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,