Male Perfumes in China – Master this Niche

With increasing disposable income and an opener attitude towards global lifestyle trends, China has proved to be the biggest as well as the fastest-growing market for luxury lifestyle products in beauty, personal care, and fashion… Perfumes or cologne (a term for male perfumes) doesn’t stay outside the trend. Using perfumes in China has become popular for the past decade, even a part of daily life for many young Chinese consumers.

Even though over 70% of the Chinese perfume market share came from women in 2017 according to Forward-the Economist, Chinese men are catching up with the habit. This article is dedicated to discussing marketing strategies to promote male perfumes in China.

Demand for male fragrances is growing in China

Cai Xinxin stocks more than 15 independent perfume brands in his Minorité boutique in Shanghai

Young Chinese men are becoming more beauty conscious and confident to take care of their appearance.

This July, male perfume was one of the most popular topics on the lifestyle platform XiaoHongShu (a.k.a. Little Red Book).

Hot community hashtags about what smells sexy on a man like “Bad boy scents (渣男香)” and “Girl-slaying scents (斩女香)” collected over 50k posts last month, and although male perfume has never been a part of traditional Chinese culture, the post-90 generation is showing a growing interest in perfumes.

In a report from (唯品会Chinese e-commerce platform which focuses on cosmetics and clothing), the purchase rate of men’s beauty products increased from 16.7% in 2016 up to 42.9% in 2017.

Young male consumers nowadays are getting rid of the traditional image of a Chinese man and becoming more and more interested in cologne.

International brands should approach Chinese male consumers in the early phase of their cologne exploration journey.

In China Branding is decisive for Men Fragrances & Cologne Brands

Branding is, in general, a dead-or-alive matter in China. However, for perfumes, it is even more critical.

It’s just easier to pick well-known brands

For a very long time, China had no culture of using perfume until recent years.

Chinese millennials have grown up with parents and grandparents wearing no perfume. As a result, using perfume is not a part of their daily lifestyle and Chinese men are not widely educated about this type of product.

Therefore, the younger generation who starts to explore the world of perfume, tend to make a safer choice by picking those from well-known brands and products with a higher reputation.

Moreover, since wearing perfume shows a high social status in China, Chinese consumers want their friends and acquaintances to recognize the ones they are wearing.

Branded products are better looking as gifts

Chinese consumers still see perfumes as more of a luxury gift rather than a daily necessity. They like to buy perfumes for their significant others since perfumes as a gift is considered personal and intimate.

Many Chinese male consumers might not purchase their first bottle of perfume on their own but receive it from their girlfriend or wife.

As a matter of fact, consumers in China almost only choose perfume from international brands as gifts, since these are considered more decent.

Chinese not only gift perfumes on Valentine’s day but also on other occasions like birthdays, Christmas, and anniversaries. Compared to other luxury goods, perfume from a high-end brand is more affordable, yet still wins the gift-giver a good “face” because of the brand’s reputation and elegant design.

International brands ensure the quality

Due to the concern of Chinese consumers about food and cosmetic scandals, they have more trust in perfumes from international brands.

Although there are plenty of Chinese local perfume brands, they mainly appear in the low-end market.

According to data from Euromonitor International report on the Perfume Market in China, sales of international premium fragrance brands in the Chinese market grew by 2.2% during 2016 while the market share of domestic fragrance brands dropped by 3.6%.


How to market and sell your male perfume brand in China

1. Invest in content marketing to educate consumers

Male perfumes are in the immature stage in China where users are still getting themselves educated about the perfume world.

Therefore, besides the role of a seller, western companies should also play the role of an introducer of perfumes to Chinese consumers.

Brands should help Chinese consumers develop the knowledge of how to choose the right perfume, as well as how to use it.

On the biggest Chinese question-answer platform Zhihu (知乎), the top 3 posts regarding perfume/cologne are:

  • How to enter the world of perfumes (with 26K agreed and 643 comments till December 20th, 2018)
  • The Complete Guide to Perfume (with 14K agreed and 232 comments till December 20th, 2018), in which the author explains the basic knowledge about perfume, for example: What is top notes, heart notes, and base notes; as well as the basic types of fragrances.
  • How to Wear Perfume and Where to Spray-On? (with 13K agreed and 322 comments till December 20th, 2018). The author offers advice about how to pick the first perfume and recommends certain perfumes to try out.

As a result, it could be very advantageous for foreign brands by the time they successfully transmit the habit and tradition of using perfume.

Once more and more young consumers in China obtain knowledge and culture, wearing perfume will become a part of many Chinese consumers’ daily life.

Sephora Beauty Class as a successful initiative to help Chinese consumers learn about perfumes

Sephora provides an online page that introduces their perfumes and educates buyers about them, named “Sephora Beauty Class”.

This page shows the perfume or cologne classification according to the percentage of perfume, and from which category the current product on that page.

This helps Chinese consumers learn the right description of the product and how long they can expect the scent to last.

2. Be there when people search for your products on Baidu

Consumers search on Baidu when they are seeking answers to any question just like we search on Google.

In China, the search market is fragmented with multiple search engines but Baidu is still dominant with more than 80% market share.

When is there the most searches for perfumes?

As we can see from the search frequency of the term “perfume or cologne” (香水) in the last 12 months, peaks have been reached in the week before Valentine’s day and the week before Chinese Valentine’s day (七夕 Qixi, mostly in August, depending on the lunar calendar).

Conduct Market Research to identify topics to write about and keywords to optimize for

The most related keywords of “cologne” on Baidu are “cologne recommendation”, “Top 10 of cologne brands”, “Versace cologne”, “Chanel” and “Hermes”.

