Dossier curated by Patrizia Musso and Gabriella Vivaldi, Brandforum.it
The luxury brands, in these last few years, have been exposed to forced changes, starting with the definition of luxury itself. In the second part of our research we will analyze two important vectors that act as undeniable signals of a reloading process that is happening in the luxury world.
In the last few years the concept of “brand” has been facing an identity crisis, triggered by consumers becoming more demanding.
For this reason it began an instable journey, constantly trying to balance itself between two worlds: young and seniors, on and off line, tradition and innovation.
Brands were forced to “reload” they had to rethink their strategies by re-generating concepts from the past, seen as a place of certainty and austerity (for more details click here).
As we underlined in the first part of our exclusive dossier on the world of luxury (http://www.brandforum.it/papers/900/the-new-territories-of-luxury-part-1-english-version), the brands of this sector, in these last few years, have been exposed to forced changes, starting with the definition of luxury itself.
In the second part of our research we will analyze two important vectors that act as undeniable signals of a reloading process that is happening in the luxury world.
1. Luxury Reloading: the Revival of the History and Heritage of the Brand
On this front there are two approaches that position the history of the brand at center stage: through unexpected communications strategies, and through unusual business solutions.
In regards to the first approach, we previously talked about how some of the luxury brands are feeling the growing need to talk about their heritage and history through strategic communication programs and a consolidated know-how.
This type of reloading can be seen in Italy, for example, through historical auto-celebrations condensed in a simple pay off, like the case of Damiani that on the pages of important newspapers declares (in English) “Handmade in Italy since 1924” or Tiffany “Legendary for 175 years”. International reloading is played out through the use of distinguished locations. The most relevant example is the case of Louis Vuitton, who last year created the Louis Vuitton Island store (in Marina Bay, Singapore), shaped as a ship in port, the design reminds of the historical roots of the brand in the world of travel.
During an interview released for our dossier by Marie Pierre Schickel, Director of the Master in “Marketing of Luxury Goods” (v. http://www.domusacademy.com/lp/luxury-en/), an interesting fact arouse with regards to the use of locations and spaces, as exhibit areas used to showcase the history of the brands.
Dr. Schickel, could you tell us about international and national examples that define this trend?
“There is an extensive number of exhibitions that in the past years have outlined the history of luxury Maison and their founders. Personally, I remember very well the beautiful exhibition hosted in the Triennale Museum three or four years ago on Salvatore Ferragamo, which offered an overview of his iconic products and a selection of materials and documents archived in the Museum of Florence. In Beijing there was the exhibition “Culture Chanel”, which through clothing, accessories, designs, photographs, movies and sculptures explained the cultural, style and conceptual world of Chanel. Always in China, there is the retrospective “Van Cleef & Arpels, Timeless Beauty”, at the Museum of Contemporary art in Shanghai. The exhibit looks back at the 100 years of history of the Maison showcasing, for the first time in China, not only jewels, watches, fashion accessories and art objects, but also, designs and archived documents like the images of celebrities who have contributed to the success of the brand. In Paris, at the moment, there is the exhibition that celebrates Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs and their creative dynamics. In London, in the month May, a Hermès event celebrated the 175th anniversary with an exclusive exhibition: Leather Forever. But it is also interesting to remember another exhibition, which before London and NYC, was presented in Rome during last year’s fall, titled “Essenza del Cuoio”, that featured a journey along 10 rooms depicting the history and myths of Hermès. This passed 16 and 17 of June, Shiseido created an exhibit at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris featuring its 140 years of creations. To celebrate this important birthday the exhibit Un trait plus loin, presented the graphic evolution of the brand through historical products, affiche and ads”.
What do you think of these experiences?
“The trend that is taking place pushes brands to give more relevance to their heritage, through a more dynamic communication that goes beyond advertising. As Pierre-Alexis Dumas (new AD of Hermès) said in a recent interview, “luxury brands often own an ancient culture, and they want to share this culture”. There is also a desire of sense among consumers. There is a return to the origins and the roots. Brands roots are their own marvelous archives. And brands feel that it is important and interesting to underline their heritage. It reminds me of an interesting comment made by Enrico Finzi (during a conference he recently held at Domus) on the “long and deep thinking”, meant as the capability to combine / develop diverse sources and traditions, understand where we come from to better see the direction to take in the future”.
Given the extensive and diverse examples listed above, this solution of using the brands history as a centerpiece is a winning strategy.
As a matter of fact, an educated consumer is an excellent resource of a luxury brand: he knows the company and its background; therefore he is capable of assigning the right value behind it. This communication strategy – as Ms. Schickel explained – is a winning one, for example among young rich Asians that are aware and educated about brand’s history and are looking for more information.
In regards to the second aspect, a reloading strategy is taking place, in the form of regenerating historical brands.
