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Luxury brands go back to nature.

Luxury brands go back to nature

A mountain, a forest, a river and a basic wooden boat on which sits a make-up free and casually dressed Angelina Jolie, her unlaquered hair blowing gently in the breeze; if you want hard evidence of the latest trend in advertising, look no further than Louis Vuitton.

Its collection of handbags, clothing, jewellery, watches and accessories is among the most luxurious in the world, yet the company is advertising them using a 'back to nature' theme reminiscent of eighteenth-century Romanticism.

Its newspaper ad is simplicity itself; below the large picture of Angelina Jolie, Luis Vuitton bag by her side, is the line, 'A single journey can change the course of a life: Cambodia, May 2011' and an invitation to 'follow Angelina Jolie at'. The web page, which also takes up the 'back to nature' theme, contains a short message from the actress on the residual danger of land-mines in Cambodia.

In the a recent issue of The Marketer, Rob Gray traces this resurgence of Romanticism to the rise of TV programmes devoted to country themes and living the 'simple life'. He describes how marketers and advertisers are striving to capitalize on this trend, with campaigns devoted to uncomplicated aspects of outdoor living and leisure. The key to success in this type of campaign lies in credibility and authenticity, says Gray, particularly since Romanticism is closely bound with personal values.

The importance of credibility is not lost on food manufacturers and fast-food restaurants, many of whom are responding to the 'back to nature' trend by reformulating their products and menus to create healthier versions and positioning complete product lines as healthier alternatives.

In Voume 28, Issue 6 of the Journal of Consumer Marketing (published in 2011), Elyria Kemp and My Bui reveal that brand credibility, commitment and connection are essential in developing branding strategies for healthy brands. A credible brand minimizes risk and increases consumer confidence. When consumers believe that a brand is credible, and repeatedly purchase it, they can develop a commitment to the brand.

In contrast, consumers are likely to turn away from a brand that has no history of commitment to healthy eating and simply seems cynically to be exploiting the trend towards healthier alternatives for market gain.

In Volume 32, Issue 6 of the Journal of Business Strategy, (published in 2011), Patrick Marren takes up the theme of authenticity, which he believes particularly preoccupies the upcoming generations – Gen X and the Millennials. How authentic, he asks, is coffee-chain Starbucks? On the plus side, it is attuned to the interests and desires of young Americans and has a patina of social consciousness. But it is also an enormous, corporate, centrally controlled business. Its smallest coffees are named 'tall', while it uses the Italian 'venti' for its largest, 20-ounce size – despite the fact that the Italians do not use ounces as a unit of measurement and certainly do not drink coffee out of large paper cups. Mixed reviews for Starbucks, then – but an important message for firms of all sizes and types. 'If you are not thinking about achieving authenticity when you are making strategy for the future, you may be in trouble sooner than you think,' warns Patrick Marren. 'The Millennials are in their twenties already, and they are judging you.'