Analysis of the Market Positioning Strategies of Yves Saint Laurent

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Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) is one of the most popular luxury brands across the globe. The French brand which commenced its operations in 1961 has been attributed to modernisation in all their products. Since its early years, the brand sought revolutionization of the socio-cultural environment and modernisation of fashion. Over the year, YSL has kept to its identity, a strategy which has made it one of the most prominent fashion house in the modern world. As such, this report will focus on the provision of a detailed analysis of the brand’s market positioning strategies as well as the macro and micro-environment forces which affect its operations.

Background information

Market sector and competitors

In the current years, YSL is in the lifestyle and retail sector operating as a luxury brand. Within this sector, YSL competes with many brands, mainly those in the French market and from Gucci Group. Some of the primary competitors from its parent company, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPL), include Stella McCartney, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and Alexander McQueen (Kering, 2018). Moreover, these brands compete on different aspects including a diverse product range with similar price points. On the other hand, outside the Gucci group, YSL also faces competition from some of the established American designers based on an aesthetic and historical perspective. They include Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Proenza Schouler, Oscar de la Renta, and Bill Blass. Regarding French fashion, the brand experiences stiff competition from Lanvin, Balmain, Chanel, and Dior competing for the same luxury customers.

Target customer profile

The company’s current targeted market segment is the urban upper-class women and men. They also target high fashion-conscious women and men, especially within the 25-45 age group. Given that YSL is a global brand, and therefore it targets a multicultural ethnicity and especially high-income earners.

Macro- and microenvironment of the brand

Some of the micro-environment factors that are crucial to the success of YSL include the customers, suppliers, and the general public. Given that the brand targets mostly the high-end consumers, their customers’ demands, and preferences drive the fashion house’s production. Moreover, similar to other businesses, YSL is also required to uphold corporate social responsibility.

The macro-environment comprises of political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental factors (Gupta, 2013). As a modern brand, YSL has embraced the use of technology, for instance through the creation of their website where customers can place their purchases as well as obtain information from the business. They have also utilised social media networks for interactions with their customers. Given that the brand has stores across various geographical locations with different laws and tariffs, legal factors can also have an impact on the firm’s operations. Regarding economic factors, the brand has entered emerging markets which are perceived to have significant growth potential such as China. Moreover, concerning the social aspect, consumers’ tastes and preferences have changed substantially in recent years whereby most of them mix luxury with high street designs. As a result, the consumer groups have become highly fragmented thus posing a challenge to YSL. Lastly, environmental and political factors also play a fundamental role in modern businesses, and as a result, YSL focuses on ethical fashion due to the production of eco-friendly designs. Regarding the latter, some governments like China’s have declared the nation free-trading zone thus making it easy for companies like YSL to extend their operations to such areas.

Marketing mix elements analysis

Product range/mix

The products created by YSL are a combination of luxurious and extremely high quality with the inclusion of silks, lambskin, and wools for women and men. Also, the brand’s mix comprises of both shallow and broad product range, in limited colours and sizes, especially concerning multiple styles of skirts, jackets, dresses, among other garments. On the other hand, the product portfolio consists of a variety of soft products like leather, beauty, and ready-to-wear goods, and hard, mainly accessories and jewellery. They also offer a broad range of bags, shoes, beauty products, and fragrances for both genders (Saint Laurent Official Online Store | YSL.com, 2018). Lastly, their product life cycle is quite short, notably less than six months.

Price

The brand’s pricing strategy is based on the strategic view of the luxurious materials and the quality of products used alongside integrating their strong brand equity. As a result of the high-quality materials utilised in production and their market target, most of the brand’s products are ‘premium-priced’ except beauty sector whereby entry-level prices are used to fit the needs of the self-aspiring consumer with less disposable income (Jackson and Shaw, 2010). Furthermore, concerning elasticity of demand, their pricing strategy is inelastic for high prices do not deter their consumers from making purchases.

Place

YSL’s level of operations is quite extensive. As of 2017, they had 47 stores in Western Europe, 29 in North America, 30 in Japan, and 78 in emerging countries. They have two primary distribution channels, the first being directly from the firm to the consumer and the second including a retailer as an intermediary. They also provide online services through their official online stores as well as through other multiple international department stores like Harvey Nichols and Harrods in the United Kingdom. For further reinforcement of their brand relevance and exclusivity, they have also opened many flagship stores in various geographical locations.

Physical evidence

The brand’s excellence extends beyond their products to their décor and store ambiences which serves to enhance their customers’ perception of the fashion house. Branding and packaging also play a major role in the strengthening of the YSL’s brand image. Upon Hedi Slimane’s assuming of power, multiple brand modifications have been made. Their packaging changed to take the form of an aesthetically minimal and modern typeface.

People

The company dedicates a significant focus to their customers’ experiences. As a result, careful selection of staff is mandatory to ensure reinforcement of the brand’s image and value. They possess experienced personnel for remarkable customer service.

Promotion

Marketing communications mix

The fashion house uses various communication tools and techniques for bringing awareness regarding their products as well as for increment of their customer base. Examples include direct marketing, public relations, sales promotion, and advertising. Under the former tactic, the firm ensures direct communications with targeted individual customers, on a limited level, to develop lasting relationships with their consumers and also obtain their feedback. Regarding public relations, cultivation of a good relationship with the market is a necessity for the success of a business. For YSL, they attempt to maintain a proper corporate image and favourable publicity. Also, the company utilises advertising and especially social media networks for the promotion of the brand’s products.

Their website is made of a simple layout that is in coherence with the brand’s identity thus making it well designed. It is also user-friendly, very content-rich, and utilises innovative video and image displays, particularly of the previous photoshoots and campaigns. As such, it provides the users with a good shopping experience. On the other hand, their social media pages also serve as excellent communication tools. The fashion house started using their Facebook page in 2012 and has gained over 2.8 million followers over the years, and the number keeps growing. Their Facebook page comprises mainly of images of celebrities dressed in the brand’s products and campaign pictures. The content is also entirely consistent and in line with the edgy aesthetics which are encouraged by grunge and rock culture (Voyer, 2016). Their social media approach is also in coherence with the brand’s website and offline brand image. Concerning Instagram, the brand poses as a late adapter for they created their current account in 2016. However, before the change, the previous account consisted of black and white photographs with a posting frequency of about two to nine posts weekly as well as approximately 390,000 followers. Currently, their account has approximately 3.7 million followers.

In recent years, the brand has also been using WeChat platform for ease of interaction with their customers. Through the medium, the company shares the latest news and relevant information with their customers. They have used the platform in the creation of the “Kissing Habits Survey” and “Invitation to Kiss” campaigns as well as for their lipstick collection (Wechat Marketing, 2015). They were able to carry out a survey through the channel and provide their followers with lipstick recommendations alongside providing them with an opportunity to win lip glosses. As such, WeChat is an effective marketing tool for interactions with customers as well as a significant promotion tactic.

Moreover, advertising functions is the central marketing element that is utilised for the ‘big idea.’ The firm mostly employs advertisement strategy for bringing awareness to their products, especially campaigns. On the other hand, public relations, direct marketing and sales promotions serve as the support approaches.

Media strategy

The brand’s selection of media strategy is based on the number of consumers that aim at reaching, the nature of the market concerning competitiveness, and the demand for the product. The fashion house creates great digital campaigns backed up by consumer interest, celebrity appeal, and science. They also generate a huge buzz concerning their products before their distribution through the use of intensive media relations campaigns. As such, the brand adheres to the AIDA model in their pursuit of the creation of mass awareness. For instance, they attract attention to their products through the use of renown models, such as Kate Moss and Cara Delevigne, on their campaigns, posting of pictures of celebrities wearing their products, and through conduction fashion weeks. For maintenance of the potential customer’s interest, they provide detailed information regarding the products, especially on their website. The brand creates a desire for their product through the incorporation of certain influencer themes such as their previous ‘#getashock’ tag as well as through integrating Instagram stories. One they arouse the customers’ desires to purchase their products then they ship the new merchandise to all their stores. Moreover, the brand also utilises the DRIP method to ensure that their advertisements reach the targeted market multiple times for increment of familiarity with the brand.

The 3P’s of marketing communications strategy

Most firms use three marketing communication strategies, profile, pull and push. Push tactic promotes products to wholesalers or retailers and requires little capital. It also functions for products whereby the consumers have prior knowledge about it and for goods with high demand. Given that Yves Saint Laurent deals mainly with luxury merchandise, they rarely utilise this strategy.  On the other hand, profile strategy is used when a company is pursuing to build the reputation, attitude, perception, and profile strategy awareness. Regarding this tactic, YSL uses public relations and corporate advertising for the attainment of a better market reach. Lastly, the pull strategy aims at the attraction of the maximum number of people and hence many promotion techniques are utilised. The approach works for products with high demand and a unique product line compared to other brands. The pull strategy is also effective in cases whereby the brand loyalty is significantly high, and hence customers make decisions concerning brand prior to the products being in the store. For YSL given that it is a brand that has been on the market for a long time, pull strategy is applied to some of the company’s dominant markets such as France.

Conclusion

Over the years, Yves Saint Laurent has created a strong brand image which serves as a competitive advantage and aids the company in getting a great market positioning. Through a combination of the right people, distribution channels, processes, physical evidence, pricing strategies, product ranges and promotion techniques, the fashion house can reach numerous markets. Moreover, their primary communication tools consist of direct marketing, public relations, sales promotion, and advertising which help the business garner new customers and retain the existing ones. However, for better communication of their products, there is a need for YSL to extend their social media coverage through adopting as many networking platforms as possible.

References

Gupta, A. (2013). Environment & PEST Analysis: An Approach to External Business Environment. International Journal of Modern Social Sciences, 2(1), pp.34-43.

Jackson, T. and Shaw, D. (2010). Mastering fashion marketing. 1st ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kering (2018). Saint Laurent | Kering. [online] Kering.com. Available at: http://www.kering.com/en/brands/luxury/saint-laurent [Accessed 6 Mar. 2018].

Saint Laurent Official Online Store | YSL.com. (2018). Saint Laurent Official Online Store | YSL.com. [online] Available at: https://www.ysl.com/us [Accessed 6 Mar. 2018].

Voyer, B. (2016). What every luxury brand can learn from the transformation of Yves Saint Laurent. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/what-every-luxury-brand-can-learn-from-the-transformation-of-yves-saint-laurent-54357\ [Accessed 6 Mar. 2018].

Wechat Marketing (2015). Top 10 advertising campaigns on Wechat - Marketing China. [online] Marketing China. Available at: https://www.marketingtochina.com/top-10-advertising-campaigns-wechat/ [Accessed 6 Mar. 2018].

September 18, 2023
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