Luxury Briefing

The luxury briefing is a monthly news service which seems to have aggregated the luxury brands around itself very effectively. Today I attended their annual conference – no 13 I believe with 150 delegates. I was sitting next to Ann Marie and Sanford the CEO of Hot Diamonds. With the delegation from Tiffanys on my other side. I had a word with Peter Wallis/York of SRU who was also close by. He commented that if you tried to specialise on the luxury market you’d have problems because they never had any money for marketing or research. What they do of course is do partner promotions and PR like crazy.  So everyone knows everyone else and the trick is to pick up the smell of the hive and look as if one has been steeped in luxury before birth. I confess I wore a better watch for the day. Well it looks better even if its impossible to tell the time on it. But that’s luxury for you.

I would like to take far longer than I have time to do to cover the main features of the conference. The theme was Web 2.0 – very interesting because most luxury websites look like a cross between magazine page (but not as good as a real one) and a catalogue based ecommerce site (but not as nice as a printed catalogue). And Web 2.0 is of course about the inmates taking over the asylum, customer blogs and social marketing. Which if you think about it is the last thing that luxury brands want – they want compliant customers who accept their editorial – so the day proved to be very interesting as speaker after speak tried to engage with Web 2.0 and tried not to look like a Web 1.0 luddite control freak.

After a research presentation which demonstrated that the rich are getting richer (good) and so are the rest of us (which is where the real money is) there was a panel run by Saul Klein – He was talking to the 2 CEOs of Astley Clarke, and Koodos and was supposed to be talking to someone from Stardoll. It was a shame that the Stardoll person couldn’t make it because using cutouts of dolls to sell designer gear to 8 yearolds is a classic example of how web 2.0 should work and the other 2 sites weren’t particularly adventurous.

Claus Sendinger of Design Hotels then did a very stimulating session on  how to make hotel websites look different from their competitors by looking at some of the latest ideas from  developers and tourism.  A simple point and well made – don’t follow the category because there’s really no need to.

The second panel featured Theo Fennell, the ceo of the  Rug company and the marketing director of Paul Smith. The moderator Michel Gutsatz hounded them somewhat because he was very clear what Web 2.0 was and it became equally clear that they were having none of it. The Rug company won’t even sell to you online – you have to get them to your house to ensure that the rug will match.  Paul Smith is apparently flirting with posting films but is basically flogging product. And Theo Fennell  jewellers editorialise – and don’t plan to do a lot else in the near future.

Brent Hoberman – yup the one from lastminute then came on to be rather coy about his new online venture mydeco which he couldn’t tell us much about because he hadn’t launched it yet. It is an interior design aggregator which allows you to ‘try’ out the products in a model of your home.

We finished the morning with a great rant from a self confessed luddit Jeffrey Miller from New York. He put in a plea for keepin luxury off line and exploring values such as intimacy as well as lofty talking down to customers as being just as important in the luxury space.

After lunch Tyler Brule the founder of Monocle magazine dazzled by talking about how he launched a magazine when print was supposed to be over and the web the emerging medium. A really interesting presentation about how to make offline magazines engaging while providing online content and promotional material to get his subscription base into the content. They are putting 30 second commercials on the site for the main magazine stories. Made for a fraction of the price of offline commercials but working as headers to engage people in print stories. Very interesting. The magazine also uses 5 different kinds of paper stock – in other words turning up touchy feely values and collectability. One of the highlights of the day

The second panel featured Amanda Gore of PSFK, Jason Campbell of the JC report and Tamara Heber Percy of mrandmrssmith.com Of all of these PSFK is the closest to web 2.0 because at least they have harnessed their subscriber base in rating news items and also meeting simultaneously round the world to brainstorm emerging trends. Great stuff. Tamara was scandalised that some Welsh subscribers of hers were opting to meet each other and to review and sample local restaurants and hotels. Not much chance of Web 2.0 happening with mrandmrssmith any time soon!

Dee Salomon  from Condenet  gave what was a thinly disguised sales presentation for the Conde Nast online presence. There was a lot of good thinking but in the end I wish her casestudies had been Conde led ones because I foudn the advertiser led examples rather predictable and safe. It rather sounded as if Conde Nast would have done a better job with some online advertorial.

James Ogilvy the publisher of the Luxury Briefing and chair for the day interviewed Natalie Massenet founder of netaporter.com.  She had  spoken in 2000 at an earlier luxury briefing conference when she was just starting up the site.  So it was an interesting contrast now the site has become one of the leading fashion sites selling designer clothes to women  round the world – they claim 70,000 sales a month.  I’m not sure I learned that much from what she said about why she had been successful when  most similar attempts have failed.  Again netaporter is happy that there are half a dozen netaporter groups on Facebook but it doesn’t intend to facilitate them any time soon. So no marks for Web 2.0

The day closed with a presentation and summary from the Future Foundation – they were pressed for time and we were tired so I feel that a lot of good things were said but didn’t necessarily stick because of the timing pressures.

All in all a good day. A little crowded for my liking – if you knew lots of people no problem but we seemed to spend much of the day negotiating 2 flights of stairs to get in and out of the presentation room. I think the most interesting idea came from Jeffrey Miller. Luxury doesn’t have to be about talking down to people – it can be about intimacy too. And with the mobile phone (barely mentioned during the day) becoming a mainstream communications channel it is essential that a brand gets the focal distance right – this is a personal device. People pay premiums for privacy and personal services – they don’t just pay for posh.

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