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Bottega Veneta’s Route to Social Media Detox

When all of us thought that social media and the digital world would be the only way to move ahead, Daniel Lee’s Bottega Veneta made a stir by going in the opposite direction. A new frontier in the making, what does the luxury brand have up their sleeves?

The first week of 2021 started with much drama. But there are few who fulfilled their new year resolution so fast! So apparently, the rising star in Kering’s portfolio – Bottega Veneta – woke up one morning and actually went on a digital detox – something that most of us have been personally wishing for ourselves, but haven’t mustered up the courage to do so! In a time when brands, their spokespeople, publications – well, everyone made it obvious that digital is the only way forward, how would luxury’s next top house scale itself without a social media presence?

No Facebook or Social media

With the beginning of the pandemic, the entire fashion and luxury world followed all possible ways of learning and unlearning on how to master the art of setting up a phygital world. Even till now, brands are accelerating and bringing new methods of interaction to the table. From Balenciaga releasing its own video game to present the house’s Fall/Winter 2021 collection to Burberry releasing its first multiplayer video game to promote its TB Summer Monogram campaign, mostly all seem to be hooked on how to replace the theatrics of physical shows. But, upon careful observation, this movement by the Italian luxury house looks surprisingly inspiring.

Luxury and Social Media: A Need?

Social media has been crowned as the new communication helm, a marketing tool to move forward and a direct line of interaction. Brands have increasingly relied on social platforms, particularly Instagram, to generate buzz and strengthen relationships with users. In this pandemic, it proved an even bigger asset. Bottega Veneta, in particular, used social media with impressive effects since its new Creative Director Daniel Lee joined the house. Its jumbo-sized boots, bubbly-intricate bags and sandals, and supersized leather ready-to-wear found much favor with the millennials on social media. 

But, first, lets try to understand the intricate relationship between luxury and social media.

“For luxury brands, it is all about being seen in the right places and with the right people, which is why as a PR and social media expert I get frustrated when it is suggested that a measure of success can be judged on individual mentions of a brand regardless of where that mention is. The same goes for likes on social media at the expense of engagement. This puts quantity ahead of quality and is a dangerous place for a luxury brand to be. You need to be looking at a longer-term product placement strategy that carefully identifies people whose values and approach align to that of your own,” says Rachel Lloyd, PR, Social Media Consultant and Founder of Ebb & Co.

No Facebook or Social media quantity ahead of quality

Actually, there has been a saying around, 'When you see too much of a brand, it means that it’s not too much of a good piece, and they need to do too much publicity to push it forward.' Jon Pearce, Global Chief Creative Officer of Hudson Rouge, comments, “This is especially relevant for luxury houses. The consumer must perceive that the products of a luxury house are not ubiquitous, and not so easy to discover. The valuable luxury product is the one that not only says you have the financial ability to possess it, but the knowledge and discerning eye that says you are a cultural elite who is ‘in the know’.”

Personally, I have always loved how some brands work in secrecy and still manage to build a cult! Hermes has crafted the perfect strategy and is tasted by only a few. But, does that mean such brands don’t do good? Duh, they always do! Hermès is one of the rare remaining private and popular luxury houses who appeal to consumers’ imagination, has built a trustworthy dynasty and doesn’t need to rely on influencers to inspire sales. On the same lines, Celine has maintained a cult women troop without many sightings on social media. Luxury houses and companies ideally must not behave as mere brands, rather they should stand as leaders. 

Ms. Lloyd notes an important point: “It’s less about the platforms luxury brands are seen on and more about the individuals that their luxury goods are seen with, and on occasion, an influencer can actually do a brand more damage than good. It, therefore, makes good business sense for a brand to think strategically and longer-term about who they work with and gift to. A less is more approach could be beneficial.”

The Bottega Move: A Marketing Stunt?

Most of us are of the speculation that it's another PR/marketing stunt. But, what makes us think so? There is no denying that this move has put them at the forefront, getting all eyes hooked on the brand before the grand SS’21 release. “I don’t think anyone knows at this point, but in removing their social media presence, Daniel Lee has most certainly brought focus to the brand in the immediate term. If it’s just a stunt, it delivers a powerful, collateral message: we don’t need to show off to you through social media. We have great confidence in our products on their own merits, and if you are discerning enough to appreciate and afford us, you will find us.” Mr. Pearce expresses. 

Bottega Veneta Spring Summer 2021

Bottega Veneta Spring Summer 2021 collection presentation

As more speculation arises, the expectancy bar definitely has broken through the roof by now! Ms. Lloyd reasons out, “It’s more of a strategic business decision driven from the top by the creative director, Daniel Lee. He will be keen to make his mark and drive change, which can be challenging to do unless you court some sort of controversy. He’s done exactly that. A gamble – yes, but one worth taking as the luxury market continues to go through a period of change.”

