Jan 4, 2019
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Zhao Wei et Zhou Dongyu star in Burberry New Year ads as downturn fears emerge

Jan 4, 2019

As the New Year gets under way, luxury brands are heavily focused on the next big shopping opportunity and ahead of Valentine’s Day next month, just about the biggest is China’s Lunar New Year on February 5. And it comes at what could be a hugely challenging time for the luxury sector as it targets Chinese consumers who could be thinking twice about their spending.


With that in mind, British luxury giant Burberry has unveiled its initial campaign targeting the event. And with some spectacular luxury brand marketing missteps still fresh in the memory, the company has carefully blended respect for Chinese traditions and culture with enough of the Britishness that’s crucial to the label’s appeal in the giant Chinese market.

The campaign celebrates “family traditions and togetherness during the festive period.” It was shot and directed by photographer Ethan James Green and stars Chinese actresses and Burberry brand ambassadors Zhao Wei and Zhou Dongyu.

They’re making their Burberry campaign debut in images that were “inspired by classic portraiture” with the campaign “reimagined in an informal urban environment, juxtaposing the old and the new, the traditional and the contemporary.”

The star products featured include classic items such as archive-print scarves, the trench coat and tailoring, alongside the “urban staples” that have a powerful hold on younger Chinese luxury consumers. They include hoodies, T-shirts and joggers, all of which are available globally online and in-store from today.

The hero image features a typical family portrait and the selection of items - pictured on models ranging from very young kids through to a grandmother - underline the very broad scope of the collections that Riccardo Tisci has unveiled since his arrival at the label. His runway show in September took in product that would please the classics-focused customer who sees Burberry as a brand that’s all about scarves and timeless trench coats, as well as those seeking more directional, street-influenced pieces. And the Chinese consumer falls into both of those groups.

“The campaign draws on the concept of families reuniting for the most important holiday of the year, and represents a sense of belonging, but in a very fresh way,” said Zhao Wei. And Zhou Dongyu added that “a family portrait is a very simple concept, but the ceremonial sense behind it holds so much more. For me, being able to go home once a year to spend quality time with my family is something I value above all else, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”


The launch of the campaign comes at an important time for the luxury sector and its relationship with Chinese consumers. As we saw late last year, with Dolce & Gabbana, the wrong type of marketing can undermine a brand image built up over years of hard work. But in addition to the need to really show Chinese consumers that brands ‘get’ them, luxury labels are having to plan for a potential downturn in the market.

The Apple profit warning this week, partly based on lower demand from China for its high-end phones, actually sent shares of fashion-focused luxury companies such as Prada, Kering, LVMH, Burberry itself, and Richemont lower. 


That’s because of fears that consumers who are less willing to splash out on an upscale phone might also rein-in their spending on luxury bags, boots, belts, bracelets and bodycare too. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry has already said that the number of watches sold in China fell in November and this week the Swiss Economic Institute said the country's watch producers have significantly lowered their expectations for orders in the next quarter.

“It’s going to become significantly more challenging to do well in China because the market is tightening up,” David Roth, chief executive of WPP's The Store global retail practice, told Bloomberg. “This is a challenging signal that people need to understand China better and prepare.”

The week-long shopping frenzy linked to the Year of the Pig from February 5 will be a key test of Chinese consumer sentiment, uniquely so this time as pigs could be trickier animals to build positive marketing around than dogs were last year.

The marketing will have to resonate with consumers both in China and outside of it too. Around two-thirds of luxury sales to Chinese consumers take place outside of their home market as luxury tourists make the most of attractive pricing abroad, although the gap between spending at home and abroad is shrinking.

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