Interview Spotlight: What Goes Into Creating A Luxury Brand’s Identity

Piggy LinesInterview with Piggy Lines, Keko Creative Partner and Global Creative Director for Bentley Motors

Piggy started his career with a simple thought: ideas are king. It’s what gets him out of bed in the morning. It’s also the reason he’s always considered integration to be obvious. After all, why restrict your thinking to any one medium?

He passionately believes that what brands actually do is more important than what they say – and he’s dedicated his career to helping his clients prove this. Inspired by Keko’s finest luxury advertising, Verb caught up with Piggy to gain insight into how advertising for luxury brands is evolving to adapt to today’s luxury customer.

By Clara Saladich

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into the advertising industry?

My father was a printer and I grew up watching these incredible images coming off a printing press, We always had piles of paper in the house — I think I was always drawing and making lots of paper aeroplanes.— My dad was a very keen photographer and at about the age of six, he bought me my first camera. Not long after that, I got a second-hand Russian SLR camera and that was when I started to learn a bit about photography. At school, I wanted to do engineering, but it wasn’t what I expected, I’d have been terrible. By the time I was at college I was trying to work out what I liked best: ideas or images. I figured that by getting a job in advertising, I could combine both.

What is the story behind Keko and how did it come about?

Ben [Whattam] and I started working together when I was at Spark44, Jaguar Land Rover’s advertising agency. We were launching the Jaguar F-Type and I was the Global Creative Director on that project. I would meet Ben in meetings when I briefed his agency on our vision for the project. Ben was the smartest guy on the other side of the table, and I really liked that.

We didn’t do anything for months, but eventually, we met at Soho House and started talking. We both sketched our thoughts on separate napkins and realised we had the same idea for a business: Can you deliver premium brand content through smarter channels, for people in luxury and premium spaces, who have different media habits? For these people, time is so precious that you have to really earn a reason for them to pay attention to your brand. That’s how Keko came about.

Brigitte, our third partner, owns Kemper Kommunikation in Frankfurt. She was looking for a new type of agency to run the global Bentley account from the UK. She already found Ben and he asked me: “Do you want to do it?”

I said “I don’t know”, my job was already amazing…

He said, “Just meet Brigitte. You’ll like her.” And I did. I still believe who you choose to work with is the most important choice you can make.

What would you say are the key media channels for luxury advertising?

You have consumers whose most valuable asset is not money, but time. So you are trying to find ways to talk to them in a way that offers incredible value for time, as opposed to just saying: “do you want to buy this?”

The aim is to find out where they are and what they look for. Experiential and social can merge very well in that sense. Digital plays a key role in understanding how much time that audience spends online, as well as identifying what the most relevant channels are to connect your brand to their world.

Of course, different channels appeal to different audiences but I’d say broadcast channels alone are not as powerful as a mix of media. They still have an important place for the luxury and premium sectors, but anything you do here should be supported by other channels that can live up to the promise of your brand.

What are the main challenges when working with luxury brands?

Luxury brands are often built on a sense of heritage or a story that’s founded on tradition or craftsmanship. Sometimes history can weigh very heavily and when you are trying to contemporise a brand, all new ideas are looked at through a very close lens. It can be difficult to ensure you bring the history into the story, while making sure it’s still forward-facing.

Another challenge is ensuring that, at every touchpoint, you do not compromise the quality of the brand. For example, if I was a customer, and I crave a fashion designer’s handbags, I’ve seen their advertising and it inspires me to visit their website, does it feel like the same business?

The quality of work must always live up to the standards set by the brand, both in its elegance and execution. However, luxury brands don’t often have big budgets, especially if they sell in low volumes, and that can pose a challenge.

What makes a brand “luxury”?

From my point of view, it’s rarity. Without that, there is no real sense of value. You can create something of an incredible standard but if it is too accessible, it doesn’t feel special.

The second point would be attention to detail. Luxury brands really care about the smallest details. They have to deliver their brand promise all the way through from the packaging to the email that arrives in your inbox and the website where they display their products.

What are the key success factors of a good luxury brand?

Making sure people appreciate your story. At Keko, we have a very simple saying: “We make the expensive valuable.” The way we do that is we tell you the story in a way that makes you drawn to the brand and become a part of its world.

The buying experience has to be as valuable and rare as the products themselves, which is what I think luxury brands are really good at. If you go to a fashion show, if you visit a store, if you go to an event, if you go online, you can always feel the personality of the brand. It becomes tangible.

Great brands give their consumers a role in telling or creating their story — we see more and more user generated content because they’ve realised their customers can tell the story for them. If you are passionate about something, you will tell that story in an authentic way. For lots of brands that we work with, a customer’s first introduction won’t be through traditional advertising, it will be through a recommendation of some kind. The challenge for luxury brands is to maintain a clear message within that freedom.

