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The 1860’s; an eventful decade that saw the commencement of the American Civil War, the first submarine used in warfare, the formation of the Ku Klux Klan, the Russian sale of Alaska to the US, the British and French at war with China and the Château Lafite Rothschild produce a lovely red and bottled it. 

Fast forward to 2010 at a Sotheby’s auction room in Hong Kong where an anonymous bidder has just paid $696,000 for three bottles of Lafite. There were further gasps when another bidder at the same auction paid $70,000 for what was probably an undrinkable but rare 2009 Lafite - that had yet to be bottled. This is perhaps the most the most dramatic increase in the price of perishable goods since Tulip Mania in Holland of 1636 where bulbs were traded for houses.

An overnight jump of 17% in the vintage price was not the result of inflation, but a clever cultural marketing campaign. In 2008 Lafite bottles were embossed with the Chinese symbol for the number 8 which is considered lucky. Furthermore the very name Lafite sounds like the Chinese word for prosper. If that wasn’t enough, the King of Thailand credits it with aiding in his recovery from ill health. 

The timing of the number 8 campaign was perfect, the year being 2008, the Olympics opened in Beijing on the 08/08/2008 and every bottle and magnum of Lafite was embossed with the Chinese number 8. The Thai King’s recovery was the icing on the cake that inadvertently endorsed the product. 

The Chinese cultural hook for the number 8 was not invented by Lafite, but it was recognised, respected and indeed capitalised on. Now Lafite is in partnership with CITIC, China’s largest state-owned investment company to develop 25ha on the Panglai peninsula known as China’s Bordeaux. 

Cultural hooks like the number 8 present massive marketing opportunities the world over, by understanding these hooks we can leverage profit margins whilst better serving our clients. 

  1. 1)Become aware of and remove your own cultural filters
  2. 2)Define the target market
  3. 3)Engage the right people for the project
  4. 4)Commit to your target
  5. 5)Give the market what it wants, not what you’ve got

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