Winning the Internet in Gucci

Last week, the luxury fashion brand Gucci started generating headlines for unveiling its new collection of watches through creating a series of branded memes in collaboration with artists and popular Instagram meme accounts (referred to as the “collaborative art project” by the brand itself) and posting them on their social media channels. For a luxury brand with a sophisticated image and aesthetic, it was an unexpected and bold move. However, it seemingly paid off.

In the digital world, conversation translates to sales, and the number one thing every brand wants to achieve online is to be a part of the conversation. Memes, in their own turn, are the epitome of viral content that get everyone talking and sharing. I have discussed the powerful possibilities of incorporating memes into a branded feed a few weeks ago, however, my general conclusion was also supported by my classmates in the discussion following the post – it is extremely difficult for brands to incorporate memes into the conversation genuinely and effectively. Gucci’s memes achieved the conversation goal seamlessly – while not everyone received the memes positively, the Internet noticed and started talking.

The memes in question are only a part of the overall digital strategy that the nearly 100-year-old brand has been employing over the last two years. A closer look at some of their online activities can provide insights on what it takes to build an effective and integrated digital strategy, and how a powerful digital strategy can translate to a 25% increase in sales in just two years.

 

Making E-Commerce Easy

One of the first and most important changes to the brand’s online strategy that came together with the new creative director Alessandro Michele in 2015 was the relaunch of their website. Some of the notable changes to it were including larger images both on the main and search pages, videos, featured items, as well as a content block named “Stories” that highlights Gucci’s latest online and offline campaigns (they are worth checking out here). In line with common practices, the new website is adapted to both mobile and tablet devices, contains links to all of Gucci’s social media channels, as well as iOS and Android apps, and includes social media sharing capabilities.

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Stories block on the main page of the Gucci website.

The website update provides two big wins for the brand. First, by taking note of the increasing trend among all types of consumers to shop online, Gucci makes sure that they are providing their customers with a consistent, up-to-date and seamless online shopping experience that can be accessed from any device. Second, by incorporating Social Media channels and sharing capabilities, providing apps, and, most importantly, including Stories, Gucci’s website now serves as the hub of all things Gucci online – but the user can still choose where and when to interact with the brand.

While making online shopping easy and accessible, the brand does not forget its luxury focus and clientele – all items presented on the website can also be located in a physical store, gift wrapping is complimentary, and one of the prominently displayed contact options on the website is a direct phone number. Unlike mass market brands that provide the customers with an email or a live chat option and require payments for add-on services, Gucci recognizes that their customers expect a more personalized service, and provides it to them directly and free of charge.

 

Content and Channels

While in the past fashion was set and dictated by fashion magazines, that power has since shifted to street style stars and then to fashion bloggers. And although all three currently coexist, the influence of the Internet can’t be denied – and, once again, Gucci knows and recognizes the shifting nature of these trends.

Like most brands with a strong digital presence, Gucci is represented across all most heavily used social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, and Snapchat (username: gucci).

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Gucci’s branded Snapcode. Snap or open the image in Snapchat to follow.

For a fashion brand that builds its appeal on the prominence of its pieces, demonstrating their pieces in a highly visible and consistent manner is important. On channels like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Gucci produces a lot of unique content that is adapted for Social Media, but is at the same time in line with the rest of their branding that can be found online and in magazines and in stores. Although visual content is used across all three platforms, Gucci’s social media team is aware of the specifics of each – and the feeds in each platform are maintained in an independent manner.

The brand’s Pinterest channel is organized in albums that are more reminiscent of Gucci’s look books. The albums and pins parallel the Stories section of the brand’s website – and link to it as well. Gucci is also notable for its early adoption and active use of Snapchat. True to the essence of the platform, Gucci’s Snapchat provides sneak peaks, backstage looks and special live activations and campaigns. Such Snapchat activations are often promoted and linked to on other channels, ensuring that followers on other channels are not left out.

Using unified content strategy but posting it across platforms differently ensures that Gucci’s content and posts feel native to each platform, but are also recognizable across all of them. By carefully creating and curating the content for their channels, Gucci also ensures that the brand is distinct and recognizable not only on the Internet, but in offline channels as well.

 

What Makes it Work

Gucci’s current digital strategy seems to be built on three big pillars – active social media presence with close attention to trends, unified (but not identical) content and posts across multiple platforms, and an integrated and centralized website. While the active presence helps the brand build and awareness engagement, the unique content makes it stand out and simultaneously helps increase sales. The website serves as both the Gucci hub and a powerful e-commerce channel.

Given all that, where do the controversial Gucci memes fit into the picture? On the one hand, given the broad appeal of memes, it is almost guaranteed that some of the meme fans are also fans – and customers – of Gucci. On the other hand, given the younger user base of Instagram, for many, Gucci can be considered an aspirational brand. In such case, Gucci is even more ahead of the game – by building a bond with its younger base early on, it captures future customers and positively differentiates from other luxury brands, which in turn results in higher market share and sales for Gucci not only now, but in the future as well.

 

 

 

5 comments

  1. CarbNatalie · ·

    Great post! I think that its really innovative of Gucci to incorporate something that has become so mainstream and popular especially since they have been changing the content they put out over the last couple years. I think this was a really cool/good move on their part.

  2. lesleyzhou · ·

    Thank you for the enjoyable analysis, I’ve actually been very curious about Gucci’s new revival in the luxury marketplace. I still remember the days when Gucci was being perceived as the “old lady obnoxious logo stamped’ brand that was dying in the eyes of the fashion industry. However, their new incorporation of memes is so unconventional (and actually very risky!) that I was completely caught by surprise. Indeed, Michele’s revamped website is trendy, fresh and relevant while the use of memes for their new watch campaign completely overshadows its old, out-dated image, replacing it with a sort of humor that only the younger generation would find appealing. Gucci is the first luxury brand I’ve seen to incorporate memes, but I wonder if doing so will compromise its brand in the long-run for it may isolate its older customers who do not understand/appreciate the concept.

  3. Great post! It is interesting to see Gucci, a brand that thrives on exclusivity and luxury, using a broader, mass market approach in an attempt to appeal to a younger generation. I completely agree that this new strategy may be a smart play by Gucci in order to build some form of brand awareness and preference among a younger generation as a form of investment in future sales. It will be interesting to see if Gucci attempts to offer product lines that are targeted to a younger generation (price wise) in order to match these new content delivery channels. However, these new channels and any new offerings may compromise their established brand identity.

  4. I agree with what Lesley commented above; if you look back to two or three seasons ago, Gucci was definitely one of the less relevant brands in terms of fashion trends. I started noticing from the 2016 S/S collection that the brand started to transform their runway game, but what was even more impressive was their social media engagement this year. Since I had been following a lot of meme accounts to begin with, my Instagram feed is now filled with Gucci posts that are not as “elegant” or “exquisite” as what most other luxury brands. Personally, I haven’t been more motivated to invest in their products because of their memes, but I’m interested to find out how successful this specific strategy was.

  5. drewsimenson · ·

    Interesting post! It does seem like an odd and somewhat risky brand move in terms of the meme marketing initiative. Who is their target market these days? It would be really interesting to see some sort of report on how the target market for Gucci has changed over time; as others have commented, it seems like Gucci has gone through a few evolutions since the beginning of the brand. Perhaps they are indeed trying to refactor younger? Have you thought about the impact of marketing from rap culture (popularity of Gucci Mane, etc.)? Gucci is still mentioned in so many hit songs on the radio.

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