Why luxury brands fail to produce coherent communications campaigns

Catherine Deneuve for Louis Vuitton

Those of you who frequently abroad, irrespectively of age, gender or sexual preference, have at least once noticed how different you are regarded in each country. For instance, Asian women prefer foreigners versus locals, therefore an American male in Tokyo or Beijing has a definite advantage over a local when it comes to social networking and dating. The same applies to a Japanese lady travelling to the UK where she might be more ”successfull” in dating British handsome men than any local British women. There is also the example of European gay men who travel to the Middle East and who are preferred by locals over locals. The same applies vice versa, for a handsome Middle Eastern gay man who has higher chances of dating a handsome local.

Is it just a matter of how different we all see beauty and what we perceive as being beautiful? Or is it a new revolutionary trend in social networking brought about by all the means which bring all of us closer together, such as affordable travel and the internet ?

I would incline towards the second assertion and the defining argument would be that, beyond physical appearance we all act a part in the movie which is our life. By acting, I am referring not only to the behavioural part but also to the ”outside shell” we all wear, whether it is a clothing, make up or embelishment item. This is the very essence of the mechanism luxury brands rely on, when addressing consumers worldwide. Apart from the quality, exclusivity and design features, a luxury product is meant to differenciate ourselves from each other and mark our territory as well as reflect our social status. Whether we are considering an aspirational consumer or a connaiseur, at the end of the day, they all have the same motivation for buying a luxury product or a luxury service. For some it is a matter of overt show off, while for others it is the subtle way of ”showing off”.

Coming back to our initial argument, does this mean that we also dress and behave differently depending on where we are or where we travel? Is there a ”universal” luxury code? In my opinion, before the current crisis, we had such ”universal” codes, in major brands such as LOUIS VUITTON, GUCCI, PRADA, ARMANI which have stores worldwide.

The financial crisis which made its first debut early 2008 triggered a very complex change in the way consumers regard luxury, whether it is a product or a service. ”Belonging” to a club or wearing a particular brand does no longer suffice. Neither is the ”anti-luxury” trend a response for all those who can no longer afford luxury or who never found a luxury brand as a personal statement. Mention should be made that ”anti luxury” applies to all those who mix and match mass market brands  with luxury brands or who deliberately wear fake luxury products as a resentiment to luxury.

It all becomes clear why luxury brands have to pay attention to the way we express our sexuality and the way we interact with each other. Louis Vuitton grasped brililiantly on this idea by introducing ”The Journeys” collection of advertising both in print and tv. Recently, Prada followed suit and launched a series of clips based on the journeys concept. Unfortunately, none of the two brands pursued the concept. Catherine Deneuve’s voice on the Journey movie, which Louis Vuitton dedicated to the famous French actress, has a much deeper and longer lasting effect on the auditor than the actual photos taken of her by Annie Leibovitz. The other Louis Vuitton Journeys actors, Andre Agassi with Steffi Graf and Michail Gorbachov have only partly touched the subtle concept which makes the Vuitton brand an international passport recognized all over the world.

What both campaigns missed, was the every day issues of nowadays constantly and effervescently changing environment. And I believe, sexuality in itself and the way we all express it, is a must in drawing up any marketing strategy for a luxury brand in both products and services.

Oliver Petcu