Bottega Veneta established a new color code called “parakeet” — a lime green that soon became almost as recognizable as Tiffany’s signature blue during Lee’s tenure.
An independent Instagram handle called @newbottega, reaching almost 900k followers, started showcasing the brand on Instagram, but Bottega could not interact with its customers or curate content there.
The brand never got significant traction with its fashion line as many customers found the clothes unwearable.
Bottega Veneta and Daniel Lee surprised the fashion world when they announced a “joint decision to end their collaboration.” Lee made many headlines in the three years since being appointed by the Italian luxury brand as its creative director in 2018. He was instrumental in giving Bottega Veneta and its iconic intrecciato pattern of interwoven leathers a new direction by moving from the “stealth” luxury approach of his predecessor, Thomas Maier, and toward a fashion-forward and heavily hyped strategy.
Consequently, the brand many considered the “most luxurious brand in the world” and worn by “those who knew” created FOMO with each collection, attracted rappers and celebrities, and had even established a new color code called “parakeet” — a lime green that soon became almost as recognizable as Tiffany’s signature blue during Lee’s tenure. Under Lee, the brand with the most stealth luxury approach turned into one of the loudest and most talked-about brands in its competitive set.
And the approach paid off financially, with 8.9-percent growth in the third quarter of 2021 that built on strong acceleration since Lee took the helm. However, not everything the brand did was a home run. Recently the brand moved off social media — a move I have been skeptical about in the past. Not being on Instagram and other critical social media platforms may signal exclusivity, a move that was celebrated by some. But it also allows others to take over the brand’s narrative, which is always dangerous.
Not surprisingly, an independent Instagram handle called @newbottega, reaching almost 900k followers, started showcasing the brand. On platforms like this one, brands cannot interact with customers and fans or curate content. Today, with up to 95 percent of purchase decisions and almost all brand preference-building being determined online, this move has put Bottega Veneta at a significant competitive disadvantage. I would not be surprised if the brand returns to social media after its new creative director is announced.
Additionally, according to various media reports, the brand never got significant traction with its fashion line as many customers found the clothes unwearable. To me, that signals a deeper issue with Bottega Veneta’s flashy new approach. That’s because they fundamentally changed the brand storytelling from incredibly well-crafted pieces of art that reveal beauty and timelessness to seasonal must-haves.
Now that Bottega’s creative direction is changing again under the newly appointed Matthieu Blazy, the brand must establish clarity around its core brand positioning, otherwise existing and newer customers may get confused. The departure of the brand under Lee was one of the most radical repositioning exercises in recent history. But the brand now needs to be less a brand that depends on one person and more one that convinces through its fundamental values and expressions.
Yet, among the critical aspects of successful luxury brands that Lee’s approach confirmed is that a brand needs to inspire, innovate, and be influential to be relevant to luxury consumers — and Bottega Veneta managed to excel in all three aspects. Whatever approach Bottega Veneta takes next, maintaining these traits will be crucial as they try and clarify the brand’s positioning.
Daniel Langer is CEO of the luxury, lifestyle and consumer brand strategy firm Équité, and the professor of luxury strategy and extreme value creation at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He consults some of the leading luxury brands in the world, is the author of several luxury management books, a global keynote speaker, and holds luxury masterclasses in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Follow @drlanger