SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- Pernod Ricard has revamped its marketing for Chivas with a platform built around chivalry. China is one of the first markets to roll out the "Live with Chivalry" concept, which will succeed "The Chivas Life" theme globally.
But China is also one of the most difficult markets for the new campaign, because the concept of chivalry dates back to the medieval institution of knighthood originating in the Middle Ages--in Europe, not mainland China.
The term chivalry still has strong associations with knightly virtues such as honor, courtly love and courteous behavior, especially that of men towards women. The French spirits company calls the platform a reaction against an age of individualism and over-reliance on materialism.
But these are distinctly western values. China is a fiercely competitive business environment and there is no Chinese character that exactly conveys the term "chivalry," nor is there a word for it in Mandarin, the nation's primary spoken language.
Pernod Ricard is "trying to understand how the Chinese man is changing. We went through a period where conspicuous consumption and being extravagant was considered the epitome of a successful Chinese man," said Shanghai-based Seth Grossman, managing director, eastern China at Aegis-owned Carat, which handles media planning and buying for Pernod Ricard in China.
"While I wouldn't say that's out of style, and probably never will be, there's recognition that a successful man is also a man of substance and culture, not just a man of wealth and financial success."
Concept of chivalry is foreign in China
To adapt the global campaign for China, Chivas Bros. focused on specific values representing chivalry that are familiar to men and women in China, such as courage, intelligence, loyalty, confidence and honor.
Chinese consumers "know the concept of chivalry is foreign but it has a lot of values that are available in day-to-day life in China and Chivas helps them realize that," said Shanghai-based Terence Ong, Pernod Ricard's marketing director in China. For foreigners, the campaign may give a medieval feeling, but in China, it's "more about values and a way of looking at life. It makes our consumers realize those values were in them but maybe were not demonstrated. It is also a global trend. People are really going more in-depth in terms of looking at values more than material life," said Mr. Ong.
Chivas also turned to Chinese to help them define chivalry for the local market. The company launched a microsite with a leading Chinese portal, Sina.com, where web surfers could vote for events during the Olympic Games last summer representing chivalrous moments.
"They picked some good stuff, like the honor element in chivalry represented by the athletes at the Olympic Games this year, pride at China's successful opening ceremony for the Olympics and the courage of a young boy who saved some of his schoolmates during the Sichuan earthquake," said Mr. Ong. Basketball star Yao Ming's turn as a flagbearear at the 2008 Olympic Games "was also a demonstration of great courage for them."
First global Chivas spot produced by Euro RSCG
Pernod Ricard launched the "Live with Chivalry" campaign in China on Nov. 15 with a party and a musical called "Knight Star" at 1933 Shanghai, a landmark building. Featuring a celebrity cast including Charlene Choi, Julian Cheung, Jimmy Lin, and Alice Lau, the musical interpreted the values of modern knights, faith, courage and the bond of friendship.
Each Chinese artist played a character that represented different admirable attributes defining chivalry. The musical is currently touring other major Chinese cities.
Pernod Ricard is also running the campaign on local and national TV stations in China. A spot about a modern knight, called "Movement," is the first commercial to air worldwide since the French company transferred global creative duties on Chivas Regal to Euro RSCG from TBWA/Chiat/Day in May 2008. The spot was developed by Euro RSCG's London office. The campaign is also running in Chinese print, out of home and online media as well as through events and point-of-sale promotions.
The spot was introduced in Hong Kong on Dec. 10, 2008 in local TV media and cinemas and on LCD screens in the MTR subway network. Most of the activity in Hong Kong is focused on a game, The Quest for Chivalry, consumers can play online or through activation programs in popular bars. The game lets players compete for tickets to a Chivalry Alliance party in Hong Kong on Jan. 15, 2009.
Pernod Ricard is partnering with China Central Television to illustrate the spirit of chivalry. For four months starting in November 2008, the national broadcaster is running a Chivas Original Movies film series on its CCTV6 movie channel. The movies chosen demonstrate chivalrous qualities. Last month, for example, films such as "Brave Heart", "Enemy at the Gates" and "Mission Impossible II" represented courage. This month, the theme was gallantry, portrayed through films like "Scent of a Woman," "Sabrina" and James Bond film "The World is not Enough." Movies in January and February will revolve around honor and camaraderie.
The CCTV film series sponsorship gives "emotional power to the brand's communication and bonding with the target where TV spots fall short of because of the time limit," said Carat's Mr. Grossman. "It took a nice bit of creative media negotiation to convince CCTV, as it's the first time ever that station allowed an advertiser to select movies by theme and according to a specific brand proposition."
Scotch accounts for nearly half of imported spirits
Finding a good brand fit for Chivas in China is critically important for Pernod Ricard. In 2007, Chinese accounted for 3.7 billion of the 18.3 billion liters of spirits consumed globally, according to Euromonitor International.
Scotch whiskey sales in China reached $1.1 billion in 2006, up from just $2 million in 2001, according to the Scotch Whiskey Association. IWSR, a London-based research company specializing in the global wine and spirits industry, estimates Scotch now accounts for 44% of imported spirits sales in China.
For years, Chivas Regal has been the most popular whiskey brand in China, and Pernod Ricard is anxious to keep that status in the face of aggressive investment in the mainland by Diageo in its Johnnie Walker brand.
At the same time, Chinese are experimenting beyond the two mainstays of the imported spirits segment--whiskey and cognac. Sales of premium gin and vodka brands, for example, are skyrocketing at bars in tier one cities as the growth of China's middle class has resulted in a desire for more prestigious, high quality alcoholic beverages for personal consumption, business entertainment and gift giving.
Alcohol consumption outside the home has become more of a lifestyle statement, especially for young consumers and wealthy Chinese. Rising incomes, especially in urban areas, have led to greater demand for high quality prestigious products that convey wealth and status.
China's market is growing "extremely rapidly," Mr. Ong said. "Foreign spirits have great potential in China. The market is still far from being saturated."
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