Storytelling is a universal human experience. A brand’s story and its narrative are as important to the consumers as the products themselves. One such brand that has embraced this new cultural code is Gucci. The brand has infused its heritage & story into the digital landscape and they are deeply resonating with today’s consumers, namely the Gen Next cohort (Millennials and Gen Z).
Gucci’s Creative Director, Alessandro Michele understands that if his consumers are presented a good story, they will remember not just the details of it but also feel emotionally connected to the brand’s vision. Indeed, there is a fascinating allegory behind those slithering snake patterns, golden bumblebees, and the royal Bengal tiger. The powerful animal and nature symbols are all part of the blooming Gucci Garden. While the snakes exemplify knowledge in Greek & Roman Art, the distinguished bees are a symbol of nobility in Rome. And if you ask any curious millennial, what they think of these totems? Don’t be surprised when they say, “Tiger is my spirit animal — I’m always seeking new challenges,” or “I was born in the year of the Tiger, so I must own one of those ace embroidered sneakers.” Gucci has offered millennials an enchanted world of fashion, where each item is a talisman for the new generation. The luxury brand has tapped into real interests, desires, wants and life pieces of these young consumers. As a result, in the third quarter of 2017, the brand reported that 50% of its sales were attributed to millennials.
So how has Gucci won over this new generation?
From the very beginning, the visionary duo, Marco & Michele have been vocal about bringing in dramatic changes to Gucci and making it more inclusive & contemporary. Their creative collaboration attracted attention when New York-based graffiti artist and DJ, Trevor Andrew created a prominent street character inspired by one of his old Halloween costumes (which was nothing but an old Gucci bedsheet with eye holes cut in it). The ghostly graffiti soon cropped all over New York streets and it eventually led to the name, Gucci Ghost.
When Michele discovered this young artist’s work, he was thrilled to see strokes of street-savviness injected into a century-old Gucci logo. And, what happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Andrew was soon flown to Rome to work on Gucci’s Fall 2016 ready-to-wear collection. Amongst the fashion fraternity, this unusual collaboration was looked upon as an interaction between two creative worlds and the show made an enormous impact on the minds of the digital demographic. “It has been a bonding experience for my friends and me to follow Michele’s Gucci,” said fashion stylist and consulting editor, Sarah Stallmann. “We send each other screenshots of Gucci’s Instagram Stories with dramatic text captions, a lot of emojis, and far too many exclamation points. To have that kind of connection with a brand and what it represents is really what fashion is all about.” Back then, the Gucci Ghost collection might have sounded hyperbolic to some, but each piece resonated with the brand’s audiences — the millennials.
Designs aside, Gucci has tapped into the Gen Next by co-creating communities and thus, increasing brand evangelism. While 2016 was a banner year for Gucci, courtesy its daring collaborations and digital makeover; 2017 gave rise to the power of the “hashtag”. And, Gucci did so in the form of memes, which the audience least expected from a luxury brand. Ahead of the launch of ‘Le Marché des Merveilles’ collection of watches, Gucci teamed up with prominent visual artists to orchestrate and develop images centered around the new timepieces. The images were then shared with popular Instagram meme-makers (specially chosen by Michele), to turn those into fashion-inspired memes with the hashtag, #TFWGucci (That Feeling When Gucci). The social campaign was irreverent & entertaining, and it injected a dash of humour into the brand. Gucci understood the relevance of memes to the millennial generation and how it has become a form of self-expression for them. The fashion house capitalized on this content opportunity, paving way for newer forms of “experimental marketing”.
Speaking of millennials, the secret sauce to Gucci’s success is the brand’s focus to win over this coveted demographic. It’s as if the entire globe is “Feeling Gucci” or wants to “Guccify” itself. The term “Feel Gucci” was coined by Bizzari’s 16-year-old daughter, meaning, “feel good”. The term signals the brand’s creativity, inclusivity, and authenticity that Alessandro Michele has subtly instilled into these young consumers.
One of the important tenets of storytelling (proliferated through visually driven social media channels) is that, consumers like unfiltered and un-produced look at what a brand and its values are all about. The “Shadow Committee” is a great example of how Bizzari has empowered this belief by listening to the opinions of young Gucci employees. “It is a committee that is structured with people below the age of 30,” Bizzarri said at WWD’s CEO Summit last year. “The task is either discussing the same topics that we discuss in the normal meeting with executives or giving me ideas on different processes.” Though he didn’t disclose what led to the brand’s recent decisions to be socially responsible, but most people know that Gucci’s resolve to go fur-free (started with its Spring 2018 collection) and also, $500,000 donation to gun-control movement, ‘March For Our Lives’, were both outcomes of the unofficial shadow committee.
Gucci has activated its customers by turning the spotlight on them and letting them fully participate in cultivating the brand’s future. “I’ve read many things about millennials these days saying they are not loyal and switch from one brand to the text. This may be true, but it doesn’t apply to us.” Marco Bizzarri says. He and Alessandro Michele (as a team), have both deciphered what drives and motivates their young consumers. And, how they enrich the consumer experiences with socially significant stories is what makes their brand a fashion powerhouse.
So, what lessons can other brands learn from this luxury behemoth which has the strongest digital prowess among fashion retailers?
- A brand’s storytelling is a critical component to communicate its value to customers, thus leading to increased engagement & conversion.
- Create authentic social content by turning to influencers and ensure transparency about those collaborations with consumers.
- Find new methods to do “experiential marketing” as that will build direct connections and meaningful relationships with consumers. It will also generate more UGC for the brands.
- Seamless social buying will set brands apart from the competition.
- Tailor your communication in line with the values and behaviours of millennials to build loyalty amongst even this notoriously disloyal demographic.