- Jumping on every digital trend leaves luxury brands at risk of doing the same things and gradually leaving consumers bored.
- Some of the most successful luxury brands in China today are those that are open to experimentation that leverages their core strengths rather than feeling forced.
- Gucci's wide-ranging content and marketing efforts are winning globally because they are centered in the brand's values and creative vision.
One of the greatest challenges facing luxury brands today is the pressure to push the envelope in their global marketing efforts and jump on the latest trends to tap the crucial millennial and Gen Z demographics. This is particularly true in the China market, where younger consumers have quickly taken a place as a powerful -- and digital-first -- buyer base.
In the race to reach, influence, and sell to the younger consumer, the current vogue for livestreaming e-commerce has led a growing number of luxury brands to experiment with the format. But livestreaming is not for everyone, leaving brands at risk of a poor response when stepping out of their comfort zones. Last year, Louis Vuitton’s much-publicized debut China livestream on Xiaohongshu drew mixed reviews, while a China effort by Dior in January was savaged by online critics as awkward and boring.
The risk of being seen as “boring” should be of huge concern for any luxury brand today. But rather than simply requiring a brand takes part in every emerging trend in an attempt to seem very un-boring, it means completely reconceptualizing the global marketing ecosystem and playing to built-in strengths. One of the difficulties of today’s luxury market is the tension between the need for brands to attract their core (older, established, and affluent) consumer as well as the emerging young (enthusiastic and willing to spend, but typically less wealthy) consumer.
The result is an environment in which every brand seems to be trying the same things -- whether they be brand films, new hybrid retail concepts, brand collaborations, or livestreams -- leading to a lack of marketing biodiversity. As in ecology, where reduced biodiversity leaves populations vulnerable to disease and starvation, seeing the same things from virtually every brand in their social feed leaves consumers bored and apathetic. Considering the importance of the China market to luxury brands right now, fostering boredom is something they cannot afford.
Currently, some of the most successful brands are those that take an unexpected approach to marketing, trying out technologies and formats that might not be wholly original, but perhaps have been tried and tested in non-luxury segments. For example, the core marketing strategy of Gucci is impossible to pin down, with the brand doing everything from launching an NFT to releasing virtual sneakers and handbags, collaborating with fellow digitally advanced Kering brand Balenciaga, creating a star-studded “talk show,” developing limited-edition collections with The North Face, Doraemon, and Pokémon Go, expanding its restaurant empire, experimenting with luxury resale, and doing pretty much anything else Alessandro Michele can think of.
While they run the gamut, Gucci’s marketing efforts all seek to drive home a message that the brand is active, unpredictable, and forward-facing (despite the clear retro streak in its overall brand aesthetic).
In an environment where so much depends on the algorithm, and AI-driven recommendation engines are starting to actively shape the interests and purchasing decisions of younger consumers, brands need to think not only like the ever-evolving Gucci but like consumer juggernauts like Kentucky Fried Chicken or Nike -- brands that deviate far from their core product offering and fight tooth-and-nail to surprise and entertain audiences worldwide. It’s the brands that fail to keep their marketing efforts fresh and interesting that are falling behind, not because consumers hate their brand, but because they’re bored.
Moving forward, the brands that branch out -- whether that’s in the form of SK-II’s vertically integrated film studio or Bottega Veneta foregoing social media to publish a new online magazine -- will be the ones that outpace consumer boredom.