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Luxury brands storytelling


Beyond clicks and likes: Navigating the art of immersive storytelling

Published 1 December 2023 in Luxury • 7 min read

From hyper-personalization to digital storefronts and compelling experiences, industry experts share how luxury brands are using the latest technology and trends to capture the attention of consumers.

When Marilyn Monroe was asked by a reporter in 1952 what she wore to bed, she famously quipped that she only wore Chanel No. 5.

Her legendary response encapsulates the significant role storytelling plays in establishing a mythology for luxury brands, creating desire, and engaging audiences. As the CEO of wine and spirit group Moët Hennessy once said: “The art of luxury is all about storytelling.”

Yet the rise of a new generation of customers who are less familiar with brands, plus the advent of new digital technologies, means conventional storytelling is no longer enough. This has led to an explosion in costs as brands compete for a slice of consumers’ ever-diminishing attention spans across multiple channels in increasingly unexpected ways.

During the first Luxury Disruptor Talk organized by the IMD Luxury 2050 Forum, Uli Geiger, Associate Director of Global Brand Experience at IWC Schaffhausen, and Thorsten Walther, CEO of Inspify, shared the latest storytelling trends brands are using to cut through the noise and capture the attention of potential customers.

The changing role of storytelling

The world’s top luxury brands have constantly evolved the way they tell stories to get closer to consumers. In 2014, Prada created an exhibition first displayed at luxury department store Harrods in London and later in Hong Kong which immersed visitors in the materiality and craftmanship of the brand. In 2016, Cartier released the film L’Odysée of Cartier to showcase the brand’s emotions. More recently, Louis Vuitton launched the LV Treasure Trunk in the metaverse, a place only accessible to certain clients, where new, limited products and experiences will be revealed through immersive drops at regular intervals throughout the year.

Marylin Monroe concept painting in light happy bright colors. Generative AI
Marylin Monroe concept painting in light happy bright colors. Generative AI

The evolution reflects the challenges brands face in capturing the attention of consumers. More than 60% of individuals browse more than five channels over two days before making a purchase. Attention spans have also declined by 70% in the past two decades with the average attention span of an adult on the internet now a mere 8.5 seconds, the equivalent to that of a goldfish. As a result, brands are now splurging three to five times the amount they spent five years ago to acquire new customers.

The unexpected is expected
One trend that brands now must contend with is that the unexpected is now expected, explained IWC’s Geiger, forcing firms to increasingly push the limits of creativity. He shared examples of how Dior launched a new product at a national monument in Saudi Arabia, while IWC created three-dimensional billboards by sending branded container vessels along the harbor in Hong Kong to promote the launch of a new watch.

IWC is also making luxury physically more accessible by removing the storefronts from some of its outlets and luring customers in with experiences including a restaurant with a Michelin-starred chef.

The art of luxury is all about storytelling.
- Philippe Schaus, Moët Hennessy's CEO
A further disruption is that consumers now expect to be able to interact with any brand, anywhere, at any time, on any device, said Geiger. “Our clients and consumers now expect a seamless experience. In response, we have developed a comprehensive 360-degree client journey for IWC, incorporating omnichannel and omnifulfilment,” he said. In practice, this means that you can order a watch online and collect it from a boutique, or shop in-store and have it sent to you.

Data drives personalization

Inspify’s Walther pointed to the trend towards personalization which is turning brands into technology companies. It is no longer sufficient to have a CRM database solely for customer information; every single data point and touch point with the customer must be collected. Machine learning models can learn from this data, enabling the generation of highly personalized content along with seamless consumer journeys.
In the gaming platform Fortnite, brands such as Nike are bringing their products directly into player’s living rooms through their screens

He gave the example of Carvana, a used car platform that has created 1.3 million personalized AI-generated videos for its customers using meticulously organized data. The audio was synchronized with the user’s purchases, and the overall narrative incorporated publicly accessible information such as national holidays and other significant events that occurred on the day the data was acquired. 

