How Coachella Creates a Digital Community

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is the top music festival in the world, according to Billboard, grossing $67.2 million and attracting 180,000 people in 2013 over the course of two weekends. It’s also an elite experience for the affluent, with an expensive admission fee and amenities that include a furnished “Shikar style tent” with electrical outlets and two queen-sized beds at a cost of $6,500. I’ve been fully immersed in Coachella. I’ve discovered artists such as Haim and ASAP Ferg, re-kindled my love affair with the music of the Cult, and enjoyed the long-awaited OutKast reunion (warts and all).

Oh, and I’ve not even left my home in the Midwest hinterlands.

photo-3

My new SlideShare, which contains detailed speaker notes, discusses how Coachella creates a digital community for people like me (especially via a YouTube livestream) without compromising the appeal in-person event. As it turns out, digital creates a powerful network of brand ambassadors for Coachella.

photo

Coachella offers a lesson on how marketers can make an exclusive brand a bit more accessible without damaging your mystique. Luxury brands wrestle with this issue all the time especially as they court younger audiences who are on the cusp of being affluent.

On the surface, Coachella may look anything but exclusionary, especially when you consider that being there in person involves swimming a sea of dirty, writhing bodies baking in the hot desert sun. But Coachella is a luxury. As Todd Martens and Mikal Wood noted recently in the Los Angeles Times, “Coachella is now more like a spring break weekend at a walled-off resort than an edgy music festival.”

photo-8

Like Louis Vuitton, Coachella has aggressively employed digital to make its brand more accessible to wannabes like me who stand on the outside looking in with our noses pressed against the glass. Check out my SlideShare to learn more. And if you attend Coachella, tell me what you think of the event.

How Louis Vuitton Appeals to Upscale Baby Boomers with Music

Bowie

Louis Vuitton knows how to target an audience with rock celebrities. The iconic luxury brand is working with another iconic brand, David Bowie, to produce the second television spot ever aired in the company’s 160-year history. The ad, an installment in Louis Vuitton’s “L’Invitation au Voyage” series, will feature the Thin White Duke in an as-yet undefined role. But given Bowie’s well-known sense of style and visual storytelling, you can be sure the ad will be memorable — and another smart musical pairing that positions Louis Vuitton as a classic, upscale choice for the affluent Baby Boomer generation.

Louis Vuitton’s advertising relationship with musicians is somewhat complicated. On the one hand, hip-hop artists such as Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa have name-checked the company in their song lyrics. West is a self-proclaimed Louis Vuitton Don and designed his own line of Louis Vuitton sneakers. In fact, the 2000s have been cited as “the decade of Louis Vuitton” in the hip-hop music industry, so often have hip-hop artists attempted to appropriate the brand in very public ways.

backstage-kanye-west-louis-vuitton-1

But just because hip-hop loves Louis Vuitton, it doesn’t mean Louis Vuitton loves hip-hop. In 2008, the company (along with Gucci) stopped rapper TI from releasing a video for the song “Swing Ya Rag,” because the TI used the company‚Äôs products in the video without Continue reading

Shawn Lee: A Cool Rock ‘n Roll Dad

ShawnLee

Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, right? Wrong — for Shawn Lee, anyway. The hip rock musician is a devoted husband, dad, and vegan. Married for 13 years, the American ex-pat living in London takes his kids to school five days a week and is an avid drinker of soy milk to fuel his busy life recording and producing albums and film scores. And his music is both prolific and acclaimed: since 2000, he has released nearly two dozen albums, contributed to movie soundtracks such as Ocean’s 11, created music for brands such as Louis Vuitton and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, and scored soundtracks for games such as Rockstar’s Bully.

He is currently touring to support his latest collaboration with musician AM, the album La Musique Numerique — an eclectic blend of “electro soul” that received 4.5 stars (out of 5) from AllMusic.

The rock ‘n roll life takes its toll. He makes no bones about the fact that going on tour makes him miss his children and makes him feel guilty for “turning my wife into a single parent.” The demands of recording and touring made him miss his daughter Mela’s first birthday.

