It's OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion

Blog title from Hadley Freeman's book The Meaning of Sunglasses : "Prada styles itself as the label it's OK for intellectual feminists to like".

The author is a bilingual fashion editor, writer and translator with a serious blog, cinema and magazine habit.

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In France, Evian banks on 1998 nostalgia

Friday 4 July, half-time during the France-Germany World Cup quarter-final. Germany is leading 1-0 but Evian has taken a gamble, rebroadcasting its 1998 TV spot featuring swimming babies. “1998, a year we dream to re-live,” the ad declares over a background of referee whistles.

With perfect and studied timing, Evian had added the video to its YouTube account on 15 June, as France played its first match against Honduras. The brand announced the campaign on Twitter on 25 June, just as France went through to the last sixteen after the match against Ecuador. The tweet said: “In 1998, our babies were swimming. What are your memories of this mythical year?”

So far, the YouTube video has been watched 158,716 times. The tweet has gathered 178 retweets and 102 favourites, with the ad picked up and commented upon independently in other tweets too - a decent though not high level of engagement. In comparison, a tweet featuring tennis player and Evian poster-woman Maria Sharapova, posted on the 3 July, has so far gathered 214 retweets and 508 favourites*.

User responses to the tweet vary: some tweeted back it was the year they were born, the year they got married, the year they saw their first gig…  Many tweeted that for them, 1998 was all about France’s win. In short, the swimming babies succeeded in linking Evian to positive emotions and often life-changing memories.

Known for its imaginative and cute TV ads that play on its trademark theme of youth by water, Evian had a great marketing idea in rebroadcasting its 1998 ad. Though I remembered the spot, had I seen it without background information, I would have been incapable of dating it. Once I knew, it was as if it had dropped me in a comforting bath.

Calling on nostalgia is nothing new in advertising. Analysing the trend last year, specialised publication AdWeek remarked: “In a study of brands that had consumers buzzing during the first quarter, NBCUniversal Integrated Media noticed that those connecting to the past resonated strongly with consumers and shot to the top of its Brand Power Index (BPI)”.

Although nostalgia is a proven advertising strategy, Evian did take a risk by betting that France would get behind its national team. After the team’s skin-of-the-teeth qualification in November 2013, 79% of the French population had a negative opinion of Les Bleus. By the quarter finals, 62% of the French population had a positive view of them. News analysis has been focusing on this regained popularity as much as they have been discussing the team’s sports qualities. This might have been a factor in Evian deciding to spend the €200,000 or so the 32 seconds spot broadcast at peak time would have cost.

As with any bout of nostalgia, it doesn’t matter that 1998 wasn’t actually as good a year as France now remembers, since the World Cup title has thrown most other events in a pink fog. In a 2010 article about “The Power of Nostalgia in Advertising” for Branding Strategy Insider, brand consultant Derrick Daye explains that “every time we remember a past event it not only evokes the earlier memory, but can re-cast the past into a more pleasing “remembered” version. Memory, thinking and feeling are an active, shaping process.” In 1998 France, unemployment in Q2 leading up to the World Cup was at 11.7%, two points higher than what it is today. The French economy was restarting independently of football, after some tough times in the mid-90’s, thanks to a strong US growth. Had France won against Germany last Friday, and gone to hold the trophy, economists agree that it wouldn’t have resulted in similar economic results because the current landscape is too different.

But that’s irrelevant to Evian’s advertising strategy because, four World Cups from now, we would have remembered 2014 as a great year for France. Nothing shortcuts memory like happiness.

*As of 9am on 06 July 2014

Posted at 4:49pm and tagged with: marketing, Brand communication, world cup, Social media,.

When I was a child, around this time of the year, my mum would put catalogues from toy companies and stores on the kitchen table and my sister and I, armed with scissors and glue, would cut and collage our way to a Dear Santa letter. I am not sure we believed Father Christmas would read it but I retain fond memories of this early Advent tradition, which was usually accompanied by the sound of soup stewing in the pressure cooker. It meant “Christmas is coming” more surely than the festive lights being switched on in the city or the trees in display windows.

