Often associated with extreme wealth, influence and power handed down through generations, the notion of “high society” is one that has been deeply ingrained in societies around the world since time immemorial. But as the world evolves and a new class of self-made, wildly successful young individuals emerge, the term “high society” appears to be facing an identity crisis.
“I think people don’t necessarily want to be associated with this specific world because it really looks like a small group of people disconnected from the rest,” says Chairman and CEO of Tatler Asia Limited, Michel Lamunière. Power and influence in Asia, he explains, has historically been in the hands of a few people. While there are still huge socioeconomic disparities present within many Asian societies, the strong economic growth of the region, coupled with digital disruption, has shaken up the existing order. “And with people having better access to education… I think that all these different elements have led to a much wider, diverse, and richer pool of talents in the market,” he adds.
To better reflect the changing face of Asia’s top percentile, Edipresse, the Swiss publisher of luxury media Tatler’s Asian editions, announced a rebrand of its eight titles in the region earlier this month. Besides an aesthetic facelift and a greater focus on digital channels of communication, it has also expanded its focus to include the industry’s young movers and shakers, including entrepreneurs, philanthropists and celebrities. “We really see two segments here – the established, high-net worth individuals who have been consuming and will continue to consume luxury, as well as extremely wealthy individuals who have built their wealth very quickly. We want to embrace both segments,” explains Lamunière. This, he elaborates, is crucial in Tatler Asia achieving its vision. “We want to become the absolute authority of luxury lifestyle in Asia,” he says.
Print media has been on the decline for some time. Do you think print will ever die?
I’m a strong believer that print is going to thrive in the luxury and fashion categories. I agree that print is being challenged in categories like news and general women’s lifestyle – I don’t see much of a future for those kinds of media. But with luxury, I think that, and I believe, that there will be less players in the future, and that the ones who do it right will really be able to continue to grow. So the product itself needs to be absolutely beautiful. There’s no room for average layouts and content. The content needs to be exclusive, unique, and super engaging. So that’s why we are investing massively in print with the whole relaunch, in terms of layout quality and distribution. We believe that that’s the way we can really be successful in the future.
The web is fantastic but you know, there is an awful lot of content and when you browse your feed, you can have a beautiful story about a fantastic trip; travel experience; or a beautiful product. But right after, you have news of Donald Trump shutting down the border between Europe and the US. This type of environment is not always ideal for luxury brands. So I think a beautiful [print] product that understands luxury, and its audience, would provide brands with the perfect environment to communicate and engage with their potential clients.
Print still constitutes for about 50 percent of Tatler Asia’s revenue, with digital contributing about 25 percent. Do you see this changing, then?
I think that print will keep growing in the future – at least in the context of Tatler. But the majority of the growth for the company will come from digital, followed by events and experiences. A lot more brands are looking to create new experiences that will allow them to engage with our influential communities. Digital and print will, in relative terms, take a larger share of the pie. But not at the expense of print. Print will absolutely continue to grow. Our goal is for digital and print to be generating the same level of business in two years from now.
Tatler Asia announced that its digital transformation will kick off in the second quarter of this year. What does this transformation entail?
Presently, every market we operate in – with the exception of China because it obviously has its own ecosystem – has its own digital platform. What we are doing now is integrating all of that into one single, global platform, which will be known as Tatler.asia. This will allow us to start creating the best content across all the key verticals where Tatler wants to play a key role, such as luxury lifestyle, fashion, watches and jewellery, wellness, beauty, travel and food. We will also be able to start developing communities around these shared passions.
At the same time, we have also been hiring to increase the level of competency when it comes to data and analytics. That way we will be able to really analyse our data sets, our different audiences, our communities and really start delivering the right content, and eventually developing new types of products to address specific passion points.
Will there be a change in the way Tatler operates its social media channels as well?
We will retain our social media channels that service the local markets. So if you go on Instagram you will still find Tatler Hong Kong, Tatler Singapore and so on. At the same time, we will also be developing products around specific passion points. For one, Tatler will be launching a joint social media channel focused on watches together with specialist watch title, GMT (also an Edipresse publication). We are also launching dedicated products for wellness and dining. So there will be a mix of products that serve specific local audiences, and products that are built around specific passion points and communities.
How will this differ in China, given its unique ecosystem?
I think a lot of that will be replicated in China. The social media landscape differs, but the logic behind developing social media channels around passion points remains exactly the same. So developing a social channel around watches, through WeChat or Tik Tok, is something that we are going to do as well. For example, we have a second brand, Generation T, that focuses on up-and-comers – people who are not necessarily established yet but who are doing great things and are on their way achieving something really amazing. So we created a group for them on WeChat, bringing together around 1,200 of the most influential people in China, across different industries. So it’s like a community where we provide content to them directly or partner with luxury brands to offer them special products and discounts. We also create podcasts and events. And I think this will probably be the next evolution of media – developing these very tight and engaged communities where it is not just one-way communication between the publisher and the audience, but allowing the entire community to collaborate and co-create content and bring value.
Given the scale of the market in China and the level of sophistication of its digital landscape, what other opportunities do you see? Is e-commerce one of them?
Yes, eventually. So if you take Generation T, what we are selling is very much events and experiences. With the other communities like watches, the starting point is [working with a] luxury brand and then providing exclusive experiences for the community of watch lovers, or special editions that we could co-create for that specific community. That is something that we are already discussing with a lot of the luxury brands.
Events is also a growing part of our business in general – there is a huge demand there. We are rolling out several initiatives this year, one of which is our flagship event, the Tatler Ball, which brings together the most influential people in China. Two years ago, we partnered with Kiera Chaplin (granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin) and started Tatler Asia's Chaplin Award, which is presented at the Tatler Ball. Last year we were able to give it to Zhang Yimou, and two years ago, to Tony Leung, so it’s a very nice event that has been growing in influence and scale. We have another product called Off Menu, which is a dining event that we launched in Hong Kong last year. We will be creating and developing this in China this year, in three different cities. Basically, we find six local chefs and partner them with six international, influential chefs, to create a unique menu for a three-day food and wine event. These are the kind of events that we want to keep developing, diversifying our sources of revenue from purely sponsorship or advertising to actual experiences that consumers are willing to pay for.
How do you see the media landscape in Asia evolving over the next few years?
I think there will be new technologies coming up every six months, so it is very, very difficult to predict. But I think engagement will remain the key matrix. And because the luxury consumer in Asia tends to be younger than in the West, the adoption of all the new social media tools will continue to be a key driver of success.