Louis Vuitton, as one of the world’s leading luxury brands, is also the largest brand in Mot Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH). Louis Vuitton started as a trunk maker in France over 150 years ago, and had expanded into one of the most profitable brands offering wide range of products in the world. Louis Vuitton enjoys tremendous success along with its development. It has maintained its heritage and has generated high customer loyalty. The ambitious global expansion of the brand has created a huge presence in the world. The collaboration between classic and modern elements have renovated the brand. On the other hand, Louis Vuitton also faces some challenges. It has always been working on how to fight counterfeit products without diluting the brand, and how to sustain its profits while competition in luxury industry is becoming more intense (Bloomberg, 2013).
This paper explores Louis Vuitton’s brand history in three perspectives: how Louis Vuitton started up and built a strong heritage as the foundation of the brand; how it developed rapidly and globalized during the golden era; how it further expanded and modernized in recent decades, and evolved into the flagship of LVMH and the most valued luxury brand in the world. This paper will go through the milestones of the brand and find out how a small family trunk making business grew up to the Louis Vuitton empire today.
Louis Vuitton was founded by Louis Vuitton in Paris, France over one hundred and fifty years ago. Vuitton used to be an apprentice who had superb skills on crafting boxes for packing clothes for royalty (Holborow, 2012). His box making skills and originality built up a strong foundation for him to start the Louis Vuitton empire. Louis Vuitton grew and thrived from crafting trunks. The increasing popularity of traveling during 19th century contributed to the success of Louis Vuitton. Vuitton’s trunks were made of canvas, which was light and durable, and he also transformed the dome shaped luggage into rectangle shaped. The popularity of travelling contributed to the success of Louis Vuitton. The rectangle shaped and canvas trunks that can be stackable were perfect for journeys and favored by many travellers (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013). The revolutionary trunk brought a huge success to Louis Vuitton’s family business and was widely known by people. Its innovative design and superior craftsmanship had already made Louis Vuitton become a symbol of luxury at that time. The legacy did not fade away after Louis Vuitton’s death replica louis vuitton bags , and the marvelous innovation and Discount Replica Louis Vuitton Bags spirit passed down to his son, Georgia Vuitton, who made the brand evolved into a global scale company (Holborow, 2012).
Louis Vuitton targets absolute and aspirational customer segment. Absolute customers look for brands that have its own heritage and superior craftsmanship, and pursue supreme luxury with premium price that ordinary people cannot afford; meanwhile, aspirational customers are upper class people who value the tradition of the brand and seek high quality designer replica handbags wholesale privilege in shopping experience. Both of these customers segments replica louis vuitton handbags favor products made in France because they regard products from France with a feeling of deluxe and exclusivity (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013). Since most of the products are made from China or other parts in Asia, they desire to own products truly from the origin of the brand and enjoy the exclusivity and uniqueness.
Louis Vuitton follows an approach driven brand strategy that delivers premium quality of products to its customers (Vincent, 2012). To this day, Louis Vuitton still insists in exquisite craftsmanship on its products. Louis Vuitton produces its products all in house, mostly in French factories, and has full control of its products from raw materials to finished products (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013). Louis Vuitton believes that this is the only way to maintain authenticity and uniqueness of the brand. Because its products are handmade by artisans, customers sometimes cannot get what they want right away, and customers could wait as long as five months to own a customized handbag (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013). Due to the characteristics of absolute and aspirational customers, they are willing to sacrifice their time and other better options in order to own Louis Vuitton products because they believe in real benefits, and treasure the exclusivity and authenticity offered by Louis Vuitton (Vincent, 2012).
Louis Vuitton’s approach driven brand strategy is also embodied in its limited accessibility that only sells products in particular channels. Instead of department stores and outlet stores, customers can only purchase Louis Vuitton products in its own high end flagship stores (Vincent, 2012; Nagasawa, 2008). Although many of the luxury brands enter the online marketplace and there are huge benefits from e commerce, Louis Vuitton does not rely heavily on online channels. It only established online channels in specific areas such as the United States and Europe. Louis Vuitton found that it was easy to dilute the brand when tried to approach a wider range of customers, and it might ruin the exclusivity enjoyed by its target customers (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013). Louis Vuitton wants to let its customers feel how valuable and exclusive its products are because of its limited channels. The long wait in exchange of the superior craftsmanship and the limited accessibility might be disadvantages of other brand; however, they are the heritage and uniqueness that Louis Vuitton’s target customers value for. Customers regard these privileges as intrinsic benefits provided by Louis Vuitton and differentiate themselves from ordinary people.
