While many may not know the name Bernard Arnault, they see the empire built through his French luxury conglomerate LVMH. The empire controls over 60 subsidiaries that each manage a number of prestigious boutique brands. These brands fall under six branches that include fashion, wines & spirits, perfumes and cosmetics, watches and jewelry, selective distribution, and more.
As a billionaire entrepreneur who is the current chairman and chief executive of LVMH, Arnault has been named the second wealthiest person in the world. This is largely thanks to his ability to negotiate and understand his industry effectively with its constantly evolving trends.
This article will look at some PR and marketing strategies that Arnault and LVMH have used to become one of the world’s largest luxury conglomerates.
1) Mergers and acquisitions
LVMH’s success results from continued efforts to innovate, refresh, and otherwise find new ways to appeal to the new generation of customers. Arnault has done this while also maintaining his brand’s high-quality image to its older clientele. His entire multi-billion-dollar luxury brand has been based on growth and acquisitions as a result of market trends over the last three decades.
What started as a civil engineering company in 1971 shifted to real estate and became LVMH due to Arnault’s ability to see the big picture and not to remain static. His series of innovative strategies have kept his company relevant throughout its existence.
When he originally came up with the idea to create a luxury group, he faced skepticism from industry insiders. These critics argued that it just didn’t make sense to put together such a group since it had not been done before.
The first fashion brand to become part of the LVMH family would be luxury goods company Financiere Agache in 1984, the owner of Christian Dior, and department store Le Bon Marche. Arnault’s mother was fascinated with Christian Dior and the fact that its parent had gone bankrupt and the French government was looking for someone to save it. It is for this reason that Arnault realized this was the perfect move to begin his acquisitions at a relatively low cost. Arnault thought that the brand had much potential and was under-evaluated.
In the years that followed, acquisitions have continued until this point: wines and spirits companies, Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Hennessy, and many others. LVMH is also Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Christian Dior, Sephora, Tiffany & Co, and many more.
Even with a changing economy, there is a growing desire for high-quality products and an acceleration of buying power. For product launches to be successful, they need to fulfill a need and they need to be global as well. Due to their financial capability, Arnault and his team are creating increasingly desirable products and sell them worldwide.
2) Having the right team
The need for creativity and innovation is essential to a business, especially one like LVMH. Finding the right creative and unique individuals is the secret to success. Arnault’s real talent is his ability to speak to creative people and help them thrive under his management. He sees LVMH as a training group for creators of the future.
With the immense size of the LVMH Group, Arnault has teams of PR and marketing professionals who create products and content that can still draw audiences in. However, companies that do not have the reach of LVMH Group can create their content or outsource PR and marketing efforts to experts in the industry,
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“The success of the group is made of the quality of the product, and the quality of the product is a consequence of the extraordinary craftsmen and craftswomen that are working with us.” – Bernard Arnault.
3) Meeting a need/want
Since buyer personas are changing, and people around the world have suffered economic hardship, companies developing new products & services need to take special care to understand consumers’ wants and needs. Even in challenging times, there still seems to be a desire from a specific type of consumer to purchase high-quality products. One of those reasons being their understanding that they will get a product worth the investment they are putting in. In an interview done with CNBC International TV in collaboration with Credit Suisse, Arnault states that his business success can be attributed to creativity and organization.
These days, consumers are looking for businesses that share their ideals and have a high level of trust. By maintaining the quality of their products, even in a changing economy, LVMH can retain their existing clientele and continue to show customers that they are getting high-quality products through all their businesses.
4) Ability to look ahead
Despite the already large size of the company, Arnault has stated that LVMH is just in its beginning phases, and the future looks bright as it continues to be the head of the luxury sector. It is true that his strategy of rapid acquisition may have become trickier these days with consumers preferring smaller, more niche brands and brand owners preferring to stay independent. Even so, LVMH plans to continue working structurally in all areas to continue to grow. One of their new strategies is to invest in digital initiatives. This has become an absolute necessity for every company and brand around the world.
Their existing digital effort has included developing the “Aura” platform, which uses blockchain technology to track luxury goods and stop counterfeit products from entering the market. The platform was designed to provide robust tracking services to brands and offer tracing options to their consumers by giving them access to details regarding trends, designs, raw materials, manufacturing, and distribution.
