The Drop culture
I thought I'd write about this new phenomenon coming from streetwear fashion brands, as it is now massively entering the luxury world. It's been well-documented already, but if you're in luxury but not fashion, then there is a chance that you are not yet familiar with it. Yet, it's proven to be a massive value, image, loyalty and advocacy driver.
If we go back to the definition, it says : "a drop is a limited release of merchandise, often as a marketing technique by streetwear fashion brands. Drop culture is the thinking, behavior, and community surrounding it."
One of the most emblematic brands that inspired all the luxury brands to then jump into that new thing would certainly be Supreme. Also, if you look at the music industry, that has changed and is changing so much, you will identify instantly some artists who have become experts at creating the excitement and surprise; what they do usually is that they drop a new album without warning, making it THE news of the day, THE thing that everyone wants to have a piece of, or an opinion on, right away.
The "Drop" is at the crossroads of many current trends and major groundswells happening today : the new luxury consumer, the Gen-Zers, entering the market ; the digitalization of luxury; the awakening of people to the waste and pollution that the fashion industry has represented for so long. As the "Drop" is usually a highly anticipated and advertised sale (to a hard-core community of a brand's best advocates/fans) of a very limited quantity of an exclusive product, what usually happens is that everything will be sold out in just minutes. No waste, nothing that stays on shelves, in stores or in warehouses for months. It implies a different way of producing those items (limited quantities = lack of scale = higher production costs) ie. a completely new way of thinking supply and collections - but, its inner value will reside in the very limited quantity and in the fact that it will target the brand's biggest fans, ready to pay a premium for a highly limited product. The product itself becomes a coveted object on the secondary and auction market - where it can be resold almost immediately for x times the price....
Of course, you could see it 2 ways : one could say that if that is the case then it means that as a brand you're certainly losing/missing an important part of the value chain .... but one could also argue that you're increasing the perceived value/desire of your brand in an accelerated way - as it's usually an amazing PR hook given the crazy amount of money that brand lovers / believers / investors are ready to pay for the articles. It's one of the most efficient way today to "make the news", on top of always-on stories.
As explained by JingDaily, "according to a recent report from Gartner L2, [it] ranked high-end brands with “the strongest digital performance within the current circumstances, both national and international,” and among them, two brands who experimented with drop retail models made this year’s cut. One is Louis Vuitton, which ranked number one on Gartner L2’s list." (note : the second is Burberry)
However, bear in mind : you can't fool that new generation of clients. If you're just trying to get rid of inventory, don't even try. The storytelling is key, and the audience will know if it's a true limited/exclusive product or not.
Interestingly enough, the luxury industry has been doing that for years in a way. However, the new thing here is that everything will be digital and immediate, amplifying the excitement and the reward. No queue in front of a store. One buys, one can resell almost immediately. The challenge for a brand then becomes how to make it as visible as when you had 300 people waiting in front of your stores for hours or days.
If there was a Drop Playbook, the rules of a successful drop could be (note: the following doesn't guarantee a successful drop, it's just a very personal take on what should be part of the equation should you consider it - but again, it has to be part of a strategy) :
1) Create sense of urgency
- a limited quantity (like, really. Not thousands. Hundreds, maybe.)
- a limited time (day and time announced ahead of the virtual event)
Credit : BSeries by Burberry
2) Choose your channel/platform/partner carefully
3) Visible by everyone but accessible to a few : if you want/can : reserved to a your best customers only. Reward your hard-core fans. Leverage the drop to build loyalty and advocacy. Some brands, by doing drops, have led to fans creating communities to make sure they wouldn't miss the next ones...
4) Think collab, with brands that share the same values or can be part of the same consumers' lifestyle.
5) Create the surprise, challenge your fans, make them want to earn the right to get access to it.
6) Rely on technology : the right social platforms and channels, but also AI to help you be spot on, everytime.
Sources & Additional reading
DTC brands & Drop culture (just thought I'd use this post to share my friend Charlotte's brilliant DTC brand Patine - Charlotte clearly understood the power of the drop before anyone else ---> check it out ! )
Forbe's "Digging into drop culture"