The LV Livestream Fiasco: Is the King Naked?

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On last March 26, Louis Vuitton did its first ever livestream on Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book) with KOL Yvonne Ching (5.9 million followers), dressed in the newest LV summer collection, as the host. This one-hour long livestream included a demonstration of the host’s outfit and an interview session with a guest celebrity, Chinese actress Zhong Chuxi (5.3 million followers). All along Yvonne Ching reminded viewers where they could purchase the items displayed.

Louis Vuitton first livestream on Little Red Book

This informative livestream on a platform where LV has over 130 000 followers saw a very positive engagement of 152 000 page views but was followed by an internet storm: “totally inconsistent with the brand’s image”, “I can’t believe the livestream is hosted by LV” and “the setting looks cheap to me.”

As a result, both KOLs have removed the relevant posts from their page and the official playback of the livestream is untraceable on the Red LV account. This is a true internet fiasco. Why this fiasco?

Why this fiasco?

It is the consequence of perception clashes and of a fundamental mistake made by the brand.

On one side you have the perception of livestream by the brand: livestreaming is the new hot channel that allows brands to relate directly with their customers – 100% sales focused. All brands whether mass or premium now use livestreaming in China – and the coronavirus crisis has strengthened this trend in a period where stores were closed, and customers contained at home. Livestreaming is nothing new: in the US and in Europe the equivalent has been home TV selling channels like QVC or HSN. Many premium beauty brands like Clarins have entered the US market via such channels and even Sephora had for a long time a show on HSN. One should not forget that the perception of livestreaming (and of TV home selling channels) by customers is that it is “cheap” and suits mass brands (and some premium brands if well done).

Livestreaming is key to building what brands are all looking for: authenticity. This has a unique goal: show customers that the brand is not just advertising but is trying to share a unique moment with them. One of the greatest recent successes in brand livestreaming is when Nike in its #Breaking2 campaign (for what was in fact a product launch) showed itself as the enabler of an incredible feat – Eliud Kipchoge being the first man ever to run the marathon in under two hours. This is what we do in our family niche perfume brand Le Jardin Retrouvé when we livestream from our Experience Store in Paris, allowing customers that do not plan to come to Paris to visit our Lab and visit the hidden Experience Room that is entered through a cupboard.

Simultaneously luxury brands are perceived by customers as in a different world than theirs: luxury brands are aspirational and authentic by nature. Luxury customers are willing to pay for the dream that luxury brands have been building for decades. Customers consider that authenticity – that is quality, know-how, heritage – to be part of the DNA of all luxury brands. Moreover, luxury brands are structurally at a distance from their customers and have for decades built themselves with strong top-down communication.

But they are now faced with an enormous problem: in China their customers are Millenials looking for authenticity and proximity in brands. How can luxury brands tackle this? How can they both be themselves (distant and aspirational) and serve Millenials (looking for proximity)?

One of their answers is to go the Millenial way and adopt what Millenials love (in that sense the co-branding LV did with Supreme was a huge success). This led them to adopt livestreaming for instance but, instead of taking it to new heights, they delivered a very standard product the LV Xiaohongshu livestream (and then hid it!). This is a complete misconception of what their customers are looking for in luxury. Customers will never question the authenticity of luxury brands: it is a given. Millenial customers are looking for inspirational moments that showcase the brand’s DNA: livestreaming can be in a brand’s workshop sharing its know-how, it can be on a runway offering access to what is usually offered to a privileged elite.

It also shows a confusion between authenticity and proximity in the mind of the brand marketers that designed the LV livestream: they are quite distinct concepts and this confusion shows a very amateur marketing team which is quite surprising given LV’s track record when it comes to digital marketing.

Livestreaming should be done the way the luxury brand’s ads or corporate movies are: they are a channel where the brand builds its dream factor. It definitely is not in a warehouse setting with poor lightning – this kills the magic of the luxury brand and shows it naked, as a commercial brand interested in their customers’ money.