Louis Vuitton is also a lifestyle brand that customers have a high level of belonging (Vincent, 2012). Customers loyal to Louis Vuitton not merely because the premium quality of the products, but also because the everlasting heritage and elegant lifestyle of the brand. Louis Vuitton’s origin, which used to be a box maker for royalty, and its insistence on outstanding craftsmanship and top quality of materials provide a noble brand story, which makes many people desire to own anything from Louis Vuitton (Kapferer Bastien, 2012). The brand story matches customers’ lifestyle they wish to belong, and owning Louis Vuitton products is regarded as a proof that customers feel to be part of the exclusive society (Vincent, 2012). Louis Vuitton give privileges to its customers and treat them as distinguished guest in many perspectives. For instance, Louis Vuitton reserves private areas for customers who need privacy during shopping experience, and it also provides personal consultations for individual customers (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013).
Brand ideal is the ultimate goal of the existence of a brand, and Louis Vuitton’s brand ideal is described as “exists to luxuriously accentuate the journey of life” (Stengel, 2011). Louis Vuitton is rooted in endowing journey with romance and inspiration, representing luxurious and elegant lifestyle of customers. Louis Vuitton truly improves people’s lives through evoking customers’ pride to own Louis Vuitton products (Stengel, 2011). Louis Vuitton strives to master savoir faire, offer superb customer service and keep innovating in order to make customers loyal to the brand and maintain its longevity (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013; Veselinovic Soares, 2014). The exceptional innovation, insistence on excellent craftsmanship, timeless design, and limited accessibility build up the aaa replica designer handbags brand identity and heritage. Customers greatly align with the brand identity with themselves and loyal to the brand regardless of the price. And this is the key that Louis Vuitton stays on the top among luxury brand through decades and becomes a legendary brand.
After Louis Vuitton’s death in 1892, his son, Georges Vuitton, took charge of the company and led the company to its fast developing golden age. He continued the company’s tradition of innovation, expanded the company into the handbag industry, and built Louis Vuitton as a global luxury brand (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013). Innovation was the key to success in the fashion industry (Ramaswamy, 2003). It was Louis Vuitton’s most productive period. Most of the classical designs can still be found in today’s Louis Vuitton stores (Yazhgunovich, 2013). Among Georges Vuitton’s creations, the most notable one is the Monogram Canvas, which was designed in 1896 to limit counterfeiting and show authenticity. The famous flower motif monogram was inspired by the Japanese designs of the Victorian age (Paul Feroul, 2010; Yazhgunovich, 2013).
According replica designer handbags to Moon (2010), most companies adopt two ways to improve their products: augmentation by addition and augmentation by multiplication. Augmentation by addition means adding a new benefit to their products or strengthening a current benefit of the products. Augmentation by multiplication is to offer specialized varieties. This may lead companies in the same industry to be more and more similar with each other and eventually lose their competitive differences. Moon (2010) suggests companies to take other ways to be truly distinctive.
Louis Vuitton took both of these two ways to gain more market Designer Louis Vuitton Replica Handbags share: it created new high quality canvas for its products; it added five number combination locks to its trunks; it introduced a series of handbags for different purposes, et cetera. However, the company was not limited to these two approaches. Examples could be found throughout Louis Vuitton’s history. As we previously mentioned, Louis Vuitton started as a company dedicated to producing high quality trunks, and then moved into the handbag business. Nowadays, its products range from luggage, handbags, wallets, accessories, ready to wear clothes, shoes, watches, to jewellery (Kapferer Bastien, 2012). Instead of just focusing on product augmentation, the company always thinks beyond product categories and adds new categories to further satisfy consumers’ needs. In addition, rather than giving consumers discounts or selling in value packs like most luxury brands, Louis Vuitton tightly controls its prices and has no outlet stores and final sales (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013). Rather than reducing its advertising spending like other luxury companies, it increases its ad budget and puts its focus on print ads and billboards in major cities (Paul Feroul, 2010). In this sense, Louis Vuitton could be viewed as a reversal brand, which provides unexpected elements that others in the same category do not (Moon, 2010).
