Zeitgeist was resting easy this morning with the news that Obama had been re-elected for another four years. Before the tickertape had even fallen though, marketing managers were thinking of how they could take advantage of this national event. Leveraging, tapping into or piggybacking on a particular theme is a popular move, though it can be risky, as the recent brand activity around Sandy proved. So it’s nothing new. Nevertheless, this was a quick turnaround. For though Obama did not give his acceptance speech until around six hours later, Lacoste was ready with their latest iteration of their eCRM programme at around 7pm EST. Presented as an email to get people to “vote” for a red or blue polo, the pre-header said it all; “You’ve Picked Your President – Now, Pick Your Polo!“
On Friday, Zeitgeist returned (mentally) from lunch to find a message from Chanel in their inbox. The message directs the user to a microsite of sorts, Window World. The name and idea plays on the surreal notion of the models as mere mannequins (usually of course the reverse is the case, a crude verisimilitude that shoppers seem to take in their stride) and a section of the site takes the user through what feels like a labyrinthine party, filled with mannequins as models and models as mannequins. Other than aesthetic discombobulation, there is signposted a pdf download with product information for every item featured including the item code, but naturally not mentioning anything as vulgar as prices. Complementing this is a video shot by the house’s creative director – Karl Lagerfeld, whom Zeitgeist saw speak at the end of last year – emphasising the eeriness of the concept. Clicking on the video will take you to the YouTube page, where there is ample evidence – in the form of myriad comments – of dissatisfaction with the video, and what it says of the fashion industry by proxy. Fortunately for Chanel, most of those on YouTube are not the brand’s target audience.
Indeed, to elaborate, CNN recently reported that 6% of shoppers drive 70% of luxury goods purchases, so its a very targeted niche that brands like Chanel must hit, (and succeed in so doing, time and again). Zeitgeist has reported before on how important it is that brands be seen in the right places; Louis Vuitton luggage in a McDonald’s is a no-no. Chanel have done an excellent job of being seen in the right places; whether it’s hosting surfing parties for Laird Hamilton, or, more recently, opening a pop-up shop in a tony ski resort. The ‘Chalet de Pierre’ is open until April, an ‘ephemeral’ boutique in the heart of beautiful Courchevel. The Chanel website has some select imagery of the store, which is the perfect place to pick up a pair of Chanel skis. Such marketing activity is exciting and well-executed, but curious, given that any time the brand Chanel, and Lagerfeld in particular, speak publicly, they rarely acknowledge any such efforts.
How “24″, Louis Vuitton and a London restaurant attempt to make their brands worth engaging with.
Eye-catching advertising – like the one mentioned by Zeitgeist in the previous article posting – that succeeds in converting a person to being a new customer of a brand is one thing, but keeping them dedicated is quite another. As The New Yorker cartoon above demonstrates so humorously and effectively, engagement is what’s important. It’s about incentivising and rewarding your customer for their association (and, hopefully, evangelism) of the brand.
Zeitgeist has touched on location-based services several times in the past, and as the service continues its maturation process, we are able to judge better as to what kind of benefits it brings to marketers of brands. One is still left with the impression that network effects have yet to fully take hold for the myriad platforms – Foursquare, Gowalla, and more recently Facebook’s equivalent – that provide these services. Logically, greater and more plentiful benefits for those that sign up to these services would encourage those users to advocate others to sign up to them.
So what is the current state of affairs for rewarding users of such services? Well, first you can count out anyone who lives outside a major metropolitan city; the service has nothing to offer them other than who gets to be arbitrary mayor of which location. Sometimes, locations can be inaccurate enough that it looks like people are having a drink in a subaqua bar, as is the case above.
In the past week, living in London, Zeitgeist has experienced two offers through Foursquare that have had real-world consequences. Tuesday before last, as one of the first people to unlock the “Louis Vuitton Insider” badge, Zeitgeist’s presence was requested at the Bond Street Maison for a drinks reception, attended by several Vuitton employees from the marketing and digital disciplines, from both London and Paris. The chance to get to talk to such people, while browsing the store’s significant art book collection while munching on macaroons and sipping various beverages, leaving with a small gift, all were clearly tangible benefits for those guests who attended the evening. What of the business though? What benefits does it reap from organising such an event at reasonable expense? Ideally it gets to know its customer base better, though in this case, some of those who unlocked the badge were not habitual customers of Vuitton. Still, for those that are, the event would no doubt have encouraged a greater affinity toward the brand.