In Vogue’s retail report analysing what sold in 2020, seven of the 10 retailers surveyed listed Bottega Veneta among their best-selling brands, making it quite clear that even amid a pandemic, Bottega’s collection is on roll and in circulation for good. I find Mr. Lee’s private nature alike to Kris Van Assche – Berluti’s Artistic Director. While most luxury designers dazzle in glistening games and updates, both of their designs and approach makes you hopeful of the future with feet aligned in tradition. Isn’t that what luxury is supposed to be? 

There’s hardly any loss Bottega Veneta would be going through by this move. They have banged out hit after hit collection. It has been able to build a following that associates and identifies with Mr. Lee’s creative essence and the brand’s discreet approach effectively. Be it a select group of industry insiders, celebs or influencers with really fine taste, mentions of the brand will be out there, allowing it exclusivity.

Daniel Lee Bottega Veneta

Daniel Lee taking a bow at the end of his first show for Bottega Veneta

Mr. Pearce puts out a wonderful point: “What this may do is possibly inspire a re-evaluation of how luxury brands show up in social media. My hope is that, instead of leaning into pay-to-play influencers, luxury brands invest their presence in what really sets them apart. The best ones aren’t merely putting out collection after collection, but have a real sense of who they are and their role in the world.” 

Down the lane, luxury brands are planning to preserve their mysticism and aura, bring back some of the allure. Ms. Lloyd explains, “For a luxury brand it is about striking the right balance and ensuring that they focus on high-quality content with influencers or creators who best complement their values. We will see a gradual change in the behaviour of influencers and brands as they are increasingly held accountable by those active on social media for their actions.”

Back To Store?

The last year was spent in elevating digital experience and bringing in all kinds of technological advancements in the fashion world. The forced increase in digital investment was a way forward for luxury brands. However, with vaccines around, luxury houses are concentrating on increasing their footfall and store experience again. 

“Beyond the couture shows, the foundation of luxury houses are the living theatres they create where their products can be purchased. Through architecture, staging, lighting and music they convey the ideal rarefied environment that transmits so much of the ‘vibe’ of their brand. And the vibe is what you buy into, isn’t it? Additionally, the ability to see, discover and touch the products firsthand is what allows you to form that deeper connection to the brand,” Mr. Pearce remarks. 

Bottega Veneta shall become a brand that travels only by strict word of mouth. It’s one of those brands that never has banked on flashiness. It is comfortable in its skin, abhorring all thoughts of stamping the brand name across their iconic designs. The brand’s clientele aren’t the show-off peeps of social media. It is a cult brand in the making. By maintaining its discreetness, worshippers will generally have only one option – flock to the stores, the only holy space to find out what’s up with the brand! 

Bottega Veneta Spring Summer 2021

Bottega Veneta Spring Summer 2021 collection presentation

Most definitely, Bottega’s stores may be elevated to the next-level experience, a cool touch preferring to woo shoppers into its tasteful boutiques. “There is absolutely still a place for luxury brands to have a physical touchpoint with their consumer. Now, more than ever, we are longing for that human interaction and this is the time for luxury brands to be thinking about the future of their store experience, and particularly where and what that experience should be.” Ms. Lloyd adds.

With travel beginning, a curated experience which was missing might take a peak again.  Mr. Pearce adds, “We’re also seeing major investment from brands like Gucci, LVMH, Dior and Prada in creating curated, immersive experiences and exhibitions where direct selling is not the goal at all. Here’s it’s all about forging those deeper cultural and emotional connections with people. And if you look at who’s attending these experiences, you’re seeing a younger crowd – millennials of course, but even Gen Z – absorbing and having fun with the heritage and iconic nature of these brands.” 

Being a millennial and Gen-Z choice brand, the decision of Bottega is very alike to ours – go on a digital detox, stop mindless scrolling, focus on ourselves, and yes, playing hard to get! A wonderful example is the Tiffany experience that happened in Shanghai in late 2019. A great job was done to remix the iconic Tiffany blue colour with classic Tiffany moments like Audrey Hepburn’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ – a super fun experience, accepted by both millennials and Gen-Z. 

This very detox move reiterates that luxury isn’t about thirsty influencer gifting and numerous spams of reshares, rather it is about building something for patrons who understand ‘luxury’ – traditional mixed with futuristic vibes, the freedom to do something different without compromising on tradition and heritage.