Thursday, September 24, 2009

Finding a Place for Luxury Online

As we all know it took luxury brands so lont to understant that the internet is here to stay and that they had no choice but to embrace it. But now that the internet bug has been caught by nearly every brand that qualifies itself as 'luxury' and has let to a line-up of branded and somewhat 'flashy' website, another question is currently being whispered around - 'what next?' - In other words where does the luxury brand go online from its website to ensure that it finds and maintains its right ful position on the internet?

Many claim to have the answer. Some say that it's a question of integrating the latest technologies and applications to ensure seamless navigation on the website. Others encourage luxury brands to jump on the bandwagon of the social web through blogging and twittering their lives away, literally. Yet others say that luxury brands should have memeber-only websites where privileged content is shared with only a 'happy few'. Another famous 'advice' is to reproduce the web content on the iPhone in the standard catalogue-like format. Others even say that the iPhone should be dissed and that brands should create their own phones. And we shouldn't forget the famous Search-Engine Optimization campaign in luxury land.

You're probably wondering what I think and I have to say that I find some of these comments quite shallow and in some cases I would even say ridiculous. Okay, I wasn't born with technology with a computer cord tied around me neither do I have micro-chips in my brain ut come on guys, we have to acknowledge that the issue of luxury in the digital world is more profound that trying to outdo competitors and facilitating easy revenues for all manners of agents and developers that claim to e experts of luxury and technology. I've discussed these issues and more in Luxury Online so keep an eye out for the book's publication in November. In the meantime if you love gloss online, take a look at Fauchon.com, one of my references for online brand image re-interpretation.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Peek into the Foreword by Mark Dunhill


My mother is fond of saying that the icing on the cake is more important than the cake itself, in drawing people to taste it. I kept this in mind when it came down to identifying the right person to write the Foreword to Luxury Online. As anyone in this business knows, majority of luxury brands remain guilty of still viewing the internet and technology with suspicious eyes, meaning that digital media remains in its infancy in the world of luxury. It also means there isn't an abundance of experts and potential advocats of a book like this, waiting around for me to call them with the right mix of understanding, strategic mindset and flexibility required to appreciate the role of the internet and technology in driving luxury through the next century. Any internet-related topic is one that is tread carefully in luxe land.

After weeks of feeling like I was hitting my head against a brick wall I finally got a revelation one night while on a flight back to Paris from Shanghai. I opened a magazine and was delighted to find a piece on the re-emergence of Fabergé and the plans that the CEO Mark Dunhill had of using the internet as a solid platform for re-launching the brand after nearly a century of stagnation. Having had the privilege of collaborating with Fabergé in its re-emergence plans, I nearly beat myself for missing the evident candidate for the Foreword. Of course Mark Dunhill was the perfect one. He had not only led Alfred Dunhill to embrace the internet during his long tenure as the President but he is also one of the few in the league of luxury senior execs that actually "get it" when it comes to digital media. I was so excited that I couldn't wait for the plane to land. I called Mark as soon as we touched down and he accepted my request without the slightest hesitation. Despite his busy schedule, he proceeded to write one of the best pieces I have ever read about luxury online. He hit the nail right on the head and I think it will be a nice wake-up call for all the brands that have been trailing online. I'm sure you'll agree with me after reading it. Here is a short phrase as a peek inside. In the meantime you can watch Mark Dunhill speak about his plans for Fabergé on CNN

"It seems only yesterday, when to suggest that the internet had an important role to play in the rarefied world of luxury was either an act of misplaced bravery or an outright heresy, depending on your point of view. Today however, all the major players in this sector are falling over themselves in a rush to embrace the online world... Until recently, the wisdom of using an official company website for anything more than a few bland declarations and a limited online brochure was still being challenged in the boardrooms of luxury conglomerates. Now, after a stampede to set-up transactional e-retail sites, luxury brands, often with the self-conciousness of a child arriving to a new school half way through the term, are looking to attach themselves to every new online phenomenon, from blogging to Twittering via You Tube and Facebook..."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Writing Luxury Online


Unlike my previous book, Luxury Fashion Branding, which was the result of an accidental necessity (if such a thing exists), Luxury Online is a book that came to me as naturally as eating and sleeping (two things I also love).

Since 2004, I've been carrying this book around in my head and have written and re-written it several times. Along the way, I've dropped pieces of its different versions in journal and magazine articles like Brandchannel.com, Luxe-Mag.Com, and the Journal of Brand Management. Finally when the pressure of the book threatened to burst my small head into pieces, I had to get down to the business of finding the time to put pen on paper and actually write the book.

Convincing myself to make writing this book a priority was the easiest part because the more I looked around me and saw the confusion and chaos that reigned in luxury e-business, I knew that it was time. The contents of the book also came easily, mainly due to many years experience of being involved with luxury companies in e-business strategy development and execution. Another booster was being fully immersed in Club e-Luxe and its focal point of advancing luxury business practices in the context of technology, as well as the commitment of the luxury brands that are involved in the club like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Cartier, Boucheron, Fabergé, Coty and several others.

However, finding the time to actually write the book became my biggest challenge. In between running a company, advising luxury brands worldwide, travelling non-stop and family life, there wasn't much time left to devote to writing. To make matters worse, because of the nature and subject of the book - which meant that the relevance of its contents had to be top-notch - I knew that I had to take out a short time-block to write. So I had no choice but to resort to writing in batches and snatches and just anyhow and any place I could find a few minutes - airports, planes, trains, waiting rooms, cafés, office, home (including my kitchen), wherever. Surprisingly I loved this especially all the adrenalin rushes and excitement that it led to. The best part was getting up in the wee hours of the morning for a few hours of quiet reflection and uninterrupted writing. By the time the manuscript was done, I decided to make a count of everywhere I had written at least one sentence of the book but it was a useless exercise as there were just too many. But counting the cities and countries proved possible, and if I'm not mistaken, this book was written in 16 countries and 29 cities, towns, and villages. But irrespective of the location, the moment I switched on my laptop I was only in one place - the Internet. This is the miracle of technology and the beauty of our times.

When I began writing Luxury Online I wasn't sure I would be able to finish the book or when I would. Today the book is completed but you may be surprised to learn that I actually re-wrote the manuscript three times - that's how much I enjoyed writing it! I hope you'll also enjoy reading the book when it hits stores this November.