by Millward Brown Optimor, a global brand strategy and financial consultancy, releasing the list of “World’s Most Powerful Brands.”
Luxury came back, without apology. Although consumers in North America and Europe continued to reject conspicuous consumption, those who could afford the most exclusive shops no longer eschewed the shopping bags that proclaimed their good fortune.
The new ethos frowned on flaunting and encouraged awareness of how one’s purchases, whether diamonds from African mines or apparel stitched in Asian factories, impacted the environment and people all along the supply chain.
Connected to the concern with a product’s origins was a deepened appreciation for the craftsmanship that went into its creation. In a world of mass-produced consumer goods, bespoke attention to individuality became the ultimate luxury. And it provided a rational reason – if needed – for justifying an emotional, expensive purchase.
Many brands raised prices. Those that genuinely could claim a history of design leadership and customization capitalized on their brand heritage in advertising and in online and in-store presentations. Gucci turned areas of some of its stores into small workshops where customers could view leatherworkers crafting handbags.
To attract a new generation of shoppers, Louis Vuitton launched a program to encourage young artists with publicity and financial support, while continuing to evoke its heritage in travel to preserve relationships with the brand’s traditional following. Louis Vuitton remained
the highest-valued luxury brand and increased in value by 23 percent.
Louis Vuitton broadcast its London fashion show on YouTube, an indication of the industry effort to be more contemporary in both product and communication. Burberry sent personalized messages to the mobile phones of customers, inviting them to view the brand’s London fashion show streamed live to a Burberry store. Any item from the catwalk could be purchased for delivery within weeks. Burberry continued to successfully rejuvenate the 155-year-old British heritage brand and enjoyed year-on-year double-digit increases in all markets.
Chanel entered e-commerce for the first time, although more for the sale of accessories than couture, because extending luxury credentials to the mass market risked diluting the exclusivity of the brand. Brands that protected their exclusivity – such as Chanel, Hermès, or Cartier – were better insulated from the recession than more accessible luxury brands. The Hermès brand value grew 41 percent.
Hermès launched a Chinese brand that may herald the inception of luxury brands developed in fast-growing markets.
Meanwhile, China and other BRIC countries remained important markets because badge status gratified a growing middle class and a band of affluent individuals who had wealth for the first time and were ready to spend it.