Luxury Labels Use A-List Socialites As Brand Conductors
Luxury brands are increasingly using a marketing concept tried and tested in the West: A-list socialites as brand conductors. The strategy is as subtle as it is serious.
In the general din of the social circuit, not every buzz is worthy of a second take. But mid-May, when rumours started that a prominent Delhi socialite, Tanisha Mohan, was being considered by Gucci as its Indian brand ambassador, everyone paid attention.
Since 2006, the circuit has been waiting for the next Kalyani Saha Chawla - vice-president, communications and marketing for Christian Dior Couture India. Could Tanisha Mohan - known for her love for luxury and numerous Birkins - have broken the curse of Indian 'always the host' socialite?
The rumour gained momentum because Mohan was the choice as the co-host for The Gucci Artisan Corner marking the 90th anniversary of the 4.2-billion (in revenue) brand in December last year.
Since then, Mohan might have moved on to other parties and Gucci to other hosts, but the rumour - true or false - raised hopes that the time of hard-working socialite is here. And the Indian socialite might become what the luxury brands call their western counterparts - "conductors" - not the orchestra variety but the transmitter ones. They don't just wear the brand; they are its face, its muse. They are not movie stars with million-dollar releases in a year, nor do they have their cache of fans. And probably, not so much recall value either. But they work, just as socialites do, to bring in a special 'crowd' to the table.
Socialite as a Conductor
In 2006, when Christian Dior chose Chawla as its spokesperson, everyone was shocked - some secretly jealous. Chawla's association: to be the face of the brand, be seen in Dior in the right circles, host events attended by the right people and generally hobnob with the circle that she already moves in.
The money details are not clear - people in the circuit and in the luxury industry say its part financial, part goodies. But it might be working. Chawla says, "Dior has done incredibly well with a consistent rise in sales. It is the most visible brand in India with the highest recall value in terms of marketing strategies implemented."
Kalyani Saha Chawla in Dior Spring 2012
"Socialites being signed up for a fashion brand is not new, at least not in the West," says former fashion editor and luxury specialist Sujata Assomull-Sippy. She mentions Armani's 19-year-old association with British semi-royal and socialite Lady Helen Taylor that started when he designed her wedding gown in 1992. The association ended in 2009.
Taylor, who was also the face for Bulgari, gave a sigh of relief and was glad to give up "her uniform". Six years hence, Chawla is nowhere close to hanging up her Dior couture.
The 'Mohan for Gucci' buzz has engendered new aspirations in the circuit that goes beyond the 'hostess' or the grander-sounding luxury consultant tags. "The socialite is becoming more important in a luxury brand's marketing strategy as she pulls in the 'right kind of crowd," says Priya Sachdev, creative director for TSG International Marketing that has brought brands like YSL, Diane von Furstenberg to India.
The right kind of crowd would mean the preferred customers for them. And all are in: from Dom Perignon's associations with designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla to one-off parties hosted in the past by Pernia Qureshi and Queenie Singh to Remy Martin's branded 'Cointreauversial' nights that has its own idea for what makes a socialite.
Then there are sundry jewellery brands and designers who use their little black books to watch brands like Ulysse Nardin and cosmetic brands who got image consultant Chhaya Momaya in Mumbai to consult her on launch soirees. That's not all, Jimmy Choo, Omega, Kenzo, Corneliani, Panerai have all approached the ladies who lunch for one or more parties. Genesis Luxury, United Spirits, William Grant and Kimaya declined to comment on this trend.
Brand consultant and strategist Harish Bijoor of Harish Bijoor Consults loftily terms it "nichevertise vs massvertise". According to him the luxury brands are not for mass consumption and shouldn't be mass advertised. The social circuit gives them a fresh channel to reach out to their target audience without any noise. "The socialite model of marketing targets the guest lists minus the hard sell," he says.
Bijoor says that for luxury brands, sell is a four-letter word - and not just literally and that's why they aim at buy. "Luxury brands like to be bought, not sold," he says. "Sell is a top-down strategy which involves an element of 'shout' - you asking consumers to consider you. Buy, instead, is a pull-oriented strategy. Luxury brands love pull not push," he explains. This is ideal for the socialite marketing where the conversation with the brand is more visual and not aural.
Author: Nupur Amarnath
POST A COMMENT