Diageo’s luxury goods boss: The ‘new Silk Road’ runs from west to east

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Thompson speaking at Global Marketer Conference.

The boss of Diageo’s luxury division James Thompson has told a room full of senior marketers that the luxury market is alive and well in the Asia-Pacific region and that we are seeing the emergence of a ‘new Silk Road’.

Thompson, who is global managing director of Diageo Reserve, told the Global Marketers Conference in Sydney today that the ‘new Silk Road’ did not see luxury goods move from the east to the west, but rather operated in reverse with Asian markets seeking Western luxury items.

“Once upon a time luxury was a static market travelling west to east. Now it is a dynamic, evolving market which can be from anywhere, everywhere and is a celebration of all markets,” said Thompson.

“We can see a new Silk Road emerging for luxury goods. This is an unprecedented geographic and demography change where luxury moves west to east. Consumer behaviour is dynamic and there are now more than 130 millions consumers of luxury goods in emerging markets and adding more than 10 million every year.”

Thompson talked about Diageo’s expansion into Asia markets and how important initiatives like Johnnie Walker House were in reaching new and aspirational markets such as Korea and China.

“Where once (luxury) was a sign you’d already made it – a way to separate the mass, a way of identifying yourself as part of an exclusive club – now it can be a sign you are still on your way. A way of curating or enhancing your personal brand,” he said.

“Johnnie Walkler House has been a bold move for us and I think one of the reasons for its success has been the tapping into cultural tensions and recognising the new paths that luxury is taking.”

The Diageo Reserve boss said luxury marketing was invariably about good storytelling.

“Stories have always been how humans have interpreted life. Today in our still evolving world they are still a big part of how humans celebrate life. I suggest that luxury marketing is no means dying in fact done right it can make a valuable contribution to life and business.”

Nic Christensen


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