Mass vs. Class

At the risk of covering that which has already been discussed elsewhere, I was fascinated to read about and see the Cartier ‘brand film’ over the weekend.

I read first about it on The Times app at the weekend. The article implied that TV was too mainstream to fit with a luxury brand, although of course leaving the reader to form his (or her) own opinion. I’ve seen this point of view elsewhere, suggesting that for such a high-end brand, TV can dilute the equity.

Cartier’s riposte to that challenge was interesting, namely that the brand is telling its story through a film, rather than doing anything so sordid as advertising through a traditional TVC.  It’s a tricky line to walk for any luxury brand: mass vs. class. TV, with all of its failings, when properly used affords the opportunity to brand build and to tell that story. Of course the Internet and cinema do this as well. But both are still sufficiently mass market and mainstream that even at their most targeted you cannot connect only with those who are proper candidates for an exclusive club.

So, if brands are left without a mechanism to truly tell their stories through some kind of film, what can they do? Print and some post codes for out of home in the traditional media arena are practical choices. Telling the story here is possible, although possibly more difficult than with film. Sponsorship remains a favourite, too, although more often for men’s than women’s brands. But does sponsoring the America’s Cup tell the brand story or merely imbue the brand with the values of the sport? It’s a tricky one. Of course there’s that other favourite, celebrity association. A beautiful and popular person… what could possibly go wrong? (Ahem.)

So, can luxury brands really use TV? Quite frankly, I don’t see why not, with the proper execution. The same goes for cinema and even mainstream web channels. Of course it’s fraught with difficulty, but what isn’t? It makes life more interesting (or maybe that’s just me). I think it’s in the execution: The quality of the film, the integration of the brand, the differentiation, the relevance of the message, and the overall engagement all play a role. I may, sadly, not be a Cartier customer (I am only a market researcher after all), but I’m intrigued, engaged. In fact, I might be bending my husband’s ear about my birthday present, even if my birthday’s not for a few months yet.

And, going back to the original discussion, is there really a difference between a ‘brand film’ and a TVC? Does it really matter? At the end of the day, the success of any execution – be it a 3-minute ‘brand film’ or a 20-second TVC – is the quality of the creative, including that differentiating relevance and brand fit. If the Cartier Odyssey ticks those boxes, and I think it does, I say call it whatever you want.

Tara is a Research Director at Ipsos ASI.

  • paul c-c

    If you’ve a compelling ‘brand’ story to tell you can utilise any medium. I fail to see what the Cartier story is from this execution though.

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