Short Films: The New Luxury Marketing

November 12, 2004

Short Films: The New Luxury Marketing

With the television debut of Chanel No. 5's three-minute "commercial " mini-movie featuring Nicole Kidman, and directed by Baz Luhrmann, on Nov. 11, the stakes have risen for the way luxury products are marketed, says the Financial Times of London. Chanel's short "film," which aired during "ER," is a quick-cut version of a love story that tells a tale of the most famous woman in the world (Kidman), who flees a horde of paparazzi and jumps into a taxi where she meets a young writer (Brazilian Rodrigo Santoro) so immersed in his own world that he does not know who she is. They share a lost weekend in his garret before she acknowledges her responsibilities and returns to the outside world.

Although there is a large Chanel double C illuminated in lights outside the garret, Chanel No. 5 is not featured in the film, and is present only in the final shot in the form of a pendant made of 687 diamonds in the shape of a "No 5." "I think people get into the story and want to live it," says Marianne Etchebarne, international marketing director of Chanel fragrances. "It is a commercial that is a real piece of art."

The hope is that along with "living" the fantasy story with Kidman, women will be persuaded to buy Chanel No. 5 as part of the lifestyle represented by the short film. The venerable perfume, which was the top selling perfume in the world for three-quarters of the 20th century, has slipped a bit in recent years and Chanel decided to reach for a new generation of wearers with a new approach.

"It is clearly no longer enough to just have an attitude and show a picture; you have to attach an emotional story to that," says Carol Potter, a global business director of J. Walter Thompson. "That is a global trend but it is especially acute when it comes to luxury goods, because with luxury goods you are paying to feel special – you need that personal connection."

Carolyn Carter, president and chief executive of Grey Global Group, says: "Every target group is becoming more resistant to the traditional advertising methods, so brands have to look at different ways to move people. This is evidenced in the migration to other strategies like product placement in films, direct marketing and sponsorship." Noting the various forms of alternative marketing that luxury companies are trying these days, Carter notes: "They are not selling the products, they are selling an image and an attitude attached to that image."

Chanel is not the first to use short films as marketing tools. BMW commissioned a series of short internet films from Hollywood directors in 2001. American Express produced a series of internet films with Jerry Seinfeld that also aired on TV.

Though few marketers will be able to hire Nicole Kidman and a famous director to shoot an exclusive three-minute commercial, the lesson for jewelers is that they should make every effort to tie jewelry to emotional "stories" that resonate with consumers. Marketing efforts on television and radio, DVD, magazines or through the mail must engage and entertain consumers so that they come to view your brand through essentially small works of art. When searching for outside marketing help, be sure the agency you choose has the kind of talent to push into these new areas. As a luxury-goods seller, you must aspire to the same high level Chanel and others have attained.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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