26
May
2014

For the love of the brand

I recently wrote a piece for Luxury Insights China that discussed the idea that luxury brands in China are like dating contestants on Chinese TV, and that their consumers are like the woman or man who has to pick someone from the 20 potential partners who stand before them. In these shows, the man may typically have to prove himself not only to 20 woman who will judge him on his suitability as a life partner, but he will also be judged by millions of others who watch the programme, and he will need to perform some sort of ‘party trick’ in front of everyone as well. So no pressure then!

What is interesting about the way these shows work, and why they are a great parallel via which to understand the Chinese buying and selection psychology, is that things are quite different to the thought process elsewhere in the world. The man appears in the studio wearing anything from jeans and some sort of top, to a shiny suit and loud shirt; none of which demonstrate to me as a westerner that he has any sense of style at all. But in reality for most of the women on the stage, this doesn’t seem to matter.

Some women will immediately reject the man, but most will wait until he has spoken and answered some questions from the host; there is still some potential attraction among them at this point. Then comes a short video of him in his home environment followed by the ‘party trick’, which is where most women drop out of the game. These ladies have decided that this man is not a suitable husband, perhaps because he doesn’t have the drive to be successful, but probably because he is unlikely to give them appropriate face with their friends, family and society in general. Its not to do with his looks, his ability to give them a child, its all about the benefits he will bring to their lives.

Love or any of the values we in the west might associate with it doesn’t come into play, although it might if the couple get on, but these values are not essential. But, this is love from a Chinese perspective; a man who can provide for the woman, and give her the face she needs, no matter what he looks like, or the way he dresses. There may be an element of romance for couples when they are young, but soon after marriage the relationship typically becomes a practical one, and often the couple spend little time together.

So why am I telling you this? Because luxury brands need to learn from it and consider it as a model of engagement with luxury consumers. When they were new to luxury they were impressed by a very fancy store and rushed inside to make a purchase, but now they are more considered in their actions. Yes, some may take the store appearance into account, but most want to be told what the brand can do for them personally, and to see the ‘party trick’ that makes the brand most attractive to them.

At this point they may start to fall for the brand and develop an emotional bond to it, but it has to show them what its got, and not assume that its name or attractive appearance will work. Make them love your brand the Chinese way, for its face value over the lifetime of the relationship and not for the reasons that consumers elsewhere in the world value.

Ken Grant
Ken is the publisher of Luxury Insights China, he is regularly asked for his comments and opinions of the luxury sector in China by the media, and speaks at conferences on the subject. His international marketing experience covers 25 years, and most territories of the world.

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