Georges Vuitton brought Louis Vuitton products to the United States in 1893. He displayed Vuitton collections at that year’s Chicago World Fair and traveled around the country to promote the products and the brand (Paul Feroul, 2010; Crossan Mahbubani, 2013). Since then, Louis Vuitton had gained a lot of popularity in the global market. In the following years, Louis Vuitton opened stores internationally in New York, Washington, Bombay, London, Alexandria and Buenos Aires (Paul Feroul, 2010).
The end of Louis Vuitton’s initial global expansion was marked by cheap louis vuitton bags from china uk the death of Georges Vuitton in 1936 and was caused by the Second World War. During the World War II, Louis Vuitton’s core business was forced to move from Paris to Berlin by the Nazis. Its former French factories were forced to shut down and its international business was terminated (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013).
After the Second World War, the business revived in a few years, but Louis Vuitton did not recover from its losses (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013). In 1977, the company had only two stores, one in Paris and one in Nice, which generated a revenue of US$14 million (Tagliabue, 2003). The creation of the lightweight luggage made replica louis vuitton fewer and fewer people in Europe want to buy high quality leather trunks. Henry Racamier took the challenge and took over the company at that time and started to change the company to make it more suitable for the modern world (Henry Racamier, 2003).
Henry Racamier took two approaches to overcome the challenge. First, he discovered that though leather trunks were no longer popular in Europe, luxurious leather trunks were a symbol of wealth and were desired by rich people in Tokyo, Taipei, and Seoul (Kapferer Bastien, 2012). Thus, he looked beyond the European market and opened Louis Vuitton stores in Asia (Henry Racamier, 2003). Second, Henry Racamier realized that the current problem with the company was not that Louis Vuitton products lacked buyers. The problem was the majority of profits from selling Vuitton trunks and handbags were kept by merchants. In order to gain this portion of profits and increase the company’s total revenue, Henry Racamier started to open company owned stores, bypass third party merchants, and sell Vuitton products to its customers directly (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013). This was the beginning of vertical integration for Louis Vuitton. 2). A complete vertically integrated company owns the right to control both its production methods and its distribution channels. Besides increased market power, vertical integration can help the company reduce potential risks and save costs and gain efficiencies (Ramaswamy dolabuy.su , 2003). In addition, vertical integration is especially important for luxury companies because they need to control their product quality and ensure 1:1 replica handbags their customer service (Delpal, 2011). Thus, more and more luxury brands have transformed themselves into vertically integrated companies.
Louis Vuitton believes in vertical integration (Ramaswamy, 2003). It has its own factories and manufactured all its products in its factories (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013). In 2010, the company owns 12 factories in France, 3 in Spain, and 2 production houses in the United States. It also has 4 workshops in Italy to meet consumers’ needs for special orders. For distribution, Vuitton products are sold only in Louis Vuitton stores. The company has 459 directly operated stores around the globe by the end of 2010 (Delpal, 2011). These stores are all designed at Louis Vuitton headquarters in France to communicate the brand’s French origin and to convey a consistent brand image (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013).
To further recover from the depression after World War II, besides switching the target customers of the leather trunks and applying vertical integration to increase profitability, Henry Racamier agreed to a merger. In 1987, Louis Vuitton, along with Mot et Chandon and Hennessy, formed the LVMH conglomerate, which has now become one of the leading luxury headquarters in the world (Crossan Mahbubani, 2013). Two years later, Bernard Arnault, who has been the chairman and Chief Executive Officer of LVMH, took over the control of Louis Vuitton from the Vuitton family, and concentrated on more profitable business development.
In this way, Louis Vuitton has then gone high quality designer replica handbags through its greater expansion in personal luxury industry. It augmented its product varieties such as designing handbags for men, promoting series of accessories including bracelets and pens. Around the same time, it continued its global expansion and opened its first boutique in China, which is estimated as one of the fastest growing luxury goods markets in the world (Tan, 2013). According to Crossan and Mahbubani (2013, p. 4), in 2011, “the sales in mainland China had grown by 30%” and it is still growing. As the largest brand under LVMH conglomerate, Louis Vuitton was no doubt the major reason that drove this growth in sales.