Although I definitely do not believe Father Christmas will read my Christmas wish list anymore, I have been trying to find a more elegant way to send gift ideas to my family than an email with loads of hyperlinks. 

I settled on a Pinterest board for a few reasons:

1) It somewhat reproduces the feel of my childhood Dear Santa letters by being mostly visual-based. Pinterest could develop the concept by offering alternative backgrounds to its uniform grey, especially during the Festive season. Some users have already created Dear Santa boards, though they are more for photos of actual letters to Santa rather than present desires.

2) It is easy for the board recipients. Say you are after an Alex Monroe necklace (a random idea, of course). You can pin it straight from the site where it is sold. If members of your family live abroad, you can find it on a site which delivers to the country where you will spend Christmas together. You can even add prices to pins so everyone knows what they are getting into. It takes away part of the fuss of gift purchasing; making the chore easier probably increases the chance of you getting what you want. It might not be a LEGO set anymore, but this is the aim of the Dear Santa letter.

3) It can be updated throughout the year and only shared in the run-up to Christmas. This avoids the “Mum do you remember that thing I said I wanted for Christmas back in July? No? Me neither” conversations. Unless it’s my mum of course, she is so organised she would have actually bought that thing in July.

A pinned Dear Santa letter isn’t without a few issues. Making your board available to others could reveal, for instance, an interest in a cheesy 1970s French TV series about a Nordic princess falling in love with an ambassador (another random idea, of course), which you might not want the whole world to know about. The secret feature Pinterest launched this time last year to enables users to track present ideas discreetly, but what happens if some family members are not on Pinterest and don’t want to join?

Another issue, if a board is shared with multiple family members, is how each person will know whether a present is still available to purchase. We can assume some will talk to each other, but it would be helpful if Pinterest could create an easy way to signal something is taken, ideally without forcing them to sign up to the site. On a much larger scale, this could be useful for wedding lists, a huge Pinterest demographic.

Since Pinterest has been working towards monetising its platform, for instance with promoted pins, how can brands integrate the Dear Santa concept in their marketing strategies and drive sales in the process?

1) Pinterest contests have become a part of most self-respecting social media strategy with user generated content. In June, jeweller and luxury watchmaker Piaget, celebrated its Rose collection, Piaget, by asking customers to follow, its official profile on the site, and create a new board called “La vie en rose”. The result? Additional followers and conversation generated across social media. The concept could easily be adapted to Dear Santa letters: pin everything you want from brand X for Christmas, maybe with the added incentive that a few users could win the contents of their board. Or, there could be evolutive boards: a brand encourages followers to pin articles, to take photos of the present being unwrapped, and then of themselves using it. This could provide good cross-platform user engagement in combination with Instagram and Twitter.

2) For a company, having an item pinned is one thing, but the real money comes with conversion. Pinterest represents over a quarter of all social media sales, and in 2012, the average order value was nearly double that of Facebook. Although brands might be happy you want their product for Christmas, the actual spenders, in this case, are your family members. This is a unique chance to convert them to the brand so initiatives like free shipping for customers coming from Pinterest would be appreciated.


Posted at 4:39pm and tagged with: Social media, Pinterest, christmas,.

For three weeks in September, I was engulfed in an online chess game with my dad. We played on a virtual board available on the Hermès website as part of its Jeu d’échecs géant, Giant chess game. 

Hermès’ Chess Heritage

Starting with the landing page featuring the knight prominently, Hermès is calling on its equestrian heritage. Chess pieces have adorned silk scarves in the past and in January 2012, the French leather company released a Taurillon leather board with hand-sculpted rose wood (the whites) and mahogany (the blacks) pieces, the latest in a series of chess boards including made-to-measure traveling games.

The house however chose not to highlight this heritage in the Jeu d’échecs experience. Its introduction is limited to a poem on the history of chess and the possibility to relive legendary parties. Hermès could have built a microsite dedicated to the links between the brand and the game. By choosing not to and by limiting branding to a minimum, Hermès has created an experience more about the game and its players than itself.

