Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Prada doesn’t do participation"

That’s something that I have heard a few times, (not sure why it tends to be Prada that gets selected,) as the example of a luxury brand that proves the rule that the conventional branding model of shaping an aspirational out of reach image is alive and well. The implication being that the new school collaborative kind of model is either a fad, isn’t to be trusted, or works in some situations but is not for everybody. As far as I can tell there are a four ways to assess this if you assume that a) Prada does not do participation marketing and b) this is something that serves them pretty well as they are generally successful.

1- Nor should it. As soon as it does then the distance, exclusivity and special-ness of the brand becomes dilute and less well… Prada
2- The new type of brand is made by communities and collaborative techniques is right only for the new school brands but the old school brands should stick to what they know and what has made them successful till now.
3- It varies by category. Some categories are driven by image and in these aspirational advertising is still the order of the day. For everyone else consumers can and should take centre stage.
4- Collaboration is universally the new currency and even though there are multiple currencies in circulation at the moment the older image driven approaches will become less and less effective

My tendency is to be warmer to the descriptions further down the list though as ever there is no certain answer. I can’t help thinking that the collaborative approach is just the new market situation and therefore affects everyone.

So the task is to find your place in the new landscape. And everyone’s place would be different. For high fashion maybe it would not start by asking ‘how do we come off our pedestal and start to take our lead from what consumers say and want to do by way of getting involved,’ that would not sit very well. It would probably start the other way round and stem from the brand view of the world.

A good starting point would be to think about all of the potential exclusive experiences that the brand could possibly deliver. The better these experiences were the more likely people would want to get involved. I watched a programme once about Haute Couture where it showed the treatment that the top fashion houses have given to its best customers over the years e.g. hand painted sketches of individual new pieces with samples of the materials attached were hand delivered.

I’m sure a modern day equivalent would be pretty easy… i.e. famously the man from Prada delivers individual photo prints of the new collection, is essentially a creative piece of Direct Mail. The select group of people that receive this special treatment amongst a whole host of others would be as useful an ally as the communities that fuel any of the new school inclusive brands.


Charles Frith said...

Its Prada. Genius doesn't consult. I rarely give that adjective out. Its so often overused.

David Hawksworth said...

I know what you mean - I can't imagine a blog by the creative director to check out what the audience want. Having said that Coke does not ask people what shape the bottle should be. Maybe you always need to pick and choose. The words don't help either. Collaboration sounds wrong for Prada but involvement sounds right. The difference between a workshop and a gallery I suppose.