Luxe labels are the way forward

18 01 2009

Ancora un nuovo articolo che spinge all’undestatement esclusivo.

Personalmente credo che rifocalizzarsi sulla qualità “reale” dei prodotti e della comunicazione e non sulla affermazione dell’appartenenza a un “brand lifestyle” possa essere anche la miglior strategia per competere in questo momento di crisi.

Il problema è che l’understatement esclusivo comporta una riduzione dei volumi che difficilmente potranno di conseguenza sostenere i ritmi di crescita degli utili che tutti gli azionisti richiedono alle marche.

“Un filo di perle, un filo di trucco, un filo di tacco” non genera molto volume, ma potenzialmente molto valore.

Da un lato sembrerebbe quindi che nessuno dei grandi marchi possa reinventarsi in tempi brevi e senza una profonda ristrutturazione dell’organizzazione, ma soprattutto della cultura aziendale, che richiede necessariamente una capacità di investimento che in questo momento nessuno sembra in grado di mettere in campo.

Dall’altro lato i “non-marchi” (piccole o micro aziende che sempre hanno coniugato qualità e sobrietà), sopravvivono a stento a causa della loro limitata internazionalizzazione (generata dalla non conoscenza delle regole e della prassi), dell’accesso al solo mercato locale, e dal mancato accesso a una conoscenza manageriale meno “istintiva”.

Stiamo assistendo al passaggio epocale del tramonto dello “strapotere” del branding e all’alba della capacità di ascolto e di implementazione dei bisogni di ogni cliente, preso singolarmente.

Solo chi ascolterà la Voice Of the Customer e saprà orientare i suoi processi e organizzazione aziendale potrà evitare di trovarsi seduto tra le macerie.

Io credo che questo sia un obiettivo fattibile e possibile.




Feeling the fashion frost of January?

Then why not broaden your horizons and invest in understated luxe pieces that will last right the way through the credit crunch, says Bethan Cole.

Last Updated: 6:09PM GMT 13 Jan 2009

It’s that strange, gloomy seasonal hinterland of January: the jollity of Christmas is over and the rites of spring are distant on the horizon.

There’s a feeling of austerity and bleakness around, partly due to the weather, partly the economic climate. Only the other week, Karl Lagerfeld said in an interview with the BBC, “I see (the recession) like a cleaning up. (The economy) was too rotten anyway – so it had to be cleaned up”.

Perhaps not for those poor souls who worked at Woolworths, but for the superannuated and those whose wardrobes are bulging with excess, it’s certainly time for a reality check.

It goes without saying that ostentation is seriously de trop right now. “There’s a change going on that could be termed the ‘baglash’,” says Juliet Warkentin, content director of trend forecasters Worth Global Style Network (WGSN). “It’s a movement against de rigueur, It bags and conspicuous consumption. In its place there’s a humbler design approach to luxury that’s all about understated perfection and unconscious simplicity.” In other words, it’s time to purge pieces that exude the hubris of boom time.

Logos, bling and handbags dripping with trinkets are declasse.

According to Dana Thomas, author of “Deluxe – How Luxury Lost its Lustre” (£8.99, Penguin), ostensible luxury is over because it has become ubiquitous. For example, Louis Vuitton’s logo, the intertwined “L” and “V”, once the signpost of exclusivity, has become the badge of every aspiring WAG. “For the modern consumer the placement of a perfect seam or an immaculately-sculpted collar is more awe-inspiring and authentic than any logo,” says Warkentin.

Thus Bottega Veneta’s woven handbags, with their intricate craftsmanship and subtle, yet unmistakable, transmission of brand identity chimes with the times more than a vast tote adorned with logo-ed gold stirrups or padlocks.

Ditto red-carpet-ready, Swarovski crystals-encrusted sandals, which have been replaced by butter-soft leathers (see Rupert Sanderson and Christian Louboutin) and brightly-hued suedes (see Jonathan Kelsey for Mulberry).

A precision-cut LBD by Balenciaga has usurped Roberto Cavalli’s slit-to-the-navel confections which screamed wealth, privilege and OTT glamour from every ruffle.

