Tribal buying: Luxury jewellery purchasing among affluent Chinese millennials

Expectations of luxury jewellery consumers are at their highest; they are seeking quality products with substance. While modern women celebrate their growth and potential, jewellery offers symbolic self-expression of their true values. Tim Schlick, chief strategy officer at Platinum Guild International, tells Marketing that the marketing strategy of jewellery brands is moving towards a consumer-centric approach.

“Many brands still do planning by social demographics, we feel that is not meaningful. What’s really helpful is if you look at their attitudes and needs, think of the mindset of different groups of people,” Schlick said.

A study from Platinum Guild International (PGI) found that there are six distinct segments or “jewellery tribes” in each market. “Tribes” referring to consumers who share values, attitudes, and needs rather than product preferences. Three tribes are particularly dominant among millennial consumers: status-seekers, avant-gardists and meaning-seekers.

“Whenever we craft a marketing campaign or product together with our partners, we try to make it relevant to the most important group of people. We never just say it is the best, but we always find why is it best for this segment, such as why is it relevant for meaning-seeker.”

He added, “Consumers are more marketing savvy than ever before. Especially millennials are masters in distinguishing between product substance and marketing veneer. They cannot be bullshitted into buying.”

PGI revealed that jewellery contributes to approximately 70% of the total platinum demand in China, with around 12 million pieces sold each year, and is the only demand source created through marketing. 

According to PGI, the last consumer survey of over 10,000 females aged 18-54 living in Tier 1 – 3 cities show that in terms of jewellery, platinum is the preferred choice for women to buy on romantic occasions for themselves, with 22% of the self-purchased pieces of platinum jewellery taking place on such dates, much higher than 14% for all jewellery categories.

Platinum is associated with the best jewellery houses and designers due to its strength, resilient white colour and long-lasting value, which differentiates it from other jewellery materials such as gold and silver. PGI has often used the comparison between the rare moment that changes the course of people’s lives to the rarity of platinum. 

Schlick also pointed out that consumers want products that are not just telling a marketing tale, but act as an expression of their own story. Interestingly, PGI’s campaign focuses on women buying jewellery for themselves instead of via the traditional partner purchase.

In China, platinum resonates with the new generation of women to be their true selves in lifestyle, relationships, marriages, or careers. Modern Chinese women – in particular, young women born after 1980 – have high expectations for themselves and their lifestyle. This has given women increased independence resulting in changing women’s self-perception. 

To respond to the evolving social power of women in China, PGI has expanded its core target group – mainly women in relationships – by launching the “Platinum Moment” Collection in November 2018. Connecting with modern, independent women of 20-45 years old with strong independent consumption power, PGI showed personal stories of women from different life stages to celebrate their special moments when they find “the Authentic Me”. 

The collection, consisting of necklaces, rings and earrings, speaks to a modern woman of different age groups, whether single, engaged or married, seeking to value the rare and precious moments in their lives when she wants to define her identity.
For this year Valentine’s Day, PGI China launched a brand-new promotional video series with the theme “The Moment I Knew You Were the One”. Three short clips, set against different backgrounds, tell the romantic tales of three loving couples, with platinum standing testament to their devotion. PGI China is also releasing fourteen love notes with brand ambassador Yang Yang, each note representing a heart-shaped platinum piece selected by PGI China, in celebration of love’s strength and eternity.

Schlick said the bridal collection is still the key driver of platinum jewellery as consumers naturally go for premium jewellery to celebrate this significant occasion.
Over 80% of surveyed brides-to-be in 18 Tier 1-3 cities in 2017 were considering platinum for their wedding rings. In the non-bridal segment, 74% of the non-bridal platinum jewellery pieces gifted to Chinese women are from partners and boyfriends, to celebrate memorable moments in their relationships, which is over 10% higher than the share for total jewellery.

In Hong Kong, jewellery retailer Chow Sang Sang featured platinum products in the forefront of their communications of the 2018 bridal campaign. 

Schlick told Marketing that PGI will soon roll out new men’s jewellery collection to expand the market.