After Fake Louis Vuitton Replica Bags its ambitious growth globally following the lead of Bernard Arnault, Louis Vuitton now has more than 460 boutiques in about 50 countries, and it generates an annual sale around US$9.5 billion, which brings LVMH more than half of its annual profit (Wendlandt, 2013).
In 2013, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton’s former artistic director, declaimed his resign at the end of the Paris fashion show. Looking back upon his past 16 years at Louis Vuitton, he had tremendous brilliant designs, and there are some remarkable ones. Besides his introduction of “ready to wear” line for men and women, the Louis Vuitton scrapbooks and the Louis Vuitton city guide, his creative ideas of collaborating with famous artists to produce more innovative series brought Louis Vuitton new blood and vitality (Menkes Wilson, 2013).
Back In 2001, Jacob’s first collaboration with Stephen Sprouse, a fashion designer and graffiti artist, promoted a limited edition of monogram handbags with colorful and featured patterns or letters printed on them (Menkes Wilson, 2013). Two years later, his collaboration with Japanese modern artist, Takashi Murakami, contributed to another revision of traditional Louis Vuitton monogram handbags. The vivid cartoon images, cherry and cherry blossoms marked the new classic in Louis Vuitton’s design history, and led the trend in the whole fashion industry during that period. Jacob’s collaboration with Yayoi Kusama louis vuitton copy bags uk , another modern artist from Japan focused on bright colors and dots, which refreshed people’s views towards Louis Vuitton again.
It is hard to give a standard definition of beauty. As pointed out by Kapferer (2012, p. 18) in his book The Luxury Strategy, without putting words like “in my opinion” or “for me”, people should never define the meaning of luxury or whether a product is beautiful or not decisively. Though the products of these collaborations did receive a few critiques, the value behind them cannot be judged simply though the words “beautiful” or “ugly”. The innovative and energetic spirit brought by Marc Jacobs is what should be memorized and continued. As it is described on Louis Vuitton’s official website (Anonymous, 2013, para. 1), “Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs is a story of two personalities and their contributions to the world of fashion. Two innovators, both rooted in their respective centuries, advanced an entire industry. Two creators, each in his own language, appropriated cultural codes and trends in order to shape the history of contemporary fashion”.
In the past years, Louis Vuitton’s marketing strategies has focused on celebrity endorsement, collaborations with designers and advertising campaigns. However, despite of its insistence on its brand theme and products craftsmanship, it has somehow reached an embarrassing stage that its brand image is a little damaged by its past ambiguous expansions.
A recent analysis (Anonymous, 2014) reveals that LVMH has experienced a decline in both profit and stock price for its major brand Louis Vuitton has suffered from image problem. The booming imitators, visible and obvious brand logos and patterns, and more accessible brand level has caused the loss in Louis Vuitton’s brand value.
Kapferer (2012) points out the idea of “duality (p.15)” for luxury brands. The concept of luxury should fall into two aspects: “luxury for oneself and luxury for others.” This means that though in fact, Louis Vuitton is one of the most valuable luxury brands in the world, its image is becoming vulgar in some customers’ opinion. The visibility of brand logo and monogram does help enforce the brand theme, but to some extent, it opposes the idea of being low key, and as a result it is considered vulgar. At the same time, Kapferer also mentions that regardless of the perceptions from some customers, the actual value of this brand is still being recognized by the society, and this is the reason that people are still happy to receive a Louis Vuitton handbag as a gift. Clearly, the problem Louis Vuitton is facing right now is how to fix and protect its brand image by combining the continuous excellent craftsmanship, innovative design, and the expression of true luxury. Regarding this problem, Bernard Arnault announced that in recent years, Louis Vuitton would focus no more on opening new stores, but more on avoiding being commonplace (Wendlandt, 2013).
As mentioned earlier, customers of the personal luxury goods industry are divided into three segments: “absolute, aspirational and accessible (Cro.