The Way of Fashion and Luxury in China

Fashion Gift Faux Pas

What is the Best Gift for Guests attending Luxury Brand Events?

Today’s post is from Guest Contributor Nat King – the Founder of Hong Kong Hustle,   an exemplary  blog about fashion, music, nightlife, and local culture in Hong Kong. 

Could the small gift that a brand hands out at the end of an event actually sabotage their image? At a recent launch in Hong Kong, a luxury brand concluded their successful event with an avoidable mistake.

Typically as guests are exiting at the end of fashion events, they are presented with a goodie-bag that contains a small token gift from the brand. Depending on the label and budget, it’s usually something minor that has a logo emblazoned on it, or is related to the brand’s collection or heritage.

While certain designers treat this item as an after-thought, it can be an excellent opportunity to build brand loyalty and value.

A well-thought-out gift can amplify a guest’s positive impression of the brand, and provide lasting exposure. An item as meager as a well-designed key chain can result in exponential visibility, as people post it on their social networks, show it off to their friends, or even better, integrate it into their daily life.

Likewise, on the flip side, a poorly thought-out gift can actually detract from a guest’s perceived value of a brand.

At a recent event in Hong Kong, a luxury brand gave out an iPhone 4S case with their logo on it. This was a poor choice for numerous reasons.

Perhaps more so than in any other city in the world, Hong Kong people are early adopters of consumer technology and often have the latest model of mobile phones. Guests at these type of events (even more so than the general population,)  are actually courted by the network service providers to have the most recent phone models. (They even get preferential treatment to facilitate upgrades.)

When considering the Chinese luxury consumer, mobile phones are often tied to “face” and having the most up-to-date model of phone is the same as having an impressive watch, handbag, or car.

If not already out of date, (the iPhone 5 is already common in Hong Kong,) an iPhone 4/4S case will be un-useful very soon to this segment of clientele. The case therefore becomes a throw-away item, which lowers the perceived value of the brand.

A second problem is that the product was not related in any way to the label. It wasn’t made out of a material that they are known for, nor did it feature any special tie-in to the new collection.

Another issue is that an iPhone case doesn’t work for other brands of phones, so it’s not certain to be a useful item among all of the guests. At that point it also risks becoming a throw-away item which is a psychological negative.  An additional problem is that it’s not unique. A phone cover is not original  – even mainstream businesses create iPhone cases, so it doesn’t stand out, especially not for a luxury brand.

A final flaw is that it comes across as a cheap gift. iPhone cases are made en masse in China, which means that it has a lower perceived value. Home to the world’s manufacturing, China’s consumers want foreign luxury brands to provide feelings they equate with craftsmanship and exclusivity, not plastic and mass production.

Maosuit Comment: 

This is definitely bad form on behalf of the brand and from personal experience the departing experience at any event can leave a lasting impression. iPhone covers are available for 10 RMB everywhere in China, so this is definitely a low-class gift for any brand claiming to be luxury or even high-end.

Yet who is to blame? Presumably, the brand employed a PR/marketing company for the event who may have suggested the iphone case as the gift, or perhaps the initiative came from the brand itself. Whichever the situation, the brand should really consider how it is positioning itself in the market and not repeat such a similar mistake.

 

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About the Author

Timothy J Coghlan has been living and working in Asia for 15 years and has had a multifaceted experience in the luxury and fashion industry including fashion journalism, producing fashion shows in Tokyo and Hong Kong and product sourcing across China. He is now based in Beijing and works for a leading multinational company advising luxury and fashion companies on how to develop and execute their retail and business strategies across China. Timothy speaks fluent English, Chinese and Japanese