Sunday, January 31, 2010

An Apple is always welcome

January is the month of new beginnings, a time for positive anticipation and the birth of hope. Naturally it's a good time to launch a new product, or should I say a revolution that promises to change lives and cultures. Apple chose this month (the 27th precisely) to bring the iPad to the world. This multi-media tablet-like device that Steve Jobs described as a ''magical object that is a  bridge between the laptop and the smartphone'' is set to change the way we interact with the internet and everything digital.  

At just 0.5 inches thick and at 0.7kg, the iPad's multi-touch screen display functions with the support of 1GHz Apple A4 chip and has up to 64GB flash memory. Plus it has 10 hours battery life, necessary for the multiple apps (actually over 140,000) and multi-media content that range from videos to music and all you can find in between. And at the not-so-bitter price of $499.

It is said that magic sometimes comes in small sizes, well let's see if the iPad will live up to it. 

By the way, Apple is featured in Luxury Online as this brand has quite a few pointers to give classic luxury brands in the online world.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Virtual Reality - Fabergé and Couture Lab Move from Net to Street

The private salon area of Fabergé's recently opened boutique in Geneva

In the early days of the web, the general consensus in luxury circles was that the net (as it was popularly called then) and the real boutique mutually existed in two parallel lines with no meeting point. It was unthinkable for several store managers to imagine that one day they would find themselves sharing client data, selling tips and the info in the treasured black book of VIP client with the ''internet people''. Many couldn't even imagine the possibility of a luxury brand having its online boutique as its flasgship store. The thought that a luxury boutique could be launched first online before moving to the street was incredulous. Well life is full of surprises as they say, and many could be good surprises as demonstrated by Fabergé whose first store opened its doors in Geneva after the online flagship; and Couture Lab, which managed a successful e-retail website before venturing into the physical world (both brands are featured in Luxury Online, by the way).

Fabergé.com, launched before the flagship store in Geneva

Faberge, the celebrated high jewellery and decorative piece brand created by Peter Carl Fabergé in 1885 has recently been relaunched as an 'ultra luxe' brand with an enviable collection of high jewellery made of the most rare and precious stones. The first collection by the brand since 1917 (yes, indeed) was designed by Frédéric Zavvy and launched in great pomp in Paris in September 2009. Staring prices are in the range of $50,000 for ear-rings and rings and could very easily go up to $7 million for necklaces and pièces d'exceptions. You would think that a brand like this would shun the web in a bid to cater to those hyper-rich celebs that we believe don't bother with the web. But Fabergé seems to understand that luxury is in a transition to a major change and that business was well, not as usual anymore. The website launched as a global flagship store in September and the physical flagship followed in December 2009, confirming that the internet is indeed a real shopping destination.

Couture Lab on the other hand was launched as an online business aiming to showcase the best talents in fashion, design and luxury living. With its self-description of "luxury beyond trends and seasons", the website has gone on to contribute to the incresing senstivity of luxury clients to niche and emerging designers and concepts. In recognition of the need to marry 'virtual' with 'real' Couture Lab opened its first physical boutique in London opened in November 2009.

It looks like its time for whoever said that virtual reality is a dream to wake up as things are cleary changing and are definitely getting more interesting in the cyber and real worlds.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Luxury Gels with Social Media at the Club e-Luxe Breakfast Seminar

The debate of 'why' and 'how' luxury brands should approach the social media has been going on for a few years now. Most of it has been centered on finger-pointing at luxury brands for being late, inflexible controlling and even arrogant in the social media world. Many have accused luxury brands of staying trapped in the illusive world of believing that inspite of the social media revolution, business was as usual. Okay, I was also one of the people that criticized luxury brands when it looked like many were oblivious of the change that was taking place in the cyberspace and also the real world.

