Zippo strikes the Chinese chord

Having celebrated Zippo’s 80th anniversary in 2012, the American lifestyle company is finally setting eyes on the mainland, which Mark Paup, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing calls the “fastest growing market under his radar.”

The successful results, he explained, is from genuine efforts to remain relevant to every local market: it continuously collaborates with other like-minded brands like Harley Davidson and Playboy, for example.

It also shows its support to local bands; and when facing an era where consumers are becoming more health-conscious, Zippo transformed itself into a lifestyle brand and expanded its portfolio from mere lighters to include writing instruments, watches and outdoor gear.

When tapping into a new market, it invites local university students to design for them; and for an emerging market like China that is obsessed with authenticity and digital, Zippo goes online.

Currently, the label is on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Sina Weibo, and soon, T-mall, where every Chinese-designated product will be featured.

“It’s all about designing by the market for the market; it’s about maintaining relevance and launching diversification: it’s the only way to stay on consumers’ radar,” said Paup.

“No matter where in the world, and especially in China, we connect with our fans and the infinity groups through social media.”

Brent Tyler, Zippo’s global brand manager, added the company's partnership with T-mall was made because it is the powerhouse of online retail in China.

"And buyers will be able make sure they’re buying an authentic product,” he said. “Our online venues are never done in a hard-sell format: we build relationships through entertainment, through introducing our new products.”

Though Zippo currently only shows face in Hong Kong and China through distributors, it is in the process of opening a wholly-owned subsidiary in Beijing while five other stores are set to roll out in the next five months: two in Shen Yang and one in Qing Dao.

The company is also set to launch a fragrance and lighter set particularly for China.

“We’re being very conservative,” said Paup. “We want to make sure our strategy works in China. Zippo is very aggressive on brand building; we want to show our commitment to the market.”