3X WAYS HERMÈS HAS MASTERED THE ART OF LUXURY
For many luxury brands, 2023 has been a hard hitter. After riding the pandemic wave for a few years, revelling in the increased consumer-spending that came with it, the current global climate has influenced a halt in luxury sales.
At the end of Q3 2023, many luxury names reported slightly underwhelming results, with some industry experts even beginning to question the future of luxury. Whilst many brands reported declines in sales, a handful remain untarnished, Hermès being one of the strongest contenders.
Reporting a 16% growth, Hermès performed way ahead of their luxury counterparts.
So what is fuelling this stellar financial win? Let's delve into why the French house continues to be in such strong demand, exploring three (of the many) ways that Hermès masters the art of luxury.
1. RELENTLESSLY INNOVATING WITH STORYTELLING
Good storytelling is absolutely non-negotiable for a brand. Done well, storytelling is a compelling way to precisely target clientele, delivering fresh takes on core brand values.
Yet, recent research from Équité shows that about 95 percent of brands fail miserably in storytelling. Underperforming brands approach luxury with an overly transactional mindset. Switching into gear with their brand narrative is key for survival.
Hermès, however, has never faltered on excellent storytelling. It unwaveringly sticks to its core values of craftsmanship, heritage and quality, whilst simultaneously communicating this in new and innovating ways.
Take their pop-up Laundromat, offering to personalise vintage Hermès silk scarves. Not only did they expertly highlight their high-quality USP by basing a whole activation around the fact that their scarves last, they also injected a good dose of creativity and playfulness into the messaging. The bright orange washing machines popped up around the globe and generated huge buzz for the brand.
Whether it's artful window displays communicating a perfect dose of humour, or karaoke booths at their Hermès 'Carre Club' pop-up, everything the brand does ties into their core story - and always makes sure to have a bit of fun.
2. PLAYING WITH SCARCITY
Hermès uses retail activation to tell its story, allowing the masses to experience a wonder-filled brand world and building a vast, loyal community around itself. However, when it comes to product, scarcity is key. Setting itself apart from competitors, Hermès' lifelong strategy is to hang a velvet rope around its crafted goods. Whilst others maintain exclusivity, Hermès takes scarcity to another level, deliberately making it near impossible to access many of its items.
You can't pop into store and buy a Kelly Bag on a (very decadent) whim, you've got to have an existing relationship with the brand, which allows you to 'request' your desired item. Following a wait of at least a few months, you may or may not be offered an item - though not always the one you requested. This unusually discreet approach drives desire through the roof and also rocket-fuels word-of-mouth marketing. Everybody who's anybody wants to be part of this club.
Hermès knows the way to keep consumers hooked is to invest heavily in the myths about the brand's origins. Hence naming its two most famous bags for the iconic women who inspired them, Jane Birkin and Grace Kelly. Legend has it Jane Birkin met the luxury brand's chairman Jean-Louis Dumas on an Air France flight in the 80s - sketching her dream handbag on a sick bag for him. Myth or not, these little nuggets of storytelling help to keep up a notion of luxury and exclusivity.
By maintaining this aura of exclusivity, Hermès exceeds both mass market and premium luxury, sitting at the highest tier of the spectrum.
3. TWISTING HERITAGE FOR NEW LUXURIANS
Trend forecasters and industry experts have been using the word 'heritage' and 'tradition' a lot lately. We're seeing an increased interest in brand heritage from Gen-Z, (who like it or not are now the most important demographic for luxury brands).
Many luxury brands are rooted in a deep and fascinating history. Heritage is the basis of many great brand stories and failing to communicate this rich history is a missed opportunity. Lots of brands know this. What many don't know is that heritage, if communicated poorly, is just a bit dull to the average consumer.
Winning brands perfectly blend their heritage with a contemporary approach. Twisting heritage to appeal to a new generation of luxury spenders. Using innovation to convey important brand history, finding new ways to tell old stories. Hermès has this approach nailed.
Hermès is wise to the fact that failure to convincingly innovate could trap them in a 'classic corner,' out of sync with younger global luxury consumers. This is where creating buzz around heritage using experience comes into play. The brand brilliantly tells their historical narrative of exquisite craft, family and heritage through a playful, often bizarre and beautiful lens. Exhibitions, campaigns, collaborations, art credentials and retail all consistently tell their 187-year-old story in fresh ways. Championing the Hermès lifestyle rather than focusing purely on transactions.
Words by Ella Palmer, Culture.
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