Wonderbra: Asia Or Bust

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[Hong kong] A sensation in Europe, the U.S. and Latin America, Playtex's cleavage-enhancing Won-derbra has made a far less splashy debut in Asia-perhaps proving that the global village doesn't exist just yet after all.

Unlike in the U.S., no armored vans have delivered the bra to department stores. Unlike in Mexico, no homemakers protested the racy outdoor board ads. Nor was an international craze set off as was the case in the U.K. a few years ago, when British women embraced the Wonderbra so enthusiastically that Playtex took the brand back from U.K. licensee Gossard and decided to turn it into a global brand.

Though specially redesigned for the more petite Asian figure and made in a color similar to Asian skin tone, the Wonderbra's debut in March has been understated by comparison.


"I think we need to put [marketing] in the right cultural context," said Madelyn Lip, general manager at Siger Hegner, distributor for Wonderbra in Asia. "People here are more conservative."

Indeed, while Asian women may be less buxom than Western women-a marketing opportunity-they are far more modest about their undergarments. In one survey, Newsweek found that the majority of Korean women sleep with bras and underpants under their nightgowns.

With that reality in mind, Playtex parent Sara Lee Corp. spent just $100,000 in Hong Kong on outdoor and print ads. Playtex stretched the budget with a high-impact international campaign featuring Czech model Eva Herzigova displaying her cleavage.

"The PR level [and the ad budget] were not the same as in the U.S. or Europe, but the return definitely exceeded our expectations," said Joseph Leung, marketing director, Hong Kong and China for Sara Lee.

The distributor expects to sell 100,000 bras in Hong Kong by the end of the first year-not bad in a population of approximately 3 million women. Already, the bra is stealing sales away from long-dominant brands such as Maximizer, Germany's Triumph brand, and the Good-Up bra by Japan's Wacoal.

To launch the Wonderbra in Asia, Mr. Leung said Playtex used creative by TBWA, Wonderbra's worldwide agency, but used Euro RSCG for media spending because TBWA didn't have a Hong Kong presence. In October, TBWA acquired a Hong Kong agency (see Advertising Age, Oct. 14, 1996).

Reflecting Asia's more conservative cultural climate, provocative copy lines used in other markets were dropped from Asian ads and replaced with the model's body measurements. The numbers 34-24-26 were printed in the ad, but the bust measurement was crossed out and "36" written in its place.

Focus groups thought this approach was "clever and intelligent," Mr. Leung said.

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