High fashion marketing has been based for years on impressive sales spaces, gala events, cooperation with celebrities, and more than anything — print advertising.

The glossy pages of fashion magazines and their art directors used to communicate the finest brand values, uniqueness, exclusivity, sensuality, charisma, style and luxury, in an aesthetically flawless manner. Fashion is first and foremost visual, and consumers often perceive aesthetics as the very point of differentiation for luxury brands. Print ad is not simply a beautiful image, but a picture consumers identify themselves with. It is who they want to be. On the other hand, the exclusivity, which enhances the attractiveness of the product in the eyes of consumer and desire for possession, is the second element of equation in which print is the right solution.

In an era of digital transformation, print has long held the primacy in media mix of luxury fashion brands. Everything is available on the internet – yet, luxury brands hesitate to play online, hoping to avoid losing exclusivity. And though in theory this might seem right, this logic neglects the most important element — consumer. A modern consumer of luxury fashion pieces is going to the store more seldom than ever, finding inspiration, recommendations and shopping opportunities online. Often in online editions of the same magazines. Inevitably, fashion brands shift budgets from print to digital. The latest research by ZenithOptimedia predicts digital as the dominant element of mix media, with 32.1%. This means that the budgets are dedicated to digital, with the increase of 837 million dollars, from 2015 to 2017.
A significant part of this increase is coming in fact, from print.

The biggest challenge facing these brands online, is communicating with consumers in a way to maintain and promote their core values. Emphasizing the visual dimension, opportunities for placing content arise on social media: brand-owned Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube or variety of brand ambassadors social media channels — of fashion bloggers and celebrities. Apart from the main goal, the image, there is also tactical one: sales.

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There are quite a few of successful examples of fashion houses which have understood well and in time, that digital is a way to increase distribution — not of products but – of content, to wider audiences. Those who tell stories of the brand in an appealing and relevant way, increase attractiveness and consequently, desire for shopping, online or offline. Gucci online store brought 100 million visits and a $19 billion turnover in 2015. Visually rich and simple, besides product and video content, delivers perspective from the catwalk directly — each piece is presented in the same way as it is presented in the fashion show. Burberry offers exclusive content on its social networks — photos of every piece from the collection, taken by famous photographer Mario Testino before the show, premiered in front of 100 million people via Snapchat. Each post on Instagram with over 10 million followers is created carefully and contextually. Because, as in print, it’s not about being present. It is about creating a fairy tale, bringing a dream closer, calling upon a magical feeling.

Print knows how to do it. Digital is an ambitious and powerful (team) player. A brilliant photo on glossy paper will still attract attention, but it is through digital that a consumer can see, hear and experience the magic and charisma of finest brand heritage in an affordable and impressive way, wherever it is.

After all, is there any better (or more beautiful) evidence for this than the Fendi 90 years project?

The article was originally published on Marketing Mreža, on July 22nd, 2016.