Divining Luxury At the Duomo
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.