American Marketer


Storytelling in luxury marketing becomes interdisciplinary

November 29, 2012

Thomaï Serdari is adjunct associate professor of marketing at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business


By Thomaï Serdari

Content curation is a descriptive term. It denotes the act of organizing material or information to be displayed or broadcast with the goal to tell a story.

Curation has become a trend and deeply affects the way we organize, transmit and receive information. The trend, even though a well-known technique put to use by historians, art historians, and museum curators, has become more prevalent today thanks to the multiplication of social media platforms.

Curate’s e.g.
Fashion bloggers were among the first who popularized content curation as an alternative to mainstream media. They felt that the establishment of fashion media represented a uniform and somewhat rigid voice in fashion marketing.

Fashion blogs were a reaction against that rigidity of turning fashion exclusive.

As fashion blogs began proliferating, the audience became increasingly familiar with the flexibility that social curation allows.

In addition, social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest reinforced the public’s newly acquired habit of curating their own ideas, posts or pictures.

This renewed interest in storytelling by means of curated content suits the world of luxury goods perfectly.

Successful luxury marketing is by default associated with fine storytelling.

Luxury brands have the added privilege of owning beautiful products or properties. Memorable visual material is the most powerful ingredient of storytelling.

For example, think of the power of an artistically photographed exotic leather bag or a majestic landscape view from a luxury hotel. The visual commands attention but also frees the imagination.

Vintage advice
Storytelling is achieved by creating a dreamlike universe that truly represents the core values of the luxury brand but also by allowing the audience to partake in this fantasy world.

The trick is in devising access points for the public to relate to the brand in a way that the brand values become understood while also the brand environment maintains its mystique.

Take, for example, the latest in-house curated exhibition by Verdura at the company’s headquarters at 745 Fifth Avenue in New York.

The company, owned by a father-and-son team, Ward and Nico Landrigan, is a “fine jewelry company focusing on retail, with a limited wholesale segment. The core business focus is design-intensive pieces produced directly from the archives.”

These archives contain Fulco di Verdura’s vast collection of fine jewelry drawings, some of which had already been produced during his lifetime whereas some others not.

For the exhibit, Verdura displayed a variety of pieces either vintage or newly produced.

Vintage are the pieces that had been produced during Fulco’s lifetime and acquired by important clients such as the Duchess of Windsor, Mona Bismarck and Dorothy Paley Hirshon.

The provenance of these pieces adds to their value and to their appeal for today’s customer.

In other words, provenance contributes to enchanting the public. The story is crafted to mesmerize the client.

By design
In other cases, it is hard to make that association with famous clients. Nina Shoes is a brand that started in Brooklyn, New York, by Cuban émigrés right after the Second World War.

While the brand is mass market, the company has managed to manipulate its corporate image and move the product upmarket by means of investing in the creation of a solid archive that reaches back to 1953, the year the company was founded.

Compared to Verdura, a company that re-emerged because of the existence of the designer’s original archive, Nina is a company that has been in production continuously since 1953 and has expanded internationally.

By frequenting flea markets and vintage boutiques, Nina’s archivist managed to assemble a complete archive of all the models produced. She also recorded the oral history of the founding family and devised a classification system that allows in-house designers to easily retrieve information on any particular model.

These steps resulted in inspired re-interpretations of their designs. The brand moves forward while also maintaining a coherent voice and style.

WHAT DISTINGUISHES luxury brands today is their ability to capitalize on their own intellectual property and historic past by retelling their story. This has opened up the area of marketing to other disciplines that were previously considered tangential to commerce.

Today, luxury marketing needs to take advantage of the skills that historians, archivists, visual designers and curators have to offer.

In other words, the more complex the story to be told, the more interdisciplinary the brand’s approach to marketing. In turn, the complexity and depth of the story is what moves the brand higher up in the hierarchy of luxury brands.

Thomaï Serdari is adjunct associate professor of marketing at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York. Reach her at