How Stuart Weitzman is using WeChat to expand its Asian footprint

Luxury shoe brand Stuart Weitzman is betting big on the Chinese messaging app WeChat to grow its footprint in the Chinese market.

In its latest campaign for the Gigi boot — a lace-up, high-heeled boot that was created in collaboration with model and social media star–of-the-moment Gigi Hadid — the brand has opted for a boxing-themed campaign that is housed on a mini mobile website that lives exclusively on the app.

Dubbed #DoItRight, the campaign first leads users through an interactive comic strip featuring photos and graphics of both Hadid boxing and the boots. Users eventually arrive at a two-minute black-and-white video directed by James Franco, which features Hadid walking through cobblestone streets, working out in a gym and getting into a boxing ring, all while wearing Gigi boots. Users can then play an interactive “target and punch” game centered on the sound and beat of the video (there are easy and hard versions to choose from), before finally — of course — being prompted to shop the boots online and follow the brand on the app.

“WeChat is a direct line to consumers on mobile,” said Stuart Weitzman’s CMO Susan Duffy. “Email addresses aren’t the standard in China like they are in the U.S., so everything is centralized on WeChat.”

Screen shots of the Gigi boot #DoItRight WeChat campaign

WeChat is one of the main gateways for foreign brands to enter the Chinese market. Luxury labels including Coach, Burberry and Chanel are using the app to advertise, build brand awareness and foster one-on-one relationships with consumers through direct messaging. The reason for the big push? As of March, WeChat has more than 760 million active monthly users, an increase of almost 40 percent year over year, according to e-marketer.

With a strong focus on e-commerce, the app connects users with friends, brands and services, and bridges the gap between online and offline. For consumers seeking information on luxury brands, it’s also a key go-to app. According to a Bain & Company report released earlier this year, 60 percent of 1,500 interviewees said they use WeChat, among other apps like Weibo (similar to Twitter), as a source for information on luxury goods.

For Coach-owned Stuart Weitzman, China has been a main focus for the past three years. Before social media really came into focus, the brand’s advertising in the Asian region consisted of outdoor billboards, and signage in malls and airports, as well as on the Hong Kong Ferry. Duffy declined to say what percentage of overall sales come from the Chinese market, but she made it clear that Stuart Weitzman is investing in both the market and marketing with its WeChat campaign. The brand has a global social media team of five, made up of a three-member team in New York and two in Hong Kong: a director of social media for Asia and a social media manager, who was hired a few months ago.

Just like for Facebook and Instagram, brands create content specifically for WeChat. Other than an obvious language difference, there are other key differences and challenges Duffy pointed to when creating content for the app. She said WeChat isn’t just a content or a messaging platform — it encompasses CRMs and e-commerce, and it can help drive users into brick-and-mortar stores.

“Chinese social media campaigns need to emphasize more interactive experiences,” she said. “The text copy itself has to be longer and more detailed than what we’d normally design for Western consumers. The longer the copy, the more authentic they feel it is,” she said, adding that Stuart Weitzman posts less frequently on WeChat than it does on Facebook and Instagram. There’s also the high level of technical development and production required, as well as the gamification element, for which the brand sources off-site help.

Duffy wouldn’t comment on whether Stuart Weitzman’s presence on WeChat had shifted the needle in terms of sales. She said the aim at this stage is about increasing brand awareness, which it’s achieving. In the past year, the brand has gained 90,000 followers on the app, but it has seen greater numbers when it comes to engagement; the brand reached 2.6 million users for the Gigi boot campaign, but its total exposure was almost triple that, with the video being viewed and shared 6.3 million times, according to the brand.

The Gigi boot was a global WeChat campaign, but Stuart Weitzman also works with local social media influencers like Tiffany Tang and Song Gia, who were behind one of the brand’s most successful campaigns on the platform. In partnership with Elle China, the pair live-streamed an in-store styling event on the app, where users could ask questions in real time. 2.1 million users tuned in.

At the end of the day, being on WeChat is about sales. It’s a portal to millions of potential Chinese consumers, and while Stuart Weitzman isn’t focused on pushing sales just yet, it does hope to create relationships with future consumers.

Duffy said WeChat provides a path to one key target group: “higher earners who are not yet rich,” she said. “We’re able to market to these people directly on WeChat.”

Get news and analysis about fashion, beauty and culture delivered to your inbox every morning.