When most people think of Hermès, their first association is to think of one of its most famous bags, The Birkin. The tote is one of their most iconic products and one that is synonymous with the brand’s qualities of timelessness and craftsmanship. It is also so highly sought after, that the brand no longer has waiting lists for it. The demand is just too great. Which makes The Birkin, the ultimate iconic product.
Each brand has its own. Hermès in fact has multiple iconic products. As does Cartier, Chanel, Dior, or Louis Vuitton. It’s something that can take years to establish, but once done, can be the very thing that puts your brand on the map for years to come. Particularly during times of crisis. The past two years have shown us that interest in iconic products is at an all-time high, with Google searches for “Cartier Love Bracelet” up by 27 percent (3,404,000 searches in 2021) or by 20 percent for “Louis Vuitton Neverfull” iconic bag (1,655,000 searches for this query in 2021).
We wanted to delve deeper into this consumer behaviour and look at the interest in iconic luxury products and how they developed and responded to the dramatic changes that we have seen and experienced over the past two years.
Looking at 12 leading luxury fashion, leather goods, watches, and jewellery brands, we collected and analysed the volume of Google searches (in English) for their respective icons over the past two years to see what data could tell us about consumer demand for luxury goods and what we can learn from it.
We chose these brands based on how established they were, their history of savoir-faire, and how well known they were globally. Their iconic products are emblematic pieces of their star collections, which is why we chose to look at them and extracted search volume for those on Google.
The first thing to note is search demand for iconic products grew in all markets. For example, search demand for the Fendi Peekaboo bag, which was launched in 2009, recorded a 50 percent growth increase in the number of search queries worldwide to 989,500 in 2021 and compared to the past two years. Prada leveraged its Galleria bag with an increase of 76 percent in 2021 compared to 2019, for a total of 220,830 queries related to the iconic bag which launched more recently in 2017.
Looking more closely at the data in the eight selected markets in our analysis, Dior recorded the highest evolution of search demand for its iconic products followed by Hermès, Tiffany’s, and Cartier.
In our data range (between January and October 2021 for the following analysis), Google search demand related to the Dior iconic bags, the Saddle bag, the Book Tote and the Lady Dior bag increased in all markets analysed. The most successful market for the Saddle bag was the USA with a 184 percent growth (1,154,940 queries related to the product). For the Book Tote, it was the United Arab Emirates with an increase of 319 percent on Google (89,140 queries) and the Lady Dior recorded the highest evolution of search demand in Japan (226 percent with 59,210).
Both Birkin and Kelly bags have been very successful in terms of the evolution of their search demand.
Search demand for the Birkin bag grew by 106 percent in France (143,370 queries between January and October 2021), while the fastest growth market for the Kelly bag was Italy with a 131 percent growth.
And those that continued to evolve their product offering, and establish new iconic products to complement their existing offering have benefited greatly, as seen with Dior. The French fashion house recently launched two new bags, the Dior Bobby and the Dior Caro, both of which have seen an increase in Google search demand, demonstrating that there is still room for the creation of new iconic products on top of a brand’s existing offering.
The number of search queries for ‘Dior Bobby’, ‘Dior Bobby bag’ on Google increased by 10 percent in the last six months, raising this total to around 8’800 queries in October 2021.
The same number for ‘Dior Caro’ and ‘Dior Caro bag’ rose to 5’800 with a 20 percent growth. Both bags have been available since 2020 and are part of the recent Dior Collections, the Caro bag for Dior's Cruise 2021 season, and the Bobby bag for the launch of the Fall 2020 collection. Meanwhile, its more established iconic products like ‘Lady Dior’ and ‘Lady Dior Bag’ were searched around 73’600 times on Google in October and recorded a 36 percent growth in the last six months.
Gucci struggled a little bit since it recorded an overall decrease in icon demand between 2019 and 2020 but, fortunately, went up this year thanks to its unique loafers. Searches on Google (in English) related to Gucci loafers went from 26’000 to 42’000 between January and October 2021. Those iconic shoes also recorded the best increase this year on Google in Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
In addition to that, Gucci may also seize the opportunity to follow this icon trend with the recent reintroduction of the Jackie bag for Fall Winter 2020, renamed and reimagined, originally released in the late '70s with the code G1244. The Italian brand recorded a 22 per cent growth for “Gucci jackie bag” compared to the last period, bringing the number of worldwide searches for this query only to 238,500 between January and October 2021.
Whilst the fashion world has been moving towards more seasonless collections, for some brands, seasonality still matters, particularly when it comes to their icons like Burberry.
