We are sharing a case study of a brand that successfully transformed its identity and repositioned itself in the market through innovative branding strategies.
Oh hey humans! We are sure you have come across brands that impressed you with their marketing strategies and how they seemed to executed them seamlessly? Heard of KIA Motors? We certainly have. Let's face it, a rebranding can be a tricky thing, as it can either be so subtle that it goes unnoticed or go too far that the brand loses its identity (Again… KIA). However, there is one rebranding that we can't stop raving about - the Gucci rebranding of 2015. There is something truly magical about the new world they created for the brand. This fashion house, which was slowly drifting towards becoming an "oldie," rose to the sky and completely wowed us with its stunning aesthetics and relevance in today's culture. Yes, we have a crush on it, and we are about to geek out while explaining how this iconic brand transformed itself while still staying true to its essence! (Something we love to see)
Since its creation in 1921, Gucci has lived many eras. In its early days, it operated as a simple leather seller. Fast forward to the 1980s, an era marked by the tragic murder of Maurizio Gucci at the hands of his wife Patrizia (By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie "House of Gucci," we absolutely recommend it). After that, Tom Ford took over as the creative director and brought a seductive and provocative "sex sells" mentality to Gucci. Although Ford had done a good job of pushing the limit of luxury fashion, somewhere in the 2000’s, the brand got mmmm… dusty. To be fair, we personally associated Gucci with chic older women drenched in aggressive perfume, cradling plump poodles in their arms, and retired golf players cruising in Porsche 930. Basically, the brand became overly fixated on its heritage and past glory, causing it to lose touch with contemporary relevance and, consequently, fail to resonate with a younger audience. Sales were not doing so great.
Each era we've mentioned is intrinsically linked to a specific creative director. Feeling the need for change, Gucci made some bold moves by bringing in a new CEO, Marco Bizzarri, who in turn designated Alessandro Michele as the creative director. Michele was a risky choice, known for his affiliation with streetwear and maximalism, and was still a relatively obscure talent – all things far out from the traditional Gucci mould. As it turned out, Gucci would prove that innovation and embracing change pay off. Together, Bizzarri and Michele steered Gucci into its most prosperous era.
The way you dress is really the way you feel, the way you live, what you read, your choices. That's what I want to put into Gucci. - Alessandro Michele
Full-on millennial approach.
Gucci's entire campaign and rebranding strategy was centred around one core idea - to aggressively target millennials while still retaining their loyal older customers. This was a bold move, as no other luxury brand had seriously pursued millennials due to the common assumption that they couldn't afford their products. However, Gucci recognized that millennials would eventually have the purchasing power and it was time for the brand to regain its status.
To effectively reach this target audience, major changes were necessary. The most crucial among them was making the brand culturally relevant. Michele brought a breath of freshness by not only infusing his maximalism, romantic, timeless aesthetic into Gucci's style and collection but also by transforming the company into a defender of LGBTQIA2S+ rights and raising questions about gender neutrality in fashion—something that was highly needed. Indeed, it is thanks to Michele that the first innovative gender-neutral collection came to life.
Their first move was to completely renovate their online presence, and it happened on many plans. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to speak the language of your target audience if you want to reach them. As social media is the main platform for communication, Michele concentrated their marketing efforts in this space. He refreshed the brand's visual identity by drawing inspiration from various eras and sources, such as ancient Greece and Rome, timeless gardens, and dreamy landscapes, creating a sense of a universe that exists beyond time and space, which resonates with both older and younger generations of buyers.
Creating an attractive and appealing aesthetic is important, but it also needs to generate enough buzz to grab people's attention. Michele, the creative mind behind Gucci's success, accomplished this by making the brand a part of pop culture. He infused humour and innovation into Gucci's marketing strategy and dived into the world of memes. Have you ever heard the phrase "It's Gucci" used to mean that everything is good or perfect? That was intentionally created by Michele in a watch advertisement where he invited Gucci fans to express how they felt when they were "Gucci." This expression has now become a casual phrase. Michele also collaborated with "influencers" to promote the brand. Celebrities like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Harry Styles, and Miley Cyrus have all been seen wearing Gucci outfits, either in photoshoots for the brand or through iconic moments like Lemonade for Beyoncé and Lady Gaga's Super Bowl halftime show.
