Welcome to the Louis Vuitton hotel. Louis Vuitton? Why not?
Here is a hotel in which every room is decorated with the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram. A hotel in which the LVMH group's top Champagne brands, Dom Pérignon and Krug, are served on arrival; the group's top Hennessy Cognac is displayed in the bars; and the staff members are dressed in the latest Louis Vuitton fashions and sport Louis Vuitton watches. This is a hotel that aims to make luxury a synonym for life.
The latest Louis Vuitton ad campaign, featuring Mikhail Gorbachev sitting in a limo beside a piece of signature Louis Vuitton luggage was a coup. The hotel may yet be a victory for the brand.
That's right. It hasn't happened yet. But when the hotel does enter the scene, Louis Vuitton will be one of the last luxury brands to express itself as the ultimate branded lifestyle.
Already, the Versace Palazzo in Australia, the Armani Hotel in the United Arab Emirates, and the BVLGARI Hotel in Milan have made their impact on the hotel business by pursuing the art of true experiential branding.
Some have been more convincing than others. But all of them have succeeded in demonstrating a new wave of branding that aims to occupy every minute of the customer's day with an unbroken theme of branded experience rather than the momentary brand rush of purchase.
Experiential brand building is taking on new and all-encompassing dimensions. IKEA, for example, is no longer just a flat-pack-furniture and homewares store. It's a construction company that builds IKEA houses, based on the IKEA promise of easy living and affordable design. When you buy an IKEA house, you get two days of complimentary interior decorating advice. Of course, the recommendations centre on which IKEA furniture and accessories to buy.
Then there's Martha Stewart's latest venture with KB Home that promises her devotees the perfect home. The kitchen design, the living room, the bathrooms and hallways are all designed in the spirit of Martha Stewart—plug-and-play ready for $250,000.
Welcome to the world of living branding—a new breed of 24/7 brands that are likely to occupy more and more of our lives, from our waking moments to when we retire to bed.
Disney was among the first to offer a branded holiday with the Disney cruise, followed by Disney tours to Paris, Rome, and Pisa, all guided by en expert named Mickey or Donald. Four Seasons Hotels will soon launch the Four Seasons cruise ship. And, years ago, the Ritz Carlton and Donald Trump concepts began offering branded lifestyle resort accommodation.
So have we reached the pinnacle of branded living? Or could this be another beginning? Branded living, or living branding, is a methodology that gives brands access to every detail in daily life.
What's to stop the approach making inroads on momentous events in life, from weddings to funerals? From birthdays to anniversaries? You can already buy coffins branded by the band KISS. And Harris Casino in Las Vegas now offers its VIP guests Harris-branded funerals.
So, it looks like this is just the beginning of a trend which will occupy and influence every aspect of life. Why's that? Because in a world where Paris Hilton attracts more media attention than Stephen Hawking, where superficial perception is more influential than considered fact, where the signals we send are more important than what's behind them, where success and acceptable values are tied up and reflected in materials and the constructed image, branded living makes sense.
The days of branded clothing, branded cars and branded drinks will soon seem very dated. In a world of consumption, we need more to stimulate our ambitions, aspirations, and self-image.
It's like an addiction. Once you've started, you can't stop. Once living branding becomes fashionable, it will become the norm, and then its precepts will run the show. Just like another fashion, our branded lives will be trapped on the never-ending treadmill of upgrades.
Suddenly it won't be enough to have an Armani house. You'll need the latest Armani, featuring the latest range of furniture, the latest themed scents and the latest color story. You'll be able to buy the house new, or upgrade your existing Armani house. The renovations will all be managed and carried out by the Armani Group, which will offer its services on a subscription-based arrangement. This will ensure that your life (style) never goes out of fashion.
We're not at this stage—yet. But everything indicates we're not far from entertaining the idea of living a truly branded life. A couple of months ago it was announced that the Armani Casa concept—a six-story building in the center of Milan—would soon be opening its doors in cities across the world. Armani Casa is a department store carrying everything from Armani flowers to Armani chocolates in addition to Armani furniture, stereo equipment, lighting, and, of course, clothing.
The vision of a truly branded life has become a reality. The brand is no longer a backdrop to life—it has become the star of the show. And the consumer has become merely a cast member.