A Smart Branding Move

With its chess game, Hermès jumped on the gamification bandwagon. It encourages people to come back to its website in a selfless manner: you can play without ever browsing the digital commerce site. No data capture is required. The game is about you, not about how the brand can best benefit from your digital life, as is so often the case.

Hermès is creating good memories and social link with an online experience going beyond the usual digital share: you can challenge a friend but you can’t broadcast your every move on social media, as the temptation could be. This is a smart game, for smart people.

This emphasis on the personal mirrors the luxury experience of the Hermès customer. Although tweaks are required to make playing seamless, it is already an elegant and classy experience where transaction is secondary.

What Hermès Can Improve

The online game is an exact reproduction of Hermès’ Taurillon leather board. The experience is sleek and easy to play yet if the brand aims for this to pick up, it should release a version offering more views of the board (at the moment it’s either lateral or from above). It would also be good to keep track of the taken pieces at all times.

The emails need sorting out: at the moment, you receive a notification for every move your adversary makes. These emails should contain a picture of the board as it now stands, rather than the same image of the knights. They should direct you straight to your game, rather than to a page you have to click on to reach it.

Images: Hermès blue and red silk scarf “Echecs II” by Pierre Peron 1975, Vintage traveling Hermès chess board

Posted at 10:00am and tagged with: hermès, online communication, gamification, email marketing, Social media,.

"View the Blake Lively video at" calls Gucci on its new fragrance Gucci Première magazine advert. For its new fragrance release, with a name nodding to its most expensive, semi-couture Gucci Première collection, Gucci chose the social over the branded, the free-for-all comment over the safe environment of its own website.

Over the past two years, social networks have played a growing role in Gucci’s marketing strategy. The Italian company is one of the top three luxury brands across most social channels, including in China, yet its You Tube activity and fan base has so far been behind. Its Gucci Official channel totals under 4 500 subscribers, its Gucci Parfums just over 3 000, but quadruple the number of video views, suggesting a printed call to action referring to a website, even without QR code, can be effective.

Despite making YouTube its Première marketing central, Gucci doesn’t feature the fragrance content prominently. You need two clicks to reach the Lively video, available on a different tab and which has reached over 320 000 views in three weeks. The landing page is all about Flora by Gucci, with an experience offering everything from a short advert to wallpaper downloads and the Story of Flora, from motif created for Grace Kelly to perfume launched by Frida Giannini.

We’re in the early days of the fragrance launch, with the Blake Lively ad acting as a teaser, and new content will no doubt be released in time to retain fan interest, building up to Christmas gifting opportunities. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Flora You Tube experience replaced by a Première one during Milan fashion week to coincide with the show. I haven’t smelt Première yet but it feels more wintery than Flora, which benefited from a massive push amongst the lighter, floral summer fragrances.

The magazine advert only promises the Blake Lively video, not heaps of content, yet advertising one content, but forcing a different one on the customer, seems counter-intuitive. 

Posted at 5:48am and tagged with: Brand communication, advertising, gucci, Social media, You Tube,.

With the Vogue Fashion Community, Paris Vogue launches it very own, and very unoriginal, social media. Members can post pictures of themselves in their favourite looks and vote on other people photos. Rings a bell? That’s because every other fashion social media, blogs included, is based on this idea. Vogue adds it its own, slightly editorial touch, trying to organise the looks by trend (at the moment, “Dentelle Chic”, “Minimalisme”, “Down to Earth” and “Working Girl”).

Editorial or not, this is just one more fashion social network, not all that different in concept from Burberry’s Art of the Trench and Rather than being original or thinking forward, Paris Vogue is, once again, relying on its name and reputation for success.

Branching into social media is a necessary step for magazines as they explore the online world but it would be a good thing to see a groundbreaking idea rather than more of the same.

Posted at 6:39am and tagged with: Vogue Paris, social media,.