Career Advice Company Initiatives

Brands chase new customers

As companies expand, they are reaching out to new demographics to market products to more specific types of customers. To maintain brand loyalty, they are putting products in the hands of consumers whose loyalty might have never been won before.

German camera maker Leica has become a key brand for professionals and serious camera users. In 2006, it surprised the market by releasing the M8 - a rangefinder digital camera that gave it a presence in the compact digital market - and the brand moved into a new segment.

"Leica made more digital cameras because it wanted to target new customers," says Jackie Chan, president of Schmidt Marketing (Asia), Leica's sole distributor in China, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. "Our base target customers were professional photographers who seek high product quality and performance, serious amateurs who want quality performance for leisure purposes and collectors who see an investment value in high-quality cameras."

Chan says the M8 has given rise to status seekers who want to enhance their image through prestigious brands. "Maybe they are not good photographers, but they want to make an impression."

He asserts that this is driven, at least in part, by celebrities and movie stars using the M8 model and this has defined new marketing strategies. Schmidt Marketing (HK) is recruiting a marketing manager to oversee three executives who respectively focus on public relations, media relations and brand building.

The company's advertising has focused on glossy luxury media that target high-income groups, and magazines for trendy youngsters who aspire towards a luxury life. With flagship stores in the city selling the cameras through dealers, the company isn't recruiting salespeople for its compact digital selection. Instead, it is focusing on marketing activities that lure people to stores.

Chan says the main difference between these marketers and previous ones is that while they need to have product knowledge and traditional marketing skills, they also need to be innovative in planning new strategies and active in social media to understand market trends.

Clothing manufacturer Esprit is communicating its brand more clearly to consumers. Its marketers have become more aware of the demographic segments that make up existing customers rather than reaching out to new ones. With the launch in the past decade of edc by Esprit, the company targeted younger wearers of its casual clothes, but it became clear that one size did not fit all.

"We used to categorise edc customers as being between [the ages of] 15 and 30," says Chew Fook Aun, executive director and group chief financial officer. "But you can be 35 or 40 and still be very fashionable and trendy. We found the main lines had been blurred a little, with the products appearing too similar. Edc is an example; it has become too similar to Esprit casual. Rather than target a specific age group, we have decided to market edc as being more fashionable and trendy." Esprit's three main product divisions are edc by Esprit, Esprit casual and a less casual line called women's collection, aimed at women executives. These make up about 80 per cent of its customer base. Sales recruitment is continuing at its 25 stores in Hong Kong. In addition to interpersonal skills, sales staff need to understand how a product specifically fits in with its demographic. This is helped by clear and specific marketing communications, expressed through the visual merchandising in its stores and branding.

"We want clearer divisional differentiation," Chew says. "We are very clear on how we recruit. We have common themes for what we look for and we focus on different divisions in that they need to know the product inside out."