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Jun
2015

The Chinese luxury media

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In the May 2013 issue of Luxury Insights China we published some advice for our readership entitled ‘Effectively using the Chinese luxury media’ because at about that time, the market in China had slowed down and contracted, and we wanted to express how using the luxury media could still bring value to a brand.

Since that time, consumer attitudes have changed, they have become more knowledgeable and selective in their purchases, yet the print media still has a role to play in brand building and positioning in the minds of the luxury consumer. Publications may have become a little less weighty yet those brands that are already established have not stopped advertising, knowing that they still need to be seen regularly in order to remain at the forefront of the minds of those with money to spend.

What these brands recognize and we hope to pass onto you is that the advertising is now not necessarily a means to sell in China, it’s a way of reminding those who travel internationally who the brand is and to look out for it wherever they may be. This same fact applies to those with limited or no presence in China at this time. Be seen in the right place and often enough and you will be remembered. For this reason, you ought to consider using the luxury media in China wherever you are on the market entry curve in China.

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 the countries top cities; in either case, it is still unlikely even in 2014 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 0.5 cm in thickness. The number of advertisements has decreased in the past 12 months, but the volume of advertorials and articles has increased to match the changing knowledge levels of the readers.

Fashion media such as Vogue, Cosmo, GQ and Bazaar still 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. Because readers pay for fashion magazines, they are likely to be interested in trends and aspirational styles and we have seen a greater presence of designer labels appearing in them over the past 12 to 18 months. 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 remains a positive. Purchases being made overseas are more likely to be as a result of lower costs and greater choices available to those who travel.

Media choices and review

Given the large number of magazines currently available 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. They remain those listed in May 2013 because these have been constant and trusted while newer publications have struggled to generate both the necessary trust and as a result advertising revenues.
Consumer sentiment has changed

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The print media in China has always been very valuable to luxury brands as a marketing tool, but unquestionably costly. Although consumer knowledge and sentiment has changed its is still one that they have used as the first port of call to improve their knowledge of brands.

The changing consumer attitude has resulted in them taking longer to decide on purchases, and to seek out newer and less well known and used brands, particularly those not yet available in China. Certainly, those living in the tier one cities have become less interested in pure advertising and look for brand stories and attributes they feel link to their personality. The result of the attitudinal change is greater emphasis on story telling within articles that are published, but interestingly, many of the most well established brands and clearly those with strong marketing budgets are still investing in regular print advertising as a means to reinforce their name and status.

This change in consumer attitude combined with the greater volumes of Chinese travelling around the world now means that for those brand that have chosen not to physically enter China yet are being presented with a channel via which they too can establish their status and position in the minds of the Chinese luxury consumer, however, should they choose this option, they need to invest in consistency by which we mean being seen repeatedly in magazines and not only once or twice.

For a brand just entering China or aiming to attract the travelling consumer to their international stores, these magazines are also interested in content that gives them something new to say and a means to retain readers who might otherwise see the same brands and subjects recycled on a regular basis and stop trusting and reading the publication, so this need should be leveraged.

A strong readership for any of these publications means good advertising revenues from the big brands; it’s a David and Goliath story where the strength of those already established in China can be used by the newcomers to launch their name into the market, and the magazine will be happy with the win-win situation. Yes, luxury sales in Mainland China have decreased over the past few years, but sales internationally have increased to compensate, the luxury media in China still represents an essential platform for market entry, market development or just fending off the new players trying to take your market share.

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