25
Apr
2013

Stick to your luxury brand positioning in China

It has always been of interest to me to see how brands coming to China have a level of freedom to position themselves in any way they want Chinese consumers to see them, and how very quickly this perception becomes fixed, permanent and an unquestioned fact. Many premium brands have entered the country and immediately elevated their status to luxury, at odds with who they are elsewhere in the world, and a small number of ‘invented’ luxury brands have appeared on the market claiming to have luxury origins and status internationally, that cannot be substantiated.

Putting the aforementioned parties to one side, we have also seen luxury brands enter China with clear positioning that they firmly uphold no matter what, and on the other side of the coin, brands that have arrived not quite knowing their positioning, hence failing to communicate effectively to the market, and in some cases, forcing them to retreat back home again when their business has failed to take off.

For the China savvy readers, they will know that Chinese business culture is often about puffing oneself up, so it is expected that those who have status should say so and clearly explain why. Confidence counts for a great deal in every walk of Chinese life, and can be hidden by smoke and mirrors that most people will take for granted if they are repeated often enough and with conviction.

There are currently some luxury brands in China that have over recent years let their positioning drift whilst trying to make money from as wide a group of consumers as possible. They originally focused on the highest quality and most expensive end of the market, but introduced a range of more affordable products to catch the entry level consumers, which was great for business, but not for the brand image. They became so popular with the middle classes and others, that now the wealthy regard them as too common and choose the more exclusive, expensive and less available brands.

Getting your positioning right is the first step for any brand wanting to physically enter China or to attract the travelling Chinese. This involves understanding the competitive landscape and consumer perceptions before anything is said in the traditional or electronic media, or via any brand experience events. Unfortunately once that position is set in the minds of Chinese consumers, it is virtually engraved for life. Cultural acceptance of a change of heart doesn’t happen easily here, it takes a long time to build trust in a brand, and you cannot afford to waste all the effort you initially expended by changing direction in future.

 

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