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Why luxury brands are now in love with influencers

To attract more millennials and post-millennials, big labels are joining hands with people who can steer the online conversation

South Korean K-pop band BTS at the 2020 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
South Korean K-pop band BTS at the 2020 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Mixing high- and low-cost styles is a well-worn fashion trick, and Korean pop sensations BTS are taking the approach to a whole new level in marketing deals announced this week.

After first agreeing with McDonald's to promote a new meal selling for just over $6, the six-strong boyband have also been named brand ambassadors for Louis Vuitton, the purveyor of handbags that sell for well above $1,000, reports Reuters.

The Grammy-nominated South Korean group, which now releases English-language songs too, has topped the album charts several times in the US.

Louis Vuitton, the biggest sales driver at French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, already works with a roster of celebrities to promote its wares, from actresses Emma Stone and Jennifer Connelly to actor and singer Jaden Smith.

Many brand ambassadors have starred in advertising campaigns but also popped up in the front row at fashion shows, helping drive buzz on social media, a marketing avenue top luxury brands have invested heavily in.

According to the Reuters report, Asia, and especially China, where K-pop is also popular, provides major markets for luxury brands, and has fuelled sales bounces as covid-19 restrictions ease. Louis Vuitton's menswear designer Virgil Abloh, known for his streetwear-style creations and who is friends with hip-hop star Kanye West, said the BTS partnership added "a modern chapter to the House, merging luxury and contemporary culture".

Luxury brands have not traditionally liked working with so-called influencers who represent other labels that do not fit with their high-end image, although the boundaries between sports and fashion for instance is starting to blur.

"As disparate as their businesses might seem, McDonald's and Louis Vuitton share a need to onboard new generations of consumers," Carol Spieckerman, president at retail consultancy Spieckerman Retail, told Reuters.

LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault and Tod’s founder Diego Dalle Valle are, meanwhile, further cementing their 20-year friendship with a deal for the French group to increase its stake in the Italian luxury goods make, according to an AP report. Shares in the Italian luxury footwear and fashion group Tod’s jumped by more than 10%, to 39.02 euros Friday on news of the 75-million-euro ($90.5 million) deal.

That’s well-above the per-share price of 33.10 euros that LVMH, a longtime investor in Tod’s, agreed to pay for 2.25 million shares, representing a 6.8% stake. The deal finalizes on 28 April.

The Tod's deal got more expensive after the Italian group added popular social influencer and brand founder Chiara Ferragni to its board earlier this month, boosting shares by 12% as it signaled its intent to target younger buyers.

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