Fragrance marketing has always relied heavily on the power of partnerships, starting with Hollywood celebrities in the 1990s and early 2000s and, more recently, with influencers. But as the allure of celebrity continues to fall out of favor with millennial and Gen Z consumers, fragrance brands are forced to evolve and find new ways to express the many facets of fragrance.
Anglo-French fragrance brand House of Creed reimagined the concept of fragrance marketing partnerships with the brand’s most recent collaboration with Chinese collectible toy brand RobbiArt to create the a scented designer toy in celebration of the Lunar New Year.
“We are inspired by the creativity and innovation from China’s young creators, and RobbiArt caught our eye as it speaks to the Gen Z community that sees value in digital and physical art,” Sarah Rotheram, CEO of Creed, tells BeautyMatter. “It’s a blend between the physical and the metaphysical world.”
The limited edition collection is available in two sizes: 28cm ($323/2,188 RMB) and 70cm ($499.45/3,388 RMB). Each Robbi features a unique NFC chip in the toy’s left foot, which reveals its unique number, making each one a prized collectible item. The toy also comes with a removable backpack that carries with it the aroma of Creed’s best-selling scent, Silver Mountain Water.
“Part of the attraction of collectibles is that they are limited edition—they are not mass produced,” says Rotheram. “Hence in order to ensure customers feel confident that they are one of the lucky ones to have a Creed x Robbi art toy, Robbi’s team has implemented an NFC chip that will show to the consumer that the product is one of 800 toys custom produced for this exclusive collaboration.”
Chinese Consumers' Obsession with Collectible Toys
Collectible toys are booming in popularity among Chinese millennials and Gen Zers. The size of the collectible toy market increased from $970 million (6.3 billion RMB) in 2015 to $3.2 billion (20.7 billion RMB) in 2019, and has only gone up from there. The market is projected to surpass $11.7 billion (76 billion RMB) in 2024, according to iiMedia Research.
The first-of-its-kind collaboration came about after Rotheram met with Rhea He, a young Chinese millennial female tech entrepreneur and the founder of Robbi. The toy’s body art leverages a custom print Creed commissioned from Hong Kong artist Laura Cheung, founder of Lala Curio.
“We felt Rhea and her team immediately understood Creed and worked very closely with us to make RobbiArt feel authentic to our story,” says Rotheram. “We are Robbi’s first and exclusive fragrance partner, which is very exciting and adds another dimension to the Robbi’s sensation.”
The collectible toys are currently being sold at both Robbi and Creed’s physical and online stores to outstanding results. In some markets, Creed had a waiting list and sold out in the first few days.
Originally a China-exclusive campaign, Creed decided to take it global after seeing the overwhelmingly positive response.
“We feel incredibly proud of our China teams and collaborators for producing such an appealing product that has global relevance and influence,” says Rotheram. “We believe this must be a first, especially for a luxury fragrance brand. A genuine example of creativity transcending borders and culture.”
Creed launched in China in 2020 with Tmall Global ecommerce, followed soon by Tmall Classic before opening 14 retail boutiques across Mainland China. The brand took a very strategic approach to marketing in China and worked closely with their agency partner Red Ant Asia to create campaigns that are consumer-centric and very curated.
“Really interestingly for us [is that] we see a much younger client profile in China than we do in the rest of the world,” says Rotheram. “Creed x Robbi is an extension to our China strategy that offers something to our consumers in their chosen touch point―be it physical or digital―on our Tmall store or in our stores.”
This innovative campaign is even more impressive when you consider the heritage and history of Creed. The company was originally founded as a tailoring house in London, England, in 1760. Artistry is at the heart of the brand, whether that means working with some of the most skilled tailors in the 1800s or talented digital creators in 2023.
“We are a brand with heritage and craftsmanship which has innovated and upheld luxury values for over 200 years, yet we are tapped into the latest innovations in culture and luxury lifestyle,” says Rotheram. “We seek collaborations with creators that we feel understand this fabulous combination of classic and modern.”
Closing the Gap Between the Physical and Digital World
The Creed x Robbi collaboration is a step into the future where the digital and physical worlds are increasingly overlapping. Not only will the toy live physically in Creed stores across the world and in 3D video assets across its owned and earned media, but also virtually in the metaverse with China’s leading virtual KOL (key opinion leader), Ayayi.
“Ayayi was included in our Creed x Robbi collab campaign as one of the ‘people of influence,’ as she was a natural fit to the profile of people we wanted to connect with this collab,” says Rotheram. “Ayayi, as a metahuman/virtual KOL, was a perfect candidate to help amplify our campaign.”
Created by the company Ranmai Technology, Ayayi is China’s first metahuman influencer with hyperrealistic features. Her look, skills, and personality were tailored to the tastes and preferences of Gen Z. Since her debut in 2021, she’s worked with many luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior, Ferragamo, and now, Creed. Ayayi’s virtual image is about as 'real' as they come, further blurring the line between the metaverse and the real world. The power of scent has no bounds and is capable of connecting the intangible to the tangible across time and space.
“Robbi’s world is both virtual and physical―with the Creed collaboration there is even the additional angle of beautiful scent,” says Rotheram. “He blends fantasy and reality and each brand can reimagine him in their own version of his metaverse.”
As brands continue to navigate shifting consumer habits and preferences, reaching consumers who spend most of their time in digital spaces but also value relatability and authenticity, will become increasingly important. The virtual world is the real world, with real people inhabiting its infinite spaces.
“We see the world of digital and physical evermore interacting, and for us we want to be able to create experiences for our customers and connect to our customers be it in the real world, the digital world, and/or the metaverse,” says Rotheram. “The beauty of the metaverse is that anything is possible.”
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