Even Versace have ditched their signature sexy dresses (at least temporarily, anyway) in favour of a more refined, pretty aesthetic thanks to haute eccentric illustrator Julie Verhoeven, who created their quirky prints for spring/summer 2009.

In these nebulous and grey times most of us are seeking to build a core collection of investment pieces – items fashioned from the finest fabrics – in our wardrobes. The labels to covet are Bottega Veneta, Calvin Klein, Chanel, Jil Sander, Hermès and Martin Margiela who all speak a quiet, measured language of luxury, of quality built into to every seam.

“The ultimate in discretion is Bottega Veneta,” says Warkentin. “As for pared down opulence? Miuccia Prada leads the zeitgeist and her spring/summer 2009 collection is no exception. Her spare, elegant line is classice yet feels at once fresh and new.”

Averyl Oates, buying director at Harvey Nichols, is treasuring a heavy sculptural Jil Sander wool coat she bought this season. “It’s so couture-like and Raf Simons (creative director of Jil Sander) has kept the detailing to a minimum to better serve the dramatic effect of the exaggerated collar and augmented sleeves,” she coos. “It’s a truly beautiful investment piece that has taken me from 2008 to 2009 and is still going strong.”

Brix Smith-Start of London’s hip clothes boutique Start feels we should be treasuring the high quality classics along with the recherche. “If you’re doing an edit on your wardrobe, keep anything black and anything unusual, such as a beautiful ancient silk kimono.”

The moral of the story is consign anything that shouts “I’m considerably richer than you” to the cupboard, charity shop or eBay.

“Store anything with too much bling – the new fashions are dynamic, sensual and free of gimmicks and unnecessary hardware,” confirms Harriet Quick, fashion features director of Vogue. Victoria Beckham got it very, very wrong when she sported an £80,0000 Hermès special edition Birkin the other day. Whilst a classic Hermès is a great investment right now, anything that trumpets extreme wealth, as this jewelled version did, looks frankly ugly and insensitive in the current climate.

Seems like old WAG habits die hard.


The Bare Necessities: Marketing Luxury Goods in a Bad Economy

24 12 2008

Credo che nel mercato americano sia ormai consolidato il trend dell’austerità nei comportamenti d’acquisto. Spero però non nasca l’avversità verso chi compra “Luxury” simile alla gogna a cui vengono sottoposti i fumatori.

I tagli degli articoli che incontro sui maggiori media americani mi sembrano tutti orientati in quella direzione….




The Wall Street Journal


Pity the luxury-goods industry. It faces one of the more daunting marketing challenges of this holiday season: persuading the anxious consumer, in an economic recession, to spend thousands of dollars on a purse or a bauble.

For nearly a decade, the makers of luxury goods have tried to reconcile their marketing efforts, which have broadened their customer base by appealing to a less élite clientele, with the need to maintain the haute image that provoked that clientele’s purchases.

Brands like Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel have promoted their products as luxurious yet attainable investments, all the while trying to remain above the scrum of middle-class consumer culture.

As reporter Dana Thomas noted in her 2007 book, “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster,” Chanel positions itself as the embodiment of cultured Parisian elegance, but throughout the 1990s its highest-selling store was in a shopping mall in Waikiki, Hawaii.

High-end watchmaker Patek Philippe adopted the slogan “You never really own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” The words are meant to provoke family feelings rather than status anxiety — yet the accompanying image almost always features a father and son yachting rather than, say, squirrel hunting.

Perhaps the most outrageous example of aspirational marketing was Louis Vuitton’s “Core Values” campaign.

One of the commercials running on television and in movie theaters took the notion of retail therapy to a new level, marrying lush visuals to fortune-cookie philosophy. As poignant guitar music played, fast-paced images of people in contemplative poses appeared: A man, lakeside, performed tai-chi; a dewy-eyed model gazed longingly at the camera; a man stood alone in the middle of a desert, his linen shirt flapping in the breeze.

Each stirring picture was accompanied by haiku-like text: “What is a journey?” . . . It’s a process . . . A discovery . . . A journey brings us face to face. . . With ourselves.” As the commercial progressed, one almost expected New Age guru Eckhart Tolle to trundle by with an LV-bedecked tote bag.

In the end, however, the viewer was left with only a brief, shimmering glimpse of the iconic Louis Vuitton logo (no crass product-pushing here) and a question: “Where will life take you?

