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Business trends

Luxury brands appoint Asian ambassadors to strengthen digital presence

Furla, Dior and Burberry turn to influencers to reach millennial spenders

Almost half of Italian brand Furla's revenue comes from the Asia-Pacific region.

TOKYO -- Luxury fashion brands are increasingly tailoring their marketing to the Asian markets that drive their sales growth, using familiar faces to promote their goods to consumers who spend as much time online as they do in stores.

Italian bag brand Furla relies heavily on Asian customers. The Asia-Pacific region accounted for almost half of its worldwide revenue of about 500 million euros ($585 million) in 2017. Japan made up 23% of the total, whilesales in the rest of the region grew by 50%.

To reflect the importance of Asian spending, Furla’s marketing strategy “represents everybody,” according to CEO Alberto Camerlengo. The brand’s global promotional campaign for the year-end holiday season, “The Furla Society,” featured models from different backgrounds including China's Wen Shiwei.

Furla also works with local celebrities. In Japan, it collaborates with comedienne and fashionista Naomi Watanabe, who is a leading figure for plus-size fashion. She appears at Furla's events and makes related posts on her popular Instagram account, which has 8.1 million followers.

Japanese influencer Naomi Watanabe often appears at Furla's events and posts about them on her Instagram account.

Luxury brands have traditionally supervised marketing from their Western headquarters to carefully control their image. While that will not completely change, local approaches are taking on greater importance in order to stand out and attract new followers in the vast online marketplace. 

Luxury brands are making more investments in digital marketing and events, to replace traditional magazine advertisements. Events such as pop-up fairs, runways and talk shows are easily shared on social media by both participants and visitors.

According to consulting firm McKinsey & Co., fashion houses like France's Hermes, Italy's Prada and Burberry of the U.K. spent about 60% of their marketing budgets on digital channels and events in 2016. It is a key approach to appeal to millennial digital natives.

In March, French brand Christian Dior named Japanese model Kiko Mizuhara, who has a large social media following across the Asia-Pacific region, as its first Dior Beauty Asia Ambassador to promote its cosmetics at events and other activities. Mizuhara, who has Korean and American parents, spoke in English, Korean and Chinese at the event to announce her role.

Christian Dior named Kiko Mizuhara as its first Asia Ambassador this year.

French brand Givenchy’s cosmetics line started its regional ambassador project in Japan last year and released online videos featuring local model Maria Tani. Julie Coine-Ollivier, president of LVMH Fragrance Brands Japan, told Nikkei in November that Givenchy was looking to test different digital approaches in key markets before deciding whether to roll them out worldwide.

“With the digital era, if we want to access locals very quickly, we need to talk to them with people who are appealing to them,” she said, noting that local teams have become more essential in choosing the right influencers and key opinion leaders.

In the case of last year's project in Japan, Tani, an upcoming talent rather than an already famous superstar, was chosen to represent the brand spirit that is "aristocratic" but also "entrepreneurial."

Givenchy's cosmetics line launched an online video featuring up-and-coming Japanese model Maria Tani, to appeal to young customers.

Burberry, which takes in 40% of its sales in the Asia-Pacific region, has been working with Chinese musician Kris Wu since 2016 as a brand ambassador. Last December, the coat maker started a collaborative collection with Wu, promoted via events in Shanghai and related online content such as documentary-style video and photos.

In Japan, Burberry ended its 45-year-long licensing contract with Japanese apparel group Sanyo Shokai in 2015. The British brand sees collaborating with popular local stars as a way to expand its customer base among young Asians, both at home and abroad.

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