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Jun
2015

Effectively using the Chinese luxury media

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Overview

The media has always had a strong position in Chinese society as a means of disseminating specific messages, and remains tightly monitored by the government. However, the historic trust placed in the media has in turn, led to a general belief amongst the population that companies spoken of in the luxury media can be trusted, because the media wouldn’t associate itself with untrusted sources, and added to which, brands that advertise or are reported on have enough money to pay for media coverage, so they are in China for the long term.

The placement of trust in the print media in particular established a significant following among the luxury brands over the past five to ten years, and anyone who has ever picked up a Chinese luxury or fashion magazine will notice the weight and proliferation of advertising for cars, bags, watches, boats, fashion and jets etc. In the January/February 2013 Luxury Insights China report, the article ‘Media coverage in China, a necessity and not a nicety’ reviewed the core reasons why any brand wanting to establish its name in China needed to invest in media coverage. In this article, we take the process one step further by reviewing your choices in print media.

The luxury and fashion print media market

The majority of luxury print media in China is distributed to a database of consumers, luxury hotels, car dealerships, spa’s and other retail and leisure venues, and in some cases working with private banking. Some magazines have national coverage, while others are available in a limited number of cities; in either case, it is unlikely that a consumer could walk into a shopping mall or a good hotel bedroom or lobby without being confronted with a choice of at least two or three magazines 1cm in thickness; multiple pages of glossy advertisements, advertorials and product placements in photo-shoots.

Fashion media such as Vogue, Cosmo, GQ and Bazaar unsurprisingly all have larger circulations than those of the luxury magazines, a broader demographic of readers, and a greater reach beyond the tier one cities of China. As readers pay for fashion magazines they are likely to be interested in trends and aspirational styles. For brands within the fashion and accessory sector, the influence of this type of magazine cannot be underestimated, and for those selling accessories, being seen in a mainstream publication like this will be a positive, even if the affect is more inspirational rather than directly linked to purchases.

Media choices and review

Given the large number of magazines currently operating within or on the fringes of the luxury market in China, we have selected a handful of those that we consider to be the well-established and that would be good to work with in terms of their readership and reputation, and the attitude of the editors and journalists.

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Consumer sentiment is changing

Having said that print media in particular has been a very valuable, costly, but necessary marketing tool for all luxury brands in China, and one that consumers have used as the first port of call in building their knowledge and associations with brands, in the past 12 months, sentiment has been changing.

The second half of 2012 resulted in consumers taking longer to decide on purchases, and to seek out newer and less well known and used brands. Certainly, those in the tier one cities and the more expert consumers became less influenced by pure advertising both in the print media and on TV, a one or two dimensional advert was not satisfactory, and they wanted brand stories they could buy into.

A Chinese consumer report in late 2012 from KPMG supported our view and that of other commentators, and demonstrated a greater trust in articles about brands, their websites and comment on social media, and less faith in TV and print advertising. Luxury brands may or may not have really appreciated this change, but lower revenues naturally resulted in many reducing their financial commitment to advertising, and taking a shorter-term view.

The print and TV media is still trusted by consumers, if a few points less than previously, and it is still a viable marketing tool, so how should brands use it in a cost effective manner? Based on our experience the following section contains our suggestions that will suit you the brand, the publication and most importantly the reader.

Why now, and how to effectively use the media

Under the current global financial environment, and a Chinese luxury sector that is growing more slowly than it has in the past few years, it is understandable that any luxury brand, no matter its size and stature will be conscious of the money it spends on media coverage.

It has always been possible to use the media in a cost effective manner, but many of the larger and more prominent brands in China have chosen to spend very significant sums of money on annual advertising contracts with a number of luxury magazines that ensured large amounts of regular print coverage, and mentions throughout a publication.

Our approach has always been to show respect to the magazines and the editorial staff, and as a result to build a very strong relationship with them that can be called upon, and via which quality coverage will be delivered. Under the current market conditions where consumers are becoming more selective and want to find brands to engage with, and in a market that is becoming ever more competitive, working with the media in China will be effective and well supported.

The two most effective ways to use the print media in China are through product placement, and advertorials. As mentioned earlier a 2012 consumer survey by Bain identified that luxury consumers now regard articles about a brand more highly than in the past, as they do personal recommendation or celebrity endorsement of products. Placement and advertorial satisfy both these current trends.

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Advertorial

Advertorial placement in luxury magazines is relatively economical, but most importantly allows a brand to communicate more effectively with the reader. However, advertorial placement is not a cheap option in this case but if placed together with advertisements will prove a better investment. Depending on the target audience and the nature of the brand itself, the article may carry different levels of depth. However, the readability of the article has become increasingly more important in recent years.

The fast development in China over the past few years has resulted in an overwhelming amount of information provided by brands in various formats in the media. Nowadays, writing content that will actually attract readers requires creativity and careful planning. Articles delivering brand value are well accepted and commonly seen in the media. To engage with the readership, the brand needs to firstly understand what exactly their targeted Chinese consumer group (s) care about and their value, then make the association, which will in turn lead to a connection.

Putting images of product in the press is essential and straightforward. However, in today’s market where HNWI own all the items that they crave, many have started to make articles associate more with brand values, rather than the product itself. Spending time to understand how an individual publication works, will ensure the right choice of media partner, as advertorials will not work in some publication in which the content readability is relatively low.

Product placement

There are crude ways or refined ways to handle product placement. Again it very much depends on what type of media one chooses to work with, and of course what the brand sets off to achieve. A signature design will shine and attract readers with a more photographic approach. Good personal relationships with editors will always help in this case in China. One would find that being helpful and informative with a media contact will result in being offered fantastic opportunities to get product into the publication. If a brand believes in using celebrities, there are publications such as Comfort magazine that would act as a bridge between the brand and the celebrity, by designing a series of features with a celebrity and featuring the brand’s products. This type of association has allowed many brands to access celebrities cost effectively.


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