Gucci Gets Its House In Order With A Digital-First Mindset And A Penchant For Experimentation

While most luxury brands take themselves quite seriously, Gucci likes to have a little fun, especially with its marketing.

“We’re a brand that puts great emphasis on joy and optimism,” said Robert Triefus, EVP and CMO at Gucci for more than a decade. “We’ve put creativity at the center of everything we do since we began our new chapter in 2015.”

Triefus is referring to the arrival of Marco Bizzarri, who joined four years ago as CEO and president when the company faced bankruptcy. Bizzarri, who previously helmed both Stella McCartney and Bottega Veneta, made it his mandate to embrace social media and bring a digital focus to Gucci’s marketing and commerce strategies.

Sales at Gucci grew more than 46% during the first half of 2018 alone, a testament to the shift.

“The authenticity of what we’re doing is resonating with millennials and Gen Z in particular,” Triefus said. “When it comes to experimentation and innovation, we’re always looking out for new opportunities to engage.”

For instance, Gucci partnered with the chat app Genies last year so users could dress themselves in emoji versions of its luxury duds.

“The shareability of something like this is powerful,” Triefus said, “and we view it as a form of earned media rather than as a kind of advertising.”

AdExchanger spoke with Triefus.

AdExchanger: Luxury marketing still is very traditional and focused on glossy print ads. How is Gucci different?

ROBERT TRIEFUS: Despite the fact that the fashion industry is in the business of interpreting trends and being ahead of trends, it’s been set in its ways and quite slow to adapt its brand communications.

With the digital revolution, some brands have decided to embrace it and others have been more cautious. In 2002, Gucci was one of the very first brands to realize the importance of ecommerce as a future channel, and we were quite literally one of the first luxury brands to launch an ecommerce site in America. In a way, that was a portent of what was to come.

And what was to come for you?

We’ve been moving rapidly toward a digital-first strategy for the investments we make in our ecommerce platform and on social media platforms. We’re quite strategic about the social platforms we’re on and about building relationships that are more like joint business partnerships, so we have the first chance to try new functions or products.

We’re also investing in developing digital native content with our media partners, and experimenting with new opportunities.

Like digital avatars. Why is the emoji trend interesting to you as a brand?

With emoji, there is a sense of “gamification,” especially for younger generations who grew up with them as part of their daily life. We can learn from their interactions. But we’re also a fun brand, and avatars let us embrace that value in a tangible way.

Genies, for example, was already experimenting with the Gucci brand in their beta testing and were seeing strong traction among their users. That gave us the confidence to experiment.

How do you approach your experimental budget?

First, you need the right mentality and an organization that is willing to succeed or to fail – and to learn from a failure. That’s the cultural aspect. If you can’t live with that dynamic, don’t do it.

We’re always on the lookout, as it were, to challenge the status quo, to experiment with new ideas and be engaging. That means keeping an eye on what’s new as well as optimizing the what now might be considered more traditional social platforms, like Instagram and Facebook. In terms of partners, we work with companies on a case-by-case basis.

How do you measure the success of your experiments and what are the KPIs?

We certainly want to see a high level of engagement. What that means in the case of Genies is whether users are enjoying the Gucci wardrobe as much as any other apparel available to them in the app and is the demographic the one we would expect to be engaged.

But we didn’t set ourselves too many metrics at this stage. We look at something like this as an opportunity that allows us to experiment with a new digital application.

But at what point does engagement lead to sales?

We see technology as a means to an end, not an end. Technology should never overbear the experience. That said, if there is a seamless way to enable someone who is engaged and finding enjoyment from an experience or a product, a way to allow that person to shop quickly and efficiently, that is definitely a priority and something we’re looking at more and more.

Does Gucci do any programmatic buying or are you more of a publisher-direct sort of brand?

We favor going direct and having relationships we can build upon with mutual understanding and mutual objectives. That is the best way for us to be able to create authentic relationships with our audience, and it’s what resonates, because it’s been built in an honest way.

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