• Maite Aramayo

Reflecting on D&G’s Chinese Campaign Failure: The Rules of Getting Chinese Consumers Loyalty

Image taken by @edward.gu Dolce & Gabbana store in Shanghai

Last week’s Dolce & Gabbana disaster got the entire fashion industry reflecting on the Chinese market. What happened with the Italian luxury brand was not only another unfortunate dramatic episode but a lesson that all luxury brands could learn from. Truth is, now, more than ever, it takes a lot of time and hard work to build your brand image, engage your costumers and more importantly, gain brand loyalty. The terrible part about this process though, is that it also takes one voice to ruin everything that you’ve been working on. We live in a world where it is no longer allowed to make mistakes, and it has become crucial and mandatory to pay attention to your costumers’ values.

Nowadays, we all know that the main consumer of luxury products are the Chinese, and as such, one of the biggest challenges that luxury brands face today is trying to get their attention. It is such a big market, flooded with so many people that for some brands it could be intimidating to even begin to understand it. Luckily, the smartest thing you could do as a Western luxury brand is to take on a team belonging to the Chinese culture. They say that the best way to learn about a culture is to start interacting with it at all levels. The most important thing you could do today as a PR or Marketing manager is to immerse yourself into the Chinese culture and get to know your customer. Today I’m going to bring you a few key characteristics that the Chinese care about when buying from a Western luxury brand.

Customer Experience

Compared to the Western consumer, the Chinese care way much more about the experience they get when buying a luxury item. According to research, although the majority of them thrive on doing everything digitally, the Chinese consumer still likes going to a physical store to touch and feel a luxury item before deciding to buy it. They have established a buying pattern called Online-To-Offline, where they go to a luxury store to check out the item, experience the product and then go back home to buy it online. One of the reasons why they do this is also related to pricing because there’s a chance that they could find it more economical to buy a luxury item online than offline. But more importantly, they do it to see the brand themselves, so they will want to interact with the product (not a lot of them will precisely like to interact with the staff of the store) to see if everything they have already read about is true. It will go up to the point of even taking pictures with the luxury product (have we all forgotten about the other D&G scandal where they banned costumers to take pictures in front of the flagship store?).

The Chinese consumer, as opposed to the Western one, pays a lot more attention to the reviews of a brand. They want to see what people think of a certain luxury product they want to buy before going impulsively to buy it. In addition, luxury brands have to keep their websites so perfectly curated in a way that the Chinese consumer also gets the experience he wants to receive online.

Uniqueness and Quality

Believe it or not, Chinese care a lot more about quality than Western consumers. Since the Chinese millennial shoppers have been increasing in number and income lately, you will not see them preferring a mass-market brand when they can buy a luxury item. Like it was mentioned before, Chinese love touching and feeling a luxury product before deciding to buy it, and they pay a lot of attention to what other people think about the product. Moreover, Chinese are loyal followers of trends (and lately they have become the trendsetters themselves) as long as they are unique and have a unique storytelling behind. If you think about Gucci, for example, the reason why the luxury brand has been thriving so much in China in the past two years is because of Alessandro Michele’s unique storytelling. Curiously, the Chinese have become less and less materialistic over the years because they embrace the unique values of a brand such as playfulness or mindfulness.

As a result of the uniqueness of a brand, the Chinese consumer is more likely to become more loyal than the Western consumer because they have a habit of believing in what a luxury brand wants to say and transmit to them. They are attracted to brands that are taking risks and are always on edge for the next big thing.

Reputation is the legacy of a luxury brand

In Western culture, we still pay a lot of attention to the heritage of a brand. If we think about Burberry, we know it has to represent the British culture, and if we think about Ralph Lauren, we know it reflects the American style. For the Chinese consumer, they don’t usually care about where the brand comes from. The history and overall impact that the brand has had in the past for them is just that: history. The Chinese are more and more likely to fall in love with a brand that builds a culture of inclusivity. For them, it has become important to also consider what happens even at a corporate level of a brand so it is for sure that they will reject without a doubt a brand with a control-freak attitude coming from their top managers or, in the case of D&G, their founders. They are attracted to luxury brands that go beyond tradition and common norms, but they need to know how to do it (meaning, don’t just follow cultures’ stereotypes when marketing your campaign). This is without a doubt where social media comes into the picture. The Chinese see and read EVERYTHING, and chances are that if they see a bad review, opinion or whatever that could damage a brand’s image out there on social media no matter how big or important the brand is, they will turn their backs immediately and forever.  

It is very interesting to look back in different times like in the ’80s (curiously, also when Dolce & Gabbana was born), when paying attention to customers’ feelings, values and different cultures was not considered an essential thing in fashion. Moreover, what mattered the most was just following the rules of marketing, promote functionality above all things and get a profit. It is just amazing how we have all made everything harder (but yes, meaningful) with our new generation. Nowadays, the rules for doing good marketing are not the same anymore and it takes a lot of gut and an open mind to stay relevant.

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