By and  on June 18, 2010

BEVERLY HILLS — From Diane von Furstenberg to Calvin Klein Inc. president and chief executive officer Tom Murry, the challenge of how to leverage the fast-evolving landscape of social media, new media and celebrity was the focus at the Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit.

Addressing whether a social media presence translates into sales, Boucheron president and ceo Jean-Christophe Bedos said, “Consumers trust recommendations from friends and family, and where they connect with them is on sites like Facebook. It’s not a question of whether or not you should be there, it’s how you should be there. If not, you are losing an opportunity to monitor what is being said about you in the digital space.”

Von Furstenberg told executives at the two-day event that ended Tuesday at the Beverly Hills Hotel to never lose sight of product.

“The relationship I have with my customers is organic and real,” the designer said. “That starts with the product. Sales and marketing are a consequence of that.”

Citing the strength of traditional media, Condé Nast International chairman Jonathan Newhouse pointed to the growth of publications such as Vogue and GQ and the decline of AOL. Although new media enhances a reader’s experience, as shown with iPhone and iPad applications, Newhouse said, “What happens to a brand that forgoes excellence in favor of a broader message? In the short term, sales may go up, but in the long term, the message could be impacted.

“Social media is full of new possibilities and connections,” he said. “Amid this, the authority of trusted luxury brands counts more than ever. We are extremely committed to new media, though there should be some consideration of how it’s used.”

Asked what advice he would give to ceo’s of luxury companies, Newhouse said, “Luxury marketers should think about what they need to do. New media is a broad field, but luxury advertisers’ interest is to remain focused.”

As partnerships between brands and celebrities proliferate, Bryan Lourd, managing partner of CAA, a top talent agency, said short-term ties between A-list celebrities and brands are vestiges of the past. Celebrities and brands now aim for lasting relationships that speak to their positioning and missions, ranging from philanthropic to sartorial.

“People who are famous want real partnerships with companies,” he said. “They don’t want two-year deals or two-and-a-half year deals.…They want to play the long game.…They want that company to support them the way they want to be supported.”

Fabio Mancone, Giorgio Armani Group global director of licensing and communications, highlighted Armani’s involvement with Cate Blanchett as mutually beneficial for the actress and the brand. Blanchett has put a spotlight on Armani by wearing pieces from the fashion house to high-profile events, and Armani supports the Sydney Theatre Company, where Blanchett is co-artistic director.

Traditionally, Mancone explained, Armani has tapped celebrity brand ambassadors to showcase the brand in different markets and has steered away from using celebrities as faces in its advertising, preferring to concentrate on the product. However, he said that strategy could shift slightly toward faces in campaigns. “You need to have the right celebrity for the right project for the right market for the right brand,” he said.

Tamara Mellon, founder and chief creative officer of Jimmy Choo, said fashion companies must be certain their brands and potential celebrity endorsers are a good match. She singled out Lindsay Lohan’s foray with Emanuel Ungaro as a failed partnership. “It needs to be credible, and it needs to be authentic.…They [consumers] know when something is credible and when it’s not.”

Murry, who gave the final address of the summit, reiterated the need to stick with core principles. “We [Calvin Klein] know who we are.…We know what we do well,” he said.

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