By challenging conventional uses and filling the gaps, Digitally Native Vertical Brands (DNVBs) are setting up a specific business model. This new generation is mastering the whole supply chain and aims to fulfill an in-depth mission: changing the world for the better.
Heuritech: Where did your interest for DNVBs came from?
Viviane Lipskier: I was initially wondering why H&M decided to partner in 2015 with Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing, a relatively unknown fashion designer, after working with established iconic designers like Karl Lagerfeld (2004) or Lanvin’s Albert Elbaz (2010). If Olivier Rousteing’s social media approach towards his community was impressing, I was wondering whether Balmain used growth marketing strategy to stand out in the digital environment. Obviously, the answer was yes.
H: Which culture bridge do you see between traditional firms and DNVBs?
VL: The gap might rely on co-creation, an initiative luxury brands are not accustomed to.
Traditional luxury brands provide narrative, aesthetics and visual values based on the founder’s personality.
On the contrary, DNVBs, because they are co-built models, reflect the client’s personality.
I think two brands succeeded in reconciling both. The awarded DNVB Van Holzhausen, dubbed the “Tesla of handbags”, provides eco-conscious leather and production in the best Italian workshops.
Maison Buly 1803, which is an outer DNVB but behaves like one, seek out for the best beauty products, carrying on traditional savoir-faire with innovating pharmaceutical industry players.
H: What are the main key success factors of DNVBs in terms of social media? Is there a secret “feel good” image recipe to pick up from them?
VL: Social media is only the tip of the iceberg of DNVB’s success.
DNVB founders have positivity in common: they are really concerned by the idea of having a positive impact on the world. Their trustworthy involvement lead to an increasing voluntary engagement among their community members.
Look at Heist Studio, a British hosiery specialist which has decided to take care of the well-fitted and fight against the accelerated obsolescence commonly settled. Thanks to a 12 months R&D, under the hashtag #nudeproject, Heist launched a luxurious, reliable and comfortable hose.
Very often, there are still confusions between social media and social network.
Luxury brands communicate through social media but it is still very rare for them to have a social network in the original meaning of the word.
Glossier for example is a community-driven beauty brand which has a social network. It is a specific digital conversation’s place owned by the brand but where its community can talk without the brand’s interference.
H: More and more voices are heard about diversity and inclusiveness in the fashion industry. It raises the question of “one size fits all”, especially in the lingerie market.
VL: Indeed, there is a distribution problem on XL sized lingerie products.
Here again, a DNVB was born to solve this issue: Third Love, and its “bras and underwear for any body” established itself as a Victoria Secret’s challenger.
Contrary to Victoria Secret which provides 36 cup sizes, Third love sells 70 cup sizes… for now! So far, women breast measure relied exclusively on a tape measure use. With Third Love, the client now uses a mobile app based on visual recognition to find the perfect fit. The app served 10 million women.
As clients claim for “no bullshit” marketing, the purchasing act is becoming a sort of political engagement.
H: What do you think about the sustainability support by the young generation?.
VL: DNVBs bet on a direct-to-consumer process. They control all the supply chain and perfectly know their suppliers
For DNVBs, sustainability is the normality.
Tom Cridland is a great example of environmentally activist brand.
He released a large array of “indestructible” clothes with a 30 years guarantee to fight against both obsolescence and waste.
H: Is it possible for an outer DNVB to take selected parts of its business to succeed and provide a more inclusive image, as Gucci recently did?
VL: If Yves Saint Laurent had lived now, I believe he would have shared its own world vision on social media: an inclusive meltdown of cosmopolite and underground peoples, mannequins diversity but also oriental and african influences.
Luxury brands originally come from the physical world, where there is no place to defend your own world’s vision. But the digital world on the other hand enables a huge creative liberty.
The main issue relies on the equalizer effect: it is really difficult to emerge on search engines. This is why DNVBs communicate on a mission, a vision and values to make much more echoes.
If luxury brands should examine a case, it would be the Allbirds sneaker brand. I have never seen such a terrific growth in any brand’s creation. Silicon Valley’s elite startupers adopted it massively.
What strikes the most with Allbirds is the non-logo product, available in limited neutral tones. The brand stands with an effective storytelling, premium natural materials and premium circuit.
H: Do you have in mind an established luxury brand, which is not a DNVB but which has well expressed the concept ?
VL: If I had to choose two brands it would be Chanel and Hermes.
Chanel is an absolute master of content marketing and storytelling while promoting, since its outset, women empowerment through Gabrielle Chanel’s vision. She blurred gender barriers by reworking male wardrobe outfits towards a feminine audience.
On the other hand, Hermes decided to make no compromise on its fine quality objects, using premium leather, supporting craftsman activities, conveying a gentle poetic image with a dash of cheekiness in its communication, especially on social media.
H: Do you have one last word to conclude our interview ?
VL: Luxury brands have nothing to fear. By essence, they own all the assets to succeed: universal shared values, a strong image and aspirational “dream” universe.
The improvement lies on the engaged community challenge: brands should know if they prefer community rather than simple fans.
If luxury brands take time to get back to their core values, they will continue be highly desirable even towards millennials or gen Z.
Find out more on the DNVBs and several case study examples in the latest book of Viviane Lipskier (in French) out now. Continue your diving experience into the DNVBs universe through her instagram account.
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