Unsurprisingly, interest (searches on Google) for Burberry's trench coats increased during autumn and winter and decreased after. The English brand grew at home by 56 percent compared to the same period in 2019 (421,580 queries between Jan. and Oct. 2021), followed by France with a volume of 142,120 queries in 2021 for an increase of 48 percent.
The same trend can be observed for Burberry’s scarves as well as for Hermès ones, recording both the highest demands between November and January, December showing the height of demand.
Interestingly, jewellery brands and their iconic products have outperformed during the past two years in terms of hard luxury goods, with demand across the board for items like necklaces and bracelets, with the United Arab Emirates noted as one of the top three countries that recorded a higher performance for brands like IWC, Rolex and Cartier.
For Tiffany & Co., the United States is the best performer in terms of search volume increase on Google with the Tiffany Heart Tag Collection.
Around 9’820 queries for ‘Tiffany heart tag necklace’ were recorded between January and October 2019, however, in 2021 for the same period, 26’900 searches have been made on the search engine, which is a 138 percent growth.
Likewise with Cartier, the top three queries that were most searched on Google in English are for The Love Collection, both in Germany with a 121 per cent growth between January and October 2021 compared to 2019, and a 141 per cent in the United Arab Emirates for the searches ‘Cartier love bracelet.
Icons interest for Rolex and IWC is increasing but less than the average median among markets selected and brands part of our analysis. Search demand related to the Big Pilot Watch and the Portugieser from IWC has increased by 43 percent in the United Arab Emirates, their top market in terms of growth with a total of 23,780 queries related to both iconic watches during our date range.
As for Rolex, again, the United Arab Emirates recorded the best increase in searches for the Daytona compared to the last two years with 41 percent growth.
As for the Submariner watch, search demand increased in the UAE by 80 percent, reaching a total of 165,000 searches associated with this product between January and October 2021. However, the Swiss brand recorded a drop in interest for the Daytona as well as the Submariner in Germany, respectively by -10 percent and -17 percent.
Watches don’t seem to be the first product to be bought in terms of crisis, even if the value retention remained.
Through our research, we also found that interest for a pre-owned condition, such as ‘Dior saddle bag second hand’ or ‘Cartier love bracelet used’, is growing rapidly. An iconic and therefore timeless piece seems to be a good investment for the future.
The fastest increase in terms of search demand for iconic pre-owned products is 60 percent in the UK over the past two years and 35 percent compared to last year. Ranking in second place, Germany closely followed the evolution with a 57 percent growth over the past two years.
The search demand for secondhand products had a higher increase the first year of the pandemic than this year compared to the previous period. The closing of the stores seemed to increase the purchase of goods between individuals.
Overall, all markets selected for this analysis have a positive increase for pre-owned icons within the brands involved.
Brands should never neglect their iconic pieces, although it is necessary to renew. It's all about finding the right balance. Moreover, developing a strong story-telling for these products is essential to develop an aura, a whole part of the brand, and thus develop its desirability.
In addition to that, some brands have already invested in the development of the pre-owned market by creating a website dedicated to used pieces and managed directly by the brand.
Gucci even mixed its archives with innovation by recently inaugurating Gucci Vault, an immersive digital concept store that is offering exclusive vintage pieces from the Italian brand and featuring some pieces from emerging designers.
From our findings, we believe that there are still huge opportunities for brands to launch, create and develop iconic products. While it is true that customers tend to favour what they know and trust, storytelling, digital activations, timeless design, and 360° synergies are key to an iconic product’s development.
Looking forward, how brands embrace and embed omnichannel and immersive experiences into the customer journey is essential to establishing the relationship with their consumers and how they perceive their products.
Being innovative in terms of digitalisation or sustainability are actual major elements and part of the quick wins, that along with celebrating a brand’s past with iconic products that allow brands to perpetuate their history and know-how, and increase its desirability are part and parcel of being a luxury brand today. This is true for new buyers and post-’90s demographic as well as for their parents and older generations who have grown up with the release of these products.
Creating an it-bag or must-have accessory is not so difficult, the ultimate objective is how to make it last.
Welcome back to The Deep Dive, a new series from Luxury Society that takes an in-depth look at the big issues and topics affecting the luxury market, and how the industry has responded to them. Through a series of interviews, exclusive data, and market analysis, we hope to provide a comprehensive view of each topic explored, adding to the wider discussions with our own expertise and that of others in the industry.
The third part of our report is a more detailed look into the data behind our findings, looking at the trends and insights that emerge from the numbers, which includes a community survey to include the insights from you, our readers in the luxury industry, which we believe will help us to answer the question of whether luxury's rebound will last in the long-term or not.