Yesterday at lunch near Covent Garden, Zeitgeist was early meeting his friend and decided to check-in on Foursquare. The reward for having done so was a free glass of wine. The benefits of free alcohol need not be extolled or delved into greatly in this article. However, the execution was sorely lacking. The waitress, when presented with the notification of this offer, was totally caught by surprise, and was not aware of any such offer. When the glass was ultimately brought – Zeitgeist was presented with a choice of “red or white?” – it was of course some substandard plonk that wouldn’t have been fit for a university ball. On the face of it, of course, this was not surprising; but it led to the question of what is the point of rewarding the consumer / shopper / person with something that is pretty poor and leads to a less enjoyable experience?
Zeitgeist can think of few experiences less enjoyable than competing against others to stay awake. Yet this is exactly the idea that 20th Century Fox have had, on the eve of the release of an enormous, diss-it-and-you’ll-be-waterboarded, boxset of the entire series of the hit show 24. Starting last night in Los Angeles, several “lucky” winners of a competition run entirely on Facebook will be subjected to every single episode of the series, while they compete with other viewers in a glass cube to stay awake. The campaign is also supported by a Twitter feed and, as Fox would have hoped, has been picked up by “24″ fan blogs as well as the mainstream media, appearing in the LA Times. The campaign will have relatively little long-term impact, as the series has now come to end – though rumours persist of a film being made – but the idea for the competition, one of endurance, is very on-brand for the series, and has clearly sparked much chatter online. It should be noted that endurance contests are not always on-brand, or safe. UPDATE: The winners.
In the world of luxury, discretion is paramount. Not only should there be a sense of exclusivity about a brand and its wares, but the customer’s relationship with the brand should be personal and – given their probable high net worth – confidential. Which is why fashion label Emilio Pucci, whose signature designer Matthew Williamson left last year, has unfortunately failed so epically with the email it sent out to its Sloane Street of London customers last week.
The eCRM emails that the fashion label sends out are never particularly well-designed, relying on quite brief text with simple fonts. The invitation to a trunk show was first sent listing a date that had already passed. It was then sent again, this time with the correct date, but with every single one of Pucci’s Sloane Street customers clearly CC’d on the email for all to see, well over 500 customers. The message contains contact details of those high up in the worlds of law, finance, music, film and fashion. The risks to privacy violations here (as well as this evidently being illegal), are obvious. A data collector’s dream, to suddenly be in possession of the addresses for such a sought-after group of people. For the person that sent out the email however, it’s a nightmare.
Images for the new Hermès Fall/Winter collection were released earlier this week, with the usual, luxurious European tint (and an indulgent tagline roughly translated as ‘Live like a Count’ or ‘Live like a story’). While Zeitgeist was happy to receive another of Hermès’ seasonal eCRM emails recently (see below), the company was also making headway over the other side of the world, namely in China, the world’s second-largest luxury goods market, (recently overtaking the US), according to Luxuo.
On Tuesday the FT reported Hermès is creating a separate, “bespoke” brand for China. Called Shang Xia (meaning “Up and Down”, hopefully not an analogy for the future of the Chinese economy), the brand launches in September. Those critical of the decision suggest it will dilute the brand essence; this will depend on how it is handled. Giorgio Armani has managed to keep its excellent reputation despite it’s more accessible diffusion lines like Armani Exchange and Emporio Armani. Does watchmaker reverred watchmaker Breguet suffer from being owned by Swatch?
The answer is that it is all a matter of perception. To avoid diluting the principle brand, there must be complete compartmentalisation. Florian Craen – Hermès’ managing director – says “It is a Chinese brand, developed in China with the Chinese team, based on Chinese craftsmanship and broadly made in China. We don’t want any confusion”. Hermès is one of the few remaining boutiques to still have their clothing and accessories made in Italy and France in order to ensure its quality. The other interesting thought will be whether this new Sino-brand will be anywhere near as aspirational for Eastern consumers as its parent is, when all Western allusions are removed.
From the January, 2010 Zeitgeist…
In these stringent times even Zeitgeist have had to cut corners. We have, for example, begun opting for sevruga caviar over beluga. Luxury brands know that their consumers, a large portion of whom were buying on credit, are in danger of not returning to their stores any time soon. So what have these brands been doing over the holiday period to entice people?
