Academic journal article Competition Forum

Gucci's Use of a Borrowed Corporate Heritage to Establish a Global Luxury Brand

Academic journal article Competition Forum

Gucci's Use of a Borrowed Corporate Heritage to Establish a Global Luxury Brand

Article excerpt

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

We examine the ways in which corporate brand heritage can be used by luxury brands. In the case of Gucci, the corporation has developed a strategy based on an equestrian heritage that it did not originally own. This has led to the development of equestrian icons quintessentially associated with Gucci, such as the "Stirrup" bag, the "horse bit" and the green and red band which evokes a horse girth. This strategy has been integral to the positioning the corporation has used over time, providing today's luxury consumer with what is the perceived heritage on which the Gucci corporate brand was built.

Keywords: Brand heritage, Heritage, Luxury brands

INTRODUCTION

"I wanted the truth to come out. We were never saddlemakers."

- Grimalda Gucci (Fordren, 2001)

"We are privileged in a way because there aren't so many fashion houses with this connection to the equestrian world. It's not something you can invent."

- Frida Giannini, Gucci's creative director (WMAmagazine.com, 2010)

Over 90 years ago, a small shop, selling high quality leather goods, opened in the heart of Florence, Italy. The first customers were attracted to the "Englishness" of the products, but there was nothing English about Guccio Gucci, the founder of what has become one of the world's greatest fashion emporia. The young Gucci had found his start as a liftboy in the Savoy Hotel in London at the turn of the 20th century. He had seen the rich and famous pass through those doors bearing elegant trunks and suitcases. This was to become his destiny.

Since its founding, the Gucci Group, more commonly known as Gucci, has grown to become a multi-billion dollar holding of French corporation PPR, which officially changed its name to Kering in June 2013. In financial year 2011, Gucci revenue rose almost 18 percent to over three billion euros (four billion US dollars) (Demarco, 2012; PPR, 2011). This astronomical growth has been, in large part, a result of growing demand for luxury products in Asia, and more specifically, in China. The Chinese demand for luxury extends beyond the desire for the products themselves: Chinese consumers have shown a great deal of interest in products that exhibit European heritage, something of a surprise for a culture that can trace its own heritage back 7000 years or more (KPMG, 2011). In the context of heritage, Gucci shines. Is it real? Is it borrowed from a world which Gucci never really inhabited? Indeed, does it matter?

In our discussion below, we will look at the many ways in which corporate heritage can be used by luxury brands. Each of these elements, and more, have been integral to the positioning used by Gucci to emphasize its partially borrowed corporate heritage and to provide today's luxury consumer with what is the perceived heritage on which the Gucci brand was built.

FACETS OF LUXURY BRAND HERITAGE

As the marketing literature indicates, it is not uncommon for luxury brands to leverage their corporate heritage through their branding strategies (Alleres, 2003; Beverland, 2004; Bruce & Kratz, 2007; Fionda & Moore, 2009). Corporate heritage is multifaceted and serves as an antecedent to authenticity (Alexander, 2009; Atwal & Williams, 2009; Beverland, 2005a, 2005b, 2006; Beverland & Farrelly, 2010; Beverland & Luxton, 2005; Chevalier & Gutsatz, 2012, p. 5; Fionda & Moore, 2009; Fritz et al., 2014; Kapferer & Bastien, 2009a, 2009b; Moulard et al., 2014a, 2014b; Tungate, 2009; Tynan et al., 2010; Vigneron & Johnson, 1999; Yeoman & McMahon-Beattie, 2006), credibility and reliability (Leigh et al., 2006), which in turn create value and leverage for a corporate brand in a turbulent global market (Aaker, 1996; George, 2004; Wiedmann et al., 2011b). In so doing, the corporate brand can serve as an invaluable tool for attracting customers, investors and employees and thereby render the corporate brand as one of a firm's most coveted and cherished assets (Balmer et al. …

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