In March 2017, we wrote the original post about the three most valuable luxury fashion brands. At that time, the 2016 Interbrand Best Global Brands ranking was the most recent version. According to it, Gucci, Hermès and Louis Vuitton were worth the most in the category and a year later, as per the 2017 ranking, the order remained the same.
The year 2018, however, saw change. One of the major luxury fashion brands, which had not been featured in any Interbrand annual ranking before, appeared for the first time in the classification. The reason for that was that the company had decided to disclose its annual financial results for the first time in 108 years, enabling its brand value to be calculated. Chanel (because that’s the brand we are talking about) debuted in 23rd place as the second most valuable luxury fashion brand in the world. As a result, Gucci (no. 39) and Hermès (no. 32), despite massive growth, held just the fourth and third positions respectively and Louis Vuitton (no. 18) was still the category winner.
From the brand strategy perspective, luxury fashion brands have much in common. Most of them communicate craftsmanship, the highest quality and heritage, while their respective style and tonality of advertising are similar, as is their selection of media when placing their ads. As a result, the entire category has a relatively homogeneous image, unlike, for example, the high street fashion category. In spite of this, there are a few brands that are more successful than others and whose market value is significantly higher.
Although Gucci’s high-end image is built on the two pillars that are typical for most luxury brands, that is, craftsmanship and heritage, what distinguishes the brand from its competitors is its sensual character and the fact that it’s based on the Lover brand archetype. In the previous two decades (until 2015), Gucci’s communication was characterized by the bold, sexually provocative and controversial style, which was initiated by Tom Ford, then the brand’s artistic director, and continued by Frida Giannini. In 2015, with Gucci under new management, a subtler approach was initiated. The image of the brand was changed almost overnight from sleek, glossy and sexual to raw, quirky, progressive, sensual, romantic and geeky. Gucci’s CEO describes the new brand’s strategy as speaking to the “fashion dreamers.”
Hermès is widely recognized as one of the most luxurious brands in the world. Unsurprisingly, heritage, authenticity and craftsmanship are the pillars of its brand strategy. However, there are two aspects of Hermès’ positioning, which are truly unique: its equestrian roots and its light-hearted approach. Established as a harness shop, Hermès still produces saddles and other leather accessories used for horse riding. The horse is also the leitmotif of the brand’s communication, which is present in the logotype, as part of the pattern on some of its silk scarves, in the designs for its stores and in its ads. Hermès, when communicating its brand, doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously compared to other luxury brands. Christophe Lemaire, former artistic director, said: “At times it seems like the fashion and luxury world has become a little bit like a war [zone]. And Hermès doesn’t want to play that game.” The brand’s tone of voice is refreshingly light-hearted: sometimes playful, and sometimes more whimsical and quirky.
Chanel’s brand strategy revolves around the highest quality, luxury, French origin and heritage dating back to 1909 – themes which also constitute the DNA of another French luxury fashion brand, Dior. Both brands are widely believed to have reinvented fashion and both focus on “feminine elegance”. However, their interpretations of elegance and their artistic styles are entirely different. While Dior emphasizes femininity and is known for rich designs, Chanel accentuates its timeless modernity and promotes the concept of “uncomplicated luxury” valuing simplicity over opulence.
Chanel’s heritage and brand equity are built around the company’s founder, Coco Chanel and her long-lasting legacy. Coco Chanel never followed any established fashion rules, which allowed her to revolutionize the fashion world and free women from certain fashion constraints. She was a feminist and wanted to dress independent women. To this day, freedom is one of the Chanel’s key values, which the brand executes not only in its artistic style but also in the social causes it supports.
Louis Vuitton, the most valuable luxury fashion brand, stands for the highest quality and luxury, as well as its French origins and heritage. What is unique about Louis Vuitton – indeed, what many people seem to be unaware of – is that, on top of the aforementioned attributes, its brand strategy is based on the Explorer archetype (even though many marketing publications claim otherwise) and revolves around one particular theme: travel. Originally a luggage brand, the main pillar of Louis Vuitton’s communication remains the sense of adventure. The brand launches travel-inspired collections, uses messaging focused on adventure and exploration, releases video city guides and does most of its ad filming in exotic locations.
Louis Vuitton’s idea of travel is in fact rather philosophical – it’s about the journey, not the destination. This concept was verbalized in one of the brand’s campaigns: “Return to a time when travel itself was a destination, getting there was not as important as the experience of going. There’s no such thing as a destination, because the journey never ends.”
Gucci, Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton are the four most valuable brands in the world, according to Interbrand. Even though they are primarily associated with luxury, the highest quality, craftsmanship and heritage, they have unique brand strategies. Gucci focuses on sensuality, Hermès takes inspiration from its equestrian roots and is less serious than other luxury brands, whereas Chanel represents timeless elegance and liberated femininity. Meanwhile, Louis Vuitton emphasizes its interest in travel and exploration.
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Magda Adamska is the founder of BrandStruck.
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This is a tool that is dedicated to brand and marketing professionals, allowing them to better understand the positioning of the world’s most admired brands, the similarities and differences between them and to learn more about certain categories.