The Chinese ‘old money’ attitude

There is often a misconception that people with a lot of money like to spend it freely and easily, the assumption appears to be that they have so much that they wont miss a small proportion of it. To some extent, this may be true for ‘new money’; those people who suddenly went from having little or a limited amount to be very wealthy, because they are tempted by everything they see and think they might want to buy.

The contrast to this approach, certainly in the UK, and Europe is the attitude of those with ‘old money’. These people are quite cautious in terms of their spending, they like a bargain, but they also invest in quality because they want something that is going to last. They don’t liberally use their money, not to say that they cannot be generous to those they consider special and important, but they do not want to support a group of people who hang onto them just for their money.

It has therefore been very interesting recently to be interviewing wealthy Chinese consumers recently as part of a specific project. These people range from self-made businessmen and woman, to those who have money from other family sources. They all have expensive cars, many in some cases, and all the other expensive items that are required in China to demonstrate success. We are lucky that we are trusted well enough to speak to these people, and in every case, they have been quite forthcoming with giving their opinions and views, a rare situation for most research consultancies.

Irrespective of the actual subject of the discussions we have had, what is very clearly obvious is that these people have some similar attitudes to those with European old money. They will go out of their way to get a great deal for some of the most expensive things money can buy. Now that may sound obvious, but the difference with their European counterparts is that firstly this is almost a game to them, and secondly to get a great deal gives them bragging rights amongst their friends, an added value to the game.

If luxury brands understand the game, they have an opportunity to attract these people who are still spending lots of money, to play with them and not their competitors. Give these people a chance to get a good deal on a product that perhaps isn’t easy to buy, and provide them the knowledge and facts to use all these things with their friends and family, and you’ll get their attention. The new money people will come and go, but old money, certainly in Europe is loyal to those who serve them well. It may take wealthy Chinese a few more years to adopt a version of this attitude, but it’s coming.