China is a booming market for most luxury brands, but that hasn't been the case for Tag Heuer. Its sporty character doesn't conform to Chinese expectations of luxury. So China Brand Director Rane Xue is molding an identity that's relevant to the market, while staying true to its heritage.
"We are still tiny in China ... In all the mature and developed markets, we are usually (in the) top 3 or top 5 in market share," Ms. Xue said. "(China) is really where the future of the luxury market is and where our mission is as well."
Tag consumers globally are often young professionals but China's economy hasn't developed to the point where white-collar workers in their 20s can afford the brand. With the core Chinese consumer about 35, marketing was adjusted to target this older demographic.
Tag signed well-respected actor Chen Daoming as a brand ambassador, joining Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and motorsport stars like Jenson Button.
"(Mr. Chen shifted Tag's) brand image from something purely sporty to something a little more status-driven, authority-driven. Everyone knows Chen Daoming is not just another actor," Ms. Xue said.
Tag traditionally focused its messaging around its sports heritage. But to local consumers, to whom luxury means classic elegance, that conjured up images of sweaty athletes. So Ms. Xue redefined that concept.
"It's not just about sports as an activity. It's really about the spirit behind doing sports," she said. "It's about passion, it's about self-challenging and performance."
Tag Heuer is the biggest watch brand within LVMH Watch and Jewelry, and its success in China is strategically important to both the group and the brand globally, said Benoit Toulin, the group's Greater China president.
"(Ms. Xue) has been instrumental in making the Tag Heuer brand more and more relevant to the Chinese consumers while staying true to its global brand DNA," he said. "This will be one of the critical success factors for Tag Heuer in China."
For Ms. Xue, the key challenge is finding that "tipping point" where Chinese luxury tastes evolve to fall more in line with global trends.
"It's a classical case between managing the business today and marketing to future consumers," she said.