Divin­ing Lux­ury At the Duomo

Forbes - - Inside Scoop - By LEWIS D’VORKIN

I heard a fas­ci­nat­ing story in Mi­lan last week as I moved across Italy, France and Switzer­land ex­plor­ing the tra­di­tion-bound world of lux­ury mar­ket­ing. Gior­gio Ar­mani, I was told, calls all the shots on print ad­ver­tis­ing for his hugely suc­cess­ful fash­ion la­bel. He seats him­self at the cen­ter of a cir­cle formed by his lieu­tenants, who one by one hold up mag­a­zines for him to pass judg­ment on. Au­dio record­ings now cap­ture his yesses and nos. So much for re­search and data.

Things change slowly in the fash­ion busi­ness, even as dra­matic de­par­tures of cre­ative di­rec­tors at Lan­vin, Dior and Ba­len­ci­aga leave the industry emo­tion­ally frayed. Icons like Ar­mani still fa­vor beau­ti­ful color print ads. The feel of a mag­a­zine with lux­u­ri­ous pa­per suits the im­age of their cre­ations. The same holds true for lux­ury watch­mak­ers, es­pe­cially those charg­ing tens of thou­sands of dol­lars for di­a­mond-stud­ded pre­ci­sion.

I did en­counter a new breed—mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tives who want to dive into the fash­ion­able life of dig­i­tal and so­cial me­dia. One men’s cloth­ing com­pany was fx­ated on how pub­lish­ers could use big data to fnd and tar­get a new elite. An­other was in­trigued by the po­ten­tial of niche so­cial net­works. Our new app for our 30 Un­der 30 list mem­bers drew in­tense in­ter­est. Na­tive ads are gain­ing no­tice, too. A spir­its com­pany with many pop­u­lar brands quickly rec­og­nized the op­por­tu­ni­ties for con­tent mar­ket­ing in this mag­a­zine. So did a fash­ion jew­elry maker. Still, pow­er­ful, old guard lux­ury pho­tog­ra­phers have lit­tle love for mar­ket­ing tech­niques they be­lieve can never live up to their in­spired work.

FORBES wants to part­ner with old and new lux­ury thinkers as the industry tests mar­ket­ing’s fu­ture. I shared some of our newer con­cepts around na­tive ad ex­e­cu­tions for dig­i­tal and print. I also talked about our ed­i­to­rial fo­cus on mobile-specifc con­tent and how it might ap­ply to their own dig­i­tal sto­ry­telling needs.

Cen­tury-old lux­ury brands fnd com­fort with their place in the world. I had a glimpse of per­haps why as I serendip­i­tously ran into a night-lit Duomo, the cathe­dral in Mi­lan whose grandeur lives on. A quick glance to my im­me­di­ate right pro­duced an­other sur­prise: an MTV stage where bands would soon per­form for fans gath­er­ing for an awards show. In some way, old and new even­tu­ally con­verge. The lux­ury busi­ness will fnd that out, too.

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