5) Brand image and influencer marketing
Even before social media dominated our lives, Arnault and his team created campaigns that had the habit of appearing in popular media and culture. At the moment, few people in the world have not heard of the companies that fall under LVMH. This is because the LVMH team has effectively created a positive brand image for everyone around the world. They also used influencer marketing as a way to get the word out there about their brand. What’s more, they were doing this even before Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or Snapchat were a thing.
By building companies that reach all sectors, Arnault and his team have been able to target audiences that he would not have had been able to reach if he had stuck with his original business plan. LVMH has been aiming to reach a younger audience and a generation that seems less interested in product ownership. For this reason, they needed to jump on influencer marketing to reach that audience.
In 2019, they officially decided to extend their relationship with influencers by collaborating with YouTuber Emma Chamberlain and model Karlie Kloss to present the brand’s image through their social media platforms. This was a smart move. The LMVH team did their research. They knew that they needed to embrace influencer marketing as part of their communications strategies. The reasoning for this was presented in a study from McKinsey and Variety. This study showed that consumers who get recommendations from someone they trust and relate with are 50% more likely to lead to conversion. This study also showed that the younger generation identified more with famous YouTubers and social media influencers than with celebrities.
6) Learn from mistakes
In the interview with Forbes, Arnault states that he tries not to make too many mistakes. He remembers selling a business too early because he was impatient with its efforts. After owning the makeup business for five years, it wasn’t working well, and he decided to sell.
The lesson he learned from that experience is patience. He realized that rather than giving up on a business so quickly, it is essential to go back and better understand the industry. This is because it can take years for creative brands to achieve an attractive investment return (ROI). That patience led him to acquire Sephora, which started with only a few stores but has now become the largest distributor of prestige beauty products worldwide with close to $10 billion in sales.
Through time and research, LVMH acquired Sephora in 1997 and enhanced its distributorship to approximately 2,300 retail stores with over 30,00 employees operating across 33 countries. There are many sectors included under the LVMH conglomerate. Sephora currently sits in LVMH’s Selective Retailing division and their mission is to transform consumers’ shopping experience into a unique one. The division focuses on luxury products, in-store services, digitization, and personalization. At the moment, Sephora represents about 45% of LVMH’s business in the United States alone. It has continued pursuing expansion of its online presence globally.
7) Always behaving like an entrepreneur
Arnault states that LVMH’s most significant advantage is its dynamic entrepreneurial spirit. The group’s value has developed over time through complete dedication to creativity, quality, and entrepreneurship.
He has also stated that he always tells his team to behave like a startup to look for new ideas and change the business dynamic. This is excellent advice that Arnault has taken into account when creating his empire. If it weren’t for his curiosity, ability to look for new projects and build them up, he would not be the second richest person in the world.
8) Giving back
Along with his many successes in the business world, Arnault created the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation. This is a legally separate nonprofit entity that promotes art and culture. The building was designed and built by well-renowned architect Frank Gehry. Arnault wanted to create a place where people could go to support contemporary artistic creations.
Arnault has been an art lover for most of his life. His collection includes works from Picasso, Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, to name a few. Drawing from his love for art, he helped establish LVMH as a significant patron of art in France.
Arnault’s brand message is to search for and create opportunities for new designers and creative individuals. He and his daughter also developed the LVMH Young Fashion Designer. This is an international competition that is open to students from fine-arts schools. Since its creation in 2013, the LVMH prize celebrates young designers and is part of LVMH’s extensive corporate philanthropy program. It is also open to designers under 40 who are looking to create and expand their brand. The prize winner receives a year of personalized mentoring from the LVMH Group plus a 300,000-euro grant to help develop their brand with a focus on sustainable development, communications, intellectual property, and financial management. As a result of the current pandemic, they are continuing their search for young, new designers digitally so that everyone can stay safe while also doing something that can benefit their brand.
Barnard Arnault is the epitome of a businessman continually looking to the future to continue developing his brand. While he states that he is not one to make many mistakes, the mistakes he has made pushed him to understand the different industries his business falls under and how to make it work. He is adamant when saying that companies don’t become successful overnight. It takes a lot of time and effort to create the perfect brand image. Even though many brands that fall under the conglomerate have existed for such a long time, Arnault has been able to use modern PR and marketing strategies to stay relevant in a highly saturated market. There is no telling the future of LVMH, but it is clear that there is truly no stopping it either.