What Goes Into a Successful East x West Luxury Brand Campaign
Reading time: 7 min
In recent years, there has been a growing trend for luxury brands to collaborate with influencers from the East to grow market share and establish their brands locally. Recently, we’ve seen luxury houses partner with artists, designs, social media influencers, pop stars, movie actors and more to expand their consumer reach, often through the launch of limited-edition capsules.
In this article, we cover:
- What’s driving the trends for international collabs
- Famous recent examples of East/West brand influencer collaborations
- Being relevant in each Asian market
- Why localising strategy is as important as choosing the right local partners
What’s driving the trend?
In 2021 alone, Chinese spending accounted for 35% of the global market for personal luxury goods. Consumers in the country have long been drawn to luxury brands. But the East is more than China. This region is unique, featuring both fast-developing and first-world economies. Although wage and economic growth in China and Japan are expected to be sluggish for the next few years, they still both have very large middle-class population bases keen to spend money on luxuries making expansion there worthwhile.
Some brands believe that the real action is happening in economies like South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia because growth in these countries is rapid. For example, did you know that the average Vietnamese wage has increased nearly 600% since the Great Financial Crisis?
A decade or two ago, Western luxury brands and Eastern influencers realised the benefits of working together.
In Asia, there is a strong and persistent desire for limited edition, exclusive collections among young Asian demographics. Millennials and Gen Z consumers get extremely excited by collaborations between Eastern and Western brands and influencers. The cultural remixing and hype surrounding such joint capsule collections appeal greatly to their tastes. By generating immense social media buzz and engagement, these collaborations are ideal vehicles for luxury houses to capture the attention of younger markets.
As you’d expect, Western luxury brands and Eastern influencers are keen to tap into this appetite and see collaboration as mutually beneficial in appealing to the hearts and minds of Asian consumers.
Western brands view high-profile collaborations with Eastern creatives as a way to localise their global appeal.
By releasing products adapted specifically to Eastern tastes, they can establish themselves as a cutting-edge and innovative brand in these countries. Often, brands start out by launching scarce and exclusive joint capsule collections to stimulate consumer demand and interest. The artistic values and the backstories of these collections capture the public imagination for their uniqueness and the appeal to their specific identity and culture. This is a highly effective way of a brand announcing that they are here to stay and they’ll invest in growing their appeal to locals.
For Eastern influencers like artists, actors, musicians and celebrities, collaborations with major Western luxury brands offer significant benefits.
They provide huge exposure to new demographics and markets in their home markets and around the world. Partnering with a luxury house instantly increases their reputation locally and their visibility in overseas markets. Collaborations also allow partners and influencers to celebrate their particular culture and heritage on a global stage.
The opportunity to design capsule collections gives them the opportunity to express their creativity in different forms to those their audiences most associate them with. The social buzz and press attention build their profile and cements their status as trendsetters. The big prize for influencers is that this is their chance to gain global fame and make good money at the same time.
Famous recent examples of East x West Brand x Influencers
Eight great examples of East/West brand influencer collabs in the past five years have been:
Hublot and Lay Zhang, 2022
In 2022, Chinese pop star Lay Zhang became an ambassador for Hublot, the luxury watch manufacturer. Lay Zhang mixes modern and traditional Chinese elements in his music and dance while Hublot, a company that often works with style leaders and influencers, is well regarded for its fresh takes on watchmaking. Lay Zhang was chosen for this role because of his past experience in successfully blending different cultures and art forms in intriguing ways that connects with audiences.
Moncler and Chen Peng, 2021
Moncler teamed up with Chinese designer Chen Peng in December 2021 for a special capsule designed to revitalise Moncler’s down jackets by incorporating Chen Peng’s gender-neutral style. Among the revamped items are a shiny red nylon-lacque Bady jacket and a blue Badenne jacket, along with reimagined Gary puffers in unconventional colours.
Tom Ford Beauty and Gong Yoo, 2022
South Korean actor Gong Yoo became the Asia-Pacific attaché for Tom Ford Beauty in 2022. From August that year, he appeared in Tom Ford Beauty campaigns starting in August beginning with the White Suede fragrance. Gong Yoo is a highly regarded film actor in South Korea.
Gucci and KAI, 2021
In 2021, KAI of the group EXO launched a special collection with Gucci. The collection was teddy bear-themed and includes items like oversized plaid shirts, bucket hats, and totes. This was Gucci’s inaugural collaboration with a Korean artist.
Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama, 2022
The 2022 collaboration between Louis Vuitton and artist Yayoi Kusama features items influenced heavily by Kusama’s original designs. New motifs include Pumpkins, Faces, and Figurative Flowers – they were a really clever blend of the traditional and modern. Kusama has a global reputation for her transformative art and, as part of the collaboration, customers could download related social media filters and wallpapers.
Chanel and Blackpink’s Jennie, 2022
Jennie from Blackpink featured in Chanel’s 2022 Coco Crush Collection in a full video that shows off Chanel’s fine jewellery. Jennie has related to Chanel since 2017 and often wears the brand at public appearances. She has previously been involved in Chanel’s Coco Neige campaign and Calvin Klein’s autumn 2021 collection.
