Takeaway lessons from Longchamp’s partnership with InStyle

Branded content is tricky. You want to build a stronger, closer connection with your customers while delivering content that is valuable to them. You want to stay away from simple advertising disguised as actual content but you also want your brand to be remembered and the content to fit your brand’s DNA.

Longchamp recently partnered with US magazine InStyle to feature a story on their website. With a video realized by InStyle Studio and an article written by the magazine’s staff, clearly mentioning the partnership with the brand, this operation shows efforts of transparency … This reinforces the impact of the sponsored content. Here are a few things Longchamp nailed with this article, released online on February 17th, 2015.

1. FIND THE RIGHT PARTNER

Knowing your audience is key to delivering the right, most catchy content to them. Longchamp is very successful in North America, hence it partnering with one of the most read American women’s magazine. InStyle’s website is dynamic and attracting lots of fashion-focused visitors. Longchamp can only benefit from such exposure on InStyle.com.

2. TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Longchamp didn’t just seize an opportunity for native advertising. The brand waited for a time when InStyle.com gets even more daily visits than usual: the New York Fashion Week (February 12 – February 19, 2015). This is a time when the website lives at its fullest, with articles posted everyday about fashion shows, street-styles, front rows, etc. Traffic is stronger than normally, which increases the likelihood of visitors reading the article about the brand, and thereby improve brand awareness. That is, if the article isn’t drowned by Fashion Week articles. Which is why it was smart to release the article at the end of the week, a little bit after the rush.

Video still from Longchamp x InStyle Studio

Video still from Longchamp x InStyle Studio

3. KEEP IT SIMPLE

Longchamp’s collaboration with InStyle embraces simplicity. There is one video, showing accessories worn in the streets of New York, throughout the character’s day. The emphasis is put on the items, which reminds us of Longchamp’s 2011 web-series “Heels” (in partnership with online magazine AuFeminin.com).

The article itself is simple as well: it’s short and clearly states that Longchamp purses are what you need to face your busy New Yorker life with style. This straightforwardness is just what the reader needs to be set in a positive mindset about what comes next.

4. EMBRACE CTAs

The article gives more space to the items than to words. Pictures speak for themselves and visitors are shown the accessories from the video to support the following point: Longchamp accessories are practical and stylish, therefore adapted to your lifestyle. Each item picture is followed by the item’s information (name and price) and a call-to-action button to shop directly on the company’s e-commerce site.

There you have it: 4 simple elements that helped Longchamp succeed with branded content.

Will you be my Valentine, or how brands helped lovers this year

Valentine’s day – this one day of the year drawing very mixed feelings: a lot of blaming for being a marketers’ trick to get to your wallet, a little beet of guilt as you still haven’t found a gift for your loved one, and happiness because it somehow appeals to your slightly romantic and cheesy side… No matter your point of view, you may have noticed this year that brands were trying hard to get to you! And so should they. Valentine’s Day is a perfect occasion for luxury brands to get closer to their consumers and advise them on gifts among their product lines. Still, just giving advice is not enough, especially for a romantic holiday. Brands must inspire consumers, make them feel that love is in the air and that brands love their customers. Therefore they were helping them with genuine advice extending beyond gifts. There you find a perfect occasion for branded content. Think articles on how to prep for Valentine’s Day, ideas about how to dress up, etc. Some brands did this, others merely promoted their products, but overall they tried to inspire positive feelings about themselves.

Let’s start with the obvious medium: social media. I don’t know if you follow brands as I do, but my Facebook newsfeed was invaded by brands’ posts about perfumes being great for a Valentine’s day gift,  makeup that would look great on you for your date night, outfits ideas for your candlelit dinner, and even little items you could get for your single self. Luxury brands took a chance to promote their more accessible (think cosmetics) products, as well as premium jewelry and watches, handbags, and all sorts of gift ideas that were just a click away from you. Efforts started as early as in January, and were reinforced the week before Valentine’s Day for the numerous late buyers. Dior for example, leveraged its new Miss Dior campaign to increase its sales. Let’s not forget about Instagram. Quite a paradise for marketers as it enables brands to promote visual contents (which are extremely powerful to bring out an emotion). Customers’ newsfeeds were filled with romantically-filtered photos of gifts, flowers, scenes of romantic gestures… Captions often included a direct link to a product’s e-commerce page, or information about a limited edition, online exclusives, special bundles in nice little boxes, etc. Other social media were used as well, including Pinterest, but Facebook and Instagram are the ones where it struck me the most.

Screenshot from The Cut x Tiffany & Co.'s Valentine's Day: Countdown Calendar

Screenshot from The Cut x Tiffany & Co.’s Valentine’s Day: Countdown Calendar

Brands also promoted their advice for gifts picking on their own channels, such as their e-store. Take Ferragamo. This fashion brand revisited its website with animated attractions setting the tone for a romantic Italy inspired holiday and jewelry-based gift giving. These animations were shared on social media with the hashtag #FerragamoValentine, linking them to a whole campaign. Finally, Tiffany & Co. had a pretty genius idea: a 14-day advent-inspired calendar in The Cut, a New York magazine. This Valentine’s Day: Countdown Calendar featured gift ideas such as Tiffany & Co. jewels, as well as other brands’ candles, spas, chocolates, etc. Starting February 1st, it offered a complete guide to Valentine’s Day’s spirit, and went on for 14 days. This operation leveraged both consumers’ curiosity and impatience. It was a great way to target the brand’s customers as well as the magazine’s readers with useful -yet branded- content.

