SEMIOTIQUE EN LIGNE DE L’HISTOIRE ET DE L’HERITAGE DES MARQUES DE MODE LUXE

Publié le

23 setembre 2015 – Anne-Flore Maman Larraufie (Directrice de SémioConsult et Professeur à l’ESSEC)

Résumé:
Il existe peu de recherche académique sur les différentes stratégies utilisées par les Maisons de luxe pour communiquer via leur site Internet sur leur histoire (même si récente) et leur héritage, que leur site soit transactionnel ou institutionnel. Les seules études que nous avons pu identifier sont sectorisées : l’automobile de luxe (Wiedmann et al., 2011) ou le secteur horloger (Baum, 2011).
L’objectif de la présente étude est justement de combler ce vide de littérature, en identifiant les divers ‘signes’ utilisés par les marques de luxe pour communiquer leur héritage et leur histoire à cette audience globale. Par ailleurs, il paraît intéressant de comprendre si différents systèmes sémiotiques sont utilisés par les marques de luxe françaises et italiennes, ou si d’autres variables telles que l’ancienneté influencent les signes utilisés pour communiquer.

Abstract:
We raise the issue of a lack of academic research regarding how such Maisons communicate about their history (even if short) and heritage on their website, be it an institutional or a transactional one. The only studies we have found deal with the automotive sector (Wiedmann et al., 2011) or watch one (Baum, 2011), the second one being a Master’s thesis.
It is the objective of the present study to fill in this gap, and to uncover the various ‘signs’ used by luxury brands to communicate their heritage and heritage to their worldwide audience. Besides, we wanted to understand whether different semiotic systems were used by French vs. Italian luxury brands, and whether other variables such as the place of origin or the ‘age’ of the Maison would lead to different signs.

Article complet:

THE ONLINE SEMIOTICS OF HISTORY & HERITAGE OF FASHION LUXURY BRANDSAN EXPLORATION OF THEIR WEBSITES

Anne-Flore Maman Larraufie, SémioConsult & ESSEC, France1)

Clémence Freuslon, INSEEC, France2)

Luxury consumption is intrinsically related to unusual expectations from the consumers, among which some are equally shared around the globe. For instance, Europeans, Americans and Asians claim that luxury products should be flawless and their producers (i.e. the luxury brands) should have some history and heritage (Wiedmann et al., 2007). What they put behind these two last notions can fluctuate, but they are systematically stressed out in studies, be they academic or applied, qualitative or quantitative. Therefore, it sounds fundamental for the luxury Maisons to communicate on their heritage and history (Wiedmann et al., 2012).

While until the end of the XXth century brands could rely upon different message content and copy to do so, due to localized options of communication, the Internet has implied to complete revision of their approach. The Maisons’ websites, even if available in different languages, are unique platforms to showcase the brand’s history, ambience and offering to a worldwide audience. They should be able to reach consumers, both cognitively and emotionally, recreate the store atmosphere, while simultaneously stimulating some desire to discover new collections. They stand for an open-window on a boundary-free world, be it from the geographical or from the time point of view.

However, as pointed out by academics and professionals from the very beginning, the road is paved with risks, especially in terms of brand image management (Geerts & Veg-Sala, 2012). This comes from the apparent non-compatibility between luxury and the online environment. However, such discrepancies have led to a complete redefinition of the luxury concept, with its new semiotics economy (Maman & Kourdoughli, 2014). Part of it is ‘heritage and history’, with little surprise.

We can therefore raise the issue of a lack of academic research regarding how such Maisons communicate about their history (even if short) and heritage on their website, be it an institutional or a transactional one. The only studies we have found deal with the automotive sector (Wiedmann et al., 2011) or watch one (Baum, 2011), the second one being a Master’s thesis.

It is the objective of the present study to fill in this gap, and to uncover the various ‘signs’ used by luxury brands to communicate their heritage and heritage to their worldwide audience. Besides, we wanted to understand whether different semiotic systems were used by French vs. Italian luxury brands, and whether other variables such as the place of origin or the ‘age’ of the Maison would lead to different signs.

To reach this goal, we used a two-pronged approach. First we gathered data from 56 websites of fashion luxury brands, using an inductive approach of content analysis (Kim & Kuljis, 2007). A coding grid was thus built while data was collected, with a back and forth coding process. We also built upon the Gestalt principles to ‘judge’ whether the websites were more focused on 1) current fashion trends, 2) the brand itself or its designer(s), 3) the products offered, or 4) the past of the brand. A first researcher built the grid and filled it in, while a second one directly used the grid for coding. The two coding outcomes were confronted and discrepancies discussed until agreement was reached.

Then, major trends and clusters were identified from the data, leading us to understand the various sign-systems used by the Maisons, using Peircian semiotics.

We end-up our study with theoretical conclusions regarding the online communication of luxury fashion brands, and with practical recommendations for luxury brand managers.

Keywords: online luxury, history & heritage, semiotics

Reference

Baum, L. (2011). The Communication of Heritage, Master Thesis.

Geerts, A., & Veg-Sala, N. (2012). Gestion de la cohérence des récits des marques de luxe sur Internet: étude sémiotique et analyse comparée des secteurs de la maroquinerie et de la joaillerie. Revue Française du Marketing, 233, 3-19.

Kim, I., & Kuljis, J. (2010, June). Applying content analysis to Web based content. In Information Technology Interfaces (ITI), 2010 32nd International Conference on, 283-288, IEEE.

Maman Larraufie, A. F., & Kourdoughli, A. (2014). The e-semiotics of luxury.Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, (ahead-of-print), 1-12.

Peirce, C. S. (1902). Logic as semiotic: The theory of signs.

Wiedmann, K. P., Hennigs, N., & Siebels, A. (2007). Measuring consumers’ luxury value perception: a cross-cultural framework. Academy of Marketing Science Review7(7), 333-361.

Wiedmann, K. P., Hennigs, N., Schmidt, S., & Wüstefeld, T. (2012). The Perceived Value of Brand Heritage and Brand Luxury. In Quantitative Marketing and Marketing Management (pp. 563-583). Gabler Verlag.

Wiedmann, K. P., Hennigs, N., Schmidt, S., & Wuestefeld, T. (2011). Drivers and outcomes of brand heritage: consumers’ perception of heritage brands in the automotive industry. The Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice19(2), 205-220.

1)1) annefloremaman@gmail.com

2) ‘clemence.freuslon@inseec-france.com

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