Prada Christmas decorations and how the marketing strategy went mainstream

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Before social media ads, in a time that seems like a long time ago (and before some Gen Zers were born), ads were largely limited to print in magazines and the inevitable ad breaks with it, if a brand did something good thing, jingles that became earworms. .

Today, however, thousands of influencers serve as walking, talking billboards for brands that match their interests, aesthetics, and followers. The result? Their followers want to know what’s going on. The combined effect of the rise of influencers, influencer marketing and an all-digital generation is that normal people, i.e. consumers, are savvier than ever.

Case in point: the Prada Christmas decorations debacle. On December 18, Gen Z mega-influencer and “it” girl Devon Lee Carlson (1.4 million Instagram followers, 615,000 TikTok followers) posted herself unwrap a holiday gift from Prada. The video has over 477,000 views. Briefly, Carlson is shown seated on the ground next to what appears to be the $3300 Prada Cleo bag embellished with crystalssuggesting that it was real holiday gift Carlson received from the brand. Then she opens a box of black-and-white Prada ornaments and says, “Maybe I should buy a tree.” As she brings the ornaments closer to the camera, one falls and breaks, and Carlson gasps and then laughs.

The next day, influencer Xenia Adonts (1.2m TikTok followers, 1.9m Instagram followers) posted her own Prada unpacking videoalso breaking an ornament in the process. Bryan Gray Yambao, aka Bryanboy (2.6 million followers on TikTok), broke one of her gifted Prada ornaments at the end of a longer unboxing article on December 11.

Surely it couldn’t be a mere coincidence, TikTok wondered aloud. Danae Mercer, a journalist, posted a video on December 27 titled “Why three influencers deliberately broke their Prada sets,” which has 2.6 million views. Mercer suggests the videos were part of a brand-orchestrated campaign and the adornments were gifted. (That last part seems obvious, even to a non-expert.) A comment that made me laugh: This campaign reminds me of something Emily In Paris would come up with.

But then came, as they say, the backlash of the backlash. By December 29, Tyler McCall, Editor at Fashionista (31,000 TikTok followers) posted his own take, refuting the idea that it was a planned campaign. “Let’s go over why it doesn’t really make sense in this particular case. First of all, there’s this simple fact that it doesn’t really work for a brand like Prada,” McCall says. Yambao commented, “Besides, I didn’t even receive the Cleo bag 🤣.” Eventually, Yambao responded in the follow-up posts, too. “In luxury, image is everything. Why would a luxury brand want people to destroy their products? ” he said.

I reached out to McCall to discuss all of this on a micro and macro level. On a smaller scale, she says, there was the (simple) problem of packaging. “I saw [the initial] videos before seeing the “plot videos”, and especially what I thought was “These ornaments were really badly packaged”. They invested a lot of money to make it look good and not so much money to make sure the glass ornaments wouldn’t fall off and break.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that “there’s negligence from influencers who haven’t paid for these things,” she said.

OK, so – let’s leave aside the question of whether or not this was a marketing stunt. FWIW, my vote is that it was absolutely not the case. Prada JUST ran a very successful campaign around its bobs featuring influencers like Bella Poarch, proof of her marketing savvy (when intentional).

What remains is the idea that people (and young people!) actually care about marketing strategies. And not only do they care, but they want to discuss it on TikTok. (It should be noted that a number of parodies usurping the situation have also been made – see here, here and here.) “There is so much opacity around [the influencer marketing] process that it has made a lot of people, especially Gen Z, which is the first generation to really grow up with this type of marketing, deeply suspicious of everything. At the end of the day, it’s probably a good instinct to have, even if you’re not always right,” McCall said.

Thus, the fourth wall has practically collapsed. According to Raina Penchansky, co-founder and CEO of influencer management firm Digital Brand Architects, these are tricky times for brands. “It’s like, ‘I’m good for you to sell me. But I just want you to sell me in a way that I relate to, so that I feel like it’s organic, instead of you talking to me. [they] really love tea,” she said. So, as the CEO of a company that manages 180 influencers, Penchansky said she thinks about when an audience can “see the strings.”

“Ten years ago or even a few years ago, media and content were top-down. We were all told which was cool. We were told what was relevant. We were told what to buy. Now, with content creators and influencers, the shift has reversed so that things start from the bottom up. It’s, “We’re going to create these trends and figure out what we want, rather than being told,” Penchansky said. Here’s the nuance: it’s not that people refuse marketing — not at all, in fact. But they want to participate in the joke. They don’t want wool covering their eyes.

“Not everything has to be manufactured. Things can give the impression that there was a process. And it’s normal that people understand the process better. It just gives them a more positive relationship with the brand,” she said.

I asked Penchansky if she thought the whole phenomenon would spawn a new generation of (very young) marketers. “Yeah, but I also think it’s going to drive more creative campaigns,” she said. “There is a new generation of content creators who are talking a little more about this stripped-down language. You’re going to see some really cool campaigns and content.

Collabs of the week
New year, (unsurprisingly) new collaborations – and lots of them. Below are a few worth noting.

Cooked by Melissa x Native

If you’ve ever wanted your armpits to smell more like a vanilla cupcake, this collab is perfect for you. Personal-care brand Native’s mashup with Baked by Melissa, the bakery known for its one-bite cupcakes, covers deodorant, body wash and shampoo in four flavors: tie-dye vanilla cupcake, cookie cupcake with mint, fresh peach cupcake and ginger lemonade cupcake. Buy it here.

Loewe x ‘Spirited Away’

The 2001 film “Spirited Away” has become iconic, and now its characters and imagery can be seen on a new Loewe collection. The collaboration includes bags, scarves, jeans and blankets. Buy it here.

Waterdrop x Olivia Culpo

Hydration is always in style! Just ask influencer Olivia Culpo (4.9 million Instagram followers), who just teamed up with Waterdrop, maker of bottles and tiny flavored cubes that aim to encourage people to drink more water. . Culpo-branded kits range from $45 to $90, depending on whether you buy its bottle alone or with “microdrink” sets. Buy it here.

Ugg x Expensive


The brand of sheepskin shoes is on the rise. (No, really — her ultra-trendy mini boot is out of stock until Summer 22.) And now it’s co-signed by Cher. The iconic hyphen is the star of the brand’s new Ugg FEEL ____ campaign. Watch the very endearing video here.

Beauty launches to know

In hopes that people actually need or want to use complexion makeup this year, a series of new releases have hit. There’s Charlotte Tilbury’s new Beautiful Skin Foundation, for which the brand tapped iconic supermodel Kate Moss, “Bridgerton” actress Phoebe Dyvenor and supermodel Jourdan Dunn for the launch campaign. Buy it here.

Meanwhile, Smashbox, one of the OGs of professional makeup, has just re-released its extensive primer line, which includes formulas to counteract redness, moisturize, mattify and highlight. A brand new fifth formula is on the way. The brand sees the relaunch as a way to double down on the “skinification” of makeup. Each formula is enriched with skincare ingredients. Buy them here.

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Legends only: Cher reflects on her best beauty moments (Note: Ugg wasn’t the only brand to partner with Cher this week. MAC did too, and SHE interviewed her on the occasion.)

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William L. Hart