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Marketing Insights Andrew "Max" Walker head of global brands Asia at SABMiller

Selling experience for luxury

Imagine front row seats at the Mercedes Fashion Week in London, dining with celebrity chef Mario Batali, or walking the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival.

These images have recently replaced expensive bags and watches as the definition of luxury, according to Julie Kong, International SOS head of enhancement in South and South East Asia.

At Marketing Magazine’s “Luxury and High Net Worth Consumers Marketing” Insights at Regal Hotel yesterday morning, experience seems to be the next “it” thing.

“The definition of luxury is getting more subjective: rather than price and look, we look at value, rarity, accessibility and saving of time. These may include unforgettable, exclusive events,” said Kong, citing that China saw a 30% growth in experiential spending.

Also riding the experience as luxury train is Andrew “Max” Walker (pictured), head of global brands Asia at SABMiller, the distributor of Italian beer, Peroni, whose marketing strategy is to get masses through influencers of the city.

“To do that, we have to get these movers and shakers excited: so we get them to participate in special collaborations, give them experiences they’d otherwise not get, so they can deliver the word for us to the border audience,” he said.

On a wider scale, this is also a trend TNS senior client service director Marc de Lange and associate director Elsie Lai, can pinpoint on a global view.

“Even though material goods are still seen as a sign of high quality life, prestige and good taste, there’s a new audience that searches for connoisseurship – and these are the people who invest money to get original and new knowledge,” said De Lange.

Lai agreed, adding that niche products and private sense of achievement are also things consumers strive for.

“Even in retail, shoppers are not just looking for in store experience or knowledge; rather, they’re seeing whether the brand has an in-store museum, personal experience, and digital over printed catalogues.”

Yet John Lo, sales director of China Search – Baidu.com’s mother company – adds that the right online marketing tactics are necessary to attract the right audience, especially for overseas luxury travellers.

“Search is the best report card brands can get. With the right placement, travellers can know in advance what they want and where they can get it,” he said. “And seeing that local luxury consumption is only one-tenth of overseas luxury goods, brands need to sow the seeds in the mainland and harvest overseas.”

Chester Lo, Sun Mobile’s business director in Asia Pacific, even makes a pseudo-online suggestion: send geographical, audience, or location-specific SMS blasts to grab the right eyeballs.

“In the APAC, we have 300 million people using smartphones, that’s a lot. And one of the core usages is texting and MMS,” he said.

Yesterday’s event saw a turn out of more than 100 across different industries.

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