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... And the phone that never stops blinging

By Wang Mingjie | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2014-11-02 13:47

Accessory made to shine is a perfect match for Chinese market, company says

Wired magazine described them as "tasteless trash", and Massimiliano Pogliani offers no rejoinder to that putdown.

At this point the CEO of the British luxury brand smartphone maker Vertu switches attention to the technical aspects of the company's products, which the Financial Times once called "technically modest".

Vertu's newly launched Aster, priced from $6,774 (5,400 euros) has the same screen size as Apple's new iPhone 6, he says, with 60GB of memory and a 13 megapixel camera, he says.

But asked what best describes the Aster, "mobile phone" or "luxury item", Pogliani is unequivocal. It is a luxury item, albeit one that also happens to be a mobile phone.

It is that luxury tag and the attraction to it of high net worth individuals that draws Vertu to China.

"The brand is quite well established in China," Pogliani says.

"We have quite a good, loyal customer base. China is one of our biggest markets so far."

It now has more than 40 outlets around the country, compared with just a handful 10 years ago.

Chinese luxury goods buyers are much more discerning than those in other emerging markets, he says, which the company needs to understand and profit from.

"In the beginning, luxury brands simply offered expensive goods unavailable before. Today, Chinese customers know many brands and know them in depth. One can see that in the manner which they purchase the product."

Vertu fits in perfectly, he says.

"We have a good story, a good background. We were the very first creators within our category. We use very precious materials, but now our product is a little more subtle, less overstated, unlike it was in the past."

The Chinese mobile market is dominated by iPhone and Samsung, and while success is often measured by sales, especially in a huge market like China, Vertu does not consider others in the mobile market to be its competitors, he says. That mantle belongs to other luxury goods and services dealers.

"We are not mass producers. We don't compete with the mobile market, but rather with five-star hotels, experiential luxury goods, and two-star Michelin restaurants. Our customers are looking to be special and unique in the way they express their personality."

Pogliani, previously Vertu's marketing head, took over as CEO last year. When he arrived at Vertu the company was struggling to modernize after being bought out by EQT, a Stockholm-based private equity group that owns Scandic Hotels and catering group SSP from Nokia in a deal that valued the company at about $253 million, people familiar with the deal said at the time.


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