A primer on luxury branding

A primer on luxury branding

Last week, the global law firm Dorsey & Whitney held an event at its New York City offices about Investing in Brand Value. Expert panelists weighed in on the importance of living your brand, the potential of dormant brands, and the benefit of learning about IP and trademark issues early on.

Among the panelists at the inaugural Dorsey & Whitney branding seminar was the CEO of the Air Paris agency Dimitri Katsachnias, whose team has, quite notably, been integral to the rebranding of such prestigious beauty and personal care lines as Laura Geller, Erbaviva, and Elizabeth Arden.  

In fact, Air Paris reworked the brand positioning of both Laura Geller and Elizabeth Arden only shortly before those brands were acquired by Glanasol and Revlon, respectively. (Read Cosmetics Design coverage of the Elizabeth Arden acquisition here.) 

Fashion and spirits

There is a lot of talk about technology transfer these days. Admittedly, much of innovation is nothing truly new but rather something wisely borrowed and cleverly adapted.  

Speaking at the Investing in Brand Value event last week were both Bertha González-Nieves, CEO of the luxury tequila brand Casa Dragones, and David Mason of Mason & Sons and the Anthony Sinclair brand. Neither entrepreneur works in beauty but both know a lot about building a successful company around a brand.

Mason takes great stock in reinvigorating dormant brands. He hand picks tailoring brands with legacy cache and celebrity clients that are on longer active, buys up the rights and reinvents them for the modern age. He’s even begun the project of moving custom British tailoring into ecommerce.

Mason took great pains to educate the audience at last week’s event about the fact that dormant brands aren’t always that dormant. He lost many years and an undisclosed (yet quite substantial) sum of money to litigation over the IP rights to the first brand he tried to awaken.

González-Nieves has built a premium spirts brand on both a heritage name and a patiently crafted product. Her insights on social media and her strategy for investor partnerships have resonance well beyond the tequila business. As González-Nieves explains, it the Casa Dragones “content strategy is led by what’s going on in the company.”

“We’re not creating our story,” say González-Nieves. “We’re telling our story.”

And when partnering with investors, she’s equally practical. Casa Dragones looks to bring more than just capital to the table, she says. The company looks for the “added value that comes with the capital,” like business connections or strategic platforms that are useful beyond the literal production of sprits, that help Casa Dragones make the most of, say, transportation and logistics.

Branding knowhow

Katsachnias shared his thoughts on what’s truly different about branding today, what has changed as digital culture and millennials have taken the reins.

Information, he believes, is no longer pyramidal; today's consumers aren't following a linear path where they encounter mass, prestige, and eventually luxury brands in there respective, distinct retail spaces. “Big brands need to reinvent themselves or simply create new brands,” say Katsachnias, because the current “consuming environment is different than ever before.”

Today, as Katsachnias sees it, “brands are understood by use not by concept. Communication with consumers is no longer in bursts. It’s continual.” And consumers care more about now (why something is relevant today) than about any company history, he says.

Legal particulars

Speaking from her vantage point as a partner at Dorsey, Sarah Robertson, who specializes in intellectual property assets for both the creative and consumer products industries, drove home the importance of carefully trademarking a brand and protecting IP assets.  

Robertson notes that legal protection for a brand matters early on in the lifespan of a business. The proper “legal underpinning comes with the [knowledge and] comfort that you’re not building a brand on quicksand,” says Robertson.  And, she adds, it can “save a lot of money later on.”

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