Kudos for Chanel! According to Digital Luxury Index- 2nd Edition, Chanel has surpassed Louis Vuitton and become the number one "most sought-after" global luxury brand in China. Other than truly outstanding design and products, why are Chinese luxury shoppers starting to fancy Chanel over Louis Vuitton? What does this represent in one of the biggest luxury markets in the world?
1.Rich Cultural Connotation within the Brand “Chanel”
The brand “Chanel” is endowed with rich cultural connotation. Instead of simply representing a hallmark of beauty products and luxury couture, Chanel has her unique brand impression among Chinese shoppers – ladylike, graceful, yet not overly parading. This image fits the traditional Chinese Confucian Doctrine of the Mean (“中庸之道”).
A brand “is not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”
- Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap
Chanel seeks its way to exploit the connotation of the brand, not only through inheriting the classic Chanel elements such as double C, and camellia flower, but also via seeking cooperation with the cultural community, using its unique brand resources.
In January 2011, the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai (MOCA Shanghai) and Chanel cohosted an exhibition called “Cultural Chanel.” It included Coco Mademoiselle’s masterpieces, her words, artistic creations, and private art collections, which revealed the legend of Coco Chanel’s and her spiritual world.
The exhibition was a success and moved to China’s capital city Beijing in November 2011. Celebrities such as Zhou Xun and Yao Chen attended the Beijing exhibition. This year, “Cultural Chanel” has moved to Guangzhou - another first-tier city in China.
“Cultural Chanel” events have given Chinese customers an impression on the rich meaning behind the double C logo.
2.Telling the Brand Story on Screens
Nowadays, most of the Chanel fans in China are already familiar with the story of Coco Chanel, via widescreen and TV screen.
The movie “Coco Before Chanel” played by Audrey Tautou started to let Chinese customers know about the story of Gabrielle Chanel. Coco Chanel’s struggle from an orphan to the most influential women resonates so much with modern young women towards self-actualization. The audiences remember the brand “Chanel” deeply as they enjoy the movie. The documentary Lagerfeld Confidential again showed the personal charisma of Chanel’s chief designer to the Chinese audiences. Just like the way many consumers know about luxury names such as Tiffany & Co. from Audrey Hepburn’s movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, screens are more powerful than advertisements, for they are implanting dreams- dreams of women’s love, passion, and struggle. Fashion movies and TV shows such as Coco Before Chanel, The Devil Wears Prada, Lagerfeld Confidential, Sex and the City, and even Gossip Girl, lead to brand identification or even sought-after trends.
3.Premium, tasteful, but low-profile luxury
Chanel ought to give credit to its consistent image of premium, tasteful yet low-profile strategy in Chinese market. People only like what they cannot have, especially in luxury. Sometimes, overly expanding means easy to get, and … boredom. According to David Sadigh, founder and CEO of Digital Luxury Group, “In order to stay ahead of the game, brands must have the ability to adapt quickly thus reducing the risk of brand saturation.” The Chinese elite class luxury consumption preference has changed from parading into low-profile silently yet gradually in recent years. The opening of the low-profile fashion brand Maison Martin Margiela in Beijing seems to demonstrate this tendency. Over-speeding brand extension caused another side effect: large number of imitators. When high-end customers cannot tell the difference between a copycat and a real deal, the feeling of tasteful and graceful will be gone with the wind. Gucci and Louis Vuitton are charged as brands “available widely” and lose their elite customers gradually in China, according to fashion.163.com. Thus, rich shopaholics turned from popular luxury brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton into less popular luxury brands like Hermes or Chanel.
4.Emphasize "the Chinese elements" yet Keep the “Western Perception”
During 2010 Shanghai World Expo, Chanel unveiled a special collection of accessories that feature “Chinese Elements.” This created a buzz at that time, yet keeping the balance of “China-inspiration” and “Western perception of luxury” is another trick.
When it comes to tailoring products for China, According to Business of Fashion, brands need to keep their identity while experimenting with “China-inspired items.” Chanel harnessed the “Chinese elements” in the rightful way so that Chinese markets recognize the sincerity of serving Chinese customers, but after all, Chinese customers are seeking French luxury style.
To sum up, the efforts by Chanel combined with the law of the Chinese luxury market have lead to Chanel’s crown of laurels among vast luxury brands. The urgent affair for Chanel China right now is to maintain the balance between generating revenue and keeping the rarity in developing China’s luxury market.