Walther also highlighted immersive product catalogs and immersive showrooms created by Inspify for Louboutin and Chopard with clickable photo-realistic content. “85% of consumers browse the internet on their mobiles. So, it would help if you tailored it to a web browser on the mobile phone. It’s exciting, automatic content, and immersive with many touchpoints,” he said.

New shoppers in new places

Luxury brands also must go after a new generation of shoppers in the places where their customers are spending time. A case in point is the gaming platform Fortnite, where brands such as Nike are bringing their products directly into player’s living rooms through their screens.

Storytelling is becoming more immersive, exciting, and professional in many areas. Changi Airport in Singapore contains an experiential digital waterfall. “With digital storefronts, you will be able to put your brand’s story in your storefront in a very immersive way,” said Walther. 

The future of storytelling

With the rise of generative AI, a brand’s experience doesn’t even need to be physical. For example, Zara transformed a storefront in New York with digital art, which looked like a real physical brand experience when posted on social media. Another example was the gigantic Jacquemus bags zipping through the streets of Paris: again, all digitally created and not happening in the physical world, even though it looked like the bags were there for real.

With the rise of generative AI, a brand's experience doesn’t even need to be physical

With the rise of generative AI, a brand’s experience doesn’t even need to be physical
But what does the future look like in addition to digital storefronts? “People will wear augmented reality glasses or have AR contact lenses in their eyes. They will walk through an environment, see who walks there, perhaps they see a showcase on the left side of the road, then a storefront, and if they look closer, they will have direct access to information and stories about the products,” said Walther. “It is hyper-personalized. It’s almost like a friend speaking to you, knowing a lot. But I think this is a future we’re going into,” added Geiger. “I think the days we go into a fashion store to try on clothes are ending. It will be done very soon using AR.”

What does this disruption mean for the future of luxury brands?

With the relationship between online and offline retail and experiential luxury tightening, brands must consider how these elements are applied throughout the customer journey, from acquisition to engagement, conversion, and loyalty. To help make the omnichannel experience a reality, it is essential to not overlook the basics such as making sure physical stores have enough stock, taking steps to avoid long queues at store entrances, and employing qualified staff to treat clients.

By connecting with consumers through storytelling in new environments, such as on Fortnite, brands have the potential to make their campaigns more inclusive. Equally, data and AI will help to hyper-personalize the experience, which in turn shows respect for people’s time and preferences.

Nevertheless, as the world of luxury converges with entertainment, brands must seek to strike a balance between producing addictive and informative content, so as not to stoke a deepening mental health crisis.

Lastly, brands must consider the environmental footprint of their storytelling. Despite efforts to incorporate circularity principles, it is crucial to acknowledge that continually multiplying events will not support environmental sustainability.

This webinar was organized by the IMD Luxury Forum 2050, a community that joins forces to share experiences, learning, and views of the future of luxury in a trusted environment, and address the challenges and transformations of luxury brands. You can learn more about the forum here.


Stéphane J.G Girod

Stéphane J. G. Girod

Professor of Strategy and Organizational Innovation

Stéphane J.G. Girod is Professor of Strategy and Organizational Innovation at IMD. His research, teaching and consulting interests center around agility at the strategy, organizational and leadership levels in response to disruption. At IMD, he is also Program Director of Reinventing Luxury Lab and Program Co-Director of Leading Digital Execution.

Christoph Thomet

Christoph Thomet

Member of the Advisory Committee of the IMD Luxury 2050 Forum

Christoph Thomet is a Member of the Advisory Committee of the IMD Luxury 2050 Forum. He works with start-ups and scale-ups in the luxury goods and tech space driving business expansion. Previously, as a Chief Operating and Chief Executive Officer he led Richemont’s cultural, business model and digital transformation in the Middle East, India & Africa region for more than 10 years. Christoph has an MBA and Ph.D from the University of St. Gallen and is an IMD Alumnus as well as a Boston Consulting Group Alumnus. Christoph is passionate about leadership, transformation, scale-up, sustainability and artificial intelligence.


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