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Break Free from the Product Life Cycle

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Kotler, P. (2003). Positioning and Differentiating

Break Free From the Product Life Cycle

Youngme Moon

Harvard Business Review

Summary

A company must differentiate itself from others during the product life cycle by creating an image that demands attention and fosters unique brand awareness. Louis Vuitton is a company that continuously rejuvenates itself and has maintained a highly coveted brand for 150 years. A $1,000 monogrammed Louis Vuitton handbag is in such demand that it has spawned a multi-million dollar market of counterfeit products, most commonly referred to as "knock-offs." The demand is so high for these knock-off products that LVMH Moet Hennessy, owner of the brand, has a special team that works with international police organizations. Last year there were 6,000 raids by police, resulting in the arrest of nearly 1,000 counterfeiters (LV, 2005). The LV logo has become an icon in the designer luggage, handbags and accessories market. The words Louis Vuitton are the code for describing an internationally recognized and exclusive fashion empire.

LVMH Moet Hennessy's target market is aimed at women aged between 18-35 who have a love of fine design, and the taste for tradition and luxury. Louis Vuitton has maintained its lead in fashion through clever advertising in magazines like "Vogue" with print ads that focus on LV logo products as chic. In recent years the company has expanded is product line into ready-to-wear, shoes, watches and jewelry. Since 1998, Marc Jacobs has provided the artistic direction to develop and market these new collections. Tapping actress/singer Jennifer Lopez as a model was another key move in skewing younger and getting some zest in print ads. Clearly LVMH Moet Hennessy's market strategy is its high-quality and high-priced image which is promoted via elaborate packaging, exclusive distribution, and status symbol advertising. This ability to differentiate themselves from the crowded designer marketing place is why they continue to be highly successful and have significantly extended the product life cycle.

Relationship/Reference to the Text

Our text discusses the product life cycle and how companies must position and differentiate their market offerings throughout the cycle. Youngme Moon points out "there's nothing inevitable about the product life cycle. Marketers are disrupting it by redefining the boundaries between product types. In the process, they're rejuvenating categories and creating whole new markets (Moon, 2005)." A great example of this is Louis Vuitton, a trunk-maker in Paris since 1854, who became a legend in the art of travel by creating luggage, bags and accessories as innovative as they were elegant and practical. A century and a half later, the LV logo lives on. Strengthened by its international renown, Louis Vuittion is personified by the Monogram canvas product line, which has enjoyed great success since 1896 and played a key role in the development of modern luxury. Innovation shapes the story of Louis Vuitton and how they have reinvented themselves time and again.

Why are designer brands like Louis Vuitton so coveted? Designer branding is deeply anchored in psycho-sociology; it takes into account both tangible and intangible attributes, e.g., functional and emotional benefits. Therefore, those attributes compose the beliefs that the brand's customers recall when they think about the brand in its context. Image psychology plays an important role in Louis Vuitton's Vogue magazine advertisements. For example, a recent two page ad shows a blonde woman very smartly and immaculately dressed and carrying luggage. She appears to be boarding a train at a deserted train station with a mountainous background. The woman covers most of the right page, which also features the brand name Louis Vuitton, whereas the left page shows the rest of the train station platform and reference that the products the women is wearing is sold exclusively in Louis Vuitton stores. In short, the ad is intended to point out that by using and wearing Louis Vuitton leather goods, shoes and accessories, the woman is making a statement, one which connotes a classy and chic lifestyle. In addition, that the woman is successful, mature and sophisticated (Vogue, 2003).

LVMH Moet Hennessy has also used events and sponsorships to build its brand image. The main ones are the Louis Vuitton Classic, which is an annual automobile collector's event, with cars from all over the world. Another is the Louis Vuitton Cup, which decides the challenger for the America's Cup, the most prestigious trophy in international yachting. Both of these events focus on high quality with an international theme, which clearly

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