This Christmas season, it will be taking a lot fewer of us to the Louis Vuitton store.

Luxury purveyors’ standby tactic — subtly stoking envy — may well appear unseemly in these times. Yet traditional American marketing strategies, such as celebrity endorsements or the use of adorable spokescharacters, won’t work for companies like Louis Vuitton. What’s a purveyor of wallet-emptying handbags or big-ticket jewelry to do?

Some luxury brands have taken a direct approach, focusing on their most likely customers — those with the most disposable income — and conducting business pretty much as usual. The message of their ads is clear: If you need to ask how much our stuff costs, you can’t afford it.

One recent Louis Vuitton print ad for its line of jewelry (it has branched out from bags) featured a close-up of a hefty gem. “Ring in 18K gold with diamonds, red, pink and blue spinels,” read the straightforward text, but there was no mention of price.

Cartier is upfront about the cost of its $9,950 Pasha Seatimer Chronograph watch in an ad that carries the tagline “Take Your Time.” One imagines the jeweler is not referring to its layaway program. And we can still open the newspaper to find Chanel gamely hawking a $2,150 “Essential” lambskin pouchette.

Other luxury brands have opted to step gingerly around our current economic crisis, like a graceful hostess who changes the subject when someone brings up something embarrassing. Earlier this week, Tiffany & Co. took out a full-page color ad in the New York Times to sell diamond rings, the cheapest of which costs four grand. “Dreams Can Still Come True,” read the sweetly optimistic ad copy. “Give her the ring of her dreams. For less than you imagine, the best there is.”

But the DeBeers diamond company has adopted the most creative strategy. Its recent ads attempt to convince us that expensive diamonds are not luxuries but thoughtful investments — better, in fact, than putting your money in the stock market.

Riffing on DeBeers’s familiar “A Diamond Is Forever” slogan, one full-page newspaper ad declared: “Here Today. Here Tomorrow. In times like these, it’s perhaps wise to reflect on the things that last rather than the things that come and go.” A diamond, DeBeers tells us, “has outlasted all that history can throw at it, from the formation of continents to the turmoil of markets. Across the generations, in a thousand years’ time, a diamond will still be here. Just like love.” Just not like your 401(k).

Another DeBeers ad appeals to the thrifty natures of the men who supposedly do the bulk of retail diamond-buying: “Here’s to Less,” it begins. “Our lives are filled with things. We’re overwhelmed by possessions we own but do not treasure . . . Perhaps it will be different now. Perhaps now is an opportunity to reassess what really matters. After all, if everything you ever bought her disappeared overnight, what would she truly miss?

The ad features a pair of diamond stud earrings and, as its tag line, “A Diamond Is Forever.” Not only does DeBeers apply a thin veneer of faux virtue to the vice of luxury shopping, but it engages in a sophisticated sort of intellectual bullying: Go ahead and buy her that cashmere sweater for Christmas, it seems to say. Unless she’s buried in it, you’ll have nothing to show for your purchase in the long run.

Some respect is due the luxury purveyors who have wholeheartedly embraced the current mood, damn the consequences to their bottom line. Their ads have an appropriately funereal quality.

A recent advertisement for clothing designer Tom Ford’s New York store looked more like a condolence card: a black background with white lettering bore the stark and regrettable message: SALE. A nearby Gucci ad, with cowering lower-case text, stated simply, “now on sale with additional markdowns.”

In “Luxury Fever” (1999), Cornell University economist Robert H. Frank argued that “the runaway spending at the top [of the income scale] has been a virus, one that’s spawned a luxury fever that, to one degree or another, has all of us in its grip.” Our frantic pursuit of fancy watches and sports cars, he said, won’t ultimately make us happy.

Perhaps this is why, much further down on the merchandise scale, marketers are now opting for warmer, cheerful (and more blatantly manipulative) messages to consumers. Best Buy’s recent ad campaign, whose slogan is “You, Happier,” actually features employees helping the elderly and the blind.

Perhaps we should follow the advice of high-end companies like DeBeers and “reassess what really matters.” If we do, we might discover that this current recession is a good opportunity to break our luxury fever.

Ms. Rosen is a fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington.