4 Lessons That All Luxury Brands Can Learn From Karl Lagerfeld

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Karl Lagerfeld will remain one of the most emblematic icon of the luxury fashion industry. Often described as the Kaiser – the emperor in German – he is most well-known for his work with Chanel. It is with great sadness that his death was announced on the 19th of February 2019. Upon hearing this, we wanted to reflect on the top 4 lessons we’ve learnt from the man that changed the luxury industry forever.

1. Luxury is more than just quality and expense, it’s a state of mind

We couldn’t be more in agreement that luxury comes with a sense of ‘feeling’. Not only must the craftsmanship be impeccable but a true luxury brand should spark a sense of pure and authentic pride. For those who are motivated by timeless elegance, rich fabrics and unique design, luxury is truly worth the cost at which it comes at. For us, the brands at the epitome of luxury include the likes of Chanel, Clive Christian, Hermes, Jimmy Choo and Christian Dior. They are all iconic.

It is true that heritage brands have the benefit of history to help create their story but in creating consistency across platforms, it is important to take an omnichannel approach no matter which luxury brand you are. To create the state of mind which Lagerfeld clearly valued, it’s essential to establish a digital marketing strategy which is cohesive. Offline and online marketing channels should seamlessly integrate to maintain the perception of luxury at all consumer touchpoints.

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2. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself

Chanel hired Karl Lagerfeld in 1982, at a time when the brand was arguably starting to decay. It has been some time since the founder of the brand had died and many were unsupportive of his decision to take on what was left of the luxury giant.

‘Don’t do it. It will not work; it’s an old name, it’s done,’” he recalled his peer’s advice in a 2003 interview.

His grit and determination is testament to his name in the industry. It is also proof that no brand is beyond reinvention. Sometimes it takes a new creative direction to radicalise your business. This can be as simple as re-branding or a new website. Verb has worked with multiple clients that have shown some truly impressive results off the back of a new website with Verb. Beulah, a previous client of Verb, underwent a reinvention of a similar scale. Through the design and development of a brand new site, they have achieved a revenue increase of 35% year on year.

3. Luxury means resisting continual pressure

It is somewhat of a novelty in the fashion industry that Karl Lagerfeld resisted the urge to conform to industry trends. Chanel is timeless, one of the reasons it is so popular is because of its strong sense of identity. Karl Lagerfeld is a genius as he knew what his consumers wanted before they even did. We passionately believe that good marketing, digital or otherwise, is about putting your consumer first. However, for an effective long term strategy, it is wise to resist conforming to every trend in case your own identity is forfeited.

Applying this to the digital world, technological innovations such as Voice Assistance remain a fairly unchartered territory. Verb’s founder, Chris Donnelly, recently wrote an article discussing whether luxury brands should be considering adopting this new marketing strategy. In summary, it was concluded that although it shouldn’t be disregarded, the technology wasn’t quite at a point in which luxury brands could rely on it to provide the exceptional customer service they strive for.  We can see this same logical evaluation in Lagerfeld’s career.

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4. Don’t be afraid to break the rules

Whilst Lagerfeld demonstrated resistance, he also continued to amaze his loyal following by initiating the unexpected. In 2004, Karl Lagerfeld was the first designer to collaborate with a high-street retailer. It is now almost taken for granted that like clockwork, a collaboration between two brands at either end of the spectrum release a collection together. Lagerfeld’s work with H&M as a huge success, selling out within minutes; a homage to the iconic Chanel.

Verb has written many research pieces around the slow adoption of luxury brands to digital marketing. One of the most common reasons for this is the fear of brand damage. Lagerfeld has proved that sometimes a risk can pay off – something we too, strongly believe. A great example of this that we’ve seen recently is Mercedez partnering with London Fashion Week. It’s unexpected but it has gained an incredible amount of traction on influencers social media channels.

To summarise, the fashion industry is one of the fastest growing luxury sectors; Brands, therefore, have to be fast to adapt to the rapid change in environment and new consumer behaviours.  As the Kaiser would say, “Whatever it is, good or bad, it influences fashion. You can see that in fashion quicker than in any other thing going on. Fashion is something that reflects our lives and times with the shortest release because, cars, design, and architecture take years to realize.”