Marketing

There has been a recent slew of big-name brand entrants to the $90bn beauty sector, all keen to capitalize on designer star power in order to score soaring sales via the most accessibly priced luxury products on the market.

It makes commercial sense – a pyramid-style business model where a luxury collection at the “pinnacle” rests on a base of less expensive diffusion lines and offerings that provide the bulk of a company’s profits. Lipsticks, mascaras and fragrances are the lucrative entry point upon which to target the aspirational consumer, building up an appreciation of a brand and its heritage that increases over time – and possibly alongside a budding bank balance. Read more

Just as skirts go up and down and up again, the Photoshopping controversy – which is linked to the skinny models controversy – rears its righteous head in public before giving way to another fashion-related controversy (lack of diversity on the runways, say). Well, we’re in one of those moments: there’s a bill currently sitting before the US Congress, entitled The Truth in Advertising Act, that aims to legislate acceptable use of Photoshop in ads.

Kinda. Actually, it aims to get the Federal Trade Commission to do a report on “(1) a strategy to reduce the use, in advertising and other media for the promotion of commercial products, of images that have been altered to materially change the physical characteristics of the faces and bodies of the individuals depicted; and (2) recommendations for a risk-based regulatory framework with respect to such use”.

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“Why does the Met Ball matter?” — this question was asked of me by a British colleague recently, who had gotten tired, I suppose, of revisiting the subject every year with me. And it’s a fair question: why does this gala, of all galas, get so much international attention? I mean, it squishes all benefit competitors in the social media game. It’s not just because of the celebrities, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, left, at last year’s Ball – there are celebs at the NYCB gala, coming up Thursday, and Elton John’s White Tie & Tiara Ball. It’s not because there’s so much news-worthy behaviour behind the closed doors (it’s on a Monday night; half the crowd go home to bed after the main course). Rather, I think it’s because it’s current maestro, Anna Wintour, understood something about it that no other benefit chairperson, as far as I can tell, has understood about their yearly event. Read more

Louis Vuitton is unveiling a new group of celebrity “ambassadors’ today via their web site, and it’s not who you might expect: instead of actress Michelle Williams, who currently fronts their women’s bag campaign, or Angelina Jolie, who has plugged the heritage line, we have a star-studded line-up of… Atiq Rahimi, a French-Afghan author and movie director whose book, “the Patience Stone” won the Prix Goncourt; Tom Reiss, whose biography, “The Black Count:” about the “real” Count of Monte Cristo just won the Pulitzer; political consultant Felix Marquardt (who has advised the Presidents of Colombia, Georgia and Panama) and Dr. Gino Yu of Hong Kong Polytechnic university and Lourenço Bustani, CEO of Mandalah, who is spearheading the cultural planning of Brazil’s 2016 Olympics — all photographed at the most recent World Economic Forum in Switzerland. So here’s the question: is this a super-clever new way of thinking about marketing, or a velvet rope that will prove too much of a barrier to entry even for the insiders? Read more

So Alexander Wang, left, is the latest runway designer to team up with H&M in their high/low limited-edition strategy for creating buzz and best-sellers. He’ll be the first American to get the gig. The news was announced yesterday by Mr Wang via Instagram, which was seen as very cool, while at Coachella, which is even more cool. The message being, of course, that he is just cool, and this project is going to be super-cool. Except it always seems to me the appeal of the H&M collaborations was they took names that weren’t cool – they were haute, and generally unreachable – and it was the combination of unlikely bedfellows (the high street and the high fashion) that was actually the cool part. This one seems to indicate a slight switch in strategy. Read more

The news that PVH has bought an undisclosed minority stake in Karl Lagerfeld’s namesake brand (otherwise owned by Apax), thus allowing them first dibs on the brand’s entry in North America, has got all my something-is-happening sensors twitching. Seems to me they are sneaking up on dominance of a market segment. Read more

Recently a new ranking – you know I can’t resist a ranking! – was release by the Ethisphere Institute, a US-based think tank that encourages good corporate practice, entitled “The World’s Most Ethical Companies”. And guess what? In all the 144 companies and 41 industries included, the only luxury companies on it were Shiseido and L’Oreal. Yup: no luxury clothing brands. No jewellers. Nada. Given how much lip service and is increasingly paid, and investment made, by luxury in the realm of ethics, this struck me as — well, striking. What, I wondered, was going on? Had we all been green-washed? Or was Ethisphere missing something? Read more

During the penultimate day of the Paris ready-to-wear collections, just before the Alexander McQueen show, was an event that, given the circumstances, might strike many as odd.

There’s an interesting report in the FT today about declining sales of China’s local-brand cars, and it’s got me thinking about the benefits and problems of “national” brands – which is to say, not state-owned brands, but rather the perceptions surrounding the name of a country, ie its own brand, when attached to product, and the way this can work for and against manufacturers. Blame it on the Made in Italy and Made in France strategy the luxury industry so cannily implemented back in the day (a recent BCG/Altagamma/Sanford Bernstein Global Consumer Insight study found a whopping 80% of consumers think “Made in is key”) but seems to me, when it comes to consumers, products don’t just have to be good, they have to somehow come to grips with national stereotype, and either neuter it or exploit it. But what they can’t do is ignore it. Read more

This Sunday is the Oscars, which as we all know is the be-all and end-all of red carpet dressing, and may explain the notable lack of Hollywood celebrities at Paris Fashion Week thus far: they’re all back in Hollywood, juicing in order to get their stomachs flat. Or, in fact – and here’s what I am thinking – there may be something else going on. Something that has to do with changing markets, and marketing. Read more