The most related keywords of “perfume” are “perfume brands”, “Chanel”, “Dior”, “ranking list of perfume” and “cologne”.

The most related keywords of “French perfume” are “ranking list of French perfume brands”, “French perfume brands”, “Chanel No.5 women’s perfume” and “Longines perfume”.

Brands which are performing well on Baidu search engine will be able to capture targeted consumers who have an intention to make purchases.

We wrote a very detailed guide on how to crack Baidu here.

3. Build your expert voice on Zhihu

Zhihu, which was launched in January 2011, is a Chinese question-and-answer website like Quora. Its motto is “Share your knowledge, experiences, and thoughts with the world.” On Zhihu, questions are created, answered, edited, and organized by its users.

As of May 2018, the number of registered Zhihu users was more than 160 million – an increase of 95.12% over the previous year.

There are different ways by which brands can engage with the audience on Zhihu:

  • look for questions related to your industries, products, or services and contribute your insights. Answering questions on Zhihu allows brands to showcase their expertise and connect with both industry experts and general users.
  • Besides, you can also post questions yourselves. This allows you to get high-quality user-generated content, improve your user engagement and amplify your influence on this social media. Moreover, brands can also collect user feedback and reviews about their products which are valued more than an official market survey.
  • Get influencers on Zhihu to mention or talk about you in an objective way
  • Publish articles with in-depth, professional knowledge about perfumes

On Zhihu, most questions and answers about perfumes fit into these 2 categories:

1. recommendations of products and brands based on different kinds of consumers and needs such as for gifts, dating…

2. comparing different brands in terms of smell, design, prices…

4. Xiaohongshu is the best social media and e-commerce platform for lifestyle products like perfumes

You properly know about Xiaohongshu already, don’t you?

It’s just so popular these days. Most of all fashion and cosmetics brands are there to build their reputation and interact with customers.

Xiaohongshu is well-known and trusted by consumers for its high-quality user-generated content written by normal users about the products they have used or their shopping tips or any advice related to beauty and fashion and lifestyle.

Moreover, any product mentioned on Xiaohongshu can be purchased directly on the platform without the need to get on another official e-commerce site, creating great convenience for customers.

Since women look for advice to buy perfumes for their husbands or boyfriends on Xiaohongshu, male perfumes are a promising category on this platform.

Brands can cooperate with KOLs to generate useful content for readers. Moreover, brands can organize campaigns to encourage users to write reviews or create information related to the products.

Influencer endorsement in combination with in-depth and insightful guides on male perfumes would get you a lot of exposure and trust from the Xiaohongshu community.

The following example is KOL’s article recommending nine different kinds of perfumes from international brands and sharing her experience.

At the bottom, readers can purchase directly the buyable products mentioned in the post, which in this case, are all nine perfumes mentioned.

This post got 12K likes and 988 comments.

It also has been saved as a favorite for 53,8K times, which means many readers would view this post again in the future and take this KOL’s recommendation and user experience as a reference.

5. Presence on Wechat is a must to show that your brand is serious in China

It’s not unnecessary to remind you that Wechat is the most powerful app in China with more than 1 billion users and not just a social media platform.

Here are brief steps to market your colognes on Wechat:

  • have an official account
  • create and publish useful articles. See Wechat is a place for blogging, which means that articles are more suited and not short notes like on Facebook.
  • Organize creative campaigns with HTML or Mini-programs to engage customers
  • Convenient customer service by answering all their concerns via the Chat function
  • Electronic Loyalty Cards
  • Run advertisements

6. Weibo is Facebook of China and where you socialize with Chinese consumers 

  • Have an official account
  • Create and share viral content
  • Respond to like/shares/comments from fans
  • Monitor the community, handle a crisis, and ensure positive e-reputation
  • Organize interactive campaigns to engage fans and gain awareness
  • Run advertisements
  • Influencer marketing works very well on Weibo

Here are some examples of popular posts about perfumes on Weibo:

  • Post 1:
  • Post 2;

7. Sell where most Chinese consumers buy

Due to the high Internet and smartphone penetration in China and the convenience of online shopping, Chinese online retailing has been booming for many years and it is still on an upward climb.

A few international brands (e.g. Chanel) have their Chinese official website selling diverse products incl. perfumes.

Besides that, several foreign brands have built their official flagship stores selling cosmetics and beauty products incl. perfume on Tmall (Chinese B2C e-commerce platform from Alibaba Group), e.g. Estee Lauder, Lancôme, Givenchy, Jo Malone, and Guerlain.

Another option for brands to distribute perfume in China is via Tmall Global (天猫国际官方直营), as CK, Gucci, ANNA SUI, Burberry, Versace, and Davidoff are doing. The second option for international perfume brands on Tmall is to distribute through the Tmall Sephora Flagship Store, which is used by e.g. Gucci, Kenzo, LOEWE, GIVENCHY, Bvlgari, Chloe, Miu Miu, etc.

There are no official flagship stores from international brands on Jingdong (京东, China’s second-biggest B2C e-commerce platform). However, brands can distribute perfumes in the Jingdong Ziying Store (京东自营店, direct sales of Jingdong). Jingdong Sephora flagship store.

For brands that are not ready to set up flagship stores on these dominant platforms, cross-border e-commerce is a good option.


Please contact us for more information about how we can help your business. We look forward to discussing your project. 

Read the full How to Sell Perfumes in China? | A Guide to the Chinese Fragrance Market & The Best Practices for Beauty & Cosmetics Brand in China


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