Gucci made a bold move in the online world by venturing into e-commerce, something that other luxury brands have been hesitant to do. There is a belief that the same level of quality and luxury experience cannot be replicated in an online store. However, Gucci managed to create a website that retains the luxury sensation while making the brand more accessible. Perhaps other luxury brands have a fear of diminishing the "luxury" aspect of their fashion brand, but Gucci's successful foray into e-commerce proves that it can be done.
Gucci Fall 2017 campaign. Photographed by Glen Luchford
“*If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”- Lao Tzu*
When it comes to e-commerce, it means ready-to-wear. Michele completely changed Gucci's approach to make it more accessible to millennials. He launched a ready-to-wear collection, offering classic pieces like hoodies, caps, and logo-printed t-shirts at lower prices on the online platform. This strategy aligned with the new millennial goal, but again, balance had to be maintained for their loyal customer base.
Despite introducing this new line, Gucci maintained its chic identity and retained every other aspect that aligns with the standards of a luxury fashion brand: runway shows, seasonal collections, and high prices. Up to this point, Gucci had been the kind of brand that aims to create staples—timeless, classic, and simple items that can be worn regardless of the era. Trends come and go quickly, often falling into obscurity and having a resurgence some 20 years later, so luxury brands tend to avoid them at all costs. This is especially true because trends are often associated with more mass-market and fast-fashion brands like Zara or H&M. As you might have already guessed, maintaining the title of a luxury brand requires adhering to strict etiquette. Knowing this, Michele made the bold move of allocating 40% of their collection to trend-driven clothes and dedicating 60% to staple pieces. And it worked. This fine balance is enough to keep their existing clientele satisfied while simultaneously attracting an entirely new customer base.
The revamp of Gucci witnessed a lot of innovation through their collaborations, and apart from their new social media direction that unquestionably drew us into their universe, it's probably our favourite part. We mean… we’re sure you've seen what they did with Adidas… And we've already talked about all the pop stars they teamed up with (a move that hit millennials right in the feels). But that's not all. They also put in place a project we love: "Gucci 4 rooms." It's a collaboration with artists who were mandated to create a fully interactive installation in a room (one for each artist). They were asked to showcase their interpretation of Gucci through the brand's code, and the rooms were exhibited for a period of time, magically reaching millennials in the art world. The results were amazing; go check it out.
Collaborations are honestly surprisingly powerful because when you incorporate someone else's creativity, your own vision expands, taking you to places you've never stepped into before, but also because you gain access to the audience and the universe of your collaborator, making your presence felt on all fronts. Of course, there needs to be consistency with your direction when collaborations are chosen.
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“Fashion comes out of the world in which you live, your needs, hopes and fantasies.” -Maurizio Gucci
If you haven't already read our previous article about storytelling in branding, now is a good time to do so. It is the key ingredient for the success of branding, as well as rebranding. Michele brought a completely different story to Gucci, navigating a universe that exists at the junction of fantasy and reality: one of timeless space, jewels, precious shiny things, and mystical elements. He immerses you in a gorgeous world of mist, stardust, and eternal gardens, evoking a vintage everlasting feeling that seems out of the realm of dreams. Every single image or item feels like a part of a scene from a larger story, and this bigger story is where Gucci resides. Michele’s vision was so well-defined that he had no difficulty translating it into every aspect of the brand. From social media to new collections, collaborations, and any other projects that took shape during this period. You only need to take a look at "Gucci Bloom," "Gucci Garden," or "Gucci Places" to see what I'm talking about. This new, fresh narrative is accessible to all their customers while bringing Gucci into the present, and it has been a pillar of the success of this rebranding.
With this whole campaign, luxury fashion, as we knew it, cracked and began to move out of the long dynasty-like etiquette of fashion brands. Gucci became the black sheep who rebelled and decided to become an outrageously successful guitarist instead of a doctor. We just loved how Michele balanced many fine lines like a funambulist – between millennials and older clients, between accessible fashion and a luxury brand and between genders. All of this thanks to taking risks and innovating! If they did it, you can do it too. Go pursue that idea you thought was slightly out there and see what happens.
Did we convince you that this rebranding was genius?
- Hamish Bowls, June 23rd 2015, “Inside the House of Gucci: Meet the New Creative Director”, https://www.vogue.com/article/gucci-alessandro-michele-creative-director-profile