Armani and Jackson Yee, 2021
Chinese artist Jackson Yee was named the global ambassador for Armani Beauty’s makeup and skincare from 2021 onwards, including for the 2022 Year of the Tiger collection. Yee has been associated with Armani since 2020 and appeared in the brand’s Chinese New Year Collection celebrating the Year of the Tiger. The collection features garments and accessories with tiger motifs, lucky symbols, and vibrant colours, catering to both male and female clientele.
Fendi and Song Hye-kyo, 2023
In 2023, South Korean actress Song Hye-kyo became the Asia-Pacific ambassador for Fendi. Known for her global appeal and elegant demeanour, she’s a great fit with Fendi’s focus on fine craftsmanship. Song Hye-kyo has been seen with various Fendi bags in the television drama “The Glory” and in real life. She has also taken part in campaigns for Fendi, notably those highlighting the Peekaboo ISeeU and Peekaboo Stretch bags.
Being relevant in each market
For collabs between Western luxury brands and influencers in Asia to be successful, each should focus on a specific market. For example:
- In China, brands may want to team up with famous singers like Jackson Yee or actresses such as Angelababy and Fan Bingbing for the chance to appeal to their extensive local fanbases. The biggest Chinese stars are very effective at keeping their followers engaged and there is great interest in the brands they partner with. Collaborating with fashion bloggers such as Mr. Bags, Ye Si and Becky Li also allows brands to connect with millions of millennial and Gen Z luxury shoppers on platforms like Weibo and WeChat.
- In India, the biggest stars, by some distance, are Bollywood stars. Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra, two hugely-famous and -respected actresses, have worked with Western brands for years and generated mass appeal for their products thanks to their movie star status. Additionally, partnering with top influencers on Instagram like Diipa Khosla, Masoom Minawala or Kusha Kapila is an avenue to build credibility among India’s digitally savvy youth.
- In Indonesia, luxury brands should consider tap into the popularity of entertainers like Luna Maya or Raisa Andriana to generate the maximum publicity. For targeting millennial audiences, hijab fashion influencers like Jenahara Nasution and Dian Pelangi, both of whom command large social media presences, are ideal choices. Partnerships for Middle East countries will share many of the characteristics of Indonesian partnerships given its majority Muslim status.
- In Japan, brands have already entered into collaborations with famous J-pop stars like Kenshi Yonezu and Daichi Miura to tap into their massive fanbases. Brands can also establish partnerships with style bloggers like Naoko Ookusa and Michi for additional publicity.
- Korea’s K-pop and K-drama scenes have made international breakthroughs in the last decade as well as being stratospherically popular at home. Big names you could collaborate with include BTS, BLACKPINK (mentioned earlier) or actors such as Park Seo-Joon. Korean influencers hold a lot of sway, the most important of which are arguably Jung Ji-woo, Irene Kim and Nara Kim.
In the way that British influencers can improve marketing results in the UK and French influencers in France, the importance of localizing your campaigns for each market in Asia can’t be overstated.
Choosing the right strategy
Brands that have enjoyed success with Asian consumers have taken a different approach to their marketing strategy when working with Eastern influencers.
As we’re familiar with, West/West collaborations focus more on alignment between the luxury house and the influencer to reinforce both brand identity and values. For instance, Dior partnering with Charlize Theron was a way of expressing both sophistication and feminism through Theron’s bold but stylish persona. Chanel teamed up with Kristen Stewart as her edgy, androgynous style was a way for Chanel to demonstrate its modernity. She was as well, of course, famously Karl Lagerfeld’s muse. Partners, whether famous and niche, reflect the heritage, aesthetics and principles of the brand and these aspects are generally considered as being more important than follower numbers.
West/East collaborations require far more nuance as the fusion of Western and local styles and motifs must, before all else, appeal to the target market, as we’ve already explored. At Verb, we particularly appreciated the Louis Vuitton partnerships with K-pop’s BTS and Exo. It gained much publicity in the West where the partnership was seen as innovative. Koreans loved it as they saw it as am embrace of their culture. The very best West/East collabs balance Eastern trends with the DNA of Western luxury brands.
But what makes these collabs of even greater interest, the Louis Vuitton collabs being excellent examples, is how they play in a brand’s traditional markets.
With Gen Z and Millennials often expressing the feeling that they are more citizens of the world than citizens of their own countries, Eastern limited capsule releases can become objects of desire in the West. In Eastern campaigns, luxury brands balance their heritage yet push the boundaries with unfamiliar design elements which give these items a progressive feel and edge. These products can appeal just as much to Western consumers as Eastern consumers.
Taking your brand global with VERB
Looking forward, we expect more surprising East meets West crossovers in the luxury industry. Brands cannot afford to overlook these young Eastern consumers. To achieve success, consumers want innovation and cultural remixing from luxury houses alongside authenticity and quality.
For over 10 years, VERB has worked luxury brands here in the UK and around the world including on many localisation strategies. Using those techniques, we launched 75 Google Ads campaigns across 22 markets in three days for Orlebar Brown. As a result, we achieved a 974% return on ROAS, an 84% decrease in CPCs and a 50% increase in sales.
To find out more about our approach, please get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you.