Continue reading

Meet the new face of luxury

Michellephan

Michelle Phan has been described as the next Michael Jordan of the upscale endorsement world. She’s a 23-year-old Floridian who has become a massive YouTube sensation with her video make-up tutorials and beauty tips As of June 2010, her 100 videos have been viewed more than 150 million times. And now she is a video spokesperson for Lancome. Never heard of her? I had not either until I attended an Advertising Week panel on how luxury brands are attracting the coveted Generation Y audience. Michelle Phan was the star of the show even though she was not even in the room.

The panel, “Attracting Generation Luxur-Y,” was hosted by my Razorfish colleague Joe Crump and featured Scott Galloway, founder of L2 Think Tank, Paul James, vice president of Starwood luxury brands like the St. Regis, and Kamel Ouadi, global digital director, Louis Vuitton. Although the panel covered a lot of wide-ranging territory, the discussion that resonated the most for me is how Gen Y is redefining our notions of luxury.

We often think of luxury as something unattainable and indulgent. But to reach Gen Y, luxury brands need to stand for authenticity, passion, and emotion. Hence Michelle Phan has become the new face of luxury. As Scott Galloway pointed out during the panel discussion, “For Generation Y, luxury is about real people using real products.” In calling her the “the next Michael Jordan” of the luxury world, Scott cited how her appeal stems from the fact that she is genuine and social, in many ways the embodiment of Gen Y. People love her videos because she is real. She uses only products that she is comfortable using in real life, and she is “one of us,” not a megawatt celebrity from the world of the unattainable.

Louis Vuitton brought “real people” into the fold with its Journeys Award to showcase the talents of emerging filmmakers. Participants were invited to create movies that defined what a journey means to them, whether an emotional or physical one. The short-listed movies all answered the question, “Where will a journey take you?” — not “What does our brand mean to you?” The winners enjoyed the cachet of becoming feted by Luis Vitton. And Louis Vuitton in essence recruited quasi-spokespersons who brought an air of authenticity and emotion to the Louis Vuitton brand.

Joe Crump mentioned that relying on lesser known people to tell their stories is a departure for luxury brands, who are traditionally proprietary in their use of spokespeople. The shift in thinking reflects an acceptance that Gen Y want luxury to be more attainable. Hence St. Regis has opened up its brand by encouraging visits to its restaurants and hotel services even if you are not ready to shell out the money to stay at a hotel, and its parent Starwood operates the high-end but more affordable Aloft brand. And both Louis Vuitton and St. Regis have made their brands more social — for instance, Luis Vuitton uses social media to broadcast is fashion show.

Real people using real products and having real experiences. As Scott pointed out, “All great luxury brands have spokespeople — they just have not met them yet.”

More about the panel here and here.

Skip the ad? Skip the story

Whoever complained about intrusive advertising hasn’t read the May 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, where the advertising eclipses the content. If you need any convincing, I give you the opening sentences of a head-scratching cover profile of Madonna:

“The world is a series of rooms, which are arranged like concentric circles, or rooms within rooms, joined by courtyards and antechambers, and in the room at the center of all those rooms Madonna sits alone, in a white dress, dreaming of Africa. To reach her, you must wait for a sign. When it comes, if you are pure of heart, you begin to move toward Madonna, and move fast.”

And the writing gets worse. Here’s what VF says about Madonna’s adoption of a child from Malawi:

Continue reading

Skip the ad? Skip the story

Whoever complained about intrusive advertising hasn’t read the May 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, where the advertising eclipses the content. If you need any convincing, I give you the opening sentences of a head-scratching cover profile of Madonna:

“The world is a series of rooms, which are arranged like concentric circles, or rooms within rooms, joined by courtyards and antechambers, and in the room at the center of all those rooms Madonna sits alone, in a white dress, dreaming of Africa. To reach her, you must wait for a sign. When it comes, if you are pure of heart, you begin to move toward Madonna, and move fast.”

And the writing gets worse. Here’s what VF says about Madonna’s adoption of a child from Malawi:

Continue reading