Then the brands actually took notice. They stopped, listened and decided to act. But the 'acting' turned out to be over-zealous attempts at making up for all those lost years and somewhat for the shame of being left behind by both clients and other sectors. Facebook accounts were opened, My Space pages were created , blogs popped up at every click of the mouse and Tweeting became a syndrome. It seemed that the brands all decided to jump on the bandwagon of the social media somewhat blindly. It's no wonder that this led to a new height of confusion and yet a second bout of criticisms and finger-pointing.
When everyone accuses you but no one tells you how to avoid being accused, what do you do? You become defensive and angry. This is what luxury has become lately as it found itself in this new and unusual world of the social media. At Luxe Corp we saw all these and decided to do something to address them by organising the Club e-Luxe Breakfast seminar that took place last Friday 8th January at the Four Seasons George V Hotel Paris.

Forty of some of the most respected luxury companies and groups (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, L'Oréal, Pernod Ricard, Ritz Hotel, Vertu, LVMH, Gucci Group etc) as well as several emerging fantastic luxury brands (Ettinger, Sylvia Toledano, Analeena, Nalin Jeanne, La Favorite etc) from multiple products and services categories gathered together to dissect this major challenging area. With a line-up of speakers that included Luxury Veterans, Media Experts, Bloggers, Tweeterers and Strategists led by Luxe Corp's Business Analysts, the seminar addressed the deep-burning issues of the place of luxury in the context of the social media.
The event started off with my presentation which focused on raising the question of the relevance of the social media in luxury and the strategic approach of ensuring that each luxury brand identifies the right social media platforms for them and is well equipped internally for the required execution . The core message was the need of a strategy and the appropriate internal structure and resources, before adopting the tech tools. Andre Kolasinski then took the audience through the evolution of media from 'mass media', which according to him is now dead to the social web, which is today based on 'listening and conversing'. Geraldine Dormoy, the renowned blogger behind Café Mode clearly revealed the world of blogging to the audience and enabled luxury brands to see the advantageous and the challenging sides of this aspect of social media.
The highlight of the seminar was however the Roundtable discussion on the topic of ''Traditional vs new media - Which direction for luxury brands?'', in which both luxury veterans like Gucci's Worldwide Director of Communications Robert Treifus and Le Meurice's Director of Communications Anne Voigt-Bordure; as well as media experts and professionals, Jessica Michault of the IHT, Valérie Leboucq of Les Echos, Tina Isaac of WWD and the Author Mark Tungate, participated. This session touched on every aspect of the two media channels as well as the luxury world, including the changing model of luxury communications from 'text to images' and from 'mass to one-to-one' . Everyone agreed that the two channels could co-exist in harmony. There was also clarification of the perceived and real roles and credibility of bloggers as citizen journalists in the face of professional journalists. Specific social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were highly discussed and the general consensus among the speakers was that it is better to have a strategy first before adoptiong and luxury brand should only adopt social media platforms when they're clear about their objectives and have a solid execution plan.

A few quotes and comments.

"How do you make people dream with 140 characters on Twitter? You have to appeal to their minds and not their eyes" - Uché Okonkwo  

"Bloggers are highly influential and can affect a luxury brand's bottom line" - Geraldine Dormoy

"The social network is very similar to the brain and its neurons and will eventually spread to become a stage of collective consciousness capable of reproducing thought. Will your brand be at the center of these thoughts?" - Uché 

"Young people are now more concerned about having a Facebook account than about having an email address" - Robert Treifus

"Good bloggers and journalists can co-exist as one big happy family as each brings value to the media world" - Jessica Michault

"Luxury brands need a social media strategy before adopting the tools. They cannot open the toolbox without knowing what they need the tools to fix" - Mark Tungate

"News making costs money and advertisements brings in money, so news publications need ad revenues to make the news" - Valerie Leboucq

"Online ads are not suitable for every luxury brand, particularly in the luxury hotel segment" - Anne Voigt-Bordure

"Luxury brands need to focus more on overall value and less on selling, on platforms like Twitter. If a brand is funny on Twitter, people are likely to respond more" - Tina Isaac

''Mass media is dead'' - Andre Kolasinski
The beautiful 'Salle Anglaise' overlooking the courtyard garden of the Four Seasons George V Hotel , where the event was held also served as a networking ground for exchanges at the end of a stimulating morning.