Every week seems to bring with it more Gucci news, all of which is attributed directly to creative director Alessandro Michele. Though Michele has been widely celebrated for rejuvenating the brand (and significantly increasing its sales) since he became creative director in 2015, some in the industry caution that the recent onslaught of Gucci projects might be nearing overkill territory.
On Monday, the house announced a new initiative called Gucci Places — a luxury spinoff on Pokémon Go, encouraging Gucci app users to discover new places Michele has deemed inspirational. Using geolocation services, the app will send users a push notification whenever they’re near a Gucci Place. Once there, users will receive a special badge, and can then explore special photo and video content about the location.
The first Gucci Place to launch on the app later this month is Chatsworth House in England, where the brand is also sponsoring an exhibition titled “House Style,” showcasing British clothing and memorabilia from the last 500 years. In addition, Gucci shot its spring 2017 campaign, featuring Vanessa Redgrave, on the sprawling property.
A line of Chatsworth-inspired Gucci products will be sold on the premises and at Gucci’s Sloane Street store in London, as well. This model will be mimicked when more Gucci Places are announced in the coming months.
This announcement comes on the heels of recent news that the brand would be getting into homewares this fall, with a line designed in Michele’s signature whimsical style; putting up indie-artist installations in New York and Los Angeles to highlight the brand’s new jewelry collection; plotting a Harrods takeover; partnering with the illustrator Angelica Hicks (found by Michele on Instagram) on murals and T-shirts; and collaborating with some of the internet’s finest (also found online by Michele) on a collection of now-infamous memes.
None of these endeavors are missteps in their own right, said Ana Andjelic, a strategist who works with modern luxury brands. “Michele’s visual handwriting, styling, taste and aesthetic sense were a big break from Gucci at the time of Frida Giannini,” she said. “He introduced a new way of marketing Gucci products, [using ideas] that were fresh for luxury fashion.”
According to Anusha Couttigane, a senior analyst at Kantar Retail, Michele’s marketing methods stood out from the brand’s past by having a little “gumption.” “He’s injected a bit of pop culture, making the brand feel relevant,” she said, noting that, even when these launches aren’t tied directly to specific products, they help keep the brand front of mind. What’s more, they have a sense of humor, she said, “something that isn’t usually associated with high fashion, an industry that takes itself very seriously.”
Inside Chatworth’s “House Style” exhibit, sponsored by Gucci
But the launch of the most recent initiatives, like the homeware line and Gucci Places, risk ruining that perception, fostering instead an image of a brand that’s more thirsty for attention than — as was initially the case — groundbreaking and cool.
“Their memes campaign worked because it was a knowing and tongue-in-cheek commentary on contemporary culture, but Gucci Places’ downfall is that it’s approach — looking at historical sites — is too serious,” said Victoria Buchanan, a strategic researcher at London’s Future Laboratory, which analyzes retail trends.
What’s more, it’s short-sighted, she said: “A Pokémon Go–style hunt may seem like a future-facing move, but it’s out of touch and not that relevant to the brands’ customer base.” Those customers — who, Buchanan argues, are largely women in their thirties — are unlikely to find this interesting or useful. “They don’t want yet another app on their phone to unlock some convoluted content related to the brand.”
And, while it’s great for a luxury brand like Gucci to be embracing the digital sphere head-on, they risk bombarding (and overwhelming) their fans if they’re not seen as selective with their projects, argued Couttigane. “If people are [getting notified] every time your brand does something ‘interesting,’ it can create such a crowded landscape of brand noise that, when more important commercial campaigns — like traditional product launches — come out, they fail to stand out,” she said.
“When an idea can spread across the world in a matter of minutes, how do you stay surprising?” said Buchanan.
A constant flurry of new projects may not be the answer.