As a branding and experiential marketing strategist and CEO of Cultural Assets for Iris Worldwide, DAVID MISKIN recently spoke to us about how luxury retailers can use the current situation to positively reshape themselves.
As most stores and showrooms remain closed, events become cancelled, and more physical space is put between brands and consumers, the retail industry is definitely among one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the current global state has made selling difficult for many companies, as consumers are unable to physically touch or test any products, luxury brands – with a loyal consumer base and a high level of customer service – will likely prove strong enough to emerge from this situation in a better position than any.
AC: What can a luxury brand do to stand out in these challenging times?
DAVID MISKIN – In my opinion, luxury brands are already at an advantage when it comes to overcoming crises. During the 2008 financial crisis, luxury was one of the only industries that didn’t totally decline. These brands have the ability to use their strong customer base and company heritage to forge relationships even during tough times. Luxury isn’t all about the monetary aspect—at its core, it’s about creating unparalleled value. Luxury brands will stand out during this time if they remember to put intangible factors first. Strengthening customer relationships and creating unique brand experiences tailored to our ‘new normal’ will set them apart. Even after the pandemic and state of emergency settle down, customers will remember the brand’s extraordinary efforts during these times.
AC: Do you think that the retail industry will ever recover?
DAVID MISKIN – I’m confident that with the right measures in place, the retail industry will bounce back. Of course, this can’t and won’t happen without some significant changes, and the industry will definitely look a little different post-pandemic. Health will obviously be the prime concern for customers, so all players in the retail industry need to work hard to ensure the safest environment possible. That comes from putting government-regulated practices into place, but also from listening and tuning into what customers themselves would like to see in their own shopping spaces. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is impossible. Brands have been going above and beyond to continue commerce throughout this time, and the same efforts must continue once things return to some sort of “normal”. The recovery of the industry also relies heavily on all players realizing that digital and e-commerce have become a necessity. Participation in it is no longer optional, and its presence can truly make or break a brand. As long as retailers continue to innovate and find new ways to adapt to these new circumstances, I believe that we can exit this time even stronger than before.
AC: What can you tell us about your role at Iris Worldwide?
DAVID MISKIN – I’m very excited to have recently joined the Iris Worldwide team. My role at Iris is an invigorating and inspiring one, a true reflection of the agency itself. With Iris being a global creative innovation network, the possibility for growth is endless, and the skill set that exists within the company is incredible. As the CEO of Iris’ new Cultural Assets division, my role focuses strongly on nourishing the marketing of luxury, retail, fashion, and entertainment platforms. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to hold this role at a company as renowned and innovative as Iris. Since coming on board I’ve witnessed a company fiercely committed to delivering for its customers, shareholders, partners, and employees. The opportunity that lies ahead for Iris is enormous, and the ability to lead this next chapter is deeply humbling and incredibly exhilarating.
AC: Which brands that you work with are impressing you in terms of how they are handling the current situation?
DAVID MISKIN – A few companies have definitely shown incredible resilience throughout this situation. Starbucks has shown immense growth and was able to pivot quickly. Their transition to solely mobile orders was pretty seamless, and even since reopening stores, they have gone above and beyond to make customers feel safe in their retail locations. By keeping in touch with customers through social media and their smartphone app, they did an incredible job of maintaining clear communication and establishing transparency. In a different retail sphere, Lamborghini and Bentley have also innovated their businesses exceptionally well. Both companies are reimagining the standard events that go along with the automotive industry, like experimenting with virtual launches and contactless delivery. Delivering new vehicles, orchestrating virtual reveals, and bringing test drives to customers’ front doors are only some of the ways that they are exceeding expectations. Their efforts are truly commendable at this time, especially because of the unprecedented nature of the situation.
AC: As wallets and purses tighten, what strategies can luxury brands adopt to confront the challenges?
DAVID MISKIN – Luxury brands ultimately need to go back to the core basics and decrease market saturation to confront and overcome the current challenges. Reverting back to basic ideas and focusing strongly on customers will prove to be most beneficial at a time when consumers have become increasingly money-conscious. For a while, this might mean taking a hit to sales in order to grow the company’s consumer connection. Increasing brand affinity with cause/charitable marketing is one of the ways that companies like Louis Vuitton and LVMH are working to maintain the quality and foundation of their brand, even if consumers may not be prepared to spend as much as they once did. For fashion brands, this might also mean eliminating the idea of seasonal collections and fashion shows. Gucci, for example, has exhibited brilliant strategies and is redefining the fashion world. By doing away with outdated seasons like “pre-fall” and paving a new way for the future of fashion, the brand has proven that sometimes it takes a seemingly negative situation to affect real change. Brands must remember that nothing is off-limits, and the best strategies are likely the ones that haven’t yet been tried or discovered.
AC: Do you think that the rise of e-commerce will only accelerate?
DAVID MISKIN – Yes, I think e-commerce will continue to grow due to the nature of the business. With the world moving so many aspects of life online, there’s no question that e-commerce’s acceleration will continue, especially due to the rise in virtual events. Virtual events have the unique ability to engage potential customers by introducing them to something new and exclusive. Augmented Reality (AR) technology is becoming a driving force in making online events feel like they’re taking place right in the viewer’s own home. Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), AR is a filter, similar to those used on apps like Instagram and Snapchat, and is much easier to access and employ. It can be used to create 3D model videos, showcase sponsorship packages, and fully immerse consumers in the experience of a business, venue, or place. With AR as a tool, there is no limit to what brands can produce in an online setting, and how they can integrate customers into their chosen environment.
AC: Should influencer marketing be an important component of a luxury brand’s strategy?
DAVID MISKIN – Yes, influencer marketing is definitely a key aspect of luxury branding. However, to set themselves apart, I believe that luxury brands need to make these partnerships with influencers a bit more non-traditional. It’s easy for any brand to partner with an influencer who has the most followers, but luxury brands will differentiate themselves by partnering with an influencer who fully shares their values. In the same way, rather than simply getting an influencer to share a sponsored post on their page, luxury brands must seek out more unique and innovative ways to promote their partnership. Luxury brand clientele pay higher prices to be treated with a higher caliber of service, and these brands must recognize their requirement to showcase exceptional brand management and strategy.
INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES