From masstige to MASSCLUSIVE: middle-class premium consumption evolves in Asia.


Middle-class premium consumption in Asia is all about masstige … right?

Says the Asian caveman.

Any observer of the Asian consumer arena is familiar with masstige:

Masstige = mass-market products infused with prestige elements (think smartly packaged USD 20 shampoo sold in supermarkets), catering to emerging middle classes with an appetite for premium, but budgets that do not stretch to true luxury.

But as millions more consumers join Asia’s emerging middle classes, masstige consumption is becoming more commonplace.

The result? Masstige consumption is not the status marker it once was. Now, more affluent and sophisticated Asian middle-class consumers are demanding new, innovative and surprising forms of premium.

The APAC middle-class population is estimated to grow from 516 million people in 2009 to 3.22 billion in 2030, when it will comprise 66% of the global middle-class population.

World Economic Forum, 2013

Of course, conventional masstige is still going strong.

One conventional masstige tactic? Mass-market products going premium. 2014 saw Unilever launch Magnum, its premium ice cream brand, in India. The FMCG company also launched Pond’s Men, its premium skincare line for men, in both India and the Philippines earlier this year.

Another standard masstige play? Luxury products go mass market. Japanese premium cosmetic brand Shiseido is expanding its business in the Indonesian market with its masstige line Za. And Saturday, Kate Spade’s lifestyle (read: more accessible) line recently opened a third store in Singapore’s Takashimaya Department Store after its first launch in October 2013.

The takeaway? Yes, there will still be opportunities to delight the new Asian middle class with traditional masstige offerings.

So if masstige is the norm, what's the innovation camp doing?

Affordable premium is evolving beyond "mass goes premium, luxury goes mass".

Just as happened with traditional high-end luxury (first in the West and now increasingly in Asia), middle-class premium consumption is becoming more fragmented.

No longer just about products and services with a little better quality, more polished packaging, and slightly higher price points, instead it is now about displays of taste and sensibility, artisan and local offerings, exclusive locations, rare and unusual experiences, and more.

The middle-class premium consumer is moving from masstige to MASSCLUSIVE.

MASSCLUSIVITY | A form of affordable premium consumption that combines the mass with the truly exclusive: tasteful, rare, experiential, compellingly storied, and more!

1. Overcrowding

The masstige space is too crowded…

From Jakarta to Mumbai, walk down any supermarket aisle and you’ll see masstige products crowding the shelves. A million mass-market brands are employing premiumization strategies to cater to the demands of the exploding middle class.

Meanwhile, Asia’s middle classes are getting larger and richer. That means even MORE people who can afford middle-class premium.

The result? Conventional masstige is now becoming a little too mass, and no longer delivering the excitement and status boost it once did.


The total middle-class spending in APAC is estimated to grow from USD 4.9 trillion in 2009 to USD 32.9 trillion in 2030, when it is projected to comprise 59% of global middle-class spending.

World Economic Forum, 2013

2. Evolving tastes

Middle-class status is moving beyond product upgrade and wealth display.

While the masstige space becomes more overcrowded by the day, Asian middle classes are also becoming more sophisticated and demanding.

They want products and services that go beyond a higher price point and upgraded quality, and that truly mark them out from the crowd.

As a result, witness the emergence of new kinds of premium offerings – novel experiences, storied products, artisanal goods, new mass/premium partnerships, and more – aimed at Asia’s middle-class consumers.


Take a look inside Asia's MASSCLUSIVE consumption sphere!


Chef Creations by 7-Eleven

7-Eleven Philippines partners with local chef Claude Tayag on gourmet ready meals

MASSCLUSIVITY is: healthy celebrity ready meals.

In May 2014 in the Philippines, 7-Eleven partnered with local artisan chef Claude Tayag on Chef Creations: a range of gourmet ready meals. The range is made from selected ingredients and designed to be a healthy ready meal option. It took more than a year for the chef to finalise the three recipes so as to find the balance between nutrition and taste. Chef Creations meals are priced from USD 1.70.


A Festival About Coffee

Jakarta event caters to emerging gourmet coffee culture

MASSCLUSIVITY is: festival of artisan-ship and learning.

Not long ago, most Indonesians drank only instant coffee from sachets costing not more than USD 0.50, but a gourmet coffee culture is emerging. August 2014 brought with it A Festival About Coffee, an event for Jakarta’s emerging specialty coffee fans. The two-day festival featured pop up booths by the city’s specialty coffee joints, workshops, seminars, and a premiere screening of a documentary entitled A Film About Coffee.


Jeans by Kamine Zoo

Limited-edition jeans ‘made’ by zoo animals in Japan

MASSCLUSIVITY is: extreme & storied limited edition (here from Japan, but ripe for adaptation in other Asian markets!).

June 2014 saw the Kamine Zoo in Japan’s Hitachi City debut a special fundraising jeans collection. Available for men and women, the jeans were made from denim which had been scratched, bitten or torn by the zoo’s animals, including lions, bears and tigers. The limited-edition jeans were auctioned off, with funds donated to the zoo and the World Wildlife Fund.


Hotel Chains in India

Hotel chains improve services for Indian consumers

MASSCLUSIVITY is: catering to the demanding local mid-market.

As of January 2014, hotel chains in India including Hilton, Marriott, InterContinental, Starwood and Accor are offering high-end services at their mid-market and budget chains. These include doormen, 24-hour room service, concierge desks, laundry and valet services, banquet and meeting spaces, and food and beverage outlets. While many of these features are not available in the chains’ equivalents in the US and Europe, the services have been added to meet the demands of Indian consumers.

