PARIS, France — Roughly ten days ago, François-Henri Pinault, chief executive of luxury and sportswear group PPR, which owns Gucci, Saint Laurent, Puma and others, announced that the company was embarking on a major rebranding and would change its name to Kering, a label meant to signify the company’s ‘caring’ approach to cultivating its brands as well as acknowledging the roots of the company in France’s Brittany region. ‘Ker’ means home in Breton.
The unveiling of the new corporate name, accompanied by an owl logo and a new tagline (“Empowering Imagination”), set into motion a multi-channel public relations campaign designed to communicate the change through a variety of initiatives. But first of all, why would PPR, a globally renown luxury goods group with many years of heritage and established brand equity want a new identity?
Historically, PPR (previously known as Pinault-Printemps-Redoute) was a holding company with a wide range of assets that was run much like a private equity firm. But starting in 2005, François-Henri Pinault began a major transformation that would turn PPR from what was effectively a financial company with no clear sector focus into an ‘industrial group’ made up of apparel and accessories brands across two sectors: luxury and sport.
“Luxury and sport is the same business. Fundamentally, it’s the same value chain. You create, you produce, you distribute; clothing and accessories. Different price points, different clients, but fundamentally the same business,” Louise Beveridge, Kering’s senior vice-president of communications, told BoF, when asked to explain the name change. “We still have a few assets which we need to sell, which is happening right now, but otherwise the group has completely changed shape, form, vocation and philosophy,” she continued. “The question then became: do we need to change the name?”
While the existing corporate brand lacked personality and a clear point of view, Kering is “a name which is closer to the reality of our business today, which reflects our way our doing business, which reflects a point of view, which becomes a point of differentiation and a point with which our employees can actually identify with,” said Beveridge.
Indeed, the rebranding not only reflects PPR’s transformation from a financial company to an apparel and accessories group. It’s also an attempt to crystalise and communicate a wider company culture. “The end does not justify the means. The way we do it is as important as what we do,” said Ms Beveridge. “When you hear ‘Kering’ it’s about the idea of care: that you take care of your brands, you take care of your teams. We create value by empowering imagination, our signature. We take something immaterial — imagination — which is absolutely fundamental to the luxury business and the sports business, and turn it into something tangible.”
The rebrand stands in stark contrast to the way rival luxury group LVMH has been portrayed in the media, especially vis-à-vis the company’s recent moves to build their stake in Hermès, which have largely been perceived as hostile. Indeed, just last week The Telegraph reported that “LVMH owner Bernard Arnault has spent two decades swallowing grand, family-owned brands on his way to becoming France’s richest man,” who has often been branded as “the wolf in cashmere.”
“[Kering’s] conception of value is very broad; it’s not narrowly financial,” Ms Beveridge continued. “What we’ve create here is not just a new name. We’ve created a brand platform. And it’s not just about caring, it’s about action. We don’t just care about sustainability, we have a team of experts on energy, biodiversity and so on, that works with our brands. We don’t just care about digital, we signed a joint venture with Yoox and we’re now building e-commerce platforms for all of our brands.”
Ms Beveridge said that Kering, like PPR, is a B2B brand, aimed at journalists, analysts, investors, NGOs and other business partners, like major buyers. “It’s the mall owners in China, the wholesale distributors of sports equipment in Germany… And then we have our existing staff and potential employees, so we have our employer brand, as well,” she explained. “In fact, there were a number of people who needed to understand what we did — was there any value-add from these 100 to 200 people who actually carry a Kering business card?”
In order to convince the company’s constituents that the answer is ‘yes,’ Kering is leveraging a wide range of paid, owned and earned media. “You may see it in the paper, then you may see it on the web. What matters is the repetition,” said Beveridge.
One of the components of the campaign is the surprising, if somewhat-scripted, video series by fashion blogger Garance Doré, whose voice is more B2C than B2B, making her an unusual choice for a luxury conglomerate which doesn’t traditionally communicate to end consumers.
“Online, there are no frontiers anymore. I know we are telling a B2B story to a B2B audience, but when you’re using the digital space and social networks as part of your distribution channel for your story, you can’t actually draw the line between where does B2B stop and B2C start. It needs to work and it needs to be viable and it needs to be interesting on the social networks,” explained Beveridge.
“There is no point putting something boring, corporate, overly produced onto social networks. Garance also knows the sector, she knows how to ask the questions, she knows how to produce the film — she knows how to put together good stories for the digital space and social media and she has followers online. That’s essential.”