There’s no other way to say it – Core77 puts on a rocking good party and the Design 2.0 event on February 28th was one of them. Bruce Nussbaum already has an excellent summary up as does Jack Cheng at PSFK supported by Core77’s photographs.
The key essence that evening – articulated not only by the speakers, through their presentations, but also in the conversations that followed – was that the ‘2.0’ aspect has indeed permeated into the real world. That conversations are not just important in the blogosphere but beyond it.
That branding – cocreating an experience, communicating and engaging the users, empowering and enabling the rise of brand loyalists and communities around your ‘brand’, listening, engaging in dialogue, having a conversation – has evolved from the days of one to many mass communication. Participation, engagement, flexibility and adaptability.
Allright,you’re all going on about the Web 2.0, cocreation, participatory brand experience stuff, where the users make the brands their ‘own’, what about in the case of a luxury brand? What about a ‘maker of culture’ like Gucci? Does a luxury brand throw open the boundaries of it’s brand’s identity to enable their customers to tweak and change and ‘cocreate’ into their brand? Can a luxury brand do this? Should a luxury brand do this? Answer me this.
Aaaah, I said. Er, let me get a drink and get back to you Matt. Harrumph. Er..hmmmm. Matt is an old friend of mine from the Institute of Design – he’s a design strategist, who, as he says, has now become one with the corporate beast – one that insists he improve his wardrobe 🙂 So I knew he knew what he was asking and my answer had better be a good one.
On reflection (and knocking back the second drink) I answered Matt with a "No". Through my own experience with emerging markets and my belief that brands need to adapt themselves to the local culture and context, the nuances of customer preferences et al, in the specific case of Gucci (and other iconic luxury brands, those who, in Matt’s words, ‘create culture’) the answer would be a resounding No. No, Gucci, should not and cannot, bend or change. Gucci is Gucci, a global leader in style, haute couture, a trendsetting fashion icon in it’s own right. It should enter a new market – say India or China – on its own terms. Its very attraction, its charisma and power come from its heritage of Italian handmade high fashion high quality goods. Luxury brands create their own rules, methinks.
Lets take the example of Coach, another luxury brand – while Coach is global brand, it’s products are made in China and India and other cost effective locations. Gucci, on the other hand, is still custom made by artisans in Italy. And that was part of the story, part of the mystique. As an Indian,I know I wouldn’t pay the price for a Gucci leather handbag if it had been made in India – because I didn’t want to buy another indian leather handbag, I could get as many of those that I wanted. Here, I was buying a Gucci bag. And all the mystique of an Italian style icon that the double G carried. (disclaimer, I don’t have a single Gucci product nor could I actually own one without giving up a first born or two)
This made me rethink some of the aspects of global brands and local markets. While cocreation and empowerment et al are extremely powerful and compelling evolutions in the market, there are, and will have to be, exceptions to the rule of ‘web 2.0’.