I will not explore the web further to find millions of other examples as I believe you have by now understood that luxury brands can use many different ways to relate to their customers and help them in their struggles, including Valentine’s Day gift giving.

Let Chanel tell you its story

Inside Chanel (source: Chanel)

Chanel is one of those luxury houses enjoying a rich heritage, built on a brilliant founder and his/her vision. Gabrielle Chanel played a role in women’s emancipation, she dared to say what she thought and she embodied her brand to perfection. She also broke the rule in fashion, jewelry and perfumery and her audacity and vision of free women are now part of Chanel’s DNA.

To leverage this strong history, closely linked to a –literally– extraordinary founder, Chanel has long told its story through ads, product names (think of the Coco and Mademoiselle Coco perfumes, both echoing to Gabrielle’s nickname), and more recently, a website called Inside Chanel.

Inside Chanel is a platform dedicated to Chanel’s history. Quite a paradise for marketers who love a bit of storytelling. And this is a field where Chanel has always been great. With 12 videos, pictures, drawings, ad campaigns, and a chronology, the website immerse visitors into the brand’s universe.

N°5 on Inside Chanel (source: Chanel)

N°5 on Inside Chanel (source: Chanel)

Such a website is a strong tool for luxury brands to make customers feel closer to the brand. Here, Chanel tells different stories: from key products (N°5, the jacket, jewels) to the vision of the brand according to its artistic directors (Gabrielle, Karl Lagerfeld)… The contents are of high quality, and do tell a story, full of interesting and instructive facts. The brand shares a part of itself with demanding consumers who want to feel involved with the house. It extends the user experience with the brand from an in-store or online visit and purchase, to a moment of sharing. And this is something luxury brands should keep on exploiting as it is a key differentiating element between luxury houses. Every house is unique so they should insist on their unique history to build stronger relationships with consumers.

Jaguar reveals your inner villain

I have always dreamt of driving a sports car, just to get a sense of it. Who hasn’t? With all those action movies and Formule 1 races on TV, most of us want to drive at an extreme speed and picture themselves as the next Schumacher, for a brief fantasy of our cooler selves. What a genius move it was from Jaguar North America to leverage this child dream of ours last year. The brand’s multi-channel “British Villains” campaign promoted the F-Type Coupe, the brand’s newest high-performance sports car at the time, which was to be launched in July 2014 in the US.

Credits: Jaguar North America

Credits: Jaguar North America

You may have heard of Jaguar’s 2014 Super Bowl 60-second spot… Yes, the brand really went for it! (It was Jaguar’s first spot during a Super Bowl, and we all know those spots are quite pricey.) Featuring three renowned British blockbuster actors (Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong), the spot was filmed by awarded movie director Tom Hooper. It promoted the tagline “It’s good to be bad”, appealing to customers’ inner villains, and launched the hashtag #GoodToBeBad. A spectacular launch for a spectacular campaign, which helped the British brand challenge its competitors on the North American luxury cars market.

Let’s jump to the online side of the campaign (as cool as the spot may be, you are after all on a blog called Digitizing luxury). Aside from online ads and community management (what I like to call the classics, or basics, given nearly everyone does it), Jaguar launched an application process for wannabe sports car drivers. The idea was to create a Jaguar Villain Academy (keeping the marketing communications very coherent, as you can see) and make four lucky contestants win a trip to Austin, TX, to try the new car before its launch, in July.

The best part? Winners wouldn’t just drive the car; they would spend a full day with the car, testing its capabilities, performance and handling on the Formula 1 track in Austin. Yes, you read me well. Way cooler than playing Gran Turismo on your screen, right? How’s that for a motivation to share content about Jaguar on your social media accounts? The brand promoted the application page on social media and applicants were asked to indicate their Instagram and Twitter accounts, indicating a social media campaign (nothing surprising here). A few months later, contestants were contacted by e-mail and asked to complete challenges. This campaign encountered quite a success on social media, with loads of shares and retweets or regrams.

Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong in the British Villains campaign. Credits: Jaguar

Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong in the British Villains campaign. Credits: Jaguar.

Jaguar North America also leveraged the potential of branded content. Several partnerships were created, including one with Sports Illustrated. Jaguar sponsored an original video series talking about infamous sports villains on SI.com. The two companies thereby made their respective fields meet to increase both of their audiences. Another great idea was the partnership between Jaguar and Pandora Radio: subscribers were offered to contribute to a crowdsourced playlist (the GoodToBeBad Mixtape) of the best of British music.

Therefore you see that Jaguar went all in to engage with its fan-base, through those means and many other channels (I chose to focus on social media and branded content, but there were more channels used, including online). Featured in countless media pieces, this campaign sure made a buzz.