Conde Nast experimenting, collaborating and partnering with luxury brands
2009 was not a good year for luxury brands, particularly aspirational brands. But the sector bounced back toward the end of last year. And Bain's Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study projects that in the next five years online spending for luxury brands will increase to 5% of the industry. According to Bain analyst Claudia D'Arpazio, "the most resilient will be those with strong international and diversified brands." That means not so much aspirational brands, but those "true" luxury brands that are classics, have stood the test of time, the sort that are always coveted by the monied and have probably been advertising in glossy Conde Nast magazines since, well, forever.
On the cusp of another fashion week here in New York, our attention turns to luxury. The sprawling event presents many opportunities for savvy digital publishers. Last fall, for example, Twitter launched a microsite on the chatter surrounding the live events around the city. "53% of the coverage came from online articles and blog posts occurring between 2/13/2010 to 2/20/2010. As magazines posted photos and commentary of shows, bloggers were hot on the heels, reblogging, writing and linking to photos and trend information as they were released," Macala Wright, who monitored Fall 2010's Fashion Week, wrote at FashionablyMarketing.
As the economy comes back and demand strengthens throughout Asia, luxury brands -- like LVMH, Louis Vuitton and Gucci -- are feeling their oats. They are ready to get back in the mix of things. That's good news for a high end publisher like Conde Nast which, though expanding eastwards (Vogue Turkey launches on February 25th), has taken some criticism editorially for lagging in their live up-to-the-minute digital coverage behind the new breed of fashion bloggers.
How could Conde Nast, which has unprecedented access to the tents and the designers and what goes on behind the velvet ropes, lag behind anyone? Also -- and not entirely unrelated -- in a ceremony this week, Wired beat out Vogue as Conde Nast's highest performing business, with a 28 percent ad increase to Vogue's 16 percent. A sign of the times? One would hope not.
Fashion, more specifically, luxury and style, has not nearly reached its digital potential for publishers like Conde Nast. Conde Nast is lending its editorial skill and tastes to these luxury brands. This past November, Conde Nast celebrated Digital Day 2010 in Mumbai under a partnership with Campaign India. James Bilefield, president of Conde Nast International Digital, spoke about how luxury brands, in the context of paid, owned and earned media, are reinventing themselves as creators of content. Publishers, particularly those looking for creative advertising relationships with luxury brands, can learn from this approach.
"I think that many of them are creating fabulous content," Bilefield said. "They are commissioning the best filmmmakers, the best photographers, took their beautiful and very effective and very engaging content. The challenge they have is how do they then distribute that effectively to their target customers."
Bilefield noted that editorial skills are not natural to many of these brands, which is where Conde comes in: "We have that editorial flair and experience both in digital and in print media, so we are able to work with them quite closely sometimes to take the best of what they have, package it up and then present it with them."
Conde Nast is experimenting, partnering and collaborating in new and interesting ways as well as helping luxury brands express themselves in the best possible light to the stylish consumer. On Feb. 4, "Inside the Vault" -- a collaboration between Conde Nast, GM, Source Interlink, Telepictures, Tribune and Starcom -- will begin airing on WGN America television. The series includes "experts" from across Conde Nast's titles, including Vanity Fair, GQ, Wired and Details.
What is particularly interesting is that the half-hour show, sponsored by GM (no stranger to luxury), targets "today's classic man" -- leveraging the Conde Nast brand's reputation with style -- and will ultimately move on to Tribune's national cable network and 17 of its local stations, some of which are in the nation's largest markets.
The 10-episode series will also be available digitally through a website, YouTube and the usual social media suspects. "New times call for new approaches," stated GM head marketer Joel Ewanick, adding that the series offers a "different avenue ... to connect with audiences and create an environment that is different." A decidedly Conde Nast environment, to be sure.