From 27th to 31st January, the Barcelona campus received Gilles Nakhle, a Professor and trainer at the TBS Business School in Paris, and a brand specialist and manager of international academic projects. In brief, Gilles Nakhle helps companies to propel or rejuvenate their brand strategy especially in the luxury and fashion industry. His long professional career has included many lectures as a guest speaker, and he now leads international projects related to communication, international and digital marketing, brand management, intercultural communication and social communication media.

This time, the workshop entitled Marketing Communications in the Fashion Industry  took place in Barcelona. The program, which is an optional part of the master’s degree course in Marketing Management & Communication that takes place on the French campus of TBS Business School, was attended by as many as 21 graduates of the School from different parts of the world: Cameroon, Canada, China, France, India, Italy, Iran,  Lithuania, Russia, Spain, Taiwan and Tunisia.

This is the third year in which Gilles Nakhle has visited Barcelona, so we asked him to tell us more about his experiences in that city, and about the workshop which he led.

What does the programme of Marketing Communications in the Fashion Industry consist of?

At first, this programme focused more on communication and events in the fashion industry. Then I wanted to widen it a little, and to introduce everything that could possibly be connected with marketing and communication. First, the programme gives an introduction to the fashion industry, studying its evolution and characteristics. We also discuss the strategies that are normally used in communication, and which are closely related to marketing. Theoretically, these are two very similar aspects, but when we apply them in practice, they are very different. We also talk about the differences between fashion and luxury, because these two terms are commonly confused. To end the course, we present the latest trends in fashion in the field of communication, including digitalisation, technology, social networks and ‘influencers’. 

If you had to highlight any particular feature of the course, what would it be?

That every day we benefited from the collaboration of specialists in sub-sectors, such as cosmetics and perfume, who gave us talks and workshop sessions dealing with their own fields of work. For example, Romain El Hage, a social media consultant in the field of fragrances, and Diane Blanquart, an international trainer and specialist in personal selling in the cosmetics sector, who presented L’Occitane Group.

We are also planning an activity consisting of visiting shops, evaluating them from the purchaser’s point of view, analysing the experience of purchasing, and then pooling and comparing our experiences. The students choose the shops that they want to visit, for example, Versace, Loewe, Chanel, Dior and Massimo Dutti. Two of them will have to be Spanish, so that the students can more closely study fashion in Spain, distancing themselves a little from the traditional luxury brands. Moreover, many of the students will have never visited this kind of shop, so it will be a good opportunity for them.

Barcelona is a city that is closely involved with the fashion and beauty industry. In what way does the city stand out in this area?

I come from Paris, which I regard as one of the best cities in the world, though it is not the only one. Each city offers different things. For example, London is more for street wear, whereas Barcelona is more for the world of fashion in general, which means that it includes luxury brands and fast fashion. For students, what is interesting about Barcelona is that they can also discover a way of life and different ways of offering the same service. The fact that Barcelona is also smaller than other European cities means that one has more time available, and this has an effect on service. 

Another factor to consider is the greater accessibility of the shops. In this sense, perhaps, Paris is more intimidating. So the students will have the opportunity to discover a delightful city – for many of them, it will be their first time in Barcelona – and to learn about its culture, its history and its people as part of a unique educational experience.

We know that the subject of your thesis is Luxury Brand Experience and Millennials. In a world in which social networks, Millennials and ‘influencers’ are some of the main communicators, what is their role in the world of fashion?

The impact of ‘influencers’ on consumers’ perceptions and purchasing intentions is evident. We know that they are important, but are they all equally important? I don’t have all the answers yet, but I believe there are many ‘micro influencers’ who don’t help at all in this way, but are simply ‘there’. In any case, many of them are selling well. These are sales based on recommendation; they recommend products to their followers, who, in turn, communicate among themselves. So in order to be successful, an ‘influencer’ must be correct. And converting followers into buyers is not an easy task at all. 

There are many people who regard themselves as ‘influencers’, but having thousands of followers does not make you one. We could say that it is now easy to become an ‘influencer’, so we must ask ourselves what this influence really consists of. In fact, most ‘influencers’ merely say positive things about brands. I have never heard one criticising a product or saying something bad about it. There are many questions that we should ask ourselves about this subject.

More personally now, could you tell us a little about the brands with which you have worked?

At the moment I am collaborating with a luxury brand whose objective is to reach the Millenials without impairing the brand’s original image. This work is complicated, because one must never forget the essence of the brand, an essence which it is difficult to blend with the preferences of Millennials.

I am also working with an Italian brand of luxury articles and accessories, hand-made, mainly from skins. They have their own portfolio of customers and have been very successful working in business-to-business. The challenge now is to have the same result in business-to-consumer, and to do that, we are considering whether or not to collaborate with ‘influencers’.

That must also be an arduous task…

It is very difficult to get a brand to reach mainly young people. Put simply, this is because Millennials are not very loyal, and are constantly changing from one brand to another. If there is something which they don’t like, they have an enormous sector of brands with which to match their tastes or preferences. The result is that ensuring that a customer returns has become a challenging task. First, you have to capture their attention in the right way, because Millennials are a tremendously intelligent generation, and they know that there is a reason why this particular brand is seeking their attention. Then you have to retain their loyalty. 

Gucci is one of the brands that have achieved that goal: it is capturing Millennials and its message has reached the younger people. Many other brands are also achieving this, thanks to technology, ‘high tech’ and mobile applications. In fact, we are making a live video-call from NYC with the fashion tech & innovation consultant Ryan Clott, who is going to speak to us about digitalisation and the impact of the Internet on fashion. 

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