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Guerlain in China: Perfume market strategies from 1993 to today

French premier luxury brand Guerlain under the LVMH group is one of the most successful foreign brands who has built a wide presence in the cosmetics market in China, particularly skincare, make-up, and perfume. Over the years, it has learned to adjust its marketing strategies – particularly those involving its products, engaging campaigns, and consumer communication – to become of the leading players in the rapidly increasing cosmetics market in China. The Chinese perfume market shows fast growth in particular, and Chinese consumption of perfumes grew from about USD 960 million in 2017 to 2 billion in 2020. Also, China imported USD 745 million worth of perfumes and fragrances, a 33.6 year-on-year percent increase.

Guerlain didn’t initially focus on fragrances

Guerlain first stepped into China back in February 1993 along with other luxury retailers like Bally, Gucci, and Ferragamo. It branded itself as a skincare and make up brand rather than fragrance, which was what the business was established upon in France in 1828. In 2005, Guerlain attempted to promote a large variety of its perfume products and increase its sales. However, the response wasn’t as favorable since perfumes weren’t widely popular among the consumers in the cosmetics market in China.

Nowadays, Guerlain is putting effort into building its fragrance market because there are promising hopes for Guerlain to raise its perfume sales.

Guerlain focuses on the skincare and makeup markets in China

Guerlain continues to focus on skincare and makeup markets in China. Skincare products are the largest and most rapidly growing segment in the cosmetics market. The pandemic has contributed to it as consumers have been experiencing allergies and acnes from wearing their masks. The high-end skincare products were worth over USD 14 billion in 2020, an 9.4% year-on-year increase. Demand for make-up products like liquid foundation, eye make-up, and lipstick have also increased.

Guerlain’s skincare products post (center), Guerlain’s perfume post (right)
Source: Xiaohongshu, Guerlain’s lipstick post (left), Guerlain’s skincare products post (center), Guerlain’s perfume post (right)

Guerlain creates a WeChat game to engage with customers

Guerlain partnered with Sunrise Duty Free to organize a WeChat game campaign for its campaign celebrating its Kiss Kiss Matte lipstick collection. It chose Sunrise because it aimed to target fashion and trend aware consumers who travel and desire the latest products. Also, to keep its audience engaged, it incorporated game elements into its campaign.

The campaign received 15,852 page views, and among the 10,000 players, 300 winners were awarded with a lipstick. The players need to advance to several levels and attain at least 5,000 points to get the chance win a lipstick. In the end of the game, Guerlain requested the player’s personal information like their name and phone number to collect their data and help them improve their future campaigns and customer relationships.

Guerlain holds pop-up stores to bring fun and luxury to life

Guerlain partnered with the China Duty Free Group to hold Orchidée Impériale pop-up stores in Hainan and Macau in April 2021. It incorporated elements of technology, entertainment, and personalization to create an exciting and premium experience to its visitors.

The pop-up shops featured Orchidée Impériale, one if its innovative skincare lines based on orchids, flower species with a lifespan of up to 100 years and beneficial to skin regeneration. At the pop-up, Guerlain helped the visitors familiarize themselves with their products and their technology, specifically, the Micro-Lift Concentrate, which integrates its Cell Respiration Technology and Micro-Lift Technology.

Orchidée Impériale skincare products; The Moddie Davitt Report (center), pop-up shop at the CDF Mall in Hainan Guerlain
Source: Xiaohongshu (left and right), Orchidée Impériale skincare products; The Moddie Davitt Report (center), pop-up shop at the CDF Mall in Hainan

At the center of the area, Guerlain placed an LED screen, where its visitors could learn the story about its brand and its Orchidée Micro-Lift. To build a more sensory experience, visitors could go to the skincare bar, where they could get samples of the new product. They could also get personal consultation and analysis of their skin and skincare rituals.

Guerlain gives away free products to its customers

Guerlain leverages its online platforms including Weibo and Xiaohongshu to communicate with its customers in the cosmetics market in China. For instance, it informs its customers about their new products like how they uploaded several posts of ambassador and actress Peng Xiaoran, along with Abeille Royale – the Advanced Youth Watery Oil. They also organize small online events, where they select a few people from the comments section to receive one of their products for free. In one particular give-away event, they asked, “775? 940? Which one would you pick?” – the numbers referring to the new Kiss Soft Mist Lip Balm #940 and Kiss Water-Sensitive Shine Lip #775, respectively. Then, they would select the lucky commenter and give him/her the two lipsticks for free. This resulted in 557 comments and 174 likes. It is these small things that Guerlain organizes to interact more frequently with its customers.

#940 and #755 give-away event post Guerlain
Source: Xiaohongshu, #940 and #755 give-away event post

Guerlain hires celebrities from diverse backgrounds

Many of Guerlain’s posts on social media show famous people from diverse demographic backgrounds – whether women or men, old or young, or Chinese or foreigner. For instance, the 1900-born actress Peng Xiaoran and 2000-born actor Chen Feiyu advertised the Abeille Royale, which is used to repair the skin and soften lines and wrinkles. Chen Feiyu wouldn’t necessarily need it as he is still young, but Guerlain still decided to hire him to show the customers that the product is not just for the elderly and women.

Peng Xiaoran (left) and Chen Feiyu (right) promote the skin-rejuvenating Royale product Guerlain
Source: Weibo, Peng Xiaoran (left) and Chen Feiyu (right) promote the skin-rejuvenating Royale product

Over the years, Guerlain has established a strong presence in the cosmetics market in China by:

  1. Changing focus of its products,
  2. Developing creative and engaging campaigns, and
  3. Stimulating interaction with its customers.

Author So Ry Park

Learn more about what it takes for a fashion brand to succeed in China