On the Friday before Christmas, Zeitgeist received emails from Hermès, Veuve Cliquot, Emilio Pucci and Yves Saint Laurent. Perrier Jouet, Zegna, Tod’s and Selfridges all followed suit over the ensuing days. Only Selfridges’ email was about a sale. Other emails simply promoted the new season or reminded the reader that there was still time to place an order before Christmas. Some have begun to tie their products in to the lifestyle of their prospective customers, such as Veuve with its The Season campaign. It might be thought that these emails missed a trick by not offering some kind of promotion to those people whom the brand deigned to have on their list, to reward their loyalty in the midst of a recession. No such luck, however. For most of these brands, any such indulgence would not impact the bottom line so much as it would impact the image of the brand. Keeping a semblance of dignity while reminding the shopper of their presence goes a long way. For example, Hermès holds discreet sales for loyal customers at the Dorchester Hotel rather than in-store. Moreover, Louis Vuitton never has sales. Surplus products are destroyed.
However, the recession has in some cases led to some fashionista legerdemain. On a trip to Chloé two weeks before Christmas, Zeitgeist was identified as a returning customer and offered a discreet 40% discount on any purchase.
On Christmas Eve, Zeitgeist found Harrod’s had quietly begun its sale, with 50% off a huge array of items. A significant move as Harrod’s is a stalwart for not starting sales until after Christmas. What has brought about these relatively drastic measures? Though some brands are undoubtedly suffering, the recession has more exacerbated already pressing problems, rather than being the problem itself. Some brands, such as Hermès and Louis Vuitton are doing well. Vuitton contributes some 70% of group LVMH’s profit. In truth, the principle reason for such significant discounting is due to customers expecting and demanding them.
Away from the boutiques themselves, both Gucci and Hermès are currently playing on their equestrian roots. Gucci have decided to take advantage of the rather lucrative industry that has built up surrounding used products, recently starting a venture with Christie’s. Vuitton recently began a new campaign, from Ogilvy and Mather in Paris, which shows the artisans at work. The brand is trying to tread the fine line between its brilliant, bling ready-to-wear collection designed by Marc Jacobs, and the immense heritage it has in the luggage it has been painstakingly making since 1854.
During the recession then, most brands have been sticking to their guns (or the fashionable equivalent), waiting for credit to flow once more, so the cycle can start all over again. Chanel’s new surfboards should get things going again.
From the July Zeitgeist…
With the London Olympics on the horizon and the World Cup next year, one rather large sporting event has just taken place on our doorstep. The Championships at Wimbledon provided a very interesting case study of digital brand activation.
The sponsors, though subtle, were plentiful. Ralph Lauren served as the wannabe‐Brideshead Revisited outfitter. Their site is serious, serene and sophisticated. Not much fun, however. Aside from some nice flash video and some tips for players, there isn’t much going on. Evian have a more engaging, enjoyable site, though it promises more than it delivers; while the navigation is interesting, the functionality is unsatisfying as it could have been so much more. The Wimbledon site itself does an excellent job of ensuring the brand remains true to its ethos while still keeping it fresh and relatively contemporary. The pop‐up live scoring, VOD, blogs and social networking functionality make it a fantastic site. Ticketmaster have been releasing unallocated tickets for Centre Court throughout the championship, and have linked with the Wimbledon homepage and eCRM campaign.
HSBC has played a larger role this year in its sponsorship of the tournament, hosting a poll for people to vote for who, in their opinion, is the greatest men’s and women’s player of all time. However, the bank’s sponsorship page is somewhat uninspiring, and the link on the Wimbledon website could also be improved. The BBC, never one to miss an opportunity to elevate and aggrandise out of all proportion every generational hope for a British winner, had blanket coverage of the tournament; their online presence with blogs, live online video, text updates and impressive editorial was a great showcase of exciting
but not overwhelming content and functionality.
There is a superb iPhone app as well, which Ogilvy played no small part in developing with IBM. No talk of Wimbledon would be complete without mentioning Roger Federer, who on Sunday won his sixth Wimbledon title and 15th major. Nike created a simple but effective microsite for him, where users can leave a congratulatory message. This is published as a collage on a green lawn; the site prompts the user to re‐publish their message on Facebook, Twitter, etc. As some of these examples are temporary, make sure you check them out ASAP.