Sunday, November 25, 2012

Transmedia Strategy: Yayoi Kusama for Louis Vuitton

(Source: Youtube)

Yayoi Kusama is a visual artist from Japan, Kusama's most popular work consists of a solid neon color or white background across open space paired with glob-like sculptures covered in dots creating the illusion of one-dimensionality and challenging a viewer's understanding of the given space. Recently, Kusama was tapped by Louis Vuitton to create a collection of handbags, and clothing featuring her signature polka dots and avant-garde minimalist approach.

As the creative director of Louis Vuitton since 1997, Marc Jacobs, perhaps one of the most revolutionary fashion designers of our age, has been pinnacle to the luxury house's success utilizing a unique mix of technology, media, and art to generate interest and generate commercial revenue. As the creative director, Marc Jacobs is responsible for molding Vuitton's perception by the public, and directly responsible in generating interest and relevancy for one of the oldest fashion house's in existence today.

(Source: Youtube)

This is not Louis Vuitton's first collaboration with artists, having collaborated with graffiti artist Stephen Sprouse, and artist Takashi Murakami. Below is an example of their work for Louis Vuitton,

(Source: Google Images)
Stephen Sprouse's signature graffiti style on a Louis Vuitton duffle.

(Source: Google Images)
Takashi Murakami's cartoon, anime inspired Louis Vuitton monogram.

What makes this work of particular interest is perhaps the attempt at an idea I've coined as "total influence of experience" to their target customer. In order to understand this concept better, I'll introduce some key strategies utilized by Louis Vuitton in their promotion of this collaboration. As retailers become more media savvy, their strategies must change to reflect that of a rapidly evolving advertising landscape. Where billboards stand as a way to engage traveling motorist's, the internet serves as a gateway to people around the world.

Understanding the Demographic

As retailers become more aware of a consumer's online habits, we are beginning to notice a shift in how  corporations interact with their target demographic. Granted, a typical Louis Vuitton is not your average person, we would assume the individual to be the following - fashion oriented, affluent, and most importantly, diverse in age. This target demographic would consider themselves elite, and therefore would find themselves interested in art. Now, we understand these characteristics as generalizations. It is not to say that one who is not interested in fashion, and without affluence would purchase a product.

Retail's Shifting Paradigms

As we understand it, retail is the exchange of goods from a business to a user. As we've learned in the course, the idea of a "storefront," is evolving. As is the way retailers are using new media tools as a selling points. No longer is the customer limited to the in-store experience as a way to experience commerce. One website, Oki-Ni offered customers the opportunity to purchase clothing from a video as you watched.

This is a remarkable shift in how we relate to media, not only is media serving as a way to display and promote product but it serves as a direct platform for commercial transactions. The future of retail are these hybrid forms. 
Louis Vuitton's Transmedia Approach

As the ability to create media becomes more ubiquitous, retailers are starting to understand that their online presence and ability to promote that content via advertising is vastly more important than any exposure in a magazine. This is not to deny the fashion magazine of it's influence, but it's simply easier to promote content yourself. One well placed ad, or one well placed editorial, could become the catalyst for a disengaged consumer to experience a product launch, and even come to reinterpret a brand's image. Since fashion is constantly evolving to create trends in order to drive profit, brands like Louis Vuitton are rendered significant in their ability to consistently exert their influence while engaging the public in a unique way every six months.

(Source: Highsnobiety)
Kate Moss in Jalouse November 2012 Issue wearing LV x Kusama

The model used to work wherein a fashion house, or retail brand would promote their products through fashion editorials, or stylized still-photography in a magazine. This is where magazines like Vogue, GQ, and Harper's Bazaar were given the executive power to decide whether a piece was of importance and worth placing into an editorial with other brands. In these editorials, a creative director would normally delegate importance to those who contributed to a magazine in advertising dollars. Prior to this, the catalog served a similar function whereby a brand would pay for space to sell their product. As the catalog serves a niche consumer, and magazine's begin to lose their influence retailers are becoming increasingly independent.

How are they becoming dependent? Well for one, they are utilizing their own exposure channels to promote their product. An example of an exposure channel would be a website wherein one necessarily need not come to said destination intentionally but by simply being exposed through an aggregator, or a blog post. 

The Website Splash Page

In telling the story of Yayoi Kusama's collection, Louis Vuitton valued the importance of the artist's aesthetic across Louis Vuitton's exposure channels. Below is an example of the Kusama's website, from this website you can access Louis Vuitton's main website and portal for e-commerce in the left-hand column. 

(Source: Louis Vuitton)

Transitional Webspace

We often refer to social media in the context of an independent network where users interact with a web server by uploading media such as profile pictures, share links and upload, but we don't think of these spaces as transitional environments whereby a user's web experience is largely influenced by what they may do outside of the digital realm. Mobile applications, like but not limited to Instagram, offer consumers a way to experience the brand, in this case Louis Vuitton, even if they are 6,000 miles away from the nearest retail location. In our example, one of the ways Louis Vuitton engaged people on their Instagram page was by posting pictures of the Louis Vuitton's North American flagship location.

(Source: Instagram)

Transforming Physical Space

As noted in the picture above, in anticipation of the collection release Louis Vuitton modified the outside of their flagship locations to reflect Kusama's signature dots. Marc Jacobs is known to employ the use of a modified consumer experience time again and often with dramatic effect. In March 2012, Marc Jacobs set up a show where a train car rolled onto the catwalk complete with steam, audio, and even a conductor to assist models off of the train and onto the runway.

(Source: Telegraphtv/Youtube)

It's important to understand the way these sort of experiences translate in terms of publicity. One of the initiatives the Vuitton creative team decided on for the Kusama collaboration was to transform retail spaces to reflect the aesthetic of the artist not just on the outside but on the inside as well.

(Source: Selfridges)

Engaging the Media 

Louis Vuitton also decided on engaging the media in a different way and solidifying Louis Vuitton's commitment to art. With this collaboration, the brand funded an exhibition on behalf of Yayoi Kusama at the Whitney Museum of American Art. This exhibition was scheduled days prior to the release of the  actual collection.

(Source: Whitney Museum)

The media responded well and the web was filled with buzz especially among fashion types who's excitement about the exhibition increased awareness about the collection. As media types tweeted or blogged about the event and the collection, Louis Vuitton's Twitter account reflected the hype. Similarly, press releases about the new window displays for the Kusama collection were sent months ahead of the collection release.

(Source: Twitter)

The windows again served as a catalyst to tie together the artist's aesthetic and relationship to Louis Vuitton.

(Source: Google Images)

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