Chanel is a unique brand in that it’s seldom trashed. Critics love it, Karl Lagerfeld is God, and Lauren Conrad remains the envy of every girl in suburbia with a dream and “Juicy” plastered across her ass every time she’s photographed with a quilted Chanel handbag on her arm. Mark Ritson knows this, but dares to write in Marketing Week that the label has become “dusty.”
Of all the criticisms you can level at a luxury brand, dusty is perhaps the most devilish. The great luxury brands are unusual in that they are much older than the clients they currently target. For each to survive must practice the art of constant brand revitalisation — a delicate process in which centuries of heritage is carefully balanced with contemporary rule breaking. Should a luxury brand ever slow down in the latter category, it rapidly becomes dusty.
Statistics exist to back Ritson up: According to Millward Brown’s Brandz valuation, Chanel lost 11 percent of its brand value over the past year while Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Gucci all gained. Ritson blames a few things for making the brand stale:
1. The recent movies about Coco Chanel — Coco Avant Chanel and Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky — which Ritson thinks are “the kind of publicity that the house of Chanel would have asked for because both only focused on the past and thus increased the gathering dust descending on the brand.”
2. The stores are lame. Not only are the shop windows boring, but the people he sees shopping in the stores look older on each visit.
3. Chanel isn’t aggressively expanding in China. Five years ago, chief executive Maureen Chiquet said, “We’re going to let our competitors make the first mistakes in China before we move in.”
4. Chanel just paid a record price for a new store location in London across from an awesome new Louis Vuitton store, which just makes them look like they’re playing catch-up.
But all that noted, critics still love Chanel, even if Ritson finds the recent Chanel collections tired and derivative. And even though Karl Lagerfeld exacted alarming environmental impact to airlift a real iceberg to Paris for his Chanel show, he still had awesome fur pants and even more awesome full fur suits, which may collect dust but certainly aren’t dusty. Only Karl, and only Chanel, could put those kinds of ridiculous things on the runway and make them stylish.
Chanel’s luxury dream is turning to dust [Marketing Week]