Chanel brand strategy / positioning case study

Chanel Brand Strategy Analysis

Apparelluxury appareljewelry & watches; FMCG Personal care & beauty fragrances, make-up, face care, body care; Retailfashion stores, e-retail; 

Owner of the brand:
Chanel S.A.

Key competitors:
Hermès, Gucci, Christian Dior, Prada, Ralph Lauren

Brand essence

A French haute couture brand representing timeless modernity.

Brand values

Highest quality, heritage, freedom, independence.

Brand character

French, luxurious, refined, feminine, timeless, pioneering.

Dominating archetype

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 (“elegant, structured, and infinitely feminine collections”[1]) and is known for rich designs, Chanel accentuates its timeless modernity (“Chanel is above all a style. Fashion passes, style remains.”[2]) and promotes the concept of “uncomplicated luxury” valuing simplicity over opulence.


Chanel was founded by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in 1909. To this day, Chanel is a private company, owned and managed by Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, the grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer. Pierre Wertheimer was one of Coco’s business partners, a partnership which made her wealthy but also led to her losing the ownership of the brand she had set up. Although the Wertheimer family have been running Chanel for a few generations, they made a conscious decision not to make themselves part of the brand’s story, always staying behind the scenes and rarely being seen in public situations. Instead, they built Chanel’s heritage and brand equity around Coco Chanel and her long-lasting legacy. Alain Wertheimer explained: “It’s about Coco Chanel. It’s about Karl. It’s about everyone who works and creates at Chanel. It’s not about the Wertheimers.[3]


Coco Chanel is remembered as a fashion visionary, who gave the world the little black dress, quilted handbags and the tweed suit. She made it acceptable for women to wear trousers and made luxury fashion simple and comfortable. The Cut called it “a no-nonsense approach to fashion, designed to let women be comfortable while looking dignified[4]. 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. For example, the mission of Fondation Chanel is “to advance women and girls’ independence and empowerment”[5].


Chanel is one of the official haute couture brands[6], which are high-fashion houses certified by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. To be able to use the term “haute couture”, a brand needs to satisfy a set of strict criteria. Among other things (e.g., the highest level of craftsmanship or exquisite materials), it is required to have an atelier in Paris, where it hires at least 20 people, to design made-to-order fashion for private clients and present a couture collection consisting of at least 25 pieces every fashion season[7].


In order to preserve its ultra-luxury status, Chanel follows strict rules concerning brand management. It retains tight control over distribution and it doesn’t sell its clothes on the Internet (only eyewear, perfumes and cosmetics can be bought via e-commerce). Even though it is active on social media, it doesn’t interact with followers, nor does it follow other people back – in an attempt to build a more distant and aspirational image of the brand. Chanel doesn’t license its brand to unrelated categories and as one of a few luxury brands, creates its own perfumes. Moreover, it manages to maintain its consistency, largely due to the fact that the brand’s artistic direction was in the same, safe hands of Karl Lagerfeld between 1983 and 2019 and after his death was taken over by his close collaborator, Virginie Viard. Lagerfeld once said: “What I do Coco would have hated. The label has an image and it’s up to me to update it. I do what she never did. I had to find my mark. I had to go from what Chanel was to what it should be, could be, what it had been to something else.[8]


Most branding and marketing publications agree that Chanel is a Lover brand representing timeless elegance and liberated femininity. However, Chanel also emphasizes in its communication themes that are characteristic of the Outlaw archetype also present in the values Coco Chanel lived by: freedom, emancipation, breaking the rules and rebellion.

Most important campaigns

1. “Rouge Allure Camélia” (2020)

2. “Take A New Chance” (2019)

3. “Gabrielle, A Rebel At Heart” (2017)

4. “Gabrelle CHANEL” (2017)

5. “Reincarnation” (2014)

6. “Marilyn And N°5” (2013)

Official brand statement:

“”Fashion passes, style remains…’
This simple statement captures the essence of her revolutionary contribution to culture.

CHANEL continues, after almost a century, to inspire women of all ages all over the world with its timeless modernity.
Designer, visionary, artist, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel reinvented fashion by transcending its conventions, creating an uncomplicated luxury that changed women’s lives forever. She followed no rules, epitomising the very modern values of freedom, passion and feminine elegance.
From the little black dress to the tweed suit, the quilted handbag to the two-tone shoe and camellia brooch, the perfect red lipstick and the world’s best-selling fragrance N°5, the list of CHANEL’s innovations is unparalleled.
CHANEL has continued this glorious heritage of creation, playing fearlessly with Coco’s radical legacy, offering a vision for the future of the House that is as memorable as its past.[9]

Interesting facts:

Chanel’s logo (two interlocking letters C) was created by Coco Chanel herself in 1925 and has never been changed since.[10]


1. Business of Fashion on changes in Chanel’s strategy after the death of Karl Lagerfeld
L. Sherman, “One Year After Karl, Where Do Chanel and Fendi Go From Here?”, Business of Fashion, Feb 2020,

2. Bloomberg on why Chanel disclosed its financials for the first time
R. Williams, K. Kazakina, “Chanel Opens Its Books For The First Time”, Bloomberg, Jun 2018,

3. The New York Times on Chanel and Dior
V. Friedman, “At Chanel And Dior, The Incredible Intimacy Of What You Can’t Buy Online”, Jul 2018,


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