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Burger King Japan

Burgers with black cheese and black everything else

MASSCLUSIVITY is: shocking haute fast food (another Japanese example waiting to be adapted for other Asian countries!).

Launching later this month, Kuro (meaning: black) Pearl and Kuro Diamond Burgers are the newest creation by Burger King Japan. The burgers feature black cheese and black buns made of bamboo charcoal, with onion and garlic sauce made with squid ink, and beef with BLACK pepper sauce.


The Inspired Chef

Celebrity chef ice cream available in Singaporean supermarkets

MASSCLUSIVITY is: local, artisan, one-of-a-kind, stories.

Once only available online, August 2014 saw The Inspired Chef come to supermarket joints NTUC FairPrice Finest and FairPrice Xtra. The Inspired Chef is a gourmet ice cream line made to suit local Singaporean tastes. Crafted by local celebrity chefs and inspired by their favorite traditional treats, flavors include White Chocolate & Black Sesame, Double Peanut Butter Fudge, and Salted Caramel Popcorn Avalanche. When consumers order online, ice creams come delivered with specially engraved spoons.


Fresh New Zealand seafood shipped for Chinese consumers

MASSCLUSIVITY is: the ultra-hard-to-access delivered to the doorstep. China partnered with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to launch a promotion in April 2014, allowing Chinese consumers to order fresh seafood from New Zealand seas and have it delivered in less than 72 hours. Products available for sale include paua, greenshell mussels, and Bluff and Pacific oysters. These were delivered in a box with a small knife, rubber gloves, lime, and instructions on how to properly eat the seafood.



Pollution masks launched at Hong Kong Fashion Week

MASSCLUSIVITY is: stylish functionality.

Unveiled at Hong Kong Fashion Week in July 2014, US-based Vogmask collaborated with Chinese body painting collective Face Slap to launch a collection of pollution masks. Priced from RMB 180 (USD 29), each of the masks has been individually designed by a different artist. Vogmask’s masks filter almost 100% of air pollution and gradually mold to a wearer’s face over time.


Colgate SlimSoft Charcoal

Oral hygiene brand launch black charcoal toothbrush in India

MASSCLUSIVITY is: surprising, unusual, and effective.

August 2014 saw Colgate-Palmolive launch Colgate SlimSoft Charcoal in India. SlimSoft Charcoal is a new product line of black toothbrush with tapered micro slim-tip bristles infused with charcoal. The thin bristles and the charcoal help to clean teeth more effectively for better oral hygiene.


Harlem Shakers

Harlem-inspired gourmet sandwich eatery in Bangkok

MASSCLUSIVITY is: a unique twist on everyday activities.

December 2013 saw the opening of Harlem Shakers, a gourmet sandwich eatery in Bangkok with a hip urban vibe and a name inspired by the Harlem Shake meme. Sandwiches are priced from THB 145-850 (USD 5-25), with names like CUL8R (See You Later) and R.K.O.B. (Rich Kids of Bangkok).


Suntory Hibiki

Japanese whisky brand creates world’s first interactive glass

MASSCLUSIVITY is: a modern twist on heritage and tradition.

In April 2014, Suntory Hibiki created ‘the world’s first interactive whisky glass’. The Japanese whisky brand’s Harmony Bar featured a technological ecosystem consisting of the glass, surround-sound speakers and a projection wall. When guests were served their drinks, they found that touching, tilting, swirling and drinking from the glass produced audio and visual effects inspired by the four seasons.


Suzhou Village

Chinese integrated affordable luxury shopping compound

MASSCLUSIVITY is: experiential and intriguing retail spaces.

May 2014 saw the opening of Suzhou Village, the new destination in China for luxury-goods shopping with discounted prices. Located by the Yang Cheng lake, Suzhou Village offers an integrated shopping experience that includes a theme park with Silk Road-inspired architecture, a water garden, gallery and outdoor theater.


IKEA Singapore

Furniture brand launches spoof-premium catalogue

MASSCLUSIVITY is: poking fun at consumerism and giving consumers a good laugh.

September 2014 saw IKEA come up with Experience the power of a bookbook, an ad to promote its 2015 catalogue in Singapore and Malaysia. The catalogue is portrayed as a premium high-tech product in a parody of Apple’s famous advertisements.

It’s just a catalogue. But promoting a catalogue as a spoof-premium gadget? And making fun of another popular brand (and should we say, the whole notion of premium consumerism) while you’re at it? Brownie points guaranteed.


Turn DRAB products into FAB innovations for the Asian MASSCLUSIVE sphere!


Go from drab to FAB

MASSCLUSIVE innovations are all about moving beyond product 'upgrades' and thinking more broadly about premium.
How can you offer something truly different that will mark your customers out from the (ever-growing) middle-class crowd? To start, read on!



A premium consumer experience can often be created via attention to details.
Extravagant service design, such as recreating a Silk Road village from the Middle Ages down to the very last detail, is one way to do it. But even the smallest individual detail can pay dividends if you pay it attention: just look at how Suntory Hibiki innovated around whisky glasses.



Surprising, compelling, unique. And Instagrammable :) These always turn drab into FAB. Especially when they provide an outlet for self-expression and let consumers shout about it to their peers.
Jeans 'made' by zoo animals that also let consumers contribute to the WWF? Definitely a shareable story.



In the sea of dime-a-dozen masstige offerings, one-of-a-kind experiences are spelled P-R-E-M-I-U-M.
A two-day festival celebrating specialty coffee? A unique drinking experience beyond the usual 'premium' bar and sake? Definitely FAB.


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