retailer becomes quite difficult. So now we see a designer asking, why do I need to do that? I’d rather a temporary installation for say two months in a specific location,” Notiar stated.

And, what is different post-pandemic is how, in this shrunken timeframe, “before even six months, it was considered a pop-up” with scenarios based on connecting like-minded designers that “follow similar brand themes and basing pop-ups on these values.”

According to Notiar, “That is one of the trigger points we see in the back end. We are experimenting with what would drive a specific person to a location. And, how do you line up the Rubix cube to make the journey worth it? Creating cohorts means overlapping customer pools, and that allows individuals to know that, when they go, it is a broader experience. So it is worth making that journey.”

Retail as a customer interaction or community event

How the store interacts with the consumer is another key metric for brands to determine and measure. Of course, the level to which brands want to engage will depend on the brand position. But it will be wide-ranging, either with fully-automated experiences with technology or human salespeople. The former can work for convenience retailers. But what about luxury, which is said to hinge on the personal touch and face-to-face sales?

Stephens thinks it might lie in a hybrid of the two. “Higher touch brands and luxury retailers will focus on automating low-value tasks and using technology to empower their staff and stores to deliver exceptional experiences,” he said.

He also added that, beyond customer acquisition, these stores also act as “brand clubhouses, building community among new customers.”Natural beauty brand L’Occitane en Provence’s sustainability concept store in Hong Kong has the dual-appeal of being green and also cultivating a community through rewards and interactive activities.

L’Occitane’s sustainability concept store encourages the public to participate in its eco-friendly programs through rewards and interactive activities. Photo: Courtesy of L’Occitane

For Stephens, other iterations of this trend will be powering retail. “Sustainability, across the entire consumer journey, will become table-stakes for all brands.  Energy-efficient stores, electrified delivery vehicles, circular manufacturing processes, supply chain resilience, and sustainably constructed goods will be de rigueur, particularly among luxury brands.”

This spring, when Bain & Company surveyed 4,700 consumers in China, they found that customers were now more likely to use livestreams and short-form videos as research and purchasing tools than they were before the outbreak. Luxury brands cannot afford to miss this boat in China. We saw the medium’s value during the pandemic after shops transformed into broadcast studios. As such, in-store livestreaming is sure to further embed brands in consumer psyches.

In China, the need for physical stores remains. But the in-store experience has always been sacrificed by the proliferation of digital innovation. As citizens have shown by forming lines around the block, they still crave the physicality of ‘going to the store.’ But now, the reason why is less obvious.

That puts even more pressure on stores and their luxury owners to keep evolving. They will need to excite and entice safely but also ensure quality and have differentiation through assorted products. But this change can be seen as an opportunity to rethink stores for this post-pandemic moment while ensuring shoppers do not experience life without them. Whatever the reason for their existence, they must be justified.

Outer Space Advertising

Is Space the Final Frontier for Brand Marketing?

This post originally appeared on Content Commerce Insider, our sister publication on branded entertainment.

In 2008, an article in the New York Times predicted that a “moonvertising” movement would emerge within a decade, with brands projecting their logos onto the surface of the moon using lasers capable of covering “about half the land size of Africa.” Now, thirteen years later, we haven’t come close to advertising on the moon, but outer space continues to serve as a source of inspiration for marketers.

With its escapist and futuristic appeal that draws universal fascination, outer space can be an ideal tool for brands to provoke awe through advertising. As far back as 1990, the Tokyo Broadcasting System celebrated its 40th anniversary by sending journalist Toyohiro Akiyama to Russia’s space station, at a cost of around $12 million. Other companies have utilized the cosmos to create excitement around their products, from Pepsi sending a replica of its flagship beverage to float outside the Russian space station in 1996 to Israeli dairy firm Tnuva, which filmed an ad on the Mir space station in 1997, the first commercial to be shot in space.

Fast forward to 2021, 60 years since the first human was sent to outer space, and now just about every brand wants to launch itself into the great beyond. According to a 2017 report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the space industry could be valued at $2.7 trillion by 2030.

In 2019, NASA announced that it was opening the International Space Station for business opportunities, ultimately allowing private missions for commercial purposes. American beauty brand Estée Lauder was an early adopter, paying $128,000 last year to have NASA astronauts take pictures of ten bottles of its Advanced Night Repair serum in the heavily-windowed Cupola observatory on the International Space Station.

Although Estée Lauder’s expenditure was a lot smaller than the millions spent on space advertising in the past, working in outer space remains a wildly expensive endeavor — it would run in the tens of millions to organize an independent trip.

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Companies are having more and more conversations about public space tourism in orbit, with the well-known start-up Axiom Space selling $55 million tickets for a stay on a SpaceX capsule last year. For now, space remains an ultra-pricey realm, one that the vast majority of consumers can only afford to experience vicariously, for example, by sporting a NASA logo on their clothing.

Bert Ultrich, a multimedia liaison at NASA, told the Los Angeles Times in 2019 that he received more than one request per day to use the organization’s logo, which has become commonplace on the streetwear scene thanks to collaborations with brands such as NikeVans, and Alpha Industries.

Chinese outdoor clothing label Bosideng celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing in 2020 with a NASA collection, offering logoed jackets that took their aesthetic and structural inspiration from spacesuits.

Bosideng x NASA 50th Anniversary Collection. Photo: Courtesy of Bosideng

China’s foray into intergalactic collaborations is notable because of the country’s fairly recent plans to dominate space. In 2014, the Chinese government designated civil space development as a key area of innovation, striving to take the place of the United States. It now ranks second to the United States in the number of operational satellites in orbit, and the focus on commercial opportunities is increasing as well, with 78 commercial space companies operating in China, according to the Institute for Defense Analysis.

It’s therefore not surprising that Chinese brands have also been motivated to tap into this new source of national pride. C-beauty brand Perfect Diary collaborated with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation on a moon-themed eyeshadow palette to celebrate the 2020 Mid-Autumn Festival, while sportswear brand Anta hosted a livestream on Bilibili in November 2020 in partnership with Space China that featured a set crafted to look like a space station, where they showed that their down jackets were warm enough to hatch chickens.

There is another, more defined trend emerging of space companies collaborating for marketing purposes, rather than just producing space-inspired products. Boutique fragrance house Byredo’s latest Travis Scott collaboration, “Space Rage,” aims to simulate the smell of outer space — the beauty of it is that nobody really knows what it’s supposed to be.

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The Travis Scott x Byredo Space Rage fragrance is made with notes of “cosmic dust,” “anti-matter particles,” “starlight,” and “the scent of Supernova.” Photo: Courtesy

Brands are ultimately chasing outer space as an infinite source of adventure and mystery. Trend Forecaster Emily Segal wrote in The Guardian that the global uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic will lead to a boom of escapism over the next decade — and if there was ever an era for space to be the next big thing in marketing, it’s now.