Recently there have been a series of brands that have been “unfrozen” from their hibernation phase, instead of creating new ones (thanks to the creativity of young stylists, for example, like the case of Gucci whom ten years ago launched Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen). These cases are becoming rare nowadays in the luxury world, not only for economic reasons, but also because of values: authenticity prevails. Inside an extremely fragmentized market, consumers want to be able to purchase something really “diverse” that can “differentiate” them, and the historical background is the defining character, also in terms of uniqueness.
The case of Moynat, belongs to this new type of reloading: historical manufacturer of high end luggage, lived its most famous moment in the 30’s thanks to its special light and waterproof trunks, made with the typical curved lines that allowed them to fit perfectly in the cars of the time. Closed in 1976, the brand has been recently bought by LVMH; and today counts one retail store on Rue Saint Honore’, heart of Paris’s luxury scene (v. http://pinterest.com/pin/110830840800495078/). At the store entrance, a well groomed sales person explain the 150 years of history of the brand, conveying a dramatic sense of appreciation for every stitch and leather product available. This peculiar connection between costumer and the history of the brand establishes a unique shopping experience. A strategy that belong to LVMH’s re-launch of the brand, who wittingly left untouched the name and logo, in order to commemorate the memory and routes of this French brand.
The “awakening” strategy of a brand from the past has been applied to other important companies like Berluti (founded on French soil in 1895 by an Italian shoemaker, became then famous among the luxury brands for its handmade shoes; also now part of the LVMH portfolio). And more, Vionnet – whose founder, designer Madeleine Vionnet, called “Queen of the Bias Cut”, has recently rejuvenated the image and the market presence of the brand, thanks to the efforts of the entrepreneur Matteo Marzotto. In 2009, during the acquisition he defined this brand a cultural heritage to be preserved, and also a financial move thanks to the historical value of the brand. (Recently the brand has been acquired by tycoon Goga Ashkenazi, v. http://www.modaonline.it/marchi/v/vionnet/2012/il-controllo-di-vionnet-passa-nelle-mani-della-miliardaria-kazaka-goga-ashkenazi.aspx)
2. Luxury Reloading: exclusive revival of the 5 senses
The new philosophy that accompanies luxury is also shared by modern thinkers, like the philosopher and university professor Thierry Paquot who, in his “Elogio del Lusso” (2007), pushes the reader to believe that true luxury is to do whatever you want, whenever you want. A concept that inevitably pushes the focus towards concepts such as self-being and one’s own wellness (in order to achieve a healthy spirit and body). “Luxury – says Paquot in his work – connects the individual with itself. It’s a way to confirm ones identity and freedom”.
The trend that has been taking place recently in the wellness business is to offer exclusive special packages developed by high end spas. The data obtained by Altagamma and Bain&Company show that the global financial expense for spa’s in 2011 is about 111 billionEuros, with a solid growth since 2010, and Italy has recently reached 21 billion.
For this reason exclusive treatments are created (for instance massages with pure olive oil, lavender and rosemary grown in Castello del Nero, in the lands of the Chianti ), establishing a real challenges between prestigious beauty centers in order to answer the desire of uniqueness of their luxurious clients, offering them one-of-a-kind experiences. This is the example of the Spa island available for a individuals (for one thousand dollars per hour), in the Maldives, created by Four Seasons Kudaa Huraa and reachable only with the typical dhoni from the lagoon (v. http://pinterest.com/pin/110830840800495075/)
In regard to this trend, we asked Dr. Schickel if there will be a specific section in the program of the master she is curating:
“At the beginning of the Master, we ask our students to work on new luxury brand concepts with a specific brief finalized at exploring new territories, or expression for luxury. I hope some students will be inspired by this multi-sensorial approach”.
The use of multi-sensorial elements becomes an interesting strategy aimed to maintain a strong innovative connection between a luxury brand and its consumers, as a functional way of going beyond the usual advertising A perfect example of sensorial luxury is the one created by British retailer Alfred Dunhill who combined sight, smell and sound in a recreation of London’s Trafalgar Square (v. http://pinterest.com/pin/110830840800495083/). The event, which lasted one entire day, was presented to more than 1000 guests in Shanghai as part of a three series installation, displaying a sensorial simulation of all four seasons in one day. Music was performed live by British violinist Charlie Siem and a nine-piece orchestra.
In such a crucial historical time as the one we are living, consumers appear to be smarter, they know what they want, but most of all they know the value of what they are looking for.
Brands that have a history feel even more the need to tell their story to engage consumers and develop a sense of belonging that will automatically connect them to the products, transforming them in more than luxury possessions but in heritage icons.
Authenticity, intended as re-generation of one’s heritage (from the brands point of view) together with the re-generation of one’s identity (from the consumers point of view), becomes an important asset for luxury’s reloading.
In the next dossier we will analyze how an element as important as the past, history and tradition can blend in with the developing phenomenon of new media.
Mirko Olivieri, Junior Editor di Brandforum.it
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