Louis Vuitton City Guides
Aurélie Pichard, international research director and Daniel Bô, founder and CEO of marketing research firm QualiQuanti, explain why a branded content strategy is a natural fit for luxury brands.
Content creation by brands was still considered daring a few years ago, aside from a few short-lived initiatives: most observers saw in these initiatives only a succession of marketing moves designed to generate little more than buzz. Supported by the digital revolution that offers us new channels of communication, it has progressively become a much-needed strategy in the current communication landscape, with its own rules, codes and ways to succeed.
The content strategy offers new possibilities for brands to create content beyond advertising, including movies, documentaries or books dedicated to their history, values, remarkable products, and the men and women – outstanding craftsmen – who designed and manufactured them. This definition, though very simple, shows how much potential there is for luxury brands to take advantage of these new media.
Luxury companies are inherently places where creation happens. Some centuries-old brands are part of the common cultural patrimony, and have followed trends and cultural evolution throughout history. As such, they are privileged witnesses of an era, of a lifestyle, and of the evolutions of the craft industry and art movements. It is not surprising, then, that many books and documentaries have been released to recount their stories and give us backstage access to their art.
Luxury brands should seize every available opportunity to talk about themselves, distinguish themselves from other brands and revive their fascinating history (and in doing so, reveal the processes of creation). They constantly need to reassert their exceptional nature: creating luxury-quality content is a great way for brands to convey the immaterial values inherited from the past and still be ahead of their time.
“ Luxury brands should seize every opportunity to talk about themselves, distinguish themselves from other brands & revive their fascinating history ”
For luxury brands, creating content seems to be a natural outcome, even obvious, in line with their way of creating first-class items. Luxury houses have huge reservoirs of content that they can tap into (the founding myth, the invention of a specific pattern, the birth of a new design) to tell their brand story and detail their brand universe via content marketing operations. As branding and media strategy specialist Pascal Somarriba puts it, ”an iconic brand is a publisher without knowing it.” In the past, luxury brands used to conceive print ads and TV spots as small pieces of art, designed by world-renowned artists to convey a specific atmosphere or approach to the creative. The Louis Vuitton group has gone a step further and surpassed others in the luxury industry, for example publishing its own city guides, or choosing David Lynch to direct a short movie for Dior.
Very specific rules and standards govern the creation of content and the implementation of content strategies for brands. It originates in a specific culture, different from the culture of the message. The aim of a content strategy is not to “get the message out” (increase the GRP), but to convey an ensemble of values and develop a complex universe (cross-media strategies). In many respects, luxury houses are better prepared than others to embrace these new possibilities of communication not only because creation is part of luxury DNA, but also because luxury, like Brand Content, responds to a supply strategy (vs. the demand strategy of mainstream brands) deeply rooted in the expression of desire.
Luxury houses are also better prepared to collaborate with artists, designers, film directors or producers involved in the process of creation. The porosity of the art and luxury worlds have prepared luxury brands to better understand what is at stake when creating content. A potential risk factor exists, however. Luxury brands are predisposed, and better fit for creating content, but also doubtlessly more put at risk. They can easily lose sight of their original know-how, of their scope of skills and create content that does not relate to their universe.
“ The aim of a content strategy is not to get the message out but to convey an ensemble of values and develop a complex universe ”
Should brands – any brand, whether luxury or not – promote contemporary artists, be exhibited in art galleries or become art publishers? Some luxury brands seem to get so involved in the content creation process or in promoting artists, that they are practically positioning themselves as art directors or cultural experts of the society (and not only art ambassadors or sponsors). Is this legitimate? After all, is it not beyond their scope of business? Let’s look back to Benetton’s communication strategy in the eighties, endorsing strong and controversial political messages not related in any kind to the products they were selling (woolen garments). The strategy did not exactly lead to an increase of sales (on the contrary). Professor Bruno Remaury (part of IFM, French Institute For Fashion) raised the question: are some luxury brands not doing with art what Benetton did with politics?
To stay true to their core identity and brand culture, luxury professionals should define a consistent, long-term, branded content strategy before launching any content operation.
Finally, in a content strategy, it’s not only about creating great content, but also about exposing the audience to the content and having it spread throughout the media landscape. It thus involves a trans-media strategy: broadcasting and distributing the content across a wide range of media (Internet, TV, Mobile, etc.) and devices (netbooks, smartphones, touch pads, etc.). As such, each piece of content should be specifically designed to fit each platform’s specific requirements (e.g. a 5-minute short movie that also comes in a 30-second TV spot and in a print ad, is hosted on a dedicated website, but can also be shared on social networks, etc.).
This article has been published courtesy of QualiQuanti, co-written by Daniel Bô and Aurélie Pichard.