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What will Marco Bizzarri’s exit mean for Gucci’s innovative strategy and what does it imply for its content strategy?
The FSW team explores the post-Bizzarri landscape and what's next for the Italian luxury giant Gucci.
In a move that has surprised markets, Kering announced that Marco Bizzarri will step down as Gucci CEO after over 8 years at the brand. This feels like a shot out of the blue as Kering affirmed an extension of his contract this past January. This may contribute to a sense of uncertainty at the brand as it comes so soon after the departure of Alessandro Michele last November. It will also certainly give rise to questions about Kering’s plans for Gucci and its desire to stay the course that Bizzarri trailblazed in putting the brand at the center of a wide variety of web3 activations and leading the industry into the metaverse.
Bizzarri led Gucci to a strong period of growth
From a business development perspective, Bizzarri’s tenure has been a success though there were struggles in recent years. After his appointment in 2015, Gucci posted revenue growth in excess of 30 percent for five consecutive quarters up to 2018. The brand contributes to around half Kering’s annual revenues and helped drive a 95 percent increase in Kering’s share price over the past 8 years. However, the brand has grown more slowly than other brands over the past few years. In particular, it has not benefited from the post-Covid surge in luxury demand that has lifted brands across most of the industry. Gucci’s organic sales were up only 1 percent in Q1 2023 as compared with 18 percent growth for fashion and leather goods at LVMH.
Gucci has been a luxury pioneer in web3 under Bizzarri
Yet, recent growth rates aside, Bizzarri led a big turnaround at Gucci that in the past few years has included a heavy lean into web3. Gucci was the first luxury brand to host a metaverse experience in The Sandbox. In October 2022, it launched a wide-ranging Sandbox experience that included experimental space for NFTs, vintage items, and emerging creators. Prior to this, Gucci collaborated with SUPERPLASTIC in February 22 to launch a series of NFTs that featured a mix of Gucci patterns with SUPERPLASTIC’s animated characters. And perhaps one of the most famous NFTs collections in the world that included Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and their affiliated collections: World of Women, Cool Cats, The Wolf Game, and others.
The publication’s favorite of Gucci’s many activities in the web3 space was the creation of Gucci Town, an instance in the virtual Roblox world. We loved this instance as it was choked full of content, including material about the brand, its history, and the work of Alessandro Michele. Looking a bit like an Italian piazza, the instance also gave users the chance to play Gucci-themed games and, of course, purchase Gucci merchandise that would be worn by your avatar across many other Roblox experiences. Most shockingly, in May 2021, Gucci sold a digital version of its Dionysus Bag with Bee for $4,115, which was $715 more than the “real” version. Bear in mind, that this was a Roblox purse, and not an NFT, and it has up to now no transferability outside of the Roblox world. That’s a serious amount of brand buzz.
So what happens to Gucci’s strategy now and what does it imply for content strategy?
The unexpected departure of Marco Bizzarri will raise questions about Kering’s plans for Gucci’s future role of a first mover in the web3 space. It is much too soon to have any definite opinions as, after all, Alessandro Michele’s successor, Sabato de Sarno, will not debut his first Gucci collection until Milan Spring/Summer 2024 in September. In the past, Kering has been supportive of Gucci’s web3 initiatives and perhaps it is hard to imagine the value of changing course, particularly given the brand’s lead as a true industry leader. However, Gucci’s engagement in web3 has come at a time when it has struggled to keep up with competitors. This is probably correlation and not causation, but the transition past Bizzarri may well lead to a discussion of the value of being an innovator if it is not converting to sales. This would lead to a much wider discussion on the value of luxury being involved in the metaverse, NFTs, and other innovative platforms for creating communities with their Gen-Z and Gen-Alpha consumers, who drove all of the industry’s year-on-year revenue growth in 2022. Yet, we will see.
From the perspective of content strategy, the industry’s move into web3 has been a success. The Gucci you feel IRL felt like the same Gucci in The Sandbox. Gucci used its Roblox instance to teach consumers about the brand, not just to fill the space with their logos. The benefit of having a content strategy in place is that content can remain on-brand and consistent across IRL and digital channels. A content governance plan allows good content decisions taken today to guide good decisions in the future even when key personnel change. (Here is our Journey Map of Gucci.)
So we expect that Gucci will continue to put out a strong and consistent branding strategy in the months ahead. But Gucci will remain a brand to watch with so much transition and transformation happening all at once.
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