People over the age of 55 buy more than one third of all products in China.
They have more money and savings to spend than any other group.
They are brand loyal and are less distracted than younger consumers.
They are featured in some of the most popular and engaging digital content.
Why are brands spending so little time and money on this attractive “Silver Generation”?
Why are marketing managers afraid to target them or use them in campaigns?
The Silver target market is the most profitable and fastest growing segment in China and should be a core focus for many brands in China.
PBB helps its clients identify attractive target audiences and brand messages. We believe that the following information will inspire brands to more actively consider addressing this attentive, open-minded and affluent group.
55 + consumers are traditionally very loyal, and more likely to become active brand fans. They enjoy social media, reviewing products, writing comments and sharing product content with friends and family. “China’s elderly population are now the most frequent users of the country’s top social media app WeChat, with over-60s using 80 percent of their cell data on WeChat as opposed to just 6.8 percent by the 18 to 35-year-old generation”. In the US, over 60% of all Twitter users are over 35 years old and 28% are over 55. Additionally, over 55% of all Facebook users are over 35 and over 21% are over 55.
Many brands are caught in outdated brand value relationships connected to rigged youth and beauty standards that are no longer relevant for their target consumers. Especially when brands hope to attract above average income and education consumers in China’s tier 1 and tier 2 cities, they need to reflect fluid racial, sexual, and age diversity trends. The generic happy young couple or fashionable young insider is no longer effective for premium brand marketing campaigns. Presenting over 50-year-old models in a fashionable and fun creative direction can have a high level of engagement with both young and old consumers.
SOURCES: ROLEX MAGAZINE, LOUIS VUITTON SPRING 2014, OLAY TOTAL EFFECT
Not all brands have missed the Silver Generation opportunity. L’Oreal, Covergirl, Olay and Dove have all benefited from marketing to and with the Silver Generation. In addition to beauty brands, there are many other consumer brands that have successfully addressed the Silver Generation. Many are using models and celebrities over the age of 55 for example AT&T with “Senior Plan”, Johnnie Walker with “The Gentleman’s Wager”, Dos Equis with “The Most Interesting Man Alive”, Catherine Deneuve for Louis Vuitton, Brad Pitt for Chanel, Johnny Depp for Dior, and Cameron Dell’orefice for Rolex.
L’Oréal research revealed that 70% of women aged over 55 said they felt invisible in society. 87% reported they were not represented in advertising and 81% also said they felt unacknowledged by major retailers (MarketLine, 2018). These women represent a missed opportunity for brands looking to increase both revenue and market shares.
Cameron Dell’orefice remains the oldest working model in the world. She was 78 years old when she modeled for Rolex in 2009 with the caption “Class is Forever”. Critics considered it to be a both edgy and sophisticated campaign.
JIANYIREN- ANGIE CHIU
Angie Chiu, a 64-year-old actress, models for Jianyiren, a honey wine brand. She is referred to in advertisements as a “goddess”, even though she is 64. She is not old, she is gorgeous.
LILANZ- CHEN DAOMING
With the slogan, “Less is Fashion” Chen Daoming, a 64-year-old actor, models for the men’s fashion brand Lilanz. Their target audience is 32-45-year-old urban professional business men.
SAMSONITE- CHEN DAOMING
In 2013, Samsonite selected Chen Daoming to become the first Chinese endorser for their high-end leather luggage. Samsonite’s target audience is the 30 something worldly traveler, which happens to take up a large sum of Chen Daoming’s fan base.
MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL GROUP
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group uses many celebrities in their “Our Celebrity Fans” campaign. This includes several 50 plus celebrities such as Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, and Christoph Waltz.
SOURCE: NEW YORK TIMES
In 2015, Wang Deshun became a model at the age 82 and is now hailed as the hottest grandpa in China. He started out with a love performing arts and in the 1980s, he began teaching runway modeling. In 1993 Wang Deshun appeared on stage, mostly naked with metallic body art. Because of this, he was barred by the Chinese authorities and decided to perform privately. In 2018, during the Hu Sheguang’s Beijing fashion show, Wang Deshun appeared bare chested and fans nicknamed him “laoxianrou”, meaning “old fresh meat”. YouTube videos featuring Wang Deshun have had over 70,000 views and there are over 195,000 searches on google about Wang Deshun.
It’s not enough to show attractive older models looking great. Brands should reflect the fascinating lifestyles and amazing achievements of senior key opinion leaders. Is staying young the only experience that brands can offer the Silver Generation? At PBB, we like to look at the hopes and fears of target audiences to find insights that can help our clients differentiate their brands and address the specific needs of their target audience that are forgotten or neglected.
Through our research, loneliness and isolation came up as a growing fear for the Silver Generation as well as twenty somethings. Social media and smartphones have removed seniors from interactions with their families. This has driven both groups to use more gaming and dating apps. Big city lifestyle and working hours for both men and women are making it more difficult for young and old people to connect.
SOURCES: THE STRAITS TIMES, NEWS WEEK, THE INDEPENDENT, SEATTLE TIMES, DAILY MAIL
Mr. Han Zicheng is an 85-year-old grandfather who felt lonely because his wife had passed away, his children were out of reach, and his neighbors had their own families. He put up flyers asking to be adopted. The flyer read “Lonely old man in his 80s. Strong-bodied. Can shop, cook and take care of himself. No chronic illness. I retired from a scientific research institute in Tianjin, with a monthly pension of 6,000 yuan ($1,257) a month.” He said that his greatest fear is that he will die in bed and won’t be found until all that is left is his bones. This self-adoption became an internet sensation with posts on The Strait Times, News Week, The Independent, Seattle Times, Daily Mail, and Yahoo. There are over 290,000 search results on Google underlining the relevance of seniors to broad digital audiences.
Scams involving elderly women and fake lovers have received significant coverage and comments from news outlets in China, Europe, and the United States. Incidents in Hong Kong have been particularly popular with social media and international news outlets. The Silver Generation are a source of inspiration and sympathy and can be used as a source of engagement for brands.
How can brand assess this fear and help the Silver Generation get more attention and feel more needed? Our Answer: Listen to them.
Brands can find creative ways to listen to their consumers. Brands have created programs and campaigns before to have more interactions with their consumers and listen more to their needs and stories, and they have been very effective. We believe this approach can be even more successful with the Silver Generation.
Seniors are “Airbnb’s fastest growing and most loved demographic”. Airbnb has successfully harnessed the art of storytelling, by intelligently using the stories of their customers. Airbnb has a page on their website called “Stories from the Airbnb Community”. Customers who want to go the extra mile on their reviews and tell their stories about their experiences can talk with an Airbnb representative and write an amazing story.
Tessa, a member of the Silver Generation, presented her story with only a single paragraph. Her story about why she hosts is emotional and compelling. Loyal Airbnb customers, Debbie and Michael Campbell call themselves “Senior Nomads”. They “have visited 70 countries and have spent more than 1,500 nights in 178 Airbnb homes” (Airbnb).
From Guest, to Host, to Experiencer, the Silver Generation has been a huge demographic focus for Airbnb. The Airbnb brand loves their Silver Community and embraces advertising with them. Using them to produce fresh content featuring family moments, joyful adventures, and fun.
SOURCE: UBER CHANNEL YOUTUBE
Uber is another example of a brand loving their elderly demographic. In an Uber created YouTube video starring June (86), Yolanda (69) and Elizabeth (77), experiences with Uber and how it is more convenient and reliable than driving themselves or asking their families for assistance are discussed. Uber is reliable and safe for the elderly community and through this video, they present this via active elderly women who enjoy going out. This video was one of the top viewed videos within the Uber YouTube channel.
Listening and being proactive is essential for brands who want to communicate with the Silver Generation. Connecting and sharing stories with senior customers is crucial to give them a good experience that they will share with their friends and family. The silver generation is the fastest growing demographic in the world and is willing to spend their money on premium brands and services. They are loyal and respected and deserve more attention from your brand. We hope you will start a discussion with PBB about this Silver Opportunity.
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The Social Luxury Boom in China
Why have luxury brands LV and Gucci continued to have strong growth in China while other competitors like Prada have fallen behind? Understanding and engaging with relevant luxury trends and fresh branding strategies are essential for China success.
As brand builders, we are often asked by clients, “How can I build a luxury brand with strong market share growth?” To which, we always first ask them to define what “luxury” means for them. Responses to this question range from heritage, product quality to exclusivity and top-pricing as being key factors. Though individually none of these factors are incorrect, it can be difficult to outline the precise mix of qualities needed to create a luxury brand for the Chinese market.
Through our discussions and research, we came up with our own definition of a luxury brand:
A luxury brand is characterized by the high level of physical and emotional relationships that the brand and its products establish with consumers. A luxury brand tells compelling and desirable stories that provide consumers with user journeys that enable superior pricing.
Based in Beijing, our research and experiences have shown how Chinese consumers are focused and social throughout their purchase journeys. They spend on average 3-5 hours per week researching luxury trends and topics. In Europe and the States, there is an average of four consumer touchpoints before a purchase is made, while in China, there are eight, which further highlights the considered and thoughtful nature of Chinese consumers.
WARNING: RELEVANCE IS KEY
It’s better for luxury brands to target key channels than being omnipresent on every digital channel. China has an evergrowing number of digital platforms and a smart brand needs to understand how each can directly benefit its marketing and sales performance. Brands that create social content that stirs feelings of individuality, freshness and fosters a sense of community are more successful in driving consumers to their channels and keeping them there.
Luxury fashion knows the impact of engaging social content. They recognize how creating an illusion of freshness through the introduction (or recycling) of “new” products can appeal to post 80s and post 90s generations’ sense of individuality and desire for self-expression. They also have tapped successfully into the imagination of consumers and understood how an association with luxury brands acts as a form of social capital that helps consumers feel part of a distinct and exclusive community.
Fashion powerhouses such as LV and Gucci posted record 2018 results in China. Gucci sales increased by over 30% while LV increased by almost 20%. In both cases, their successful, localized marketing campaigns and the continued growth of the China luxury market were critical factors. Prada meanwhile, has seen its earnings tumble for the last four years and its operating profit declined 10% to 328 million euros in 2018. A major factor has been their poor marketing campaigns (especially their recent Chinese New Year Campaign which was viewed as too funereal) which have failed to engage with Chinese consumers and has led to a weakening of their brand image. This has resulted in lower engagement rates on WeChat in comparison to LV and Gucci.
Gucci 2019 CNY Campaign Success | SOURCE: GUCCI
Building from these case studies and observations, if one were to start a luxury brand in China today, what are the key factors that can demonstrate brand excellence and create differentiation from competitors.
1) Freshness Reigns Supreme
Consumers born during or after the 80s make up more than 70% of the total number of luxury Chinese consumers and their total spending. To attract them, your brand has to feel relevant, fresh and in tune with their needs. Many brands may take this to mean they have to offer a steady stream of new products and designs but this doesn’t have to be the case.
Burberry, for instance, has been more active in the past year in releasing products and promoting a more street style aesthetic to match Chinese consumers’ burgeoning appetite for streetwear. Chanel, in contrast, keeps its designs chic and doesn’t feel the need to constantly overproduce new products. They are now worth over 10$ billion for the first time in their history and saw significant sales revenue growth coming from China.
To quickly summarize, it seems that staying fresh means ensuring your brand resonates more closely with the lifestyle choices of its consumers than with just creating another brand collaboration or an endless number of new product lines.
CHANEL CHIC | SOURCE: JINGDAILY
2) Be Part of My Community
Your brand should be a desirable club that people want to be part of. Exclusivity can be one way to appeal to consumers. More effective though, is providing a holistic brand experience that inspires engaging user-generated content. This will help your brand build a strong community of brand heroes who will champion your products. It will also help you create differentiation from competitors.
3) Confident Design
Confident design attracts your target market and makes them feel comfortable in choosing your brand. Great design sparks a conversation that helps strengthen emotional relationships with customers. As a creative agency that has created hundreds of logos and key visuals for clients, our number one piece of advice is to make sure that you develop a visual identity that is firmly rooted in your products, philosophy and overall brand identity. The renowned art director Paul Rand put it that “Design is the silent ambassador of your brand” but in today’s fast-consuming digital age, perhaps design should take a more prominent role.
4) Entice with a Promise
Consumers want to be taken on a journey. They want to believe that your brand is the best. They want to feel inspired. A key factor in engaging with prospective consumers is the promise your brand makes. A strong brand promise touches every aspect of your business and communicates your brand’s values and vision to your target market. If it’s based on their lifestyles and aspirations then it can be even more effective in creating a long-lasting bond that will drive brand profitability and market share.
5) Service Excellence
A seamless user experience from offline to online that matches but ideally exceeds consumers’ purchase experiences, is vital for success in China. Brands may be moving more and more of their marketing budget towards digital but offline is still the predominant discovery touchpoint and point of sale for wealthy consumers.
In China, new retail is taking off and the line between offline and online continues to blur. It would be wise for brands to jump on board and reimagine their in-store experience to include more digital capabilities that can offer customers a sense of personalisation. If customers feel they are being paid individual attention through relevant digital and offline channels, then your brand can occupy a more prominent position in their hearts and minds.
The co-founder of Jimmy Choo, Tamara Mellon, once said that it takes up to 30 years to build a luxury brand. In China’s fast-growing market though, consumers are increasingly drawn towards confident new brands that offer them a strong sense of individuality. Brands like Yeezy and Off-White, with the help of Chinese luxury consumers, have created luxury brands in less than 10 years, proving Ms. Mellon’s theory to be out of date. Brand values and heritage will always be important factors but if brands fail to transpose and localize their brand philosophy within the context of modern Chinese consumers, then there is every chance that a bold new brand can sweep in and be a success. This makes it as exciting a time as ever for the development of luxury in China and we at PBB can’t wait to work with more newcomers and established luxury brands in China.
SHANGHAI FASHION WEEK STREET STYLE 2018 | SOURCE: ADAM KATZ SINDING