Happy customers are often the best brand ambassadors…

I agree. The best ones are proud and talkative – they want to share their experiences.

How is luxury advertising changing to adapt to the millennial customer and the digital sphere?

Brands are going into new media spaces but bringing old values with them. In short, they are pushing these new platforms to behave in more elegant ways. Whether it’s stunning imagery, cutting-edge execution, elegant physics of movement and animation or exclusive access, luxury brands are defining a new kind of digital experience. I have often wondered how a brand could offer you a taste of their experience without delivering an advertising sales message, which is difficult. I’ve seen social executions that act like a product or a gift from the brand rather than an advertising message. A taste of what’s to come.

If you consider the millennial customer to be a mindset rather than an age group, I think what is interesting is how some luxury brands seem prepared to pioneer within new channels.

The fashion industry in particular, due to its inherent nature of pursuing the ‘new’, has embraced new technology at its most engaging. It’s brilliant to see luxury brands pioneering new technology, experiential and social. Just look at what some of them are doing in the messaging space, or at what they are creating in their social networks channels and how every interaction takes care of the smallest detail. –  Digital needs to be equal to, or even more luxurious than print.

What have your creative highlights of 2016 been?

The project we did in 2015 for Bentley’s first ever brand campaign saw an ambassador driving the car, whilst telling the story of being extraordinary and connecting the customers to the product. This was a great piece of work, where we not only saw the customers engaging with the brand but also the Bentley family.

In 2016, we asked ourselves how we could deliver a car campaign that lived up to the brand’s message to ‘Be Extraordinary’. We worked out how to combine the best of automotive photography, with cutting edge technology, to shoot the world’s largest commercial image: 54,000,000,000 pixels. If we were to print it, it would be about the size of a football pitch and every pixel would be sharp.

Not only is it a beautiful vista of the Golden Gate bridge, you can even zoom down to a single stitch on the ‘Winged B’ headrest logo of the Mulsanne that’s driving across the bridge. The technology we used is the same as NASA uses to take exploratory photographs in space.

We combined a fantastic creative concept with a great PR story. Keko wants to do work that behaves differently, work that gives you an experience not only with the brand’s product but also with the brand’s attitude.

What are the key trends in luxury advertising?

The goalposts move but the challenge is always the same. Offering value for time to the most time-poor audiences. I think for us this year it’s about going to our potential customers and allowing them to discover the brand for the first time, the story before purchase.

Earned media remains important – empowering customers and fans with the brand idea whilst maintaining the quality benchmark.

VR and AR are helping bring brands to life in ways that we couldn’t traditionally do. Luxury brands can, therefore, benefit by taking customers on a journey to experience the brand, whether it’s playing a polo match with Piaget or cruising over Port Hercules with the latest tender.

Whatever technology they use, it’s vital to always bring the brand story to life.

Who would be your dream brand/sector to work with?

There are lots! I love automotive, I love watches, I love technical products… I love brands with brilliant stories, or the ones with forgotten stories or a yet-to-be-discovered truth!

I was thinking about this last week in Geneva. When you’re travelling through the airport all the watch advertisements are lined up, doing exactly the same as each other, just with a different logo. In the end, they all do the same, they just tell you the time!  Even so, I’m fascinated by their engineering and design. With what at first would seem to be a very restrictive brief, I think the sector is screaming out for reinvention. We wear those watch brands every day, so there must be a reason why we choose one over another and I’m sure their brand story has something to do with it.

Tell me three works that you have seen recently that you’ve admired:

  1. Louis Vuitton – their Bowie campaign and their Final Fantasy campaign, their collaborations with photographers. In fact, most of Louis Vuitton’s art collaborations. They offer you an experience of the brand you’d pay for.
  2. Kenzo World — This seems a sweet spot for Millennials. Spike Jonze’s dance film … it’s not advertising, it’s the brand coming to life. It seems to tell you so much about the Kenzo advert in a segment that struggles to get beyond a pack shot or a meaningless narrative. Their brand has a story to tell: bold and charismatic. Their social channels are also elegantly curated: every image adding to a focused collage of images, each one with a shared tonal value that makes their Instagram account look really elegant.
  3. Tag Heuer – I love their sense of purpose and honesty. ‘Don’t crack under pressure’ is such a great idea and their ‘buy back’ programme for their new connected watch is a brilliant concept for transitioning millennials into one of their premium watches at a later point. Obviously, watches have fascinating stories. They just need discovering. Audemars Piguet – now they have a great story and self-awareness. Enough to maybe do something different – perhaps because they have a history of being disruptive?

Daylesford Organic Farm has a brilliant site experience that lives up to the farm experience. They feel seamless. It’s a great example of how user experience can be balanced with quality of content, layout and authenticity of the story. No surprises that the Bamford’s are behind it.

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