Walpole Summit

Coherent Disruption by London Business School's Nader Tavassoli

Nader Tavassoli founded the Behavioural Research Lab at the London Business School and Walpole’s Luxury Management Programme. In this hugely entertaining and stimulating session, filmed at Walpole's Future of British Luxury Summit at The Londoner in September 2021, Nader examined how certain brands stand out in the luxury market while their competitors simply copy each other. Here are five things we learned….
4th Oct 2021
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Walpole Summit Coherent Disruption by London Business School's Nader Tavassoli

Only Dead Fish Swim with the Sea
Nader opened the session by producing a series of ads for brands selling luxury watches. “All their advertisements look the same,” he said. “And, remember, this is seen as a creative industry. So, here's a saying from (writer and satirist) Malcolm Muggeridge: 'Only dead fish swim with the sea.'”

The Art of Fusion
In contrast to the identikit watch campaigns, Nader turned to Hublot, the official watch for F1, and an infamous ad in which former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone received a black eye after being mugged for his timepiece. ‘The Art of Fusion’ generated a storm of publicity. Yet despite being unlike any other ad for a luxury watch, it was faithful to the brand’s DNA. “You'll see the [Art of Fusion] tagline again and again,” said Nader. It’s about marrying the unconventional and the unexpected with luxury, the finest craftsmanship and quality.

Do You Want to be a Product or a Brand?
Using the example of identikit mascara ads, Nader argues there’s no obvious reason why certain stars represent brands other than because they’re famous. Then Nader looked at Benefit Cosmetics. “Their brand is all about ‘laughter is the best cosmetic’.  They're proud of it, and they express it in so many different ways.”

Craziness with Discipline
Karl Lagerfeld once said ‘I like the idea of craziness with discipline.” It’s that idea, says Nader, that underpins Coherent Disruption. “There's a tension within craziness, and there's a tension within discipline. And there's a tension between them. You want to be coherent with your brand's DNA. But you can't be predictable, because you'll be boring if you are. And disruption is about being disruptive within the category. But you must also be recognised within your category or you can't stand out. Remember Crystal Pepsi? People couldn't get their heads around it. So it's very difficult to do both at once.”

I Want to Tell You a Story
Sanderson is a classic British brand with 150 years of history. Which means some people will instantly associate Sanderson with their grandma’s wallpaper. English rugby player Maro Itoje is somebody you’d never associate with your grandma’s wallpaper but Itoje recently became the face of the Very Sanderson campaign. “Once you know the story, he’s a perfect match,” Nader explains. Some years ago, his Instagram feed included a story called ‘Who is Maro Itoje?’ As Nader says, “It reveals who is. He talks about the fact that he's an art lover. And he's very into culture. He's also a real family guy and the brand is built around family. And judging by the early results (the campaign) works. 

In Conclusion…
Nader says, “Brief your agency partners to be very clear that they should celebrate your DNA. It's not a business for the faint-hearted. You don't always get it right. But unless you take the risk, it is very difficult to claim leadership within the category